The mintmarks of Antioch = Theopolis (= Theoupolis) under the Byzantine emperor Justinian, 527-565 AD.
The variety of mintmarks for Antioch under Justinian is remarkable. What's new? August 27, 2016. Sear 222 added. June 27, 2015, Sear 219 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
Antioch was primarily a Greek-speaking city and the "X" 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 May 29 of 526 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 less than a year before the second. Apparently mint production was minimal in that period. So, for about one year of his reign the coins had an "Antioch" mintmark and for the remaining 37 years the mintmarks abbreviated "Theopolis." Some just indicated the "polis" part which apparently was deemed sufficient:
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.
Year 26 (552/3)
25 mm. 9.80 grams.
A pi 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.
The obverse is struck with a decanummia-sized die,
unlike the previous example where the obverse die is too large for the flan.
The new city name, "Theopolis" is abbreviated or spelled out in Greek (Antioch was primarily a Greek-speaking city) on these:
Year 13 (539/40)
31 mm. 11.24 grams
θV with a bar above
This short abbreviation was used only on
this denomination and only this year.
The above 20-nummia type and the following 40-nummia type, both of year 13, 539/40, were not issued in years 14 and 15 because of the interruption of the invasion of Khusru I mentioned above. They were also not issued in years 17, 18, or 19, but the reason for the second interruption is not known [Grierson, Byzantine Coins, page 66].
39 mm, 20.77 grams.
on a large follis of year 13.
"θVΠO" is closer to spelling out Theoupolis. The reform which yielded this new, larger, coin started in year 12 at Constantinople but did not begin at Antioch until year 13 and none were issued in year 14 (probably due to the invasion of Khusru mentioned above). The mintmark switched to Latin in year 16 (see the next coin), so, this short-version mintmark was used only in year 13 making this a one-year type.
38-37 mm. 16.81 grams. 6:00.
Year 16 = 542/3.
Mintmark: CHEUPo, bar over the CH.
DO I 216
This mintmark is only from year 16 and no coins with years 17, 18 or 19 were minted, for reasons unknown.
The metal of this piece is unusual and granular. The explanation for the fabric is not certain. It could be either an ancient or modern imitation. Another possibility, which I believe, is that the tribulations of the mint forced them to use an irregular metal source. The narrow "X" in the date is also seen on the DO and Hahn specimens from officina Gamma. On this issue the M is wide (leaving less room for the date) and the diagonal strokes of the M do not go to the top of the vertical strokes.
Sear 222 variety (officina E is unlisted for this year)
39-34 mm. 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 34 and 32 mm.
29 mm. 17.56 grams.
This longer version
is from before the
coinage reform of 538/9
which is distinguished by facing busts.
20-nummia (much of the K is flat)
24-22 mm. 6.32 grams.
With a bar above:
[The vertical stroke of the cross
might serve as the "I" of "polis"]
25 mm. 8.52 grams.
24-23 mm. 9.04 grams. 12:00.
Another, as above.
Finally! Something spelled in Latin letters like ours! Here is another one, of the 40-nummia denomination.
34-32 mm. 18.04 grams. 6:00
This type with Justinian
enthroned facing occurs only
32-30 mm. 14.12 grams.
(That is, this profile bust was discontinued in year 13,
which began the facing bust series [above] at Antioch).
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 pi with a slash abbreviating "polis".
The "H" could be the Greek eta (E)
If the first letter were theta (which it is not),
this would abbreviate "Theopolis".
This seems a mongrel mintmark to me.
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 that the regular mint could not fill after the destruction of the earthquake, 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 three times (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 (See the 20-nummia coin two below for a coin of good style in this time period). These blundered legends were engraved by workers who could neither spell well nor engrave letters properly. However, the heavy weights 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.
27-23 mm. 7.17 grams.
across cross (does the cross serve as the "I"?)
Struck before the second earthquake of 528.
DN IVSTINIANVS PP AVG
MIBE (Hahn) 132, this coin.
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
The style of this piece is far better than the previous coin.
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.
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.)
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
So, under Justinian coins from Antioch were issued with mintmarks of numerous distinct types:
and this list does not even nclude numerous additional 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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