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An Iconic Medieval and Crusader Type


CRUSADERS, Antioch. Bohémond III. 1163-1201. BI Denier (Average 18mm; 0.92 g). Antioch mint. Struck circa 1163-1188. + BOAИVИDVS, bust left, wearing Norman helmet decorated with cross pattée and chainmail coif; crescent to left, star to right / + ANTIOCHIA, cross pattée; crescent in second quarter. Cf. Metcalf, Crusades 381-2 (for type); cf. CCS 65 (same). Good VF or better. Well struck for issue. An iconic medieval and Crusader type. Special offer – you will receive one (1) example of our choice.

In 1095, Pope Urban III issued a call for knights throughout Christendom to attack the powerful Islamic Caliphate and reclaim Jerusalem, launching the era of the Crusades. Over the next four centuries, great armies of Islam and Christianity would engage in a titanic struggle for control of vast stretches of the Mediterranean world, including the Holy Land, Egypt, and Spain. While these deadly cultural clashes caused untold suffering and destruction, they also helped to expand the horizons of the formerly cloistered medieval world, created new heroes and mythologies, and ultimately helped to forge the national identities we still live with today.

Following the First Crusade (1096-1099), the knightly armies of the Latin west formed four autonomous Crusader States on the Levantine lands seized from the Islamic Caliphate: The Kingdom of Jerusalem, the Counties of Edessa and Tripoli, and the Principality of Antioch. At their 12th century peak, these kingdoms were an exotic blend of East and West, Christian and Muslim, and a host of ethnicities, creating a sparkling polyglot culture unlike anything seen before or since. This world disappeared forever with the fall of Acre to the reconquering Mamluk armies in 1291.

Naturally the Crusader Kingdoms struck their own coinage, patterned on the Medieval Latin silver denier, but with designs reflecting the conflicts and concerns of the region. The deniers of Bohémond III, ruler of the Principality of Antioch, are among the most iconic. The obverse depicts the bust of a contemporary Crusader knight, wearing the distinctive Norman-style chain mail coif and helmet with nasal. The reverse bears the cross pattée with equidistant, flaring arms, within a circle, a motif often found in Crusader architecture. No medieval or Crusader collection is complete without an example of this attractive type.

The Principality of Antioch was ruled by an Italo-Norman dynasty descended from the Norman conquerors of Sicily. Among these rulers, Bohémond III (circa 1148-1201), surnamed ‘the Child’ or the ‘Stammerer’, succeeded his father as Prince while still a child. In 1163, when he attained his majority, Bohémond exiled his mother, who until then had acted as regent.

Among the Crusader elite his career was typically convoluted, one might even say “Byzantine” – indeed Byzantium played a major role in his stewardship of Antioch. In 1164, Bohémond waged an ill-advised war on the Seljuq governor of Syria, Nur ad-Din, leading to his capture and that of the Crusader leaders of Tripoli and Edessa. The Byzantines negotiated his release, after which Bohémond travelled to Constantinople and paid homage to the emperor Manuel I Comnenus. Bohémond remained a Byzantine vassal until Manuel’s death in 1180; once freed of this he catapulted himself into a number of internal disputes among the Crusader kingdoms and the allied Kingdom of Cilician Armenia. These squabbles preoccupied the Crusaders and wasted their energies while the Muslims found a champion in one of the great military geniuses of the age, al-Nasir I Salah al-Din Yusuf, better known as Saladin. Following Saladin’s smashing victory over the Kingdom of Jerusalem at the Battle of Hattin in 1187, all the Crusader states were put on the defensive. Nevertheless, through astute diplomacy and the timely arrival of the Third Crusade in 1189 to distract Saladin, Bohémond managed to maintain Antioch’s independence. Bohémond rule lasted until his death in 1201, while the Principality of Antioch finally fell to Islam in 1268.