Open for bidding now is the August 20 Heritage Auction Spotlight: Byzantine Empire Showcase Auction, featuring nearly all stylistic periods of Byzantine coinage, beginning with Anastasius I gold and winding through the Empire’s complex numismatic history to end with John VIII silver. Trebizond aspers and Imperial bronze make bold appearances to round out this historic auction. This auction is open for bidding now, with a concluding live session scheduled for Sunday, August 20 at 7 PM.
The brief sole reign of the Empress Irene was a milestone in both Roman and Byzantine history, as it marked the first time a woman ruled the Empire in her own right. Previous empresses had effectively wielded supreme power, but only by using a male figurehead as nominal ruler. An Athenian beauty of renowned intellect, Irene rose to prominence as the wife of Emperor Leo IV. When Leo died in 780, Irene ruled as regent for their adolescent son Constantine VI until iconoclast ministers forced her ouster. But when Constantine VI embarrassed the regime with a series of military blunders and public scandals, Irene had him ousted and blinded in 797, seizing sole power for herself. She won popularity with generous handouts and tax reductions, but the state’s coffers soon emptied and she faced a series of military disasters that further undermined her position. Furthermore, the accession of a female promoted the Pope in Rome to declare the imperial throne vacant and the Frankish king Charlemagne was duly crowned “Emperor of the Romans” in 800. He in turn sent Irene an offer of marriage, which would have united Eastern and Western Christendom under one government and changed the course of history. But it was not to be. In 802, Irene was ousted in a coup led by her finance minister Nicephorus, who exiled her to Lesbos, where she died the following year. Her devotion to icons led to her canonization in the Orthodox Church.
A few of the other offerings in this auction include:
- Maurice Tiberius (AD 582-602). AV solidus. NGC Choice AU 5/5 – 4/5. Carthage, dated Indictional Year 2 (AD 583/4)
- Justinian II Rhinotmetus, Second Reign (AD 705-711). AV solidus. NGC MS 5/5 – 3/5, graffito. Constantinople, AD 705
- Constantine VI and Irene (AD 780-797). AV solidus. NGC AU 4/5 – 2/5, edge bend. Constantinople
- Basil I the Macedonian (AD 867-886), with Constantine. AR miliaresion. NGC MSstar 5/5 – 5/5. Constantinople, AD 868-879
- Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and Romanus II (AD 945-963). AV solidus. NGC AU 5/5 – 4/5. Constantinople, AD 945-950
- Isaac I Comnenus (AD 1057-1059). AV tetarteron nomisma. NGC AU 5/5 – 1/5, scratches. Constantinople
- Romanus IV Diogenes (AD 1068-1071), and Eudocia. AV tetarteron nomisma. NGC Choice AU 4/5 – 4/5, die shift. Constantinople
Bid on the lots in this auction exclusively at Coins.HA.com.