Medieval - The First Norman Issue?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, Jul 13, 2020.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    It has widely been acknowledged that the first coin issued by the Normans in Normandy was a denier by William Longsword which featured a cross patée on both the obverse and reverse, and the inscriptions +VVILELMVS on the obverse, and +ROTOMAGS or some form of +ROTOMA CIVITAS on the reverse. These are exceptionally rare, and most found outside museums are forgeries. However, I have recently stumbled upon an intriguing theory that suggests a certain imitative issue of Louis the Pious may in fact be a Norman issue from the time of Rollo (the first ‘Northman’ who was granted land in Northern Francia by Charles the Simple) or William Longsword (Rollo’s successor).

    Early Medieval - Carolingian Normandy
    Anonymous (Viking/Rollo-William Longsword), 10th c. (920s)
    AR Denier, 16mm x 0.57 grams
    Obv.: Counterclockwise legend +DOVVICVSIMP around small cross
    Rev.: Clockwise legend XRISTIANA REL around temple
    Note: Imitation of a Louis the Pious denier

    The theory, put forth by Jens Christian Moesgaard goes like this: These coins are both below the appropriate weight for a Louis the Pious denier, and contain blundered legends which suggests an imitative issue. They have only been found in three hoards: Coudres (dated 920 or 23), Evreux/Saint-Taurin (dated 943/5), and Haute-Isle (traditionally dated 898 or 923). These regions where the coins have been found are all in the Eastern part of Normandy. [1]

    Normandy Map.jpg
    Map from Hagger, Norman Rule in Normandy, Map 1, xix. The red line indicates the extant of lands granted to Rollo by Charles the Simple in 911, and the letters indicate the coin hoards where these imitatives have been found (C=Coudres, E=Evreux/Saint-Taurin, HI=Haute-Isle). Obviously the red marks have been added by me.

    Mark Hagger suggests that Rollo and his men had control of the region around Rouen before it was granted to him by Charles the Simple in 911, and that the lower Seine may even have been under permanent viking control since the Siege of Paris in 885. [2]. Initially, the Normans were only in control of the Eastern part of what would eventually become Normandy. However, Charles needed the military aid of the Normans in 923, and so agreed to grant them “land beyond the Seine, which they (the Normans) had requested.” [3] There is admittedly some debate as to what this land was, but this has generally been taken as the grant to extend Normandy out towards Caen. The point here, is that the three hoards containing the imitative coins of Louis the Pious have all been found in or near the region which was first under Norman control.

    Annales de Flodoard.jpg
    The Annales entry of 874 from Flodoard of Reims. MS. Vaticano [Città del], Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Reg. lat. 633, fol. 42r. Image from Project d'Edition Critique des Annales de Flodoard.

    Moesgaard suggests that since these imitatives were not found in the Jubayr-Monday hoard which was buried in 920, that they could be dated to after 920, making them a Norman issue. [4] Obviously this is an argument from an absence of evidence which is never convincing, but Moesgaard was careful with his language saying that this lack of coins could be ‘an argument’ for their being Norman. But, the hoards which do provide a potential date suggest an early dating of 898/920, with a heavy possibility of being in the early 920s.

    There are two phases of the coins, one of a higher weight of 1.01-1.41 grams which were found in the Coudres Hoard, and a lighter weight of 0.62-0.72 grams which was found in the Evreux hoard. [5] Since the Evreaux hoard is from a later date, this may indicate the continued devolving of the issue. My coin is actually a lighter weight that the coins from the Evreaux hoard (but just slightly so it is not unreasonably different), and while the devices on the coin are different (there are no pellets in the quarters of the cross), the blundered legend matches the legend of one of the coins from the Evreaux hoard, and the diameter is a near perfect match.

    Norman Imitatives.JPG
    Imitatives from the Evreux hoard provided by Moesgaard, 110. My coin is most like the one on the left excepting mine lacks the pellets in each quadrant of the cross.

    The greatest mystery is why would the Normans imitate a coin from Louis the Pious, who died in 840, and which type had been demonetized by 864. Roberts attributes these coins to Louis IV who had intervened after the death of William Longsword, except that the legends clearly have the title ‘IMP’ instead of ‘REX’ which would indicate Louis the Pious (since Louis IV never help the imperial title, and was only king of West Francia). [6] The difference in time from Louis the Pious to the Normans is perhaps the one aspect which causes me concern about it being a Norman issue, if it weren’t for the location and dating of the documented hoards in which these coins were found. Additionally, there is the fact that these temple-type coins of Louis the Pious are the most numerous types of Carolingian coins found in Scandinavia (even though there have not been many), and that when the Normans began issuing their own coins, it wasn’t long before their coins had an image of a temple on them! Granted, it took until the reign of Richard I (William Longsword’s successor), but from that point forward, Norman coins were essentially a devolution of temple-type deniers.

    Med-05a-FNor-943-Richard I-D-XV-11.jpg
    Feudal France - Normandy
    Richard I, r. 943-996; AR Denier, 21.1 mm x 1.3 grams
    Obv.: +RICARDVS I. Cross pattee with pellets in angles
    Rev.: ROTOMAGVS. Stylized chapel made from St. Andrew’s cross, with a pellet in the pediment
    Ref.: Dumas XV-11, Duplessy 16

    Med-05a-FNor-1106-Henry I-D-XX-13.jpg
    French Feudal - Normandy
    Henry I, r. 1106-1135
    AR Denier, 19.53 mm x 0.9 grams
    Obv.: +NOR[M]MANIA. Short Cross with pellets in each quarter
    Rev.: Short cross with annulets and bars on either side, triangle above and below
    Ref.: Dumas XX-13, Roberts, 4837 reverse
    This issue shows how the temple design devolved further.

    Obviously this proves nothing, but it is fairly standard practice that when a culture begins to develop a sophisticated economy that relies on coinage, they begin with imitative issues which were accepted by the people with whom they traded. [7] This would be particularly prevalent of the Vikings who primarily used silver (including coins) simply as bullion rather than just coin. To be imitating the local currency not only suggests they were engaged in some peaceful trading with the Franks, but the lower weight of their imitative coins suggests their taking advantage of the people who used coins at face value instead of weight (or they just figured out Renovatio Monetae quickly - which perhaps explains why their currency devolved so quickly after Richard I).

    1 - Jens Christian Moesgaard, “A Survey of Coin Production and Currency in Normandy, 864-945,” in Silver Economy in the Viking Age, ed. James Graham-Campbell and Garett Williams (Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2007), 109.
    2 - Mark Hagger, Norman Rule in Normandy, 911-1144 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2017), 45.
    3 - Flodoard of Reims, as quoted by Hagger, 53.
    4 - Moesgaard, 109.
    5 - Moesgaard, 110.
    6 - James N. Roberts, The Silver Coins of Medieval France (476-1610), (South Salem, NY: Attic Books, 1996), #1818 ; Moesgaard 110.
    7 - Gareth Williams, “Kingship, Christianity and Coinage: Monetary and Political Perspectives on Silver Economy in the Viking Age,” in Silver Economy in the Viking Age, ed. James Graham-Campbell and Garett Williams (Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2007), 184. Williams gives some examples specific to the Vikings, such as the Danes copying Carolingian types, The Danelaw of England copying Anglo-Saxon types, and of course the massive imitation of Æthelred II’s Small Cross, Crux, and Long Cross coinage found in Dublin, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
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  3. ycon

    ycon Renaissance Man

    Great write up!
    +VGO.DVCKS, spirityoda and FitzNigel like this.
  4. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus

    Thanks my friend that is an excellent write up. I really enjoyed the read.
    +VGO.DVCKS and FitzNigel like this.
  5. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Thanks guys - I’ll probably be on the lookout for one of the original Louis the Pious coins to compliment it. As is, once I read about this theory and started looking around I was surprised to actually find one! There is a second currently available on MA-Shops for €1500 (this one was much less... and frankly more interesting). These coins have been known for some time, but were simply considered obols because of their weight. But that explanation does lot account for their size (same as the Denier), and their blundered legends.
    +VGO.DVCKS and Orfew like this.
  6. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    Wow! @FitzNigel . Very nice! Congrats, and way cool! Thank you.
    +VGO.DVCKS and FitzNigel like this.
  7. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Thanks! My little collection of ugly coins grows... although I do find it funny that the early imitative is less ugly than some of the later issues - like this bastard:
    Med-05a-FNor-1075-William II-D-XX-19.jpg
    Feudal France - Normandy
    William II-William Clito/Henry I, r. 1035-1135 (1075-1130)
    AR Denier, 16.70 mm x 0.5 grams; Obv.: +NORMAN DVX. Cross pattee with pellets in angles
    Rev.: Cross around oval, crosslets on each arm, two pellets within
    Ref.: Dumas XX-19
    Note: Dumas group C et D according to Moesgaard
    Edessa, Quant.Geek, TheRed and 4 others like this.
  8. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Interesting thanks for the post be safe
    +VGO.DVCKS and FitzNigel like this.

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    (Argh --still figuring out the navigation here. This one was supposed to be in reply to your /FitzNigel's second comment, about the 11th-12th century Norman issues. Belongs below my response to your initial post, instead of above it.)
    One phenomenon which is endemic to the whole earlier French feudal series is that, Yep, immobilizations get worse, not better, with time. It's worth remembering that the near-ubiquitously Carolingian prototypes are literate --the Carolingian Renaissance, and all that-- and are located on the cusp of the 10th century, which is widely characterized as one of the dramatic nadirs of the entire Medieval period. To oversimplify the point, there was nowhere to go but down.
    Given which, the 11th century Norman examples take every prize. As a collector, you almost almost have to grit your teeth and say, "Okay, I Want this period represented; I'm Going to like this coin"!
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2020
    Edessa and Orfew like this.
  10. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    This is absolutetly brilliant, conspicuously state-of-the-art (notably by way of your citations of Moesgaard) Scholarship. And the thesis is bracing, to say the least! Thank you!!!
    In my initial reply to Lord Morcovan's latest giveaway, I showed off my example of the immobilization of the Charles the Bald GDR deniers that happened in Bayeux. These are even mentioned in Bates's Normandy Before 1066 (see esp. p. 129). As you will know, Moesgaard gives them much more extensive treatment in the paper you cite. (Graham-Campbell, ed., Silver Economy in the Viking Age.) Dumas (Tresor de Fecamp) only dates them to temp. Richard I, and they may have been issued simultaneously to the more creative types from Rouen. Cool anyway.... (Mine is at least a near die-match to Dumas 6047.)
    ...But now it gets even funner. In a couple of articles in The Celator (American numismatic journal; Vol. 24, Nov. 2009 and Feb. 2010), Alan DeShazo proposed a modified attribution for that other Rouen issue of Richard I, with the problemmatic monogram, often attributed to the reigning bishop, Hugues. (Although Duplessy calls this "tres contestable.") Citing a similar insignia on a royal issue of (neighboring) Jumieges, DeShazo argues that this coinage represents an "alliance" between Richard I and Lothaire IV. As DeShazo notes, two such rapprochements are mentioned by Dudo of St. Quentin, bookmarking Richard's longstanding support of the rival Robertian camp. As DeShazo notes, Dudo provides no dates, which of course would help in reference to the coinage. But Bates (ibid., citing an old history by Lot) puts the second one at 965, which seems likelier on its face, since it was the more formal and more durable of the two. It's just possible that this represents two neatly successive issues of Richard.
    While I haven't seen the latest edition of Depeyrot, some dealers have acknowledged DeShazo's thesis, notably CNG.
    ...Oh, and there's better established precedent for Lothaire having done co-issues. Dumas 6677 was issued in the names --right, full legends, this time-- of both Lothaire and one of the 10th-century Herberts (same family) of Vermandois and Meaux (although I'm not as confident as she is about which one).
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2020
    Edessa, FitzNigel and Orfew like this.
  11. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Thank you for the kind words @+VGO.DVCKS, but more so to your reference of DeShazo! I had noticed CNG’s attribution of the coins you mention, but couldn’t for the life of me find how they came to that conclusion! I will now need to track that article down. And since it’s been mentioned...
    Med-05a-FNor-943-Richard I-D-XV-23.jpg Feudal France - Normandy
    Richard I, r. 943-996; AR Denier, 20.53 mm x 1.2 grams
    Obv.: +RICARDVS. Cross pattee with pellets in angles
    Rev.: +ROTOMAGVS. Lothaire? monogram
    Ref.: Dumas XV-23, Duplessy 18
  12. TheRed

    TheRed Well-Known Member

    That was a very interesting read @FitzNigel I really enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing the coin.
    FitzNigel and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  13. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Thanks, FitzNigel, first for your upload of your example of that issue ( I didn't have to go looking for mine! :<} ).
    The worry is about the availability of online versions of the Celator. Were I to be suitably organized (always a hypothetical), I could scan the operant pages of both volumes. ...No, you're cordially invited to talk me into it!
  14. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    No need! Vcoins has most (all?) of them online! I have already found them and am trying to find a way to read them offline...
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  15. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Terrific! Serious Coolitude! I'm about to go to the link. ...If I saw anything else as memorable as this, all I'd need would be a download.
  16. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Bookmarked the website. Marvels of technology, this time minus the irony. Thanks Lots.
  17. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Just looked at the site. It never once occurred to me to look at what VCoins had in the way of anything that wasn't for sale. Given which, I'm tempted to say,
    ...See? Do you just See? This kind of thing is what the internet was made for in the first place.
    FitzNigel likes this.
  18. Nap

    Nap Well-Known Member

    Nice write-up! Lots of great info in there and I'll be reading more about this soon.

    There are British Anglo-Viking imitations of the temple deniers as well. It's a very interesting series that's in need of additional scholarship.

    I've been looking for a coin of William Longsword. They are indeed extremely rare. I saw one in a French auction a year or two ago, but it was cracked and glued together on a piece of paper, which obscured one side, probably 100 years ago. Still sold for a lot.
    +VGO.DVCKS and FitzNigel like this.
  19. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    Wowzers!! Great writeup, and now I NEED one of these. :D Here's my Louis the Pious:

    Screen Shot 2020-07-14 at 11.44.50 PM.jpg
  20. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist


    In the same article by Moesgaard referenced above, a survey of pre-feudal types of Normandy is given, with a theory that the Gratia Dei Rex coins were continually issued even into the time of Charles the Simple as an immobilized type. (Moesgaard, 102-3) The design of these coins degenerated over time, and much to my surprise, one of these degenerate types (or a later imitation) was offered at a recent CNG auction.

    Early Medieval - Carolingian Imitation
    Viking or Frisian, 10th c. (900-920s); AR Denier, 20.92 mm x 0.9 grams
    Obv.: Blundered legends surrounding Degenerate CAROLVS monogram
    Rev.: Nonsense legend surrounding cross pattee. Perhaps imitating an issue of Curtisasonien
    Ref.: Moesgaard, ‘A Survey of Coin Production and Currency in Normandy,’ 99-109
    Note: Imitating a GDR (Gratia Dei Rex) denier of Charles the Bald (but likely an immobilized issue of Charles the Simple)

    This coin is either so degenerated to the point of illegibility, or (more likely) it is an imitation. CNG suggested a possibly Frisian or Viking imitation, either of which could be likely. Although I do find some of the lettering on the reverse to be close to the legends for the Curtisasonien mint in Normandy. Unfortunately the exact location of this mint is unknown, but according to the table given on pg. 100, the Curtisasonien mint was the most prolific of this type according to the hoard evidence (making it a reasonable candidate for imitation). The weight of these coins also lessened over time, to the point where coins of the same weight as mine (0.9 grams), Moesgaard estimated to be minted in the 920s. There is no way to prove this definitively, but it’s another intriguing coin which may have been issued by Rollo before or soon after the formation of Normandy (or not. Who could possibly know for sure?)
  21. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    Wow Fitz, now I have double the Rollo-envy! :troll::D
    FitzNigel likes this.
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