Classical Numismatics Discussion
  Welcome Guest. Please login or register. All Items Purchased From Forum Ancient Coins Are Guaranteed Authentic For Eternity!!! Explore Our Website And Find Joy In The History, Numismatics, Art, Mythology, And Geography Of Coins!!! Expert Authentication - Accurate Descriptions - Reasonable Prices - Coins From Under $10 To Museum Quality Rarities Welcome Guest. Please login or register. Internet challenged? We Are Happy To Take Your Order Over The Phone 252-646-1958 Explore Our Website And Find Joy In The History, Numismatics, Art, Mythology, And Geography Of Coins!!! Support Our Efforts To Serve The Classical Numismatics Community - Shop At Forum Ancient Coins

New & Reduced

Author Topic: Justinian Plague coin from Carthage?  (Read 123 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Paul B11

  • Praetorian
  • **
  • Posts: 21
Justinian Plague coin from Carthage?
« on: March 23, 2023, 11:34:10 am »
Does anyone know why the Carthage Justinian I nummus says VOT XIII (and/or VOT XIIII)?

sear 278 and 279, DO 302 and 303…

Generally that would be vows/prayers and I assume for the 13th and 14th year of his rule.

This would be when the plague started spreading, right, and my understanding is it spread from Alexandria and Carthage got hit particularly hard.


Offline Curtis JJ

  • Consul
  • ***
  • Posts: 338
    • CONSERVATORI, Ancient Coins & Their Provenances
Re: Justinian Plague coin from Carthage?
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2023, 01:41:28 pm »
I don’t know if I’ve ever read why Justinian issued a VOT coinage in his 13th and 14th years, but Year 13 is before the plague. The Year 14 (XIIII) coin, being from Carthage, was probably struck during the “Justinian Plague," but it depends on when in Year 14. All the sources I’ve read (a few listed below) say that N. Africa was utterly devastated by the plague (even more so than Constantinople and the European / Asian territories of Byzantium), and still hadn’t fully recovered centuries later.

[Photo of my example attached.]

There’s some debate about the exact timing (which places did it hit in which months), but here’s my understanding of the timeline:

- Spring or Summer of 541, Year 14 of Justinian: The Plague hits N. Africa, especially Alexandria and Pelusium, from whose ports it traveled into the rest of the Mediterranean. It is believed to have come up from “Kush” / Axum / Ethiopia.
- Fall of 541 or Spring of 542, early in Year 15: Plague reaches Constantinople and soon ravages the city.
- 542, Year 15: Plague reaches the other major cities of the Empire.

Justinian himself famously caught the plague, survived, and bore visible scars for life (presumably from the “bubae” around the neck/face?).

It’s amazing to me that the Year XV coinage (including the huge, impressive AE Follis) continued to be struck at all. But they started to shrink at that point. I don't know if it was the direct result of the plague, but it’s hard to imagine bronze supplies could've been maintained during such chaos – especially since wars were breaking out, and the Empire quickly started losing (again) control of N. Africa and Italy. (Then again, it seems like gold coinage may have kept up, though it's not dated, so it's hard to be sure. Did Justinian have other large silver issues after the end of the Carthaginian Siliquae / fractions?)

There is a lot of historical literature on this topic and a few sources from the period (or close to it).

The main classical source: Procopius of Caesarea. Translated by H. B. Dewing, 1914. History of the Wars, Volume I: Books 1-2. (Persian War). Loeb Classical Library 48. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Online at Project Gutenberg:

A very useful edited volume, parts of it can be found online: Little, Lester K., ed. 2007. Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541-750. Cambridge University Press. Google Books (Preview):

Also useful, as always: John Julius Norwich A Short History of Byzantium (1997, Vintage Books, and other editions). See also: John Bagnell Bury. 1889. A History of the Later Roman Empire: From Arcadius to Irene (395 A.D. to 800 A.D) . London: MacMillan. Google Books (Free):

Offline Paul B11

  • Praetorian
  • **
  • Posts: 21
Re: Justinian Plague coin from Carthage?
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2023, 04:58:42 pm »
Wow, this is great information Curtis, and your coin is very nice for the type! Many thanks.

Byzantine coins are great for me because I like puzzles, but unfortunately, I also like definite answers. ;-)


All coins are guaranteed for eternity