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 more than a dozen very different mintmarks. The tragic history explains why the city had two distinct names. The earthquakes of Feburary 2023 were similar to the earthquakes of AD 526 and 528 which caused Antioch to change its name. (I added Antioch to this map from the New York Times.)
What's new? 2023, May 25: Sear 223, a late follis with a garbled obverse legend.
2023, May 19: Sear 227 20-nummia with Greek letters across a cross to the left of the "K".
2023, Feb. 12: The earthquake map to the right of the Feb. 2023 earthquake. This page reorganized so that the coins now precede the illustrated list of mintmarks instead of following the list.
2022, June 22: A comment about the year-long "Volcanic winter of 536."
2021, August 27. A quote from Procopius about the sack by the Persians in 640.
The first mintmarks under Justinian were ANTIX and ANTX, which resembles our spelling, Antioch, but with "X" (a Greek chi, for the "ch" sound) 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.
Follis. 29 mm. 14.42 grams.
This ANTIX mintmark was used only
at the beginning of Justinian's
reign and not after the
earthquake of 528.
25-22 mm. 6.61 grams.
B CON-CORDI around (officina B)
I (for 10 in Greek) surmounted by cross
ANTX in exergue.
MIBE I Justinian N137 (not in the first edition)
DOC I (204) [Parentheses mean they knew about the type but it was not in their colletion at the time]
This flan is larger than flans of later decanummia.
ANTX is a common mintmark for Justin I (518-527) at Antioch. For Justinian, it is found only on this denomination and type.
The Great Variety of Mintmarks for One City: Antioch was renamed "Theopolis" after the first year of Justinian's reign. The mintmarks from the first year refer to Antioch and mintmarks from the following 37 years under Justinian refer to Theopolis. (Yes, he ruled a long time!) Mintmarks are discussed and their coins illustrated following the story of the name change. An illustrated list of the mintmarks is far below.
If you want to skip the story and just see illustrations of the coins, scroll down a bit or 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.
Procopius, an ancient author, noted that in 536 "a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year, … and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear." This is confirmed by other ancient authors and even by tree-ring analysis. A volcanic eruption (which volcano has not been identifed. One in Iceland has been proposed) pumped massive amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere which reduced sunlight for more than a year which caused crops to fail and famines worldwide.
In 540, the Sasanian emperor Khusru I (Chosroes) sacked the somewhat restored city of Antioch (Here is a quote from Procopius about it), 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 decimated, but so was the whole empire. There were again earthquakes in 551 and 557. Byzantine coinage from Antioch ceased in 610 under Phocas when it was temporarily occupied by the Sasanians. Byzantine Antioch ended in 637 when it was conquered by the Arabs.
Coins While the City was Still Named "Antioch". The follis is the first coin on this page. The half-follis (20-nummi) 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 from before the second earthquake.
BMC --, MIBE (Hahn) 132B. DO --.
MIBE 133 clearly has TI-X where this one has T-X. The DOC 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
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.
Follis. 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. Bates suggests the mal-formed letters might have been intentional as retaliation for Justinian's persecution of paganism and heresies at Antioch [p. 74].
There are 10-nummi pieces, but no 5- or 1- nummi 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+ (Small o above the P)
Another Sear 216
Follis. 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 is an imitation.
Follis. 30-28 mm. 11.97 grams. 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 extended 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 ugly coin had bronze disease and was completely stripped. Now it is toning back a bit.]
Here is another pre-reform type of the 40-nummus denomination. A new (and unique to Antioch) "enthroned facing" emperor retains a Latin minkmark.
Follis. 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-nummus (half-follis) denomination with the city name across the cross.
Half-follis. 20 nummi.
25 mm. 8.52 grams.
Struck 531/2-536/7 [Hahn]
Half-follis. 20 nummi.
24-23 mm. 9.04 grams. 12:00.
Another, as above.
Struck 531/2-536/7 [Hahn]
In Greek (and Antioch was a Greek-speaking city), Theopolis is spelled θEOYΠOΛIS, which is variously abbreviated on coins.
In 536/7 the profile bust returned when the spelling switched to Greek.
θYΠOΛS (the line over the θY indicates an abbreviation)
The 20-nummi 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.
Half-follis. 20 nummi (much of the K is flat).
28-25 mm. 7.86 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.
[Only year 13.] "θVΠO" is close to spelling out Theoupolis.
Follis. 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
Year 16 was different
CHEUPo, bar over the CH.
This mintmark is only from year 16 and no coins with years 17, 18 or 19 were minted, for reasons uncertain, but possibly because of the plague.CHEUPo, bar over the CH.
Minting Resumes in Year 20 with a new Mintmark.
36-33 mm. 19.70 grams.
DO I 218
Hahn 145a year 21.
The first symbol of the mintmark does not seem to be any known letter. The H and U are clear. The terminal Π with a slash through its right side and tiny o above is an abbreviation for "polis" which is used later in a stand-alone form. The "H" could be the Greek eta (E). If the first letter were theta (which it does not look like), this would abbreviate "Theoupolis". The slash is like our apostrophe denoting omission of letters [as, for example, in "don't"]
That mintmark appears on decanummi too.
Sear 236, year 20
Decanummium. 10 nummi.
The first letter is a bit like a U but the stroke on the right continues downward and must have been a local version of T.
The mintmark continues HUΠ with a slash through the right and a tiny o above. The Πo with a slash abbreviates "polis".
Sear 236, year 21
Decanummium. 10 nummi.
22 mm. 4.92 grams.
Type and mintmark are very similar, but with a bar and not a tiny "o" above the pi.
That odd first "letter" is not an error; it appears on all issues of the M and I denominations dated from years 20 to 24. For the K denomination, see further below.
Years 24-38 have the first symbol more like a T.
THUΠ/ [T with the stem curved and a terminal Π/ (slash indicates abbreviation). Used years 24-29]
Years 28 and 30-34 the final symbol can be P or P*.
THUP (T with the stem curved)
35 mm. 19.1 grams.
Year X/X/XI = 31 = 557/8
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 unusually large for this late date. The DOC examples for this year are only 34mm and 32 mm.
If the point of minting was to give a stamp of approval to an amount of copper, this is full-size and full weight. Is that all that mattered?
From year 35 an E is inserted into the mintmark.
Decanummium. 10 nummi.
19-18 mm. 4.65 grams.
THEUP [The "T" is so curved it is almost like a C with a T top.
This shape for "T" is also used later on Byzantine coins under Theophilus.]
This mintmark was used years 35-38
on the M and I denominations.
Some half-folles just indicated the "polis" part which apparently was deemed sufficient.
Half-follis. 20 nummi. Year 21 (547/8)
27 mm. 9.41 grams. 10:30.
Mintmark: Π with a slash and o above, for "polis."
The slash is 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.
The obverse is struck with a decanummium-sized die, too small for the flan, in contrast with the next example where the obverse die is too large for the flan.
Half-follis. 20 nummi.
Π with a slash and o above.
A rho-like symbol was another abbreviation for "polis".
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 previous abbreviation is in Greek.]
This mintmark was used only on
this denomination and only years 30-34.
Here is one more type of Justinian from Antioch, this one without a mintmark:
16-15 mm. 2.30 grams. 12:00.
Epsilon (for "5") with the middle stroke expanded to a monogram of "IVSTINIANVS"
Some have expanded the monogram to read "ANTIOXIA" for Antioch.
The ANTO and C are evident, and the I possilbe, but if it is for "Antioch" what is that "V" at the top?
If you have ideas, please let me know:
Sear 245, a second example.
15 mm. 1.39 grams. 12:00
Note that the obverse legend has letter shapes, but does not make his name or any sense. This type is therefore dated late in his reign, say, 561 or later, when the dated folles also have garbled oberse legends (Sear 223).
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
The mintmarks. Click on an image to go to its coin. The mintmarks include:
ANTIX [Illustrated above. Year 1. The rest follow in the text below. ]
+THEUP+ (Small o above the P) [c. 533-537, years 7-11.]
θYΠOΛS [The Greek version of Theopolis. Bar over the ΘΥ, as with the following variants. c. 537-539, years 11-12.]
T H/ E U/ O / P in four lines [c. 529-531, years 3-6, pre-reform]
θ Y/Π O/Λ S in three lines [The Greek version of Theopolis. Years 9-12, pre-reform.]
The mintmark changed when Justinian's coin reform introduced the facing bust in year 13 at Antioch (The reform began in year 12 at Constantinople).
θV bar over the θV [Only year 13, 539/540.]
CHEUPo bar over the CH. [Only year 16. (Coins were not minted in years 14, 15, 17, 18, and 19)]
Π with a slash through it and o above and
ρ (a rho-like symbol)
The End (except for references below).
References: Not in alphabetical order, rather order of importance.
Sear, Byzantine Coins and Their Values, second edition, 1987, pages 70-75. [This is an excellent convenient list of types. It has little commentary.]
Grierson, Byzantine Coins, 1982, especially pages 65-67. [This is the most useful reference about mintmarks on coins of Antioch.]
wikipedia under "526 Antioch earthquake" [A good source.] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/526_Antioch_earthquake
wikipedia under "Volcanic winter of 536" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_winter_of_536
Hahn, W. Coins of the Incipient Byzantine Empire. [MIBE] volume 1. [A very well-illustrated complete list of types from Anastasius through Justinian.]
Bellinger, Alfred R. 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.]
Bellinger, Alfred R. "Byzantine Notes" ANSMN XII (1966) pp. 83-127, especially note 4, pp. 93-96 "The Antiochene Copper of Justinian" (not illustrated). [This article must be read with the corrections from Bates' well-illustrated article in ANSMN 16 (1970). Among other things, the letter form at the begining of the mintmark of classes B, D, E, and F is shown by Bates to be incorrectly written by Bellinger.]
Bates, George E. "Five Byzantine Notes," ANSMN 16 (1970), pp. 69-75 and plates XVI-XXI, especially pp. 60-79 on "A Supplement to 'The Antiochene Copper of Justinian." [The plates illustrate numerous coins from Bates' extensive collection that bear on the mintmarks at Antioch and their dates. Published after DOC volume I came out, it corrects erroneous readings in DOC.]
Procopius, on the result of the Persian sack of Antioch in June 640:
"Everything was everywhere reduced to ashes and leveled to the ground, and since many mounds of ruins was all that was left standing of the burned city, it became impossible for the people of Antioch to recognize the site of each person's house... And since there were no longer public stoas or colonnaded courts in existence anywhere, nor any marketplace remaining, and since the side streets no longer marked off the thoroughfares of the city, they did not any longer dare to build any house." Procopius [d. c. 565] On Buildings.
Drápelová, Pavla. "Province in Contrast to City: Irregularities and Peculiarities in the Coinage of Antioch (518-565)," Chapter 11 in From Constantinople to the Frontier: The City and the Cities, edited by Matheou, N., T. Kampianaki, and L. Bondioli, 2016.
d'Andrea, Alberto, Andrea Ginnasi, and Domenico Moretti. Byzantine Coinage in the East, volume 1. 2019
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