Featured The Coinage Reform of Anastasius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by ancient coin hunter, Feb 17, 2020.

  1. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    The Coinage Reform of Anastasius

    Just about all of us late roman bronze collectors have accumulated or handled late 4th and 5th century Roman bronze coins known as AE 4’s or a nummus. While it is difficult to quantify the purchasing power of the nummus, it is clear that the relationship between the nummus and the other coin that was minted in quantity, the gold solidus, is difficult to establish by the end of the 5th century. The latter Roman rulers up until the time of Romulus Augustus, the last emperor in the west, as well as the eastern emperors, struck these often miniscule coins. And the tradition was maintained by Odoacer, the Germanic chieftain who deposed Romulus.

    Meanwhile, the minting of the solidus in sufficient quantities to finance the economy in the east continued, whilst the silver coinage represented by the siliqua basically disappeared.

    In 494 Anastasius reformed the coinage [1], issuing a much wider range of bronze coins, which had previously been in short supply, including the new follis of 40 nummi. In addition, the semissis and tremessis were issued in fractional amounts to the solidus, providing for gold currency which could increasingly be utilized by the Empire’s citizens.

    Anastasius is famous for showing an uncommon interest in administrative efficiency and issues concerning the economy. Whenever it was possible in governmental transactions, he altered the method of payment from goods to hard currency. This practice decreased the potential for embezzlement and the need for transportation and storage of supplies. It also allowed for easier accounting. He also applied this practice to taxes, mandating that taxes be paid with cash rather than with goods.[2]

    He eliminated the practice of providing soldiers with their arms and uniforms; instead he allotted each soldier a generous sum of money with which to purchase their own. These changes to imperial policy seem to have worked well; taxpayers often paid smaller tax bills than they had before, while government revenue increased. The increase in revenue allowed the emperor to pay soldiers a higher wage [3], which attracted native Roman soldiers to the military, as opposed to the barbarian and Isaurian mercenaries which some previous emperors had been forced to rely on. Anastasius is often cited for his "prudent management" of the empire's finances [4].

    In 498 the collatio lustralis, a tax on craftsmen, was also abolished, while successful efforts were made to increase the efficiency of tax collection and even to reduce the rates of land taxation. At his death he was able to leave a large surplus of 320,000 pounds of gold, a sum which was largely whittled away by his successors including Justinian in an attempt to reconquer the western territories under the general Belisarius [5] as well as the construction of the famed Hagia Sophia.


    Credit: Christos Nüssli, Milieu 30, CH-1400 Yverdon, 1998

    Here is a new FSR acquisition, characterized by a lovely, glossy green patina:

    Anastasius, 491-518 A.D.

    Type: Large AE Follis, 39 mm 19 grams

    Obverse: DN ANASTASIVS PP AVG, Diademed draped and Cuirassed bust right, star on right shoulder (rare)

    Reverse: Large M, Epsilon below. Cross above M, star in left field, Mintmark CON




    [1] The Cambridge Ancient History: Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, 425-600 A.D. (1982). A. Cameron, B. Ward-Perkins, M. Whitby

    [2] Cameron, Alan, "The House of Anastasius", GRBS 19 (1978): 259-276.

    [3] Treadgold, Warren (2001). A Concise History of Byzantium. Houndmills, Hampshire: Palgrave. pp. 56

    [4] Laiou, Angeliki (2002). The Economic History of Byzantium. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections.

    [5] Graves, Robert (1938). Count Belisarius, an Historical novel. Penguin-Random House, L.L.C.

    Please feel free to share your reformed Byzantine coinage of Anastasius and successors...
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  3. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    40 nummi
    half follis
    AE4 nummus
    paschka, Finn235, DonnaML and 10 others like this.
  4. oldfinecollector

    oldfinecollector Well-Known Member

    I like a lot this as a Byzantium coin collector thanks
  5. Alegandron

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


    BZ Anastasius I 491-518 AE Post Reform Folles M monogram
    DonnaML, Theodosius, Andres2 and 8 others like this.
  6. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian

    Thank you for a great, informative post!
    ancient coin hunter likes this.
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Calculating the number of solidi to the pound (72) shows that Anastasius left a surplus of 23 million solidi.
  8. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    Great posts! Here are a few of my Anastasii:
    Top row, from left, a follis, half follis, and decanummium from the initial reform of 498-512. All Constantinople mint. Follis (Sear 14). 8.50 gr. 26.1 mm. hr. 6; Half follis (Sear 24). 3.76 gr. 20 mm. hr. 6; Decanummium (Sear 26). 1.51 gr. 15.5 mm. hr. 12. The nummus - 4th coin - (Sear 13). 0.79 gr. 7 mm. hr. 12. - continued to be struck unchanged throughout the reign.
    Bottom row, same denominations from the second reform of 512, when the doubling of the weights allowed for the addition of a pentanummium. Again, all coins from Constantinople. Follis (Sear 19). 18.17 gr. 36.1 mm. hr. 6; Half follis (Sear 25- this coin). 9.07 gr. 30.7 mm. hr. 6; Decanummium (Sear 28). 4.16 gr. 21.5 mm. hr. 6. Pentanummium (Sear 29). 1.9 gr. 15.9 mm. hr. 7.


    Hrefn, PeteB, hotwheelsearl and 20 others like this.
  9. oldfinecollector

    oldfinecollector Well-Known Member

    nice collection some are really XF ones over average I saw in many auction. I try to find only XF ones but not easy. I will find time to post some of my Byzantium coins too.
  10. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Here is my only Anastasius:

  11. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    I thought the star-on-shoulder variety was scarce, but there are two nice ones in the thread - the very nice OP coin, plus the one @Orange Julius just posted. Here's my Justin star-on-shoulder, which I'm pretty sure is rare (I don't have a photo of my Anastasius):
    Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 11.23.44 PM.jpg

    I'm surprised by this. I had always thought that at least the second reform resulted in eliminating the nummus. Fascinating!

    My nummus:
    Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 11.26.39 PM.jpg

    First reform:
    Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 11.26.11 PM.jpg

    End of the reign (so 2nd reform):
    Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 11.26.30 PM.jpg
  12. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    Surprisingly, the nummus was struck into the reign of Justin I. Examples are not noted by Sear, although Hahn lists them from Antioch as addenda in his corpus as N67. Here are my 2 examples:
  13. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    So the nummus had a nice run....just shy of 150 years as the smallest coin struck in the late roman world!
    Severus Alexander likes this.
  14. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

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  15. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

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  16. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great post. These are not pretty, but they do illustrate the large and small module folles of Anastasius (assuming my attributions are correct):

    Byz Anastasius - Follis sm & large 2014 (0).jpg

    Anastasius Æ Follis (Small Module)
    (c. 498-507 A.D.)
    Constantinople Mint

    DN ANASTASIVS PP AVG pearl diademed, draped, cuirassed bust right / Large M, star left, cross above, blank right, Officina Є (only) below.
    SB 17; DOC 20a.
    (9.24 grams / 23 mm)

    Anastasius Æ Follis (Large Module)
    (c. 512-517 A.D.)
    Constantinople Mint

    DN ANASTASIVS P P AVG, pearl diademed, draped, cuirassed bust right / Large M,
    star left, cross above, star right, Officina Є (?) below, C[O]N in exergue.
    SB 19; DOC I 23b
    (14.34 grams / 34 mm)

  17. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    From what I can deduce, Priscian and Procopius' Panegyrics are primary sources for his reign. Since I haven't read them I can't say how much they focus on the monetary reforms, though.
  18. Valentinian

    Valentinian Well-Known Member

    The original post does not make it clear, as later posts do, that there were two coin reforms under Anastasius. The first one, which Grierson [Byzantine Coins] dates to 498, introduced the 20-nummia and 40-nummia denominations, but relatively small at c. 19 mm and 25 mm and only c. 4 grams and c. 8 grams, far less than 20 and 40 times the weight of the 1-nummis coin which was in the 1-gram range.

    Discontent lead to a second reform, c. 512, which greatly increased the sizes and doubled the weights of the 20 (K) and 40 (M) pieces. Many M pieces are 34 mm and 18 grams (although Byzantine AE coins are not known for consistency of weights).

    My page "Introduction to Byzantine Coins" has a discussion of the reforms.
    Here is a picture with 1 and 40-nummus pieces of the two reforms to scale.


    Prior to the first reform the wretched nummus was the only denomination commonly circulating. The coinage system was not working well at all. The reforms of Anastasius helped put it on a much sounder footing.
  19. Andrew McMenamin

    Andrew McMenamin Nerva You Mind

    Wow! Some super nice coins. Great info too. Many thanks!
  20. oldfinecollector

    oldfinecollector Well-Known Member

    Thanks I learn a lot here.
    Pellinore likes this.
  21. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    I was going through the results of the FSR auction and saw that a nummus of Majorian sold for $1,050 with a high bid of $1,200! Almost the price of a solidus! Someone sure likes LRBs.
    paschka likes this.
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