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Author Topic: Lesser known Byzantine mint in Salona  (Read 197 times)

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Offline natko

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Lesser known Byzantine mint in Salona
« on: May 31, 2017, 07:37:43 PM »
Salona, situated in suburbs of today Split, Croatia (town of Solin), was a capital of the Roman province Dalmatia and a trading hub on the eastern Adriatic shore. Settled as a Greek merchant town much before it was granted a status of Roman colony in the early 1st century it grew rapidly soon afterwards - sources cite its population at around 60 thousand or more around the time of Diocletian (around 300 CE) which placed it high on the list of most populous Roman cities of the time. From the 3rd century also a bigger Christian community exists in the city and the bishopric is established, later metropoly (ecclesiastical province).

After it's development peak in the 5th century it started to decline, especially after Byzantine-Gothic wars, along with successive wars with Avars and Slavs. In the early 7th century it was sacked and most of the people, if not all, fled to remnants of Diocletian palace in Split, which remained an exclave under Byzantine rule for the few following centuries. Once thought to be destroyed by these intrusions, newer sources incline to thesis it was just abandoned for at least 100 years, based on small coin hoards which included follises of emperor Heraclius (minted around 630). When new settlers came, they started to build their town a bit eastern, on the shores of Jadro river, using material from the abandoned city for the convenience. Today, a part of ancient Salona remains as ruins, excavated in the 19th century, which can be visited all year round.

Since there were no mines nearby it never had a mint, at least a big one. There are only some extremely rare examples of golden tremisses and solidi minted around 475-480 with busts of Nepos and Ovidius that are attributed to an unknown mint in the city, probably made by jewelers for the local trade. Julius Nepos did flee to Salona in 475, so it was probably authorized by him, while ruling the last legitimate part of the Western Roman Empire there until his death in 480. His usurper, Romulus Augustus was killed in 476 by Odoacar in Rome, which historically ended the Antiquity and started the Middle Ages.

During Justinian the Great (527 - 565) there was an emergency military mint in Salona, first described in early 1970s by the local authors. It was also incorporated in Wolfgang Hahn's "Moneta Imperii Byzantini" from 1973. In 1911 total of 168 coins were found nearby, half (K) and a quarter (I) follis, or 20 and 10 nummi respectively. They were considerably lighter than contemporary denominations from other mints and did not have any mint stated, but since nearly all of such coins were previously or later found around Salona or in Ravenna (where another mint existed) it was concluded a mint was established from the emergency to pay the troops in times Byzantine held Salona before definitive victory against Ostrogoths in 552 or 555. Poor design and evaluation, overstikes on Ostrogothic coinage with lighter weight and diameter than prescribed just favors the thesis. K usually has weight 2-3g with 16-17mm diameter, while tiny I is around 1.5g and 13mm.

In the last decades an extremely rare follis (M) without mint name is attributed to Salona as well. I don't have details about their origin. The other two coins, especially the decanummi(I) are also quite hard to find. Since this mint is obviously of my utmost interest, as I was born and raised in Split, I managed to find both denominations within last 10 or so years and was actually lucky since both are in really nice conditions for the types, as even the head is rarely discernible, let alone the letters. Both from numismatic dealers abroad, nothing here locally - they are scarce indeed. Varieties in lettering exist, with some bearing incription of Iustinus, which is due to poor sculptors only.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 05:46:40 PM by Quant.Geek »

Offline natko

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Re: Lesser known Byzantine mint in Salona
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2017, 01:48:06 PM »
For easier visualization, here's the map of Byzantine Empire in 555 CE, from Wikipedia. Pink regions are vassal states.


By Tataryn - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19926428

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Lesser known Byzantine mint in Salona
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2017, 11:00:24 AM »
Congratulations on acquiring these coins and writing them up so well. How ironic that, being light weight and badly struck, they must have been seen in a negative light when they were circulating (they must have circulated, you don't argue with a soldier holding a gladius over little bit of copper), while they are little treasures now.

I understand their emotional value for you. They are part of the history of the land you live in, so landing in your collection is a homecoming. Yet, they are just as Roman as coins struck in London, Rome or Alexandria. That gives you a little insight in the amazing scope of the Roman empire, its size and its longevity.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.