Numismatic and History Discussions > Byzantine Coins

Propaganda on Coins

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Simon:
During an interesting discussion a few months back in “ Why So Crude.” We ran into many different views on what was the Byzantine empire itself.  It basically lead to the conclusion that the start of the Byzantine Empire was a philosophical date, depending on the point of view of the writer. Several separate events were considered as turning points from Roman to Byzantium but I personally took the view that Byzantine was not a different empire but just a 1500 year evolution of the Roman Empire. So my only reason to refer to it as Byzantium is to give a date range of the period of discussion and one of the questions that came up in the previous posting was regarding propaganda on coins, was the propaganda greater in the Imperial Roman era or Byzantine period?
Having been a collector of both time periods I believe the propaganda on Byzantine coins was more biased towards the position of the ruler instead of earlier Roman coins being more biased towards the individual ruler and he or she’s accomplishments. I am curios to what others think.
Another view from the original discussion was it was greater with Byzantine coins because of their religious significance.  The people of Byzantine were a deeply religious people probley the only country it could be compared to today would be the Vatican. It lead me to another question Was the coinage of Byzantine an attempt to influence the empire and its surrounding areas into Christian Beliefs or were the coins simply the product of a deeply religious civilization?
I would also love to see fellow collectors favorite coins of Roman and Byzantine propaganda.

Robert_Brenchley:
There's no doubt the Byzantines were deeply religious, as were most or all cultures at that time; our less religious societies these days are a historical anomaly. I haven't studied the period in any detail, but I suspect that they were trying to boost the imperial institution through religious propaganda. So emperors sprout haloes, the heavenly court is portrayed as a bigger and better version of the earthly one, Jesus is portrayed as an emperor sitting in state, and so on. Within that, you do get individuals at work; Pulcheria boosted her position by emphasising virginity.

I think you're right about the Roman period; these were essentially military dictators trying to boost their individual position; I'm not sure how much of an organised concept of the state they actually had.

Simon:
I can easily agree that the Basil position was promoted on coins most notable his devine right to rule ( Theophilus and Constantine, by the grace of God king of the Romans, The Despot John, the Palaeologus, by the grace of God, King of the Romans), however this type of inscription seems to be in the minority most of the inscriptions are more genericly religous without the mention of the Basil or only to mention the Basil needs Gods help or protection to rule. This is easy to see just check Sears list of inscriptions.

Byzantium was more religous than any other nation that I know,  From all of my studies it appears to be almost impossible to seperate religon from any aspect of Byzantine Life. However, I wonder if the Byzantine was attempting to influence other surrounding nations to become Christian with their currency. How far would have a Byzantine coin actually circulated?

Simon:
I did forgett to mention a series of the latter coinage that does visually promote the Basil as a divine choice. These coins depict the Emperor being crowned by Christ or Mary.

Robert_Brenchley:
Ok, take this example from the catalogue. Note the similarity between the emperor's image and Christ's, along with Christ's image on the coin, lending the appearance of divine authority to it. Its subtle, subliminal propaganda, but the empire seems to have been full of it, not only on the coins, but in the churches as well. Everywhere you went, the emperor was portrayed as comparable with God.

It's perfectly true that you couldn't draw a dividing line between the sacred and the secular, but that's a modern. Western development which would be anachronistic anywhere at this period.

Nicephorus III, Botaniates, 24 March 1078 - 4 April 1081 A.D.

4870. Electrum histamenon nomisma (syphate), S 1881, VF, cracked 4.37g, 31.8mm, 180°, Constantinople mint; obverse Christ seated facing on a throne without back, wearing numbus cruciger, pallium and colobium, holds book of gospels in left hand and raises right hand in benediction, IC - XC on sides of nimbus, all inside double border; reverse +NIKHFR DEC TW ROTANIAT, Nicephorus standing facing on footstool, bearded wearing crown and loros, holding labarum with cross on shaft and globus cruciger, all inside double border; ex Woolslayer collection, very scarce, $200

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