08 April 2019
An exhibition at Glasgow's Hunterian Museum explores 1,000 years of Byzantium coins, with coins on display reflecting a golden era of coinage and depicting a succession of powerful emperors and empresses.
For 1,000 years, the Byzantine Empire dominated the eastern Mediterranean. Centred on the capital of Constantinople, it was a beacon of Roman power, Greek influence and Christian worship, which spanned the ancient and medieval worlds.
Coins of the Byzantine era
A huge variety of gold and base metal denominations were produced by Byzantine mints. Silver was less common. Gold underpinned the Byzantine economy, trade and taxation, with the solidus and histamenon nomisma maintaining their weight and fineness almost continuously until the early 11th century. These coins became the dominant currency not only within the borders of the empire, but also in neighbouring territories.
Byzantine society was overwhelmingly patriarchal, with women barred from high office in the civil service, military and church. Only those born into the aristocracy were able to exert influence in political, religious, social and economic spheres. Despite these considerable obstacles, a handful of women climbed to the heights of absolute monarchy, and some of their coins are on display in the exhibition.
Byzantium: a golden era of coinage is at Glasgow's Hunterian Museum until 21 May 2019 and entry is free.
Report and images © The Hunterian, University of Glasgow.