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Numismatics

ID number:  BIRBI-B0001
Object type:  Coin
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Named collection:  P. D. Whitting Collection
Collector:  Whitting, Philip D.
Maker:  Anastasius I
Denomination:  Solidus
Place made:  Mint of Constantinople
Culture:  Byzantine
Date made:  491-498
Metal:  Gold
Weight (g):  4.39
BIRBI-B0001.jpg

Description:  Obverse: Facing bust of Anastasius I wearing cuirass, helmet with plume and trefoil topped diadem. Anastasius holds a spear and a shield with a horseman spearing fallen enemy design.
Reverse: Victory holding a long cross. Star in right field.

Anastasius was chosen to succeed Emperor Zeno by his widow Ariadne in 491. At the time Anastasius was an imperial chamberlain, aged 61. Anastasius had no military experience, but chose to be portrayed in full military costume on this coin. During the period when this coin type was in production the empire faced a number of military challenges. From 491-498 the Isaurians (a people from the south west of Asia Minor, modern Turkey) who had provided and supported the previous two emperors were in rebellion (Anastasius was from Greek Dyrrachion, not Isauria) and in 493 the Bulgars raided the Balkan provinces for the first time. In the same year the Blues and Greens (factions allied to one of the two chariot racing teams) toppled the statues of the Emperor and Empress and dragged them through the streets. There is little doubt then why Anastasius wanted to be seen as a strong man of action. The reverse of this coin, symbolising Christian victory is also of significance. 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 Victory holding a long cross 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: DNANASTAS IVSPERPAVC (Dominus Noster Anastasius Perpetuus Augustus, Our Lord Anastasius Eternal Augustus)
Reverse: VICTORI AAVCCCA (Victoria Augustorum, Victory of the Augusti), officina [workshop] A, 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 3a
Grierson, P. Byzantine Coins (London 1982) 43-83
Whitting, P.D. Byzantine Coins (London 1973) 89-99

2 Related People

Anastasius I
Byzantine

518
Whitting, Philip David
British
1903
1988
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