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The numismatic evidence from the Danube region 971–1092

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 January 2016

Peter Doimi De Frankopan*
Oxford University


Despite the efforts of the Emperor Maurice (582–602) to relieve Avar and Slav pressure on the Lower Danube region, Byzantium finally lost control over this area at the very end of the 6th Century (or perhaps at the start of the 7th Century). There is no evidence — literary, numismatic or otherwise — which suggests that imperial authority was re-imposed until after the defeat of Sviatoslav and the Rus’ by John I Tzimiskes (969–76) towards the end of the tenth century.

Copyright © The Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham 1997

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1 See Popovic, V., ‘La descente des Koutrigours, des Slaves at des Avars vers la Mer Egée’, in Académie des Inscriptions et belles-lettres, Comptes Rendus (Paris 1978)Google Scholar, and ‘Aux origines de la slavisation des Balkans’, ibid. (1980).

2 Eg. Pacuiul lui Soare, with the results detailed in Diaconu, P., Pacuiul lui Soare cetatea bizantina (Bucharest 1972), 1, and in his article, ‘Pacuiul lui Soare — Vicina’, in Byzantina 8 (1976)Google Scholar; Stefan, G. has catalogued the site of Dinogetia-Garvan, in Dacia 78 (1937-40), and Donogetia I (Bucharest 1967)Google Scholar; Florescu, G., Florescu, R. and Diaconu’s, P. text Capidava (Bucharest 1958)Google Scholar records what was found in excavations in the fort of the same name.

3 Eg. Diaconu, Pacuiul. The numismatic evidence receives only a cursory reference, and no analysis.

4 Diaconu’s article in Byzantina, art. cit., All. His assertions and arguments are developed more fully in Condurachi, E., Barnea, I. and Diaconu, P., ‘Nouvelles recherches sur le limes byzantin du Bas-Danube aux X-XIe siècles’, in Acts of the 13th International Congress of Byzantine Studies (London 1967), 181ff, and especially 187 Google Scholar: ‘la domination byzantine aurait connu dans ces régions récemment reconquises, une interruption depuis 976 jusqu’àl’an 1000, lorsqu’ elles s’ y réinstalla’.

5 Thus, some 24 Class A-l folles have been recovered thus far, as well as 12 Class A-2 coppers. Class A folles are notoriously controversial to date accurately because of the similarities between the low-value coins issued between 969–1025. Without actually examining the pieces personally, one can only accept that they have been correctly identified by Mitrea, B., in Diaconu, Pacuiul, 181 Google Scholar. It is strange, therefore, that Rumanian scholars generally support the argument of a collapse of Byzantine control between 976–1001, when the coins themselves cannot confirm this. This criticism applies equally well to Iordanov’s, I. view that Preslav was abandoned from 986–1001, in Pecatite ot Strategiyata Preslav (Sofia 1993)Google Scholar. Sigillographie evidence cannot be used in a way to provide so accurate a dating, and as such, is useless in confirming a hypothesis that Preslav was abandoned.

6 Metcalf, D.M., Coinage in South Eastern Europe (London 1979), 65.Google Scholar

7 Frankopan, P.J.A., Anna Komnena, the Alexiad and the Pechenegs, unpublished M.Phil thesis, in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (1995), 12ff.Google Scholar

8 Metcalf notes the significance of the large number of hoards from the late 12th century, p.65. The lack of hoards from the interior is all the more notable in view of the fact that the Maritsa valley and the Thracian plains were fertile and therefore presumably enjoyed considerable prosperity — yet there is no evidence of a monetary economy there in the 10th and 11th Centuries.

9 Eg. Stanescu, E., ‘La crise du Bas-Danube byzantin au cours de la seconde moitié de Xle siècle’, ZRVI 9 (1966).Google Scholar

10 The Russian Primary Chronicle, trans. Cross, S. and Sherbowitz-Wetzor, O. (Cambridge, Mass. 1953)Google Scholar. Sviatoslav was apparently attracted to the Danube because it was a region ‘where all riches are concentrated; gold, silks, wine and various fruit from Greece, silver and horses from Hungary and Bohemia, and from Rus’ furs, wax, honey and slaves.’ Oikonomidès, N. does not question this statement: ‘Presthlavitsa, the Little Preslav’, in Stiidost-Forschungen 52 (1983).Google Scholar

11 Eg. Attaleiates, M., Historia, ed.Bekker, I. (Bonn 1853), 204 Google Scholar, where he talks of the large number of great cities by the Danube .

12 Barnea, I., ‘Dinogetia and Noviodunum, deux villes byzantines du Bas-Danube’, in Revue des Etudes Sud-Est Européenes, 9 (1971).Google Scholar

13 Metcalf, D.M., ‘How extensive was the issue of folles 775–820?’, B 7 (1967), 2756 Google Scholar on theorems of estimating the velocity of circulation of low value coinage, and of using die-casting to lead to an approximation of the number of coins being struck in a given period. The evidence from hoards can help to show how long coins stayed in circulation. Thus, the age-structure of a hoard will reflect which coins were available at the time of concealment, see Metcalf, Coinage, 8–12.

14 See below.

15 Fourteen of the folles are Class Florescu, A. et al., ascribe six of these to Tzimiskes, John I, seven to Basil II and Constantine VIII and one to Constantine VIII. Of the remainder, seven are Class C (1034–41), and five are Class D (1042–55), p.238.Google Scholar

16 Stefan attributes four of the folles to Basil II and Constantine VIII, four to Theodora, four to Michael VI, and one each to Constantine X Doukas, Romanos IV Diogenes and Alexios Komnenos. Two are unidentified 11th-century folles, art. cit., in Dacia, p.422. The suspiciously large number of Michael IV folles found close together is recorded in Dinogetia, 1, 390. 16b. Metcalf, Coinage, 56.

17 Charanis, P., “The significance of coins for the history of Athens and Corinth in the 7th and 8th Centuries’, Historia 4 (1955) 163ff Google Scholar; Metcalf, Coinage, 36–40, 45–48, 71–3, and idem,‘Corinth in the 9th Century — numismatic evidence’, in Hesperia 42 (1973). In this respect, it is worth noting that archaeological finds of luxury objects by the Danube are meagre to say the least — very small amounts of jewellery, a reliquary of ‘eastern design’, and artefacts made of fish-bone hardly point to the booming commercial zone which the literary sources suggest.

18 Ostrogorsky, G., ‘Byzantine cities in the early Middle ages’, in DOP 13 (1959)Google Scholar; Metcalf, D.M., Coinage in the Balkans (London 1965).Google Scholar

19 Metcalf, 65. There are 23 Constantine IX folles at Isaccea, and only 26 more from the following thirty years.

20 Diaconu, 181.

21 See below.

22 Atanasov, G. and Iordanov, I., Srednovekovtyat Vetren na Dunav (Shumen 1994), 65.Google Scholar

23 Stefan, p.422–4, Metcalf, p.75, Barnea, p.355.

24 The date of Tyrakh’s attack is a matter of some controversy. It either took place in 1046, Kazhdan, A., ‘Ioann, Mavropod-Pecenegi i Russkie v seredine XIv.’, ZRV 78 (1963), or in 1048,Diaconu, P., Les Pétchénegues au Bas-Danube (Bucharest 1970).Google Scholar

25 Stefan» loe. cit., Metcalf, loe. cit., Barnea, 356. The silver miliaresion of Theodora is an extremely scarce issue. The hoard also contained three gold jewels, seven silver objects (earrings, bracelets etc). The peculiar age-structures of both the Dinogetia hoards is difficult to account for.

26 Essentially, the prolonged expansion in central Greece was commerce-led, and the government provided a ‘demand-led money supply’, Metcalf, ‘Corinth’, and idem, ‘How extensive’, 270–310

27 Stefan, 422; Metcalf, 75; Barnea, 356.

28 Metcalf, 75. Michael VII’s nomismata are Type 2, while the tetarteron is Type 3, making it unlikely that the coins could have been concealed in 1072/3.

29 Metcalf, ibidem.

30 Eg. Poenaru-Bordea, E., ‘Monnaies byzantines des Vie-Vile siècles en Dobrudja’, in Actes du XlVe Congreès International des Études Byzantines, 3 (Bucharest 1971)Google Scholar; Mitrea, B., ‘Les monnaies et l’écroulement de Dinogétia à la fin du Vie siècle, in Pontica 1974), and Popovic, , art. cit. Google Scholar

31 Zakynthos, D., ‘La grande brèche dans la tradition historique de l’hellénisme du 7e-9e siècle’, in (Athens 1966), 300ff.Google Scholar

32 Charanis, 167.

33 The striking number of post-reform low-value coins found at Pacuiul suggest that the fort did not fall until after 1093, Atanasov and lordanov, p.92, Iliescu, O., ‘Premières apparitions au Bas-Danube de la monnaie réformé d’Alexis 1er Commène’, Etudes Byzantines et post-Byzantines, I, (Venice 1979), 9ff Google Scholar; Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, A., ‘Quelques aspects de la circulation monétaire dans la zone de l’embouchure du Danube au Xlle siècle’, Dacia 23 (1979), 2669 Google Scholar, and Custurea, and Papsima, , ‘Monede Bizantine descoperite la Pacuiul lui Soare’, Pontica 25 (1992), 37880 Google Scholar. Hendy has established that Alexios’ reform took place in September 1092. However, low value coins were not struck until the start of 1093 at the very earliest, Hendy, M., Coinage and Money in the Byzantine Empire 1081–1261 (Washington D.C. 1969), 3949, and Catalogue of the Byzantine coins in the Dumbarton Oaks and Whittemore Collections, vol. 4 (Washington D.C, forthcoming), lOff Google Scholar. Thus, Pacuiul could not have fallen until 1093. Evidence of a major fire at Pacuiul has led Diaconu to argue that the fort was sacked by the Cumans in 1094, ‘Krepost’ X-XV vv. v Pakuyul Lui Soare v svete arkheologiceskikh issledovanii’, Davia 5 (1961), 498. For the Cuman attack on Byzantium in 1094, see Komnena, Anna, Alexiade, ed Leib (Paris, 1937-45) II, ix.24 Google Scholar (189–204) and Gautier, ‘Le synode des Blachernes (fin 1094)’, REB(1971).

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