The mintmarks of Antioch = Theopolis (= Theoupolis)
under the Byzantine emperor Justinian, 527-565 AD.
The variety of mintmarks for Antioch under Justinian is remarkable. There are at least eight very different mintmarks and several other minor varieties.
What's new? 2017, Sept. 12: An ancient imitation of the first Theopolis type.
August 28, 2017, greatly rearranged (to be chronological). Sear 226, Sear 216 with a bent "M", and a second Sear 245 added.
The first mintmark under Justinian was ANTIX, which resembles our spelling, Antioch, but with "X" at the end because it is really in Greek (and the "O" is arbitrarily omitted).
Only the first year of Justinian's long reign continued the ANTIX mintmark commonly seen under Justin I.
This ANTIX mintmark was used only
at the beginning of Justinian's
reign and not after the earthquake
The Great Variety of Mintmarks for One City: The mintmarks are listed next and then illustrated and discussed after the tragic story of Antioch. Antioch was renamed "Theopolis" after the first year of Justinian's reign, so some mintmarks refer to Antioch and others to Theopolis. The mintmarks include:
ANTIX [Illustrated above. The rest follow in the text below ]
A N/T X in two lines [Skip far down to the images of the mintmarks.]
T H/ E U/ O / P in four lines
θYΠOΛS [The Greek version of Theopolis]
θ Y/Π O/Λ S in three lines
Π with a slash through it and o above, and
ρ (a rho-like symbol).
If you want to skip the story and just see illustrations of the mintmarks, click here.
The Tragic Story of Antioch. Antioch was primarily a Greek-speaking city and the "X" of "ANTIX" is a Greek chi, which gives the "CH" sound in Antioch. But the mintmark ANTIX is rare under Justinian (but not rare earlier) and did not last long. The city had been the capital of Syria and one of the three major eastern cities of the empire (Constantinople, Antioch, and Alexandria), but on May 29 of 526 (about a year before the reign of Justinian began) an extremely violent earthquake hit which destroyed most of the buildings and the subsequent fire destroyed most of the rest. Reportedly 250,000 people died. Antioch never really recovered, nor did the disasters cease.
On November 29 of 528, about two years later and a year after Justinian's reign began August 1, 527, Antioch was again hit by a powerful earthquake which killed another 5,000 of the already-reduced population. After this the remaining hopeful and fearful population renamed it "Theopolis" (less frequently spelled "Theoupolis"), the "City of God." Thereafter, coin mintmarks referenced the new name.
Only a dozen years later, in 540, the Sasanian emperor Khusru I (Chosroes) sacked the somewhat restored city, burned all but the suburbs, and took captive those he did not manage to kill, eventually using the captives to populate a city, "Antioch of Khusru," which he founded on the Tigris a day's distance from Ctesiphon. Only a year later, in 541, Antioch, and much of the rest of the empire, was hit by a devastating plague which was so severe that at its height it killed thousands a day in Constantinople and which returned three more times in that generation. Not only was Antioch again devastated, but so was the whole empire. The history of Byzantine Antioch (Theopolis) ends in the next century in 637 when it was conquered by the Arabs.
Justinian became emperor August 1, 527, about a year after the first earthquake and a year before the second. So, for about one year of his reign the coins had an "Antioch" mintmark and for the remaining 37 years the mintmarks abbreviated "Theopolis."
Coins While the City was Still Named "Antioch". The half-follis (20-nummia) coins had the city name spelled on either side of a long cross.
Sear 224A variety. (He notes only officina A and gamma, but this one is B.)
27-26 mm. 8.23 grams.
DN IVSTINI-ANVS PP AVG
T X across a long cross (does the cross serve as the "I"?)
The style of this piece is as good as most Byzantine coins of the period. It is likely from before the earthquake.
BMC --, MIBE (Hahn) 132B. DO --.
MIBE 133 clearly has TI-X where this one has T-X. The DO example is poor with the supposed "I" invisible and may actually be this type.
The next two are irregular, blundered, full-sized folles intended to be like the first coin on this page.
An imitation of Sear 213
40-nummia, 35 mm. (remarkably large -- at is broadest 5 mm larger than official coins), 14.99 grams, (full weight for the type) 6:00 die axis.
ANTIX mintmark very clear.
The obverse legend is blundered, with S written retrograde
and legend that looks like
The large size and full weight suggest this was made to supply a need for coinage, as opposed to illegal production for profit.
Another imitation of Sear 213, however with a cresent right.
40-nummia, 35-30 mm. (remarkably large) 15.30 grams, (full weight for the type) 5:30 die axis.
ANTIX mintmark clear.
The obverse legend is blundered, with S written retrograde twice (and forward once)
and legend that looks like
DN IVSTINSVIS PP AVGS
This and the previous blundered coin suggest that the demand for coin dies could not be supplied by literate engravers at the mint. Maybe they were killed in or displaced by the first earthquake, although there are some coins of this type and the next that are of good style and spelled correctly (above). However, the heavy weights of these two do not suggest an attempt to profit by issuing lighter coins. I don't see how we can know, but I think these are official mint products from Antioch at a time of extreme stress.
There are 10-nummia pieces, but no 5- or 1- nummia pieces, with a variant of "Antioch" for a mintmark.
After the Second Earthquake. After the second earthquake Antioch was renamed "Theopolis"-- THEOUPOLIS. Mintmarks exhibit the new name. At first the profile bust is retained.
+THEUP (very weak)
Another Sear 216
31-30 mm. 11.68 grams. 6:00.
The reverse is odd for having a bent "M".
How can that be? The usual explanation would be a sliding or double strike,
but the mintmark is clear and well-struck only once.
If you collect Byzantine copper you must find enjoyment in such oddities,
because there is little beauty or perfection to be seen.
Another Sear 216, this one an imitation.
30-28 mm. 11.97 gra,s. 6:00.
The previous coin with the bent M nevertheless has obverse lettering that looks official.
In contrast, this coin has a legend with a backwards "S" and incomplete name:
DN IVSTI[N?] ANV[no "S"] PP AV[G?]
The reverse is also crude, with the middle of the M oddly expended downward.
+THEUP+ with a small "o" above the P.
After two earthquakes the mint was having trouble. This example has the 6:00 die axis of official pieces, but does not look official. Is it a local imitation to provide coins that the mint did not, or is it an incompetent attempt to make an official coin by a stressed mint?
[This coin had bronze disease and was completely stripped. Now it is toning back a bit.]
25 mm. 8.61 grams. 12:00
Here is another pre-reform type of the 40-nummia denomination. A new (and unique to Antioch) "enthroned facing" bust retains a Latin minkmark.
34-32 mm. 18.04 grams. 6:00
This type with Justinian
enthroned facing occurs only
Struck 531/2-536/7 [Hahn]
This "enthroned facing" type appears also on the 20-nummia (half-follis) denomination with the city name across the cross.
25 mm. 8.52 grams.
Struck 531/2-536/7 [Hahn]
24-23 mm. 9.04 grams. 12:00.
Another, as above.
Struck 531/2-536/7 [Hahn]
In 536/7 the profile bust returned when the spelling switched to Greek.
θYΠOΛS (the line over the θY indicates an abbreviation)
The 20-nummia piece has its mintmark in Greek: θYΠOΛS is spelled across the cross, instead of the previous "AN TX" and "TH EU O P" Latin types.
20-nummia (much of the K is flat)
24-22 mm. 6.32 grams.
With a bar above:
θY (line above)
[The vertical stroke of the cross
might serve as the "I" of "polis"]
The Facing-Bust Coin Reform. The copper coins were reformed in year 12 (538/9). They were made larger and the profile bust was replaced with a facing bust. The new city name, "Theopolis" is abbreviated or spelled out in Greek (Antioch was primarily a Greek-speaking city) on the first folles. After this reform the coins were explicitly dated by regnal year.
"θVΠO" is close to spelling out Theoupolis.
39 mm, 20.77 grams.
on a large follis of year 13.
The reformed half-follis had the city-name abbreviated even more:
θV with a bar above
Some half-folles just indicated the "polis" part which apparently was deemed sufficient:
Year 26 (552/3)
25 mm. 9.80 grams.
Π with a slash and o above.
This is an abbreviation of "polis".
Is the slash like our apostrophe
denoting omission of letters
[as, for example, in "don't"]
This mintmark was used only on
this denomination and only years 20-29.
27 mm. 9.41 grams. 10:30.
As above: Π with a slash and o above.
The obverse is struck with a decanummia-sized die,
unlike the previous example where the obverse die is too large for the flan.
Year 30 (556/7)
27-26 mm. 9.69 grams.
A rho-like symbol
for a mintmark
[This is an abbreviation
for "polis" in Latin
the way the next one is in Greek.]
This mintmark was used only on
this denomination and only years 30-34.
Here is another varient of "Theopolis" in Latin:
Sear 222 variety (officina E is unlisted for this year)
39-34 mm. Remarkably large flan. 17.84 grams. 6:00.
Year XXXIII = 33 = 559/560
This mintmark (sometimes without the terminal *) has been found from years 28 and 30-34.
The flan is far larger than the beading, making the coin is unusually large for this late date. The DO examples for this year are only 34mm and 32 mm.
The 10-nummia pieces have similar marks.
19-18 mm. 4.65 grams.
This mintmark was used years 35-38
on the M and I denominations.
first letter is a bit like a U,
but the stroke on the right continues downward.
it continues HUΠ [slash]
This mintmark was used years 20-24 on the
M and I denominations.
The final letter is a Π with a slash abbreviating "polis".
The "H" could be the Greek eta (E).
If the first letter were theta (which it does not look like), this would abbreviate "Theopolis". This seems a mongrel mintmark to me.
Here is one more type of Justinian from Antioch, this one without a mintmark:
16-15 mm. 2.30 grams. 12:00.
Epsilon with the middle stroke expanded to a monogram of "IVSTINIANVS"
(Some have expanded the monogram to read "ANTIOXIA" for Antioch.)
Sear 245, a second example.
15 mm. 1.39 grams. 12:00
The Greek full name of the city was ANTIOXIA, ending in "IA" as is normal for proper nouns for cities (and like we have kept in the city name "Alexandria"). The omission of the "O" on the Byzantine coins is arbitrary. Under some much-earlier Roman emperors, such as Philip (244-249) this was spelled out in full: ANTIOXIA:
Philip II, 244-249
Tetradrachm of Antioch
26-25 mm. 10.35 grams.
Legend in Greek
Under Justinian coins from Antioch were issued with mintmarks of numerous distinct types (click the images to go to the text):
and this list is not complete--there are some other variants above.
References: Sear, Byzantine Coins and Their Values, second edition, 1987, pages 70-75. [This is an excellent convenient list of types. It has little commentary.]
wikipedia under "526 Antioch earthquake" [A very good source.]
Grierson, Byzantine Coins, 1982, especially pages 65-67. [This is the most useful reference about mintmarks on coins of Antioch.]
Hahn, W. Coins of the Incipient Byzantine Empire. [MIBE] volume 1. [A very well-illustrated complete list of types from Anastasius through Justinian.]
Bellinger, Catalog of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks and Whittemore Collection, volume 1, 1966, pages 133-156 and plates XXXV-XL. [This has coin descriptions and photos, but little useful commentary except on page 141 it lists the mintmarks on denominations and their dates.]
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