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The Revenge of the Solidi: Sunday Morning Solidus

by Jeremy Bostwick

November 13, 2014 – The wonderful world of numismatics presents the perfect backdrop for a blending of history, art, and pop culture, with a healthy dose of puns thrown into the mix as well. Today’s cartoon shows how much Byzantine portraits on coins could look caricature-ish.

The Backstory…
The artistry and craftsmanship of coins was at its zenith across the Mediterranean long before the existence and growth of the Roman Empire, when various Greek city-states maintained a fierce sense of local pride exemplified through their coinage. As these various entities gradually became more consolidated under central authorities (first Rome, then Constantinople under the Byzantine Empire), this pride became virtually non-existent, sacrificing art for necessity, as the output of coinage under Byzantine authority was enormous. The decline in design can easily be followed throughout this period, and the caricature-ish appearance of the many emperors and empresses is reminiscent of something which one may find in the pages of their favorite Sunday morning comic strip …

Obverse of a Gold Solidus of Theodora, struck between 842-850 at Constantinople (ex Classical Numismatic Group electronic auction 271, lot 133).

If you do not recognize the Sunday morning comic strip which has inspired Jeremy click here.

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