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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 96, Lot: 944. Estimate $1000.
Sold for $2100. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Leo II and Zeno. AD 474. AV Solidus (21mm, 4.44 g, 6h). Constantinople mint, 5th officina. Pearl-diademed, helmeted, and cuirassed bust facing slightly right, holding spear and shield / Leo and Zeno, nimbate and enthroned facing, each holding mappa in right hand; cross behind, [star above]; Є//CONOB. RIC X 803; Depeyrot 98/1. VF, holed, deposits. Very rare.

From the Bramhall Collection. Ex Robert Bridge Collection (with his ticket).

Among the most pressing concerns of the aging emperor Leo I was finding a successor. He made his first attempt in 470 AD, when he hailed Patricius, the son of the magister militum Aspar, his Caesar. When Aspar was murdered the following year, Leo turned to his immediate family for a replacement. His eldest daughter, Aelia Ariadne, had married an Isaurian soldier named Zeno, and they had produced a son, Leo II. When the elder Leo’s health began to falter, he raised his eponymous grandson to the rank of Caesar in October 473 AD, then Augustus in January 474 AD. Leo I died a few days later, and the sickly seven-year-old Leo II was now sole emperor. Leo’s widow Aelia Verina arranged for Leo II to appoint his own father, Zeno, co-emperor on 9 February 474 AD, an arrangement that lasted until Leo II died in November of the same year. Afterward, the Zeno ruled as sole emperor. This solidus was struck during their brief joint-reign.

Robert Bridge (1904-1997) was a gifted linguist – fluent in German, Italian, and French – who found application for his talents in Britain’s secret intelligence service. He spent WWII in military intelligence and after the war became Berlin station chief for MI6. Among his more interesting assignments can be mentioned his interrogation of the infamous Gestapo chief of Rome, Herbert Kappler, who was captured by the British while unsuccessfully trying to seek refuge in the Vatican. Berlin in the immediate postwar period was a focal point for espionage, and in much later years Bridge would privately describe experiences that seem straight out of John le Carré – the secret station office entered through what appeared to be an ordinary shop, late night meetings in a cemetery with an eastern source, and his abiding anger toward one of the “Cambridge Spies” with whom he had worked and whom he blamed for many deaths.

Bridge was also one of the most prominent 20th century English collectors of Byzantine coins, and began collecting in earnest around the 1960s. Many coins from his collection are cited in MIB 1 and 2, and 18 of his coins are illustrated on the plates. In 1990, he donated to the British Museum 274 Byzantine coins previously unrepresented in the national collection (including a solidus of the revolt of Heraclius). Much of his remaining collection was sold in a 1990 Glendining’s sale (catalogued by Baldwin’s), Byzantine Coins from the R.N. Bridge Collection.