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Stavraton

The stavraton (pl. stavrata) was a type of silver coin used during the last century of the Byzantine Empire.

The name stavraton first appears in the mid-11th century for a gold histamenon showing the Byzantine emperor holding a cross-shaped scepter, but in its more specific sense, it denotes the large silver coins introduced by Emperor John V Palaiologos (r. 1341–1376, 1379–1391) in circa 1367 and used for the last century of Byzantine history. The late Byzantine coin was probably named after the cross (Greek: σταυρός, stavros/stauros) that featured in its presumed model, the double gigliato of Naples and the Provence; alternatively, the name may have derived from the small crosses at the beginning of the coins' inscriptions, an unusual feature for Byzantine currency, although these are not very conspicuous.

The coin was designed to replace the defunct gold hyperpyron as the highest-denomination coin in circulation. Hence it was made heavier than any previous Byzantine silver coin, or, for that matter, any contemporary European coin, weighing initially 8.5 grams but falling later to 7.4 grams. It still had only half the value of the hyperpyron however, which remained in use as a notional currency.

The stavraton was complemented by fractions of 1⁄2 and 1⁄8, both in silver. The half-stavraton initially weighed 4.4 grams and gradually declined to 3.7; the one-eighth, known as the doukatopoulon (Greek: δουκατόπουλον, "little ducat," duchatelo in Italian sources) or aspron (ασπρον) weighed circa 1.1 grams. Quarter-stavrata were not minted, and the silver Venetian ducats (Greek: δουκάτον, doukaton) were used instead.

All these coins featured a bust of Christ on the obverse and an imperial bust on the reverse. The inscriptions are fairly uniform, with the reverse featuring an inner and an outer inscription: "+[Emperor's name] ΔΕCΠΟΤΙC Ο ΠΑΛΕΟΛΟΓΟC / Θ[ΕΟ]V ΧΑΡΙΤΙ ΒΑCΙΛΕVC ΡWΜΑΙWN", i.e. "Lord (despotes) [Emperor's name] the Palaiologos / by God's Grace, Emperor (Basileus) of the Romans." In the stavrata of John V's reign, the inscriptions were in reverse order, and under Manuel II, the inner inscription used the term Autokrator instead: "Θ[ΕΟ]V ΧΑΡΙΤΙ AVTOKΡΑΤOΡ". Until 1990, when a hoard of ninety coins appeared, and with the exception of two half-stavrata, no silver coins of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI (r. 1449–1453), were known to have survived.

Emperors that Issued Stavrata and/or Half Stavrata

John V Palaeologus (15 Jun 1341 - 16 Feb 1391)
John VI Cantacuzenus (13 May 1347 - 22 Nov 1354)
Andronicus IV Palaeologus (12 Avg 1376 - 1 Jul 1379)
Manual II Palaeologus (16 Feb 1391 - 21 Jul 1425)
John VII Palaeologus (14 Apr - 17 Sep 1390)
John VIII Palaeologus (1423 - 31 Oct 1448)
Constantine XI Palaeologus (31 Oct 1448 - 29 May 1453)

References

Bellinger, A. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, Vol. V: Michael VII to Constantine XI, 1258-1453. (Washington D.C., 1999).
Bendall, S. A Private Collection of Palaeologan Coins. (Wolverhampton, 1988).
Bendall, S. & P. Donald. Later Palaeologan Coinage, 1282-1453. (London, 1979).
Grierson, P. Byzantine Coins. (London, 1982).
Lianta, E. Late Byzantine Coins, 1204 - 1453, in the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. (London, 2009).
Ratto, R. Monnaies Byzantines et d'autre Pays contemporaines à l'époque byzantine. (Lugano, 1930).
Sabatier, J. Description générale des monnaies Byzantines. (Paris, 1863).
Sear, D. Byzantine Coins and Their Values. (London, 1987).
Sommer, A. Die Münzen des Byzantinischen Reiches 491-1453. Mit einem Anhang: Die Münzen des Kaiserreichs von Trapezunt. (Regenstauf, 2010).