A UNIQUE KARDEZ OF KING HETOUM II OR LEVON III


By Levon Vrtanesyan
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Since Dr. Bedoukian published his monumental treatise on Cilician Armenian coins, only a few new significant varieties have been reported. Recently, a new type of kardez of Hetoum II or Levon III has come to light. This new specimen, significantly different from the coins in this series, raises questions.

Hetoum II (1289-1293, 1295-1296, 1299-1301, 1301-1306 A.D.) was one of the sons of Levon II who succeeded the throne. He was never a willing king, and was often forced back to the throne due to internal strife. Two of his brothers unsuccessfully revolted against him, and he had to content with the growing threat of the Mamluk invasion and weakening of his Mongol allies. He often tried to retire from the throne, but was often called to duty in times of trouble. He eventually chose Levon III as co-ruler, and attempted to retire.

Levon III (1301-1307 A.D.) was the son of Toros, brother of king Hetoum. He was chosen as heir to Hetoum II, so as the king could retire to a monastery. Though Levon III was recognized king in 1301, Hetoum continued to rule with him until 1306, indicating they were co-rulers, the only instance of co-rulers in the history of the kingdom. Both Hetoum, who was a Catholic, and Levon III were in favor of uniting the Armenian and Catholic Churches, which caused much controversy. On November 17, 1307 A.D. the Mongol general Pilarghou treacherously murdered Hetoum and Levon during a visit from the latter, at a time when the Armenians were allied with the Mongols against the Mamluks. Some suggest this was done at the instigation of the nationalist elements against the pro-Catholics.

The coins of Hetoum II include billons, but no drams and also coppers. These billons bear a bust of the king, and on the reverse either a Latin or Greek cross. His copper coinage consisted of facing bust kardezes, and seated kardezes. The reverses of the facing bust kardezes bear a decorated cross, and those of the seated kardezes a simple Latin cross with various field marks. There are also some kardezes of this kind that bear unidentified Arabic overstrike. Some suggest it may be a Seljuq of Rum or Mamluk sultan.

The coins of Levon III included silver and copper. His silver coins included equestrian/ lion takvorins and half takvorins. The copper coinage of this king included kardezes with a seated king. The reverses of most coins have a Latin cross and dots in the field. Because a large number of coins exist from this king, it is possible coins were issued during the period of co-rule with Hetoum II as well, and not only his one year sole reign. This raises the question of whether any coins were struck in the name of Hetoum during his co-rule with Levon, and which types can be attributed to which reigns.

This new type of kardez comes from the collection of Dr. Nassif Nohra, a Lebanese numismatist who generously allowed access to this specimen, and a paper to be written about it.

This specimen bears similarities to seated kardezes of both Hetoum II and Levon III with the exception that it bears a Greek cross on the reverse, instead of a Latin one. Stylistically, it appears to show slightly more care than regular Latin cross versions of these coins, though it is unclear due to the poor state of the preservation.


                                     Hetoum II or Levon III, AE Kardez, Sis mint. 21.7 mm, 3.30 gm.
OBVERSE

King crowned, and seated in oriental fashion with legs crossed. Holding sceptre in one hand and cross in the other.

... [ՈԻՄ or ՈՆ] ԹԱԳԱԻ ...

[Hetoum or Levon] King.
REVERSE Greek cross, with short and then a long horizontal bar.

+ՇԻՆ ... Ի ՍԻ

Struck in the City of Sis.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion this new coin raises many new questions. First, one is inclined to ask, why such a curious design was adopted on what appears to be a regular circulation issue, and why no more of this type are in existance. After all, most coins in this series are monotonous and alike, with the exception of a curious inscription variety descriped in Armenian Coins and Their Values, p. 145, No. 404. Also, if this a Hetoum II issue, can one place this within a period when the billons of this king were struck? However, if it is a Levon III, was it perhaps issued during the period of co-rule? Perhaps Hetoum II billons may be pinned to his final reign, if it is concluded these are from Levon III.

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