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ID number:  BIRBI-B0022
Object type:  Coin
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Named collection:  P. D. Whitting Collection
Collector:  Whitting, Philip D.
Maker:  Anastasius I
Denomination:  Semissis
Place made:  Mint of Constantinople
Culture:  Byzantine
Date made:  491-498
Metal:  Gold
Weight (g):  2.17

Description:  Obverse: Bust of Anastasius I, wearing cuirass, paludamentum and diadem.
Reverse: Victory seated on cuirass, inscribing a shield. Rho topped cross to right.

The obverse of this coin would become the standard type for as long as the denomination existed. The emperor is shown as commander of the armed forces of the empire. The iconography is very similar to that of the Constantinian dynasty of the fourth century. The reverse of this coin, symbolising Christian victory is also of significance. Victory inscribing a shield is a motif common on earlier coins, but here it has been Christianised by the addition of a MONOGRAM. Anastasius was chosen to succeed Emperor Zeno by his widow Ariadne in 491. Anastasius was a known supporter of monophysitism (a form of Christianity common in Syria and Egypt but unpopular in Asia Minor, Palestine and the Balkans). This was a particular cause for internal unrest throughout Anastasius’s reign. Anastasius supported an edict of toleration issued by the previous emperor and by depicting Christian Victory on the reverse of his coin he enforced this idea of the Christian unity of the empire, no matter which form of Christianity his subjects followed. Despite his early troubles Anastasius reigned for 27 years over an ever more prosperous empire. He died in 518 aged 88. The plural Augustorum is a relic of the fourth and fifth centuries when there were multiple emperors. Originally the number of C’s indicated the number of emperors.

Inscriptions:  Obverse: DNANASTA SIVSPPAVC (Our Lord Anastasius Eternal Augustus)
Reverse: VICTORIAAVCCC (Victory of the Augusti) CONOB (CON=Mint mark of Constantinople, OB=obrizum, refined gold) in exergue.

Bibliography:  Bellinger, A.R. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection (Washington D.C. 1966) coin 8
Grierson, P. Byzantine Coins (London 1982) 43-83.
Whitting, P.D. Byzantine Coins (London 1973) 89-99.

2 Related People

Anastasius I

Whitting, Philip David
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