In 330 B.C, Constantine the Great, renamed Byzantium as the administrative center of the Empire. Within two hundred years, Constantinople rose as the center of Christianity and the major city of Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire.
From 330 B.C. To 1453 A.D. three elements influenced the culture and coinage of Byzantium.
1. Greek influences and traditions of indigenous population and physical location of Constantinople as its cultural center.
2. Roman administrative organization provided a layer of official language and imperial iconography and
3. the rise of Christianity as the dominant religion is reflected in its coinage and art. (Wayne Sayles. Ancient Coin Collecting, vol 5).
The art and coinage of Byzantium evolved during its 1150 year history. The majority of the coins produced were struck in brass or gold. Trade practices and price instability made silver coinage less attractive. This historical museum collection contains five lead free replica coins of ancient Byzantium.
The earliest coinage of Byzantium reflected the rigid reality of Roman coinage. Coin portraiture evolved as the Christian empire grew. Byzantine coinage maintained the Roman system of denominations and used mints in coin production. The first brass coin represents the traditional side view portraiture of emperor Constantine I.
On the second brass coin of Constantine, the reverse shows the personification of the Sun holding a globe in his left hand. The Roman symbol of the globe as authority and dominion on coinage evolved into a Christian image with addition of a cross above a globe or globus cruciger (representing the dual role of emperor as head of state and head of church.)
Greek imperial titles of the Hellenistic kings, the use of face-on views of rulers with iconographic diadem and garments reflect Greek influences.
The third and fourth coins (a gold solidus of Constantine II and gold semissis of Valentinian III) show new coin styles, with helmeted and curassed busts facing forward, military dress, holding a lances and shields. Christian symbols are shown on the reverse of the Valentinian half solidus. Constantinopolis enthroned left, wearing helmet, globus cruciger in right, scepter in left, shield resting at side of throne, a star left.
At the end of the seventh century, Justinian II issued the first real portrait of Jesus Christ on a coin. The fifth coin, a gold solidus shows Christ facing, cross behind head, with right hand raised in benediction and left hand holding book of Gospels. Christ is portrayed in Greek and Eastern Christian terms of The Pantocrator or ruler of the universe. The reverse shows Justinian standing wearing loros and crown, holding cross potent on two steps and ceremonial paraphernalia.
These are two sided replicas of original pieces.