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Byzantine coin of Heraclius, 610-641. Obverse: bust of Heraclius, facing forward, wearing crown with cross; to left, star; to right, crescent moon. Reverse: a cross resting on a globe; to left, ‘I’; to right, ‘B’; in exergue, ‘AΛEΞ’.

History Of Use

“12 nummi” (denomination); DO# 191; Sear# 855. "AΛEΞ" translates to "Mint: Alexandria". This type of coin, the follis, is a large bronze coin that was introduced by the Emperor Anastasius in 498, marking a large departure from the Roman system of coinage inherited by the Byzantine Empire. It was the model for bronze Byzantine coinage for 200 years, facilitating small-scale trade and commerce. Originally, the basic follis in Constantinople was a heavy coin worth 40 nummia, with smaller follis parts equaling 20, 10, or 5 nummia. When the coin was debased and made lighter the value of it would decrease. Each provincial mints had their own divisions. In Alexandria the mint continuously produced follis parts worth 12, 6, and 3 nummia, until the province was lost to the Arab conquests. The 12 nummia coin made up the majority of the local small currency, circulating only within Egypt.

Iconographic Meaning

The face of the emperor on coins was a symbol of his authority. The bust of Heraclius is depicted forward facing on this coin, emphasizing the station of the emperor over the person. The cross on the reverse side of the emphasized the Christian nature of both the emperor and the empire; while the star and crescent moon are Zoroastrian symbols and could indiciate the coin was minted by Sassanid Persia during its temporary occupation of Egypt.

Item History

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