Palaeologan Despotate of Rhodos or Genoese Signoria di Rodi

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Feb 27, 2019.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    This coin is so ugly and unremarkable in its appearance, that it would be completely irrelevant, if not for the story it might be a part of.


    AE17x15x13mm, 0.80g, copper follaro or fractional(?) -- Lunardi calls these possible follari, but at this time, the Byzantine coinage did not use this denomination.

    OBV: Figure of despot, half length, highly stylized
    REV: Two large B's opposing each other, with a small design between them -- star or cross(?)
    REF: cf. Lunardi R7-R11/R12/R13 for reverse, unlisted for obverse, cca. 1261-1274 or 1278-1307.

    Why such dating?

    Here is where the story starts and gets really interesting:

    The Genoese Signoria di Rodi was established in 1278 and was under the suzerainty of the Palaeologan Empire. Its coinage is usually very crude and shows the facing B's of the Palaeologan dynasty. Lunardi assumes that this Consnatntinople-related theme is due to the fact that although the Genoese of Rhodes owed fealty to the Roman Emperor for the island, they did not get official rights to mint their own coinage. So the minting was strictly local -- coins of these issues are very localized to Rhodes -- and probably not in very high volumes. Their function was to act like a surrogate for the Imperial petty coinage in the Genoese communities on the island. Some of the rulers of the Genoese of Rhodes were Giovanni dello Cavo, a pirate -- who received the island from Michael VIII in 1278, but was forced by oath to share it with Turkish pirates and Andrea and Ludovico Moresco, who were recognized as feudals of Rhodes in 1282 after the demise of the pirate lord. The Moresco brothers and their uncle, Vignolo Vignoli, Signore di Kos and Lord of the Archipelago started a campaign to rid the area of piracy in the early 1300s. By 1304 Andrea Moresco was vestiarios of Roman Emperor Andronikos II, acting on his behalf against the Catalan pirates of Gallipoli (1304-1305). The methods and the crews employed by the Moreschi and Vignoli, with some success against the Turkish and Catalan pirates, were also corsair-like and by 1306/7 the Genoese commanders were considered pirates by King Henry II of Cyprus. Thus, in a political maneuver in 1306 that is still rather obscure, Andrea Moresco undertook a secret trip to Cyprus, where he is thought to have invited Fulco de Villaret, the Master of the Hospitallers, to join the anti-piracy campaign in return for the full surrender of the island of Rhodes to the Order.

    The whole affair is still unclear, as the Moresco clan is still very much in favor at Constantinople in 1307 and 1308, when Andrea Moresco is at the helm of an Imperial fleet against the Catalan pirates. At the same time, Rhodes had been already invaded by the Hospitallers and the Order was actively helped by Ludovico Moresco and other Archipelago Italian lords to clean the island completely from Turkish encroachments and piracy, completing the full conquest of the island in 1309 and effectively carving it out of Constantinopolitan over-lordship.

    The Moreschi remained at least titular lords over a number of islands in the Archipelago (like Karpathos or Kassos), which they claimed and fought over with the Turks or the Venetians. By 1309 Andrea Moresco had been captured by the cypriots and was hanged as a pirate. Later on that same year, in a confrontation over Karpathos, Ludovico Moresco was captured by the Cornari of Venice.

    In Rhodes, after they fully established their rule over the island in 1309, the Hospitallers started minting their own western-style coinage: deniers, which were also inspired by the Genoese coinage, with the usual Genoese city gate or tower, and were very likely minted by Genoese mint masters and celators for the new authority of the Hospitallers (cf. Lunardi p.148). These coins though had nothing to do with the Imperial monetary system.

    Another hypothesis about this specimen, and many of the other Rhodes small denominations in copper, is that they might had also been minted under Iohannes Palaeologos, the brother of Michael VIII, who ruled Rhodos as despot from 1261 to around 1274, so before the Genoese signoria. John Palaeologos was of vital importance in the Battle of Pelagonia in 1259, where the Latin forces were defeated and Guillaume II de Villehardouin of Morea was taken captive alongside many Western knights from Morea, the Duchy of Athens and Sicily. To show his appreciation, his brother granted him Rhodes and the title of Despot after the Greeks recaptured Constantinople from the last Latin Emperor in 1261.

    Iohannes also did not have a clear and stated right to coinage, but it is not impossible that he, like the Gabals family before him, could have had coins minted for use in the local economy.

    This particular specimen might be one of those coins minted under Iohannes Palaeologos as Despot of Rhodes, if we take into the account that the obverse depiction of a despot (although crude and schematic) is to be a rendition of the actual despot ruling and not just a generic Byzantine image, adopted for other reasons later on by the Genoese.

    The similar specimens recorded by Lunardi: r11.jpg

    Last edited: Feb 27, 2019
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  3. David@PCC


    Those are the coins I like to find misidentified, but are too expensive if the seller knows what they are. I purchased this one under similar circumstances.
    John IV
    Mint: Trebizond
    1446 to 1458 AD
    AR Asper
    Obvs: Λ in circle. St. Eugene on horseback right nimbate, holding cross-scepter. In upper field right ИH.
    Revs: John on horseback right wearing stemma with pendilia and loros, holding trefoil scepter. Trefoil beneath horse. B to right of horse.
    13x14mm, 0.54g
    Sear 2642; Retowski 2
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  4. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    These late Byzantines are as scarce as they are ugly. Here is another Trebizond:


    Basil Megas Komnenos (1332-1340)

    AE18mm, 1.31g, copper trachy, minted at Trebizond, cca. 1332-1340.

    OBV: St. Eugenios standing facing, holding a long cross.

    REV: BA to left; Emperor standing, holding sceptre and globus.

    REF: Bendall 58.
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  5. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    That is a really interesting coin @seth77 with a wonderful historical debate to go with it.

    The establishment of the knights of St. John on Rhodes may well have allowed them to escape the same fate as the Templars. I would love to be ableto add their coins to my collection.
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  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I have made just a quick and short synopsis for this post of the actual history of Rhodes and the adjacent islands during the 1260s to 1309. The story is very much more complicated, especially about the role that Andrea Moresco played in the events leading to the relocation of the Order of the Hospital of Saint John to Rhodes and his secret rendez-vous with Fulco de Villaret in Cyprus, despite the fact that he was an outlaw as far as Henry de Lusignan's regime was concerned.

    As for the coinage of the Order in Rhodes, the gigliati are usually quite available. The little deniers not so much.
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  7. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    12.4 mm

    So in a prevous post @seth77 you thought this coin came from the same series. Have you seen any new information about this issue?
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  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    No. And considering the nature of these as local coinage, I'd expect that any and most new research published regarding any of these would be first and foremost in Greek.
  9. nerosmyfavorite68

    nerosmyfavorite68 Well-Known Member

    I love reading about obscure periods! Very nice write up and the context makes the coin pretty neat.
  10. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    No idea how you people are even remotely able to identify these coins. I’ve gone through dozens of crummy Byzantines. Based on the designs any one could be some super rare and expensive, but I would have no idea.
  11. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Sometimes it takes days , weeks, months to figure out a late Eastern Roman ( Byzantine) coin, it is a different type of collecting, most collectors who collect Eastern Roman coins started off with Roman Imperial, figure out the legends and of course the rulers, these coins take the puzzle a step further trying to attribute a coin with less information.

    The 12th century coins are easier, they can be nicely struck and legends intact. the 13th and 14th century coins have so many types, so many combinations of dies, and many if not most are partially struck.

    The best way to compare the different type of collectors of ancients is with art. Literal art is and always has been the most popular with the world ( e.g. Kincaid.),all information is there to be seen. Compared to abstract art ( e.g. Pollack) that has a smaller following , the reason is abstract art requires a greater participation of the viewer. The same could be said for Eastern Roman ( Byzantine)coinage it requires a greater participation from the viewer to gain a proper attribution.
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  12. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    What I do is actually reversed. I purposely go after these obscure things because I reckon I can get them cheap when they are not identified and I know in advance what it is that I am looking for. These local Rhodes coinages, the coinage of Frankish Greece, the trachea of Thessalonica, Nicaea, Thrace or the Latin Empire etc. all have tell-tale signs and by the time I decide to bid I have already seen the signs.
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  13. Black Friar

    Black Friar Well-Known Member

    I'm a long time Byz collector and that follaro is a great find. I have Metcalf's Coinage of the Latin East that has helped a lot. That era is a rabbit hole I chose not to go too deep in as Byz and Arab/Byz are all I can handle.
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