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TWO CENTURIES IN CARTHAGE - A STORY TOLD BY COINS
The small group of coins below tells the history of Carthage over two centuries from 439 A.D. to 647 A.D.
ROMAN CARTHAGE WAS LOST TO THE VANDALS IN 439 A.D.
In the first century, the Vandals lived in the lands between the Elbe and Vistula. About 330, Constantine the Great granted the Vandals lands in Pannonia on the right bank of the Danube. In 406 the Vandals crossed into the Roman Empire and for the next two-and-a-half years pillaged, looted, and ruined towns and cities across Gaul. The Vandals plundered so wantonly that the word vandal is still used to describe a person who recklessly destroys property. In 409 the Vandals settled in Spain.
In 429 Gaiseric convinced his people to abandon Spain for North Africa. Boniface, a discontented governor in the African provinces of Rome may have invited him. Eighty thousand in number, including thirty thousand warriors, the Vandals crossed at the Straights of Gibraltar and seized lands from the local Berbers. After five years of war, in 435, Rome and Gaiseric made peace. Huneric, the son of Gaiseric, was initially held by the court at Ravenna as pledge of peace, but after a few years he was released.
Shortly after Huneric's release, on 19 October 439, Gaiseric attacked Carthage and gained the city by surprise. During the Vandal conquest, a fire destroyed a large portion of the city and the Vandals themselves destroyed several major theaters and churches.
Gaiseric made Carthage his capital, left the efficient Roman bureaucracy intact, and the Vandal kingdom of Africa prospered. In 455 Geiseric invaded Italy, sacking Rome while his fleets made war on much of the Mediterranean. Corsica, the Italian coast, Sardinia and Sicily all felt the terror of his forces. Geiseric died in early 477, outliving the Western Empire by one year.
The throne went to his eldest son Huneric. Huneric died in 484 AD, and was followed in the kingship by Gunthamund (484-496 AD), Thrasamund (496-523 AD), Hilderic (523-530 AD), and the last Vandal king Gelimir (530-535 AD).
Imitative siliqua of Honorius, 440-490 A.D.
Imitative siliqua of Honorius, BM 6-9, Carthage, 1.6g, 15.5 mm, axis 350; obverse [DN]HON[ORI]VSPFAV[G], Honorius diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right. R: VRBS ROMA, Roma seated left on cuirass holding Victory on globe and reversed spear, in ex RVPS (Ravenna) off-flan. Although Honorius died in 423 A.D., Gaiseric, Huneric, and Gunthamund issued imitative siliqua of Honorius as late as 490 A.D.
Gunthamund, c. 484-496 A.D.
50 numia, Blackburn and Greirson (G&B) #8 to 10, Carthage, 0.6g, 12.2mm, axis 180; obverse DNXG[VNTHA], bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse DN under line, within wreath; chipped
Trasamund, 496-523 A.D.
50 numia, BM 12-14, Hahn pl 42, 6a-b, MEC 17-18, Carthage, 0.9g, 13.6mm, axis 45; obverse [DNRX]TRHSA[MV]ND, bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse DN between line and elongated L, all within wreath; chipped
Hilderic, 523-530 A.D.
3597. Bronze nummus, H 21, Grierson/Blackburn 24-5, gVF, .59g, 8.9mm, 180°, Carthage mint, 523-530 A.D.; obverse diademed head right; reverse cross in wreath
JUSTINIAN I RECOVERED CARTHAGE IN 534 A.D.
The Vandals gradually grew soft with the riches of their conquests. In 533 Emperor Justinian ordered Belisarius, his great general, to subdue the Vandals. On 13 September 533, Belisarius met King Gelimir and his brother Ammatas with their army at the tenth milestone south of Carthage. The tide of battle stood against the Byzantines until Ammatas was killed. Gelimir lost his nerve and the Vandal army disintegrated in flight. Belisarius quickly occupied Carthage. Within two years the last of Gelimir's loyalists were eliminated. Gelimer was honorably treated and received large estates in Galicia. Most of the Vandal men were made slaves of the Romaion (Byzantines). The Vandals were eliminated as a people and disappeared from history.
Justinian I, 534-545 A.D.
Silver 1/2 siliqua?, SB 253 (siliqua), DO 280 (siliqua), VF, Carthage mint, 0.6g, 12.2mm, axis 0; obverse DN[IVSTINI] ANVSPPAC, bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse VOT MVLT HTI within wreath; minor chip reverse 7:00; possibly an underweight siliqua, but this coin is not only half weight but also has smaller bust and die than the two SB 253 siliqua FORVM has handled, reverse is struck with a full siliqua size die, half siliqua of this type are not listed in SBC or DO, possibly unpublished denomination, very rare, or even unique
Justinian I, 534-545 A.D.
Silver siliqua, SB 254, DO-nl, VF, 0.6g, 13.3mm, axis 180, Carthage mint; obverse [DNIVSTINI]ANVSPP, bust right with diadem, cuirass, and paludamentum; reverse monogram, cross above, S below, within linear border encircled by wreath; this issue was copied in fairly large numbers by the Ostrogoths, however, based on its provenance with a group of other Carthage siliqua, it is likely an official mint issue; holed in antiquity for use a jewelry, rare
Justin II, 565-578 A.D.
Silver 100 nummi, F/VF, SB 392B, .5g, 12.4mm, axis 180, Carthage mint; obverse [DNIVSTI]NVSPP, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing holding shield; reverse monogram, cross above, C (=100) below within border; chipped; extremely rare, not listed Dumbarton Oaks, Sear's Byzantine Coin Values has only line drawing vice the usual photograph
Justin II, 565-578 A.D.
Bronze half follis, Hahn-76, Vita type, 13.88g, 26.2mm, 140º, Carthage mint, second officina, 572-573 A.D.; obverse D N IVSTINO ET SOFIA AC, busts of Justin and Sophia, crowned, facing, VITA (off flan) below exergue line, cross center; reverse large K between ANNO and VIII (regnal year 8), cross above, S below, KAR in ex; ex Harlan Berk, scarce
Heraclius, 614-641 A.D.
Silver half siliqua, DO class III, SB-871, DO-233, MIB 149, DO 233, MIB 149, BMC 343-6, Tolstoi 319-20, Ratto 1460-64, Morrison (CBN) 3-11, S 871, gVF (very conservative grade by Mr. Sear), 0.66g, 11.6mm, 100º, Carthage mint, 614-618 A.D. or less likely 628-629 A.D.; obverse D N ERACLIO PP AV, bust of Heraclius facing, beardless, wearing cuirass, paludamentum, and crown with pendilia and cross; reverse no inscription; to left bust of Heraclius Constantine, Heraclius' son, wearing chlamys with tablion and crown with pendilia and cross, to right bust of Martina, Heraclius' wife, wearing robes and crown with long pendilia and cross, cross between heads; ex Edward J. Waddell, scarce
SASSINID OCCUPATION, 618-628 A.D.
Byzantine type coinage was struck by Khusru II during his temporary domination of Alexandria, 618-628 A.D. It may seem strange that a Persian king would wear a crown surmounted by a cross, as on the coin below. However, his wife, Sira was a Christian, he was a benefactor of the church of St. Sergius in Edessa; he honored the Virgin; and he sometimes wore a robe embroidered with a cross which he had received as a gift from the Emperor Maurice Tiberius (c.f. Grieson in DOC II, part 1 pp. 233-4).
Khusru II, Persian Sassinid King, Byzantine type coinage of occupied Alexandria 618-628 A.D.
Bronze dodecanummium (12 nummi), DO 192, MIB 202a, Wroth (BMC) 276, Tolstoi 107-8, Ratto 1314-15, CBN 30-31, Berk 586, Hahn 202a, VF, patches of corrosion, 17.91g, 24.5mm, 180º, Alexandria mint, 618-628 A.D.; obverse bust of the Sassanid King Khusru II? wearing a crown with pendilia and surmounted by a cross within a crescent, star left, crescent moon right; reverse large I B with cross potent on globe between, ALEX in exergue; ex Harlan Berk, very scarce
BYZANTINE RECOVERY, 618-697 A.D.
The Byzantine emperors resumed the imperial coinage of Alexandria after their recapture of Egypt in 628 A.D.
Constans II, 641-647 A.D.
Silver siliqua, DO class I, SB-1048, DO-130, VF, Carthage mint, 0.4g, 11mm, axis 225; obverse ]COST ANT[, bust facing, beardless, wearing chlamys, and crown with cross; reverse cross potent on base, chipped, scarce
CARTHAGE LOST TO THE MUSLIMS IN 697 A.D.
Arab invaders conquered the region in the 7th century A.D., and the former Romano-Christian culture was replaced by Islam. Although practically destroyed by the Arabs in 698, the site was populated for many centuries afterward. The land was now known as Ifriqiya, and power was wielded by a succession of ruling dynasties, including the Aghlabites, the Fatimids, and the Zeirids. Later invasions were made by the Sicilian Normans under Roger II in the 12th century and by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th century. LOUIS IX of France died there in 1270, while on crusade.