Particularly western iconography on the trachea of the Latin Empire of Constantinople

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    To most, the Latin issues of Crusader or Latin Constantinople are boring and attract no interest. When you see them on vcoins or in other places, they are mostly identified as just "Latin Empire trachy (1204-1261)" and, if lucky, assigned to a Hendy type.

    Most of them are rather dull and the condition and clipping don't help either. The types are mostly variations of earlier Byzantine types, no Latin Emperor is named and the economic crisis at Constantinople and the galloping inflation meant that coins would become worse and worse each year.

    Occasionally though, during this period of inflation and general lack of interest in base metal coinage, when "new" types were minted almost yearly, interesting designs did pop up. One of them and my personal favorite is the "Peter and Paul" type, Type T according to Hendy, which shows on the obverse the Virgin Hagiosoritissa and on the reverse saints Peter and Paul nimbate, embracing each other:



    This coinage was struck under Venetian supervision, perhaps under the direct authority of the Venetian podesta at Constantinople, starting with around 1235-1237, for usage in Thrace and the Bulgarian territories, to around 1241/3, when the Mongol invasion destroyed much of Bulgaria and practically turned the tsarate into a tributary state. According to hoard evidence though, the type was still in use well into the 1250s.

    What is interesting about this type is the distinct western Catholic iconography of the reverse. Saints Peter and Paul were, of course, revered by both Churches, but their presence and posture on this small module petty coinage is distinctly Catholic, reminiscent of the famous representations on the Papal bullae:

    Papal bulla from the 1240s, of Pope Innocent IV (1243-1254)

    This depiction of Catholic iconography on a specifically Greek Orthodox coinage might throw some light on the idiosyncrasies of the age at Constantinople, in the larger context of the often-discussed and never-endeavored reunification of the Churches, which lingered off and on in the relationship between the Papacy and Constantinople until the fall of the latter to the Ottomans in 1453.

    The design of the copper coinage of Latin Constantinople was of course of very little significance in the big picture and especially to the impoverished population which used it before, around and after the devastating encroachment by the Mongols. It is nonetheless interesting to see such a juxtaposition of worlds and symbolisms at the very end of Latin rule, before Michael Palaeologos restored Greek-Romaion rule over the city and Baldwin II de Courtenay, the only Latin Emperor of Constantinople to be born in Constantinople, was forced to flee his home in 1261.
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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    seth77, these Latin Crusader coins remind me of the stylistic breakdown seen on Celtic & Parthian coins, as the quality of the metal deteriorated so did the artistry. They have a simplicity & abstraction that appeals to a limited collector base.
    Quant.Geek and philologus_1 like this.
  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Very interesting. I am pretty unfamiliar with these coins though I have a fairly extensive collection of Byzantines down through the time of Manuel Comnenus.
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  5. Black Friar

    Black Friar Well-Known Member

    When you find them in choice condition it is a moment to jump up and down. They are a very interesting subject in that the vying for power among the various Crusaders kept the kettle burning in the "old" empire.

    Sorry I don't have any images handy, I do have a few including a couple of well struck that one of these days I'll have to post. Re-reading Runciman's history of the crusades. Very confusing as there were so many actors including Alexius I, Moslems, and Europeans all mixed up in alliences. Quite a sixty year long period of pushing and shoving. Thanks for the post.
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  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I know they are hard to love, but to me they appeal like the blind three-legged kitten at the animal shelter with enough heart to outmeow everyone else there :)
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  7. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    @seth77, I am so glad you posted this thread! I have spent the past two weeks researching Latin Rulers of Constantinople and Thessalonika. In fact, I just discovered, re-affirmed, and updated over 10 coins during this week! Just fell in love with these coins and have been slowly posting some of the coins on FORVM. I am working with a lot of over 300 coins at the moment and its time consuming. The new coins are still a work-in-progress and hopefully, will have the time to publish the findings. In the meantime, here are several re-affirmations of CLBC:

    Latin Rulers of Constantinople: Anonymous (ca. 1230) Æ Small Module Trachy, Constantinople (CLBC-11.36.3)

    Obv: Virgin nimbate, wearing tunic and maphorion, seated upon throne with back; holds beardless, nimbate head of Christ on breast
    Rev: Obscure circular legend; Emperor with rounded beard, seated upon throne without back, wearing stemma, divitision, and collar-piece; holds in right hand scepter cruciger, and in left, anexikakia

    Note that Marchev-Waachter only recorded one specimen in a private collection. Unfortunately, the obverse was not present, but it can be clearly seen here as a nimbate Virgin on a throne. Similar to the reference coin, the legends are obscure.


    Latin Rulers of Constantinople: Anonymous (1204-1261) BI Small Module Trachy, Constantinople (CLBC 11.23.3.A)

    Obv: IC XC in field; Christ, bearded and nimbate, wearing tunic and kolobion, seated upon throne without back; holds Gospel in left hand and bless with right hand in front of chest. Asterisk above cushion on throne, on both sides.
    Rev: Half-length figure of emperor with stemma, divitision, collar-piece, and paneled loros of simplified type; holds in right hand labarum-headed scepter, and in left, globus cruciger.

    Note that Marchev-Waachter only recorded one specimen in a private collection. There were no legends on that coin, but clearly there is some, "corrupt" legend on the coin. It might be overstruck on an unknown host. The obverse of the coin needs to be further examined to determine if it is indeed the obverse of 11.23.3.

    David@PCC, Valentinian, BenSi and 2 others like this.
  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Excellent examples, quite curious to see the others you id.
  9. Quant.Geek

    Quant.Geek Well-Known Member

    They are small and medium module coins that are not in either Hendy or CLBC. Quite exciting! I found two more this morning that hasn't been published yet while I was getting ready to go to work. Its a difficult series, especially when I have to refer to Bulgarian literature and I can't read Bulgarian!
    BenSi and ancient coin hunter like this.
  10. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    One of the most exciting things about collecting this time period is your paving the way. The breakthrough of Hendy's work in 1969 set the groundwork but their is much more to learn, my hat off to both of you for your collecting these difficult coins , rarely beautiful but always interesting.
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