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COINAGE AND HISTORY IN THE

SEVENTH CENTURY NEAR EAST


4

Edited by
ANDREW ODDY, INGRID SCHULZE
and WOLFGANG SCHULZE

Proceedings of the 14th Seventh Century Syrian


Numismatic Round Table held at The Hive, Worcester,
on 28th and 29th September 2013
Archetype Publications, London 2015

7th Century barbarous Folles;


a Secondary Mint in the Eastern Part of the Byzantine Empire
under Persian Rule
Henri Pottier 1
The analysis of the coinage of folles in Syria during the Persian occupation was published in 2004
in Cahiers Ernest-Babelon2 and complemented by a paper in 2010 in RN.3 These folles were
struck in what was designated the Syrian mint. In practice, these coins were probably struck in
two different mint places, both depending on the same authority, as indicated by the fact that both
were struck to the same weight standards, which differed from the imperial ones.
During the research on the Syrian folles, some imitations of Heraclius and Heraclius Constantines
folles were recorded which clearly were not part of the Syrian mintage for various reasons:
different style, different weight standards and use of immobilized dates. As a consequence we
recorded them in a separate chapter AA3, entitled Barbarous imitations.4
Now, due to the kind contribution of members of the Seventh Century Syrian Numismatic Round
Table, the number of known specimens has reached 39, which seems enough to start a first analysis.
Generally the term barbarous is used for masking the absence of an answer to the following
questions: by whom, when, where and why were these folles struck? However, the barbarous
adjective is judiciously used to characterize the style of the figures represented on the obverses of
the folles that clearly show that the die engravers were unskilled.
The aim of this paper is to try to give a more civilized, or at least a less barbarous, picture of these
coins.
The classification and the analysis of the Syrian folles produced in Syria during the Persian
occupation (610-30) have been made easier since it was demonstrated that their dates and officina
numbers were really meaningful. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the barbarous folles where
the dates and officina number are just copies of models locally circulating at that time.
As a consequence, the only criteria we used for classification and dating proposal are:

Iconography
Mark of value M or m
Pseudo-mintmark
Similarity of immobilised dates
Die links
Metrological data
Origin of the recorded coins

Henri Pottier is an independent scholar


henri.pottier@skynet.be
H. Pottier, Le monnayage de la Syrie sous loccupation perse (610-630). Coinage in Syria under Persian rule,
Cahiers Ernest-Babelon 9, CNRS ditions, Paris, 2004, with a Historical introduction: the Persian Near East (602-630
AD) by Clive Foss
3
H. Pottier, Le monnayage de la Syrie sous loccupation perse (610-630) Complment, RN 2010, pp. 447-476.
4
H. Pottier, op. cit. fn. 2, pp. 87, 139 f., Pl. XVII
2

We consider four different series of similar crude style. The representation of the two figures is
clumsy or caricatured, or even erroneous: sometimes their feet are turned right when they are facing
or the globus cruciger is reduced to a simple cross in their right hands. The style of some obverses is
comparable to the style of some Pseudo-Byzantine coins struck in Greater Syria after the Arab
conquest.
The obverse iconography of the various series imitates the imperial folles of Heraclius and
Heraclius-Constantine minted during the regnal years 3 to 6, i.e. between October 612 and 616. It
indicates that the production of barbarous folles started after 612, unlike the Syrian coins, minted
shortly after the Persian occupation that first imitate the obverses of Phocas folles.
Series 1. Rv. m
The mark of value m characterizes the first type of barbarous folles like it did for the first type of
Syrian coins. The model imitated for the reverse certainly was the follis minted in Antioch under
the reign of Phocas. This is confirmed by the pseudo-mintmark THEUP as well as by the
immobilized dates 1/I or II/1 from the last regnal years of Phocas. This series is also characterized
by particularly blundered obverse inscriptions where most of the letters are replaced by meaningless
signs.
Three of the five obverse dies from series 1 are linked with specimens from two other series,
reinforcing its status as the first series. The average weight is 10.41 + 1.25g, similar to the imperial
standards of Phocas as well as of Heraclius folles dated 3 to 6, i.e. 10.97g. The reference to Antioch
indicates that the barbarous mint was located in the Eastern part of the Byzantine Empire.
Series 2. Rv. M heavy module pseudo-date 8
The mark of value M matches the reverse of the imperial folles of Heraclius. However, the
immobilized dates refer to the latest regnal year 8 (1II or III) of Phocas. One of the obverse dies
[6] could be a crude imitation of Phocas and Leontia.
The pseudo-mintmarks derive from NIKO, CON or KYZ, generally in a blundered form. The
recorded officinae A, and are meaningless, probably copies of imperial models. Among these,
the imperial Antioch folles, particularly under Mauritius Tiberius, were mainly produced by the
officinae and A. Three of the 13 obverse dies are linked to folles of the series 1, confirming that
both series are produced by the same mint.
This barbarous series is the most numerous. The average weight is 11.64 + 0.65g, again similar to
11.26g, the imperial standard of the second type of Heraclius folles minted during the regnal years 6
to 14.
Half-follis XX
The only recorded half-follis has XX as the mark of value, similar to the type of mark used during
the reign of Phocas. The reference to Phocas is also expressed by the blundered obverse inscription
starting with IIOCO. However, we classify it, as well as a follis struck with the same obverse die,
in the Heraclius series 2 due to the fact that its iconography is not in accordance with the imperial
figure of Leontia: she should hold a sceptre resting on her right shoulder and should wear a basilissa
crown with prependulia. Furthermore, the half-follis weight of 5.67g corresponding to a follis
weight of 11.34g is similar to 11.64g, the average weight of the series 2.

Series 3. Rv. M light module


This series is characterized by a very crude style, more blundered inscriptions and sometimes
without a date. Nevertheless, seven of the eight specimens are die linked: two of the three obverse
dies are linked to the series 1 and 2 as well as to the XX half-follis of series 2. Two of the reverse
dies are linked to series 2, confirming that all these series are produced by the same mint.
When the date is mentioned, it is 1/II, as in series 2. The officinae A and here again are probably
meaningless. The average weight is 8.13 + 0.9g, similar to 8.25g, the imperial standard during the
regnal years 15 to 19.
Series 4. Rv. M pseudo-date 3
The mark of value as well as the date III now correspond to the reverse of the imperial model.
However, the mintmarks here are illegible and the officinae A, and are probably meaningless.
There are no die links to show that series 4 belongs to the same mint as the other series, but this
could be due to the limited number (6) of known specimens as some similarities in style suggest a
relation with series 1 to 3. Furthermore, the absence of die links could justify the chronological
order: the dies manufactured during the last phase could obviously not appear in the previous series.
Compared with the previous series, the weight 9.97 + 0.63g is coming back close to the weights of
series 1, but also close to the imperial standard of the regnal years 20 and 21. However, here again
the conclusion should take into account the limited number of known specimens.

Tentative conclusions
The derivation of the barbarous coins from the iconography of Heraclius and from Antioch folles
under Phocas leads us to compare these series with the Syrian folles minted in Northern Syria
(Emesa?) during the Persian occupation from 610 to 630. The common reason for the establishment
of both irregular mints in the Eastern part of the Empire is, without doubt, the need for currency for
trade in the occupied provinces after the closure of the Antioch mint and in the absence of coinage
supply from the other imperial mints.
Apart from this common origin, the output of the two mints presents different characteristics:
1. The production of the Syrian mint is higher than the barbarous one; currently the number of
barbarous folles recorded is 39 while the number of Syrian specimens is more than 300.
Even with a larger production, the Syrian coins seem to circulate in a quite limited area in
Northern Syria, specimens having been found in excavations and hoards located in Apamea
and Tell Bisa (i.e. close to Emesa). No specimen has been found either in the excavations in
Antioch or in Gerasa.
2. The obverse figures of the first barbarous series imitating Heraclius and HeracliusConstantine mean that the mint activity started after 612. If the reason for starting minting
two years later than at the Syrian mint is that the Persian occupation occurred two years
later, the location of the barbarous mint could be Palestine. Hitherto, unfortunately the
provenances of the 39 known coins have not been recorded. The proportion of Syrian coins
circulating in Syria around 630 is estimated at about 0.5% of the total amount of Byzantine
coins locally in circulation. If the production of barbarous coins is 10 times lower, the
absence of barbarous coins in the excavations made in Palestine is not necessarily
significant.

3. The coins where the immobilized dates no longer refer to Phocas but rather to Heraclius has
been classified as a fourth series, but in the absence of die links this classification is
questionable. A strange characteristic of series 4 is that four of the six specimens are
overstruck on earlier imperial Byzantine folles.
4. Even if the style of the emperors design is barbarous and cruder than the Syrian style, the
barbarous production follows some standards similar to those applied in Constantinople,
which is not the case for the Syrian mint.
Heraclius regnal years
Imperial Weight average (g)

Barbarous Weight average (g) /series


95% confidence interval (g)

3 to 6

6 to 14

15 to 19

20 to 21

10.97

11.26

8.25

10.54

10.41

11.64

8.13

9.97

9.15-11.67

10.99-12.29

7.23-9.03

9.34-10.60

Comparison with imperial standards of Heraclius folles


The similarities of the barbarous weights standards with those applied in the various phases
of the imperial production lead us to tentatively date the various barbarous series in
accordance with the dates of the corresponding imperial phases. This weight correlation
contributes to a less barbarous aspect for this secondary mint.

Catalogue
The numbering of the coins and the dies is made according to the method applied in Cahier Ernest
Babelon and RN Complment.
The linked obverse or reverse dies are registered with bold numbers.
N* indicates that the coin (N) was already published in Cahier Ernest-Babelon.
N** the coin (N) was already published in RN Complment.
The origin of the specimens is indicated as follows:
Private collections
AO
A. Oddy (UK)
HP
H. Pottier (B)
JPB J. - P. Blicq (B)
MD M. Donnevald (L)
NF
N. Fairhead (UK)
PP
P. Pavlou (UK)
RL
R. Lemaire (B)
SM S. Mansfield (UK)
TG
T. Goodwin (UK)
TN
T. Natschke (G)
WL W. Leimenstoll (G)
WS W. and I. Schulze (G)

Publications
X26
MIB 3
Album
S. Album and T. Goodwin, SICA 1
Public collection
WLM
Westflisches Landesmuseum Mnster
(inv. no. 16902)

Trade
AA
eB
CNG

AA auction
eBay auction
Classical Numismatic Group auction

C. Morrisson, Catalogue des Monnaies Byzantines de la Bibliothque Nationale, Paris, 1970, p. 260.

AA3

coin
n

Barbarous Ae Catalogue

obv-rv
dies

obv - rem.

rv - (date)

mintmark

3.1-1
3.2-2

B [..] - TNOV

II/
ANN-//H

q /OH

3.3-3
3.3-3

CIO - TV
"

A - O//cI
"

off

mass
(g)

origin

remarks

1. m
1.1*
2*
3.(1)
*
3.2**

3a** 3.4-3a [ ] - HNTC


3b
3.4a-3b I - - NNI
3c
3.4b-3c blundered inscr.

ANNO - [ ]
- Y
ANNO-[ ]

cON'

HP

10.41 HP
12.15 NF

2 fig. inverted

7.12 HP
11.74 HP

2 fig. inverted

9.66 HP
10.9 eB
10.92 TG

?
invKHO

2. M (1II heavy)
- 1/II
A - 1/II
"
"
AN - [1]/II ?
- 1/II
H/H/V
[ ]-III/
ANN-I1(inv)
ANN - [1]/II
ANNO-U/II/I
ANNO - [ ]
[ ] - 1II

OIX
OHK(inv)

O?
OIX
?
OHIN
I
oNK

3.13-14 NA - N I
3.14-15 [- .AVI ]
3.15-16 OI - N
3.4a-20 I / - NNI

4*
5.1*
5.2*
5.3
6*
6a
7*

3.3-4
3.4-5
3.4-5
3.4-5
3.5-6
3.6-4
3.6-7

8*
9*
10**
11
12
13

3.7-8
3.8-9
3.9-10
3.10-11
3.11-12
3.12-13

14
15
16
17

[ ]CHv-HNT
"
"
OI - NL
IIOCOITCNC
"
[NCI- II.III]
I - cIPRAI
[]
SCLIU-O.[CRP]
OCI - NN

10.61
10.23
10.76
14.13
10.05
13.56
12.70

PP 20 2 fig. inverted
RL
NF
TG2
HP
Trade
NF

[CO.]
KYZ

A
A

11.55
?
12.10
11.03
11.41
11.26

MD
X26
TN
AO
AO
WS

A - [ ]

[CON]

12.81 TG5

ANNO - 1/II
OI - VI
INV - CN

CON
YTV
r

A
A
A

11.65 JPB
overstr.
10.69 TG7 2 fig. inverted
11.64 Trade

XX
17a

3.6-17

IIOCO - [..]

XX

5.67 WS

star above M
overstr.
twice overstr.
overstr. J II */M

3. M (1II light)
18

3.16-18

vNN - CO[S..]

ANN-1II

[..H]

6.64 AO

19.1

3.6-4

IIOCO

- 1/II

OIX

9.37 CNG

19.2

3.6-4

IIOCO

- 1/II

OIX

8.62 Trade

20
21.1
21.2
22
23

3.6-19
3.4a-20
3.4a-20
3.4a-21
3.4a-22

IIOCO
I - - NNI
"
"
"

inv1/II- A
INV - CN
"
oN - H
[ ]o - IH

?
r

inv
A
A
A

8.03
6.56
9.39
8.02
8.79

[ ] - CN
- VTOO
[vN..] - [N]H
NH-[.]A
IBP - [IISH]
[ ] - CONP

NN - II/I ?
ANNO - III
ANN - II/I
ANN - [.]/I
[ ]-[II/I]
ANNO - II/I

?
?
?
[.O.] ?
?
?

A?
[]

9.14
9.93
9.53
11.2
9.50
10.53

star above M

Album rv inverted

WS
WL
AA
eB

4. M (III)
24
25
26
27
28
29

3.17-23
3.18-24
3.19-25
3.20-26
3.21-27
3.22-28

TG6
TG3
TG1
WLM
AO
AO

overstr. Maur. T.
overstr. Phocas
3 times overstr.
overstr. Maur.T.

1.1

3.1

3.2

3a

3b

5.1

5.2

10

5.3

11

13

14

17

18

19

21.2

22

23

16

20

24

25

29

26

27

28