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Coinage of the Early Middle Ages |


In the early centuries of the first millennium a.d. the borders of the Roman Empire divided Europe into two monetary zones : ( 1 ) a southerly and western partition, in which coins were minted and circulated more or less regularly as an intrinsic separate of the economy, and ( 2 ) a northern and easterly zone, which made no coins of its own and spell coins sporadically as a consequence of respective interactions, economic and otherwise. This same monetary division of Europe, following approximately the valleys of the Rhine and Danube Rivers, survived the political adjournment of the Roman Empire and was maintained about until the end of the millennium. It was only in the ninth hundred and particularly the tenth hundred that lands beyond the Roman imperial frontiers began to produce their own coins to supply a monetize economy .

roman coinage in europe

neologism was unified throughout the western Roman Empire, with mints scattered across Europe producing coins of assorted denominations of amber, silver medal, and copper. Minting, like many early aspects of the Roman state of matter, went through a period of confusion in the third hundred, to be revived and regularized by the reforms of the Roman emperors Diocletian and Constantine I about a.d. 300. The regular mints of Europe for the adjacent two centuries included Lyons and Arles in Gaul ; Trier in Rhineland Germany ; Rome, Milan, Ravenna, and Aquileia in Italy ; Siscia ( contemporary Sisak ) in Pannonia ; and Thessalonica ( nowadays Salonika ) in Greece. Spain, which had been an important generator of bullion in the earlier conglomerate, lacked a mint in the former menstruation, as did England after the close of the mint of London in ad 325. The standard coin of the recently empire was the gold bezant, which was of pure admixture and an unchanging system of weights of 24 karats, or 1⁄72 of the Roman pound ( 4.5 modern grams ), from its introduction in ad 309 well into the tenth hundred, by which time it was called a nomisma. Fractions of the bezant besides were minted ; in the west the third, or tremissis, was most park ( fig. 1 ). The silver medal denarius had been the footing of the Roman monetary arrangement during the democracy and early on empire, but in the one-fourth and fifth centuries silver neologism was rare. Copper coinage was relatively park, of varying weights and denominations. By the fifth century angstrom many as 7,200 copper nummi were needed to buy a aureate solidus, with no intercede denominations available. The obverse of late Roman coins broadly bore the image of the reigning emperor, with his name and honorific titles making up the surrounding caption. On the reverse hedonist deities gradually gave way to generalized emblematic representations of Roman virtues and scenes of the emperor butterfly in military context ; explicitly Christian imagination was rare.

Beyond the frontiers delimited by the limes, or boundaries, along the Rhine and Danube Rivers, Roman neologism was a familiar phenomenon, specially to those in direct liaison with the empire. The frontier regions themselves constituted a heavily monetized zone, with coins exchanged to provide for the needs of the soldiers garrisoned there and to pay for commodities imported across the molding. military payments besides fueled the export of Roman neologism beyond the frontiers in the form of salaries to individual peasant soldiers who returned home after military service in the Roman army and as payments to federate bands of warriors from outside the empire who were enlisted into its campaigns. Coins besides were exported as tribute to barbarian leaders and were carried spinal column home plate among the loot gained on cross-border raids. The export of Roman coins to barbarian Europe is attested to by archaeological finds throughout the union and east of the continent. For the most separate copper coins are found approximate to the frontiers, chiefly as isolated losses on excavate inhabitancy sites. amber coins are encountered far afield, normally buried in hoards varying from a few coins to thousands. Some of these hoards, chiefly in the area union of the Danube, have been identified as wage payments to individual soldiers and as blocks of protection to such groups as the Huns. Solidi found in Scandinavia constitute a less-clear class of exports ; these coins cluster in the menstruation a.d. 454 to 488 and have been interpreted variously as the result of a trade in furs and slaves or sums sent north by federates and invaders .

the coinages of the early germanic states

The coins produced by the Germanic rulers who succeeded the Roman emperors in Europe followed the form of the earlier Roman examples, if not necessarily retaining their subject or function. Again amber coinage dominated, particularly the appellation of the tremissis, one-third of the solidus. Silver and copper issues were rare and intermittent. Although the earliest coins were of saturated gold, like their Roman predecessors, by ad 600 debasements effected by alloying silver with the gold can be noted in many of the issues. The weight of the coinage besides undergo decrease ; by a.d. 600 the standard of the solidus in Gaul had dropped from 24 karats of weight to 21 karats. The inaugural issues of the Germanic rulers besides followed the imperial example by placing the appoint and image of the reigning emperor, by that time in Constantinople ( contemporary Istanbul ), on the obverse of their aureate coins. The rare issues of ash grey and copper coins sometimes had the name or monogram of the issuing baron. soon before the middle of the sixth hundred the Frankish king Theodebert put his own name on his gold issues, thereby provoking an angry reply from the Byzantine writer and historian Procopius, who asserted that lone emperors had the right to put their images on gold coins. By the end of the century kings of the Suevi and the Visigoths besides had replaced the imperial name with their own on their gold coins. frisian and Anglo-Saxon amber tremisses were modeled on those of Francia ; the name of an English king first appears on a coin in the first half of the one-seventh hundred. The pseudo-imperial neologism lasted longer in Italy, where the Ostrogothic issues were replaced by those of the Byzantine reconquerors and finally by the Langobards, who put their king ‘s name on the neologism only at the end of the seventh century. Most of these issues followed the Roman and Byzantine imagination of a portrayal obverse and a emblematic reverse, with the cross becoming the most common revoke image. It is apparent that a coinage comprising alone aureate pieces, as was characteristic of most of Europe in the one-fifth through one-seventh centuries, was ill suited to a retail economy and would have been outside the daily experience of most people. A bang-up proliferation of mints, particularly in the merovingian and Visigothic kingdoms, implies a change in the circumstances of minting from centralized to local, paralleling changes in the bases of tax collection. This phenomenon is most apparent in the coinage of seventh-century Francia, where the names of hundreds of mint towns appear on the coins, along with names of thousands of people identified as “ moneyers. ” Finds of Byzantine gold coins and southerly Frankish ones in Frisia ( a northern state in contemporary Netherlands ) and England suggest a craft path for goods imported from the union to the Mediterranean. Finds of coins of the sixth and one-seventh centuries are extremely rare beyond the boundaries of the former Roman Empire, however ; the few tremisses found in western Jutland seem to tie into the frisian economic network preferably than to a scandinavian or baltic sphere .

the age of silver

In the course of the seventh hundred the gold coinages of merovingian Francia, of Frisia, and of Anglo-Saxon England gave way to silver issues, and silver remained virtually the only coin alloy in Transalpine Europe for the rest of the millennium. In Spain the Visigoths continued to produce corrupted gold tremisses until Muslim invaders eliminated their kingdom in ad 711. The Langobard kings maintained their gold coinages in Italy until Charlemagne ‘s conquest at the end of the one-eighth century, and the semi-independent Beneventan dukes continued minting amber into the ninth century. In Francia eloquent coins moved gradually away from the seventh-century type of portrayal and cross with the names of coiner and mint. By the end of the merovingian dynasty in the mid–eighth hundred most denarii were modest chunks of silver with simpleton geometric designs on both faces and few legible inscriptions. The ash grey coins of Frisia and England in the period, known as sceattas, besides were little, thick, and lacking in legends ; their imagination in some cases appears to have derived from local artistic traditions ( figure. 2 ). A brief publish of sceattas minted at Ribe on the west coast of Jutland c. ad 720 can lay call to being the earliest european neologism minted beyond the ancient Roman borders. In the second half of the eighth century argent coinages undergo modifications in appearance and weight standards that resulted in the coin known as the penny ( called the denarius in Latin, the denier in French, and the pfenning in german ). These innovations appear to have been the initiatives of carolingian kings, with Pepin the Short, the first of the “ mayors of the palace ” to take the claim of king, standardizing the coinage shortly after becoming king of Francia in ad 751 and his son Charlemagne creating a newly, heavier penny for his blow up kingdom in about ad 793 ( fig. 3 ). The coins of the kingdoms that made up Anglo-Saxon England followed a similar pattern of reform and calibration. By a.d. 800 the silver penny was a broad, well-struck coin weighing between 1.5 and 2.0 mod grams. In England the coins normally featured a royal portrait on the obverse, whereas the Carolingians favored geometric types, specially the monogram of the ruler ‘s name. Anglo-Saxon and carolingian coins bear the names of a hearty phone number of mints throughout their respective region, broadly coinciding with the main commercial and ecclesiastical centers. No such mints were located north or west of the Roman boundaries of England or beyond the Rhine-Danube frontiers on the continent. The standardized silver pennies of the Carolingian empire and of England provided a sound basis for retail and long-distance commerce and facilitated the growth of a monetize segment of the economy to supplement the heavily subsistence and manorial agrarian base. The uniformity of the carolingian coinage broke down with the dissolving of the centralize power of the conglomerate. Counts and dukes and even bishops and abbots took over mint throughout the conglomerate, although they much retained a royal or imperial carolingian name on their coins. In the naturally of the one-tenth hundred minting began east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, chiefly at mints in Saxony exploiting the newly discovered silver deposits there.

about no English or carolingian coins of the ninth century are found in Scandinavia that would correspond to the well-documented loot seized by Viking raiders and tributes exacted by them ; if such wealth reached the baltic area in the shape of coins, these must have been melted rather than buried. A series of coins imitating those of Charlemagne was minted in Jutland, probably at Hedeby ( Haithabu in German ), in the early ninth hundred, but local mint then ceased until about the year 1000. bombastic Viking Age hoards are found in the lands bordering the Volga basin, on the eastern shores of the Baltic, and in Scandinavia, particularly on the island of Gotland. These comprise Islamic silver dirhams, chiefly of the tenth century ; Byzantine silver coins from the same time period ; and German and English pennies of the late tenth hundred and the eleventh hundred. As in the case of the earlier hoards of Roman and Byzantine bezant, these flatware finds of the conclusion of the millennium have been interpreted variously as the results of trade wind, loot, tribute, and the pay up of mercenary soldiers. The extent of the use and recirculation of these coins in a local northern economic sphere is unmanageable to ascertain. By the end of the first millennium ad neologism had spread throughout Europe. The silver medal penny was struck by imperial authority in England and by more place rulers in France, Germany, and Italy. Minting was initiated in Bohemia in the ad 960s, in Kiev in about ad 990, and in Hungary and Poland shortly after 1000. In Scandinavia the Hedeby coinage was revived after ad 950, and by the year 1000 Danish, Swedish, and norwegian kings had initiated royal coinages. not all of these initiatives resulted in continuous mint, and it would not be until the commercial revolution of the twelfth century that Europe could be said to have a in full monetized economy .
See also Coinage of Iron Age Europe ( vol. 2, part 6 ) .


Bellinger, Alfred R., and Philip Grierson. Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection. 5 vols. Washington, D.C. : Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1966–1973. ( The standard reference book work for Byzantine coins. Three volumes pertain to the early Middle Ages : Vol. 1, Anastasius I to Maurice, a . vitamin d . 491–602; Vol. 2, Phocas to Theodosius, a . five hundred . 602–717; Vol. 3, Leo III to Nicephorus III, a . d . 717–1081. )
Blackburn, Mark, and D. M. Metcalf, eds. Viking-Age Coinage in the Northern Lands. 2 vols. BAR International Series, no. 122. oxford : british Archaeological Reports, 1981. ( A collection of articles surveying the importing of coinage into the scandinavian and baltic world at the end of the first millennium. ) Grierson, Philip, and Mark Blackburn. Medieval European Coinage. Vol. 1, The Early Middle Ages (5th–10th Centuries). Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press, 1986. ( The definitive discipline of all coinages minted in Europe in the period, with discussion and bibliography summarizing all the crucial literature to its date of publication. ) Gierson, Philip, and Melinda Mays. Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and the Whittemore Collection. Washington, D.C. : Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1992. Hendy, Michael. “ From Public to Private : The western Barbarian Coinages as a Mirror of the Disintegration of Late Roman State Structures. ” Viator 19 ( 1988 ) : 29–78. McCormick, Michael. Origins of the European Economy: Communications and Commerce, ad 300–900. Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press, 2002. ( Uses the attest of the importing of Byzantine and Islamic coins into Europe to argue for the importance of commerce in the carolingian economy. )

Metcalf, D. M. “ Viking-Age Numismatics. ” Numismatic Chronicle 155 ( 1995 ) : 413–441 ; 156 ( 1996 ) : 399–428 ; 157 ( 1997 ) : 295–335 ; 158 ( 1998 ) : 345–371 ; 159 ( 1999 ) : 395–430. ( A serial of articles examining coinage in the North Sea and the baltic region from recently Roman times to the end of the first gear millennium. ) Spufford, Peter. Money and Its Use in Medieval Europe. Cambridge, U.K. : Cambridge University Press, 1988. ( A exhaustive discussion of the character of neologism in the european economy from the end of the Roman period through the late Middle Ages. ) Alan M. Stahl

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