Collecting early Byzantine Empire gold solidi coins: Ancients Today

Among the most affordable ancient gold coins
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 11/23/15
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Justin II (565 to 578) 

With the death of the childless Justinian, power passed to his nephew Justin II, who made notable design changes to the empire’s solidi. He used the same facing bust that had been introduced by his uncle except that Justin preferred to show himself being crowned by a Victory that stands upon on the globe in place of a cross.

Of even greater interest is his introduction of a new reverse type. The novel design of Justin shows the figure of Constantinopolis, the personification of the capital city of Constantinople, who is shown enthroned, holding a globus cruciger and a spear or a scepter. This city had been “founded” in 330 on the old Greek city of Byzantium, from which the term for the Byzantine Empire is derived.

Tiberius II Constantine (578 to 582)

Design innovation continued under the next emperor, Tiberius II Constantine. 

He discards the traditional plumed helmet of his predecessors and instead depicts himself wearing a crown topped with a cross. He otherwise maintains the armor and shield of the usual bust type, and harkens back to Justinian I’s choice of holding a globus cruciger.

The greatest change under Tiberius II, however, occurred on the reverse. Instead of the standing figure of Victory or an angel, this emperor depicts a cross-potent set upon a pyramid-like base of four steps. It is thought to represent the jeweled cross that more than 150 years before, in 420 or 421, had been erected on Golgotha by the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II (402 to 450), who on his own solidi appears to have celebrated his imperial gift to Jerusalem. 

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