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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 61, Lot: 2166. Estimate $2000. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 25 September 2002. 
Sold For $1400. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

2166. THE EMPIRE. ZENO. Second Reign. 476-491. AR Siliqua (2.04 gm). Constantinople mint. D N ZENO-PERP A[VG], diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right / SRV / REI / BDI, within wreath; in exergue, CON*. RIC X 944 (this coin); MIRB -; DOC -; cf. RSC 9B. Weakly struck in part, otherwise VF to EF. Nicely toned with a sharp portrait. Unique. ($2000)

Ex Gorny Auction 67, 1994, 909.

When Odovacar finally deposed Romulus Augustulus in 476, the western empire formally ended and the eastern emperor Zeno became legal overlord of Italy and as such appeared on most of the western coinage. He allowed Odovacar to be his viceregent and in 488 authorized Theodoric, leader of the Ostrogothic federati to lead an army to Italy, to depose Odovacar, and take his place. The relocation of the Ostrogothic army to Italy had the effect of removing from the east a formidable force, but had dire consequences for the balance over power in the west in general and Italy in particular.


The Coinage of the Eastern Empire, its Western possessions, their Lombardic and Carolingian invaders, and an important Papal-Byzantine series.

This is the fifth and final part of the William Subjack Collection of the coinages of the eastern and western Roman empires, the Germanic migration period and the early Middle Ages. The previous parts have been auctioned by Italo Vecchi Ltd in four London sales: Part 1, Anglo-Saxon Thrymsas and Sceats, sale 11, 5 June 1998; Part 2, Franks and Merovingians, sale 13, 4 September 1998; Part 3, Late Romans and Early Germans, sale 14, 5 February 1999; and Part 4, Germanic Italy, sale 14, 5 February 1999. Parts 1 (Anglo-Saxon Thrymsas and Sceats) and 2 (Franks and Merovingians) are still available as off-prints at $10 each.

One of the most miserable periods of human existence in Italy’s history must have been the one they malevolently call bizantino. No resistance was made against the Lombard invasion of 568 and it took only four years for the Lombards to capture the Po Valley and to set up principalities in Tuscany, Spoleto and Benevento. Effective Byzantine resistance was confined to the strategic narrow strip running from Venice via Ravenna to Rimini and along the via Flaminia to Perugia and Rome. Naples, Calabria, Bruttium and Sicily were left untouched and remained the main area which the Eastern Mediterranean could influence in the West and determined the particular destiny of the Mezzogiorno down to the nineteenth century.

From the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) the papacy had put itself foreword as the real master of Rome and tried to check the Lombard expansion by allying with independent dukes and converting Lombards from Arianism to Catholicism. The Lombard kingdom entered the fold of the Roman Church with the conversion of King Agilulf in 607, and final abandonment of Arianism in 671. In 680 the Lombards’ conquests in Italy were recognized by Constantinople, with the result that only Romagna and Latium, linked by the strategic corridor, remained officially Roman, leaving the papacy isolated. Pope Hadrian I’s successful appeal for military aid from the Franks culminated in the creation of the church state “The Patrimony of St. Peter” and the consecration of a new empire of the west, the Carolingian. The coins in this collection which most vividly represent the eighth century and the transition from one empire to another are: a siliqua of Anastasius from Constantinople, a soldus of Justinian I fromRome, a soldidus of Tiberius III from Rome, a soldus of Leo IV from Rome, three Papal-Byzantine issues, a Carolingian denaro of Pope Hadrian I and a gold Roman-style tremissis of Milan struck by Charlemagne, arguably the last classical Roman coin.