BYZANTINE, Manuel I, 1143-1180 AD, billon aspron trachy, Constantinople mint


BYZANTINE, Manuel I, 1143-1180 AD, aspron trachy, no date, Constantinople mint, Obverse: Virgin seated facing, ΜΡ ΩΘ, Reverse: Emperor standing facing holding labarum & globus without cross, MANOVHL DECPOTHC, scyphate, billon, 26-28mm, 3.66g, SB1964, F-VF

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There was a gold coin, the solidus, that they started messing with and debasing, and then they debased it further, then they kept going, ending up with base gold coins and base silver coins, which we call billon. The base coins were made cup shaped, or “scyphate,” which kind of advertised their baseness.

Manuel I pursued a vigorous expansion policy during his long reign, was popular, seemed to be successful, was generally esteemed by his contemporaries. Things fell apart quickly after his death though, a sign of the personal quality of his rule, which could not continue without him.

We call them Byzantines, but they thought of themselves as Romans. It is not incorrect to think of the Roman Empire persisting until 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople. The main reference we are using for the Byzantine series is “Byzantine Coins and their Values,” by David Sear.