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CoinWeek Ancient Coins: Coins of Medieval Armenia

Coins of Medieval Armenia
Cash of Medieval Armenia

By Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek …..
 

THE CILICIAN KINGDOM OF ARMENIA (1199 – 1375) produced a vibrant culture strongly influenced by interplay with neighboring Crusader states[1]. Wealth derived from trade between East and West led to an extensive royal coinage that features a few of the most handsome and widespread medieval cash collected right now.

Cilicia[2] is a mountain-ringed area of southern Anatolia (now largely the Turkish province of Adana). Dominated in succession by Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Byzantines, it turned residence to growing numbers of Armenians fleeing Muslim domination in their Caucasian homeland in the course of the 11th century. Armenian warlords carved out semi-independent baronies based mostly round hilltop fortresses. Two rival noble families emerged: the “Roupenids” and the “Hetoumids”. Some of these barons (c. 1080 – 1198) struck uncommon copper small change for local use.

Levon I

On January 6, 1199, a Roupenid prince named Levon (or Leo – Cilician personalities are variously recognized by their Armenian names and the Latin or “Frankish” equivalent, and there are numerous variant spellings) was topped as king at Tarsus, with the approval of the German emperor Henry VI and the blessing of both the Pope and the top of the Armenian Church.

Cilician Armenia. Royal. Levon I. 1198-1219. AR Tram (21mm, 2.84 g, 3h). Coronation issue. The Virgin, nimbate and orans, standing facing, receiving Levon kneeling left, head facing; above, ray emanating from curve (sphere of heaven) toward his head; pellet between / Crowned lion advancing right, head facing; patriarchal cross above. Cf. AC 257 (for type); CCA 80: CNG 85, lot 88. VF, tonedCilician Armenia. Royal. Levon I. 1198-1219. AR Tram (21mm, 2.84 g, 3h). Coronation problem. The Virgin, nimbate and orans, standing dealing with, receiving Levon kneeling left, head dealing with; above, ray emanating from curve (sphere of heaven) toward his head; pellet between / Topped lion advancing right, head dealing with; patriarchal cross above. Cf. AC 257 (for sort); CCA 80: CNG 85, lot 88. VF, toned.

Newer scholarship attributes these cash to Levon III, who dominated from 1289 by means of 1307 (Vardanyan, 130). This can be a widespread drawback in medieval numismatics, where multiple rulers bear the identical identify, and sequence numbers weren’t used in inscriptions.

Levon reigned for over 20 years and his royal coinage is complicated. He moved the capital and the primary mint to the hilltop fortress of Sis (close to trendy Kozan, Turkey). The so-called “coronation” challenge[3]a tram weighing slightly below three grams[4]bears an unusually formidable picture (medieval die cutters not often had the talent to tell a narrative pictorially). Levon kneels earlier than the Virgin Mary, her palms raised in prayer, whereas a ray of sunshine shines down from above. The reverse is a pun on his identify; “Leo” means lion. A topped lion holds a double-barred “patriarchal” cross. A extra widespread reverse exhibits a pair of lions, back to again. There have been uncommon double trams, and occasional half trams (about 1.5 grams)[5]. There was even a “half double tram” struck to a slightly totally different weight normal for unsure causes.

LEVON I, 1198-1219. Double tram. The king seated holding cross and scepter. Rv. Crowned lion l. holding cross behind him; no marks in field. 5.31 g. Bed. 13.LEVON I, 1198-1219. Double tram. The king seated holding cross and scepter. Rv. Topped lion l. holding cross behind him; no marks in subject. 5.31 g. Bed. 13.

For the obverse, Levon’s engravers copied the design of emperor Henry VI’s modern imperial coinage: topped ruler enthroned holding a scepter within the form of a lily, and an orb topped by a cross. These light-weight silver cash (recognized right now as “bracteates”) have been struck on such skinny blanks that the design seems on each side[6].

A disappointment of Levon’s reign was his failure to overcome the strategic city of Antioch from Prince Bohemond IV (reigned 1201 – 1216). Some uncommon Crusader-style deniers in debased silver alloy (“billon”) inscribed in Latin moderately than Armenian have been struck in anticipation of this conquest. The obverse bears a crowned head, and the reverse bears a cross. The inscription reads “Leo, by the Grace of God / King of the Armenians.” The one instance to seem at public sale just lately brought over $4,000 USD in a 2010 US sale[7].

Cilician Armenia. Royal. Levon I. 1198-1219. AV Half Tahekan (19.5mm, 2.46 g, 11h). Levon enthroned facing, holding cross in right hand and branch in left / Patriarchal cross flanked by two lions, heads reverted. Nercessian, Gold III.a (this coin); AC 255 (this coin illustrated); Bedoukian 6 var. (rev. legend); Friedberg –. EF, toned. Extremely rare – the only example knownCilician Armenia. Royal. Levon I. 1198-1219. AV Half Tahekan (19.5mm, 2.46 g, 11h). Levon enthroned dealing with, holding cross in right hand and department in left / Patriarchal cross flanked by two lions, heads reverted. Nercessian, Gold III.a (this coin); AC 255 (this coin illustrated); Bedoukian 6 var. (rev. legend); Friedberg –. EF, toned. Extremely uncommon – the one example recognized.

There are very rare gold tahekans[8]in all probability based mostly on the load normal of the modern Islamic dinar. A singular half tahekan[9] brought $40,000 in a 2016 US auction. Bedoukian argues that “these were not struck for circulation, but slightly as presents that have been distributed on particular occasions” (50). Some collectors doubt the authenticity of the Cilician gold coins which have appeared available on the market.

The small change consisted of copper tanks weighing about seven grams[10]. The obverse bore a topped lion, and the reverse a patriarchal cross between two stars. Plentiful copper coinage in the medieval era is often proof of a vigorous urban financial system, where individuals have to make small day by day purchases, corresponding to a loaf of bread.

After reigning 34 years, Levon died in 1219 aged about 69, leaving a three-year-old daughter, Zabel (“Isabella”) as heiress. One regent was assassinated, and another arranged a political marriage between the kid Queen and Philip, son of Bohemond IV of Antioch. Philip proved so offensive to Armenians that he was imprisoned and poisoned (1226). Zabel was then pressured to marry the regent’s son, Hetoum (or Haython), uniting the dominion’s two noble households.

Hetoum I

Trams of Hetoum and Zabel, well-struck, in good silver, survive in abundance[11]. On the obverse, the couple stands collectively holding an extended cross between them. Sometimes for male-dominated medieval society, no cash of this lengthy reign identify the queen within the inscription. The topped lion appears on the reverse.

Cilician Armenia. Hetoum I and Zabel. 1226-1270. AR Tram (20mm, 3.00 g, 12h). Zabel and Hetoum standing facing one another, each crowned with head facing and holding long cross between / Crowned lion advancing right, head facing, holding long cross. AC 336.Cilician Armenia. Hetoum I and Zabel. 1226-1270. AR Tram (20mm, Three.00 g, 12h). Zabel and Hetoum standing dealing with each other, each crowned with head dealing with and holding lengthy cross between / Crowned lion advancing proper, head dealing with, holding lengthy cross. AC 336.

A serious menace to the dominion was the neighboring Seljuq Turkish Sultanate of Rum. To safe a peace treaty in 1228, the Armenians agreed to simply accept Sultan Kaykhusraw as their nominal overlord, and issued a handsome collection of “bilingual” trams[12]displaying Hetoum on horseback on the obverse, and an Arabic inscription on the reverse proclaiming “The Supreme Sultan, Helper of the World and the Religion, Kaykhusraw ibn Kayqubad”. Hetoum’s copper coinage consisted of a giant tank weighing almost eight grams[13]and its half, the kardez.

SELJUQ OF RUM: Kaykhusraw II, 1236-1245, AR bilingual tram (2.84g), Sis, AH639, A-1221, VF-EF, ex M.H. Mirza Collection. Issued by the Armenian ruler Hetoum I as vassal of Kaykhusraw II, minted only at Sis in Cilicia.SELJUQ OF RUM: Kaykhusraw II, 1236-1245, AR bilingual tram (2.84g), Sis, AH639, A-1221, VF-EF, ex M.H. Mirza Assortment. Issued by the Armenian ruler Hetoum I as vassal of Kaykhusraw II, minted only at Sis in Cilicia. ‘Hethum King of the Armenians’ in Armenian. Rev. ‘The Supreme Sultan, Helper of the World and the Faith, Kaykhusraw ibn Kayqubad’ in three strains in Arabic

With the kingdom dealing with threats from Muslim Turks to the north and the Fatimid Caliphate (and the Crusader states) to the south, in 1247 Hetoum made an alliance with the Mongols. Mongol Khans usually tolerated all religions, as long as topics paid tribute[14]. Hetoum’s brother, Smpad (or Smbat), made the lengthy trek to Karakorum in Mongolia to pay homage to Güyük Khan (reigned 1246-1248, grandson of Genghis Khan). In 1254 Hetoum traveled to satisfy Möngke Khan (reigned 1251-1259), who had conquered much of Iraq and Syria. Armenian armored cavalry fought alongside the Mongols in lots of campaigns. After Cilicia was invaded and ravaged by Egyptian Mamluks, Hetoum abdicated in 1270, retiring to a monastery, and his son Levon II took the throne.

Levon II

Cilician Armenia. Royal. Levon II, 1270-1289. Tram (Silver, 21 mm, 2.64 g, 8 h). King right on horseback; holding scepter; three stars around. Rev. Crowned lion advancing right, head facing; patriarchal cross behind. AC 376. Very fine.Cilician Armenia. Royal. Levon II, 1270-1289. Tram (Silver, 21 mm, 2.64 g, 8 h). King right on horseback; holding scepter; three stars around. Rev. Topped lion advancing proper, head dealing with; patriarchal cross behind. AC 376. Very positive.

Levon II turned king at the age of about 34 and ruled for 19 years. His spouse Keran (or Guerane) bore 14 youngsters, together with 5 sons who would, in turn, turn out to be Armenian kings. A daughter, Rita, married the Byzantine emperor Michael IX Palaeologos. In 1271 Marco Polo passed by way of the Cilician port of Ayas on his epic journey to China. Levon II’s trams adopted the design of his father’s cash: the king on horseback, with a topped lion on the reverse[15]. Trams of Levon II are scarce; it seems the alloy was progressively debased over the course of the reign, “broad variations within the silver content material made transactions troublesome, and that the majority of his silvers have been ultimately melted to make the extra uniform cash of his successors” (Bedoukian, 54).

Hetoum II

Cilician Armenia. Royal. Hetoum II, 1289-1293, 1295-1296, and 1301-1305. Denier (Billon, 14 mm, 0.37 g, 3 h). Crowned facing bust. Rev. Cross pattée. AC 394. Rare. Flan slightly irregular as usual, otherwise, very fine.Cilician Armenia. Royal. Hetoum II, 1289-1293, 1295-1296, and 1301-1305. Denier (Billon, 14 mm, zero.37 g, 3 h). Crowned dealing with bust. Rev. Cross pattée. AC 394. Rare. Flan slightly irregular as normal, in any other case, very effective.

Eldest surviving son of Levon II, Hetoum II, aged about 23, reluctantly took the throne upon his father’s demise in 1289, though he a lot most popular the life of a monk. He abdicated twice, as soon as in 1293 and again in 1296, in favor of youthful brothers. His coinage consists of poorly struck billon deniers[16]just like modern Crusader issues, and copper kardez, “probably probably the most carelessly executed coins of the Roupenian dynasty. The lettering is seldom legible and very often the die has been struck off middle” (Bedoukian, 89). In 1307 Hetoum, his nephew King Levon III (aged 18) and about 40 Armenian nobles have been treacherously murdered at a banquet by Bilarghu, a Mongol basic who had transformed to Islam. When Mongol Khan Oljaitu (reigned 1304 – 1316) discovered of this treachery, he had Bilarghu and his troops executed.

Smpad

Cilician Armenia. Smpad. 1296-1298. AR Tram (22mm, 3.05 g, 1h). Coronation issue. Smpad seated facing on throne decorated with lions, holding cross and lis, with feet resting upon footstool; annulet to left and right / Two lions rampant back-to-back, each with heads reverted; between, cross pattée set on reversed cruciform spear. AC 407 var. (obv. legend); CCA 1653a; Bedoukian, Silver 3-6 var. (cross type). Near EFCilician Armenia. Smpad. 1296-1298. AR Tram (22mm, Three.05 g, 1h). Coronation situation. Smpad seated dealing with on throne adorned with lions, holding cross and lis, with ft resting upon footstool; annulet to left and proper / Two lions rampant back-to-back, every with heads reverted; between, cross pattée set on reversed cruciform spear. AC 407 var. (obv. legend); CCA 1653a; Bedoukian, Silver 3-6 var. (cross sort). Close to EF

Smpad (or Smbat) seized the throne in 1296 whereas his brothers Hetoum II and Thoros have been visiting their sister, Empress Rita, in Constantinople. He murdered Thoros and had Hetoum partially blinded. Uncommon silver trams of Smpad’s temporary reign are comparable in type to those of Levon I; many have been in all probability melted right down to erase the reminiscence of the insurgent king. Smpad was overthrown with assistance from another brother, Gosdantin, when Hetoum regained his sight.

Gosdantin

“Gosdantin, the fourth brother, was outraged by Smpad’s conduct, and gathered a military to confront him. A pitched battle was fought close to Sis, the royal capital, through which Gosdantin was victorious. Smpad was thrown into prison and with Hetoum’s permission, Gosdantin turned king of Armenia in 1298 (Saryan, 202).”

Gosdantin celebrated his victory on magnificent double trams. On the obverse the king on horseback holds a sword; on the reverse, he stands with a sword in a single hand and a cross within the other. The unfamiliar picture of the king holding a sword was a exceptional innovation, recalling the coinage of Byzantine emperor Isaac Comnenus (reigned 1057 – 1059). Just a few examples are recognized; one realized virtually $26,000 in a 2018 public sale[17].

In 1299, Hetoum II returned to the throne. When Gosdantin plotted to restore Smpad, he was jailed for the remainder of his life.

Oshin

Oshin was the final of Levon II’s sons to rule Armenia. He turned king when his nephew Levon III was murdered in 1307. His uncommon, high-quality silver trams (typically described as a “coronation difficulty”) have been the final examples of this denomination[18]. They show the king enthroned, with the hand of God reaching out from the left to bless him. Early in his 13-year reign, these trams have been changed by the takvorin in a grayish low-grade silver alloy[19]. Oshin’s small copper poghs (about 1.5 grams) are scarce.

Guy

“During his brief reign of only two years, Guy had little time to concern coins in giant numbers … his silver coins are quite uncommon (Bedoukian, 95).”

Guy de Lusignan reluctantly accepted the crown when his cousin Levon IV was murdered by Armenian barons. Man then took the identify Gosdantin II. A capable army leader, he refused to pay tribute to the Mamluks, however he aroused so much resentment by promoting French-speaking courtiers that he was assassinated (April 17, 1344). A rare copper pogh of King Man brought $2,100 in a 2010 auction[20].

Levon V

Cilician Armenia. Royal. Levon V. 1374-1393. BI Denier (14mm, 0.42 g, 9h). Crowned bust facing / Cross pattée, with pellet in each angle. AC 503 var. (rev. legend); CCA -. VF, toned, minor porosity. Rare. Cilician Armenia. Royal. Levon V. 1374-1393. BI Denier (14mm, zero.42 g, 9h). Crowned bust dealing with / Cross pattée, with pellet in every angle. AC 503 var. (rev. legend); CCA -. VF, toned, minor porosity. Uncommon.

The tragic last king of Cilician Armenia was born about 1342 on Cyprus to the aristocratic Home of Lusignan, which ruled that island and was associated by marriage to the Armenian ruling dynasty. He was elected to the throne after his cousin Gosdantin IV was murdered in 1373. The kingdom was in desperate straits, repeatedly invaded by Turks and Mamluks, most commerce in the arms of Venetian and Genoese retailers, and society wracked by civil strife between Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic factions. Mamluks captured Sis in 1374, and King Levon V surrendered the last citadel on 16 April 1375. Taken to Cairo as a prisoner, he was ultimately ransomed by King Juan I of Castile (reigned 1379 – 1390) and lived out the remainder of his life in exile in France, dying in 1393. Levon’s rare coinage consists of wretched little billon deniers (about half a gram[21]), bravely inscribed “Levon, King of All of the Armenians”, and a few copper poghs.

* * *

Notes

[1] See www.coinweek.com/world-coins/medieval-numismatics-coins-of-the-crusaders

[2] The widespread English pronunciation is sil-ISH-ya. The Greek pronunciation, kil-ik-KEE-ya can also be right.

[3] CNG Auction 97, 17 September 2014, Lot 905. Realized $1,000 USD; estimate $200.

[4] The word “tram” or “dram”, related to the Greek drachma and Arabic dirham, continues to be used for the fashionable foreign money of Armenia ($1 USD = 474 AMD).

[5] CNG Public sale 46, 24 June 1998, Lot 722. Realized $200 USD.

[6] Nomos Public sale 14, 17 Might 2017, Lot 501. Realized $174 USD.

[7] CNG Auction 85, 15 September 2010, Lot 100. Realized $4,100 USD; estimate $1,250.

[8] Spink Public sale 13012, 26 March 2013, Lot 180. Realized UK£1600 ($2,425 USD); estimate UK£2,000-Three,000

[9] CNG Triton XIX sale, 5 January 2016, Lot 2219. Realized $40,000 USD; estimate $50,000

[10] CNG Electronic Public sale 407, 11 October 2017, Lot 652. Realized $120 USD.

[11] CNG Auction 85, 15 September 2010, Lot 102. Realized $310 USD.

[12] Stephen Album Public sale 34, 23 Might 2019, Lot 561. Realized $400 USD; estimate $200 – 240.

[13] Nomos AG, obolos 6, 20 November 2016, Lot 1091. Realized $89 USD.

[14] See www.coinweek.com/ancient-coins/coinweek-ancient-coin-series-coinage-mongols

[15] Leu Numismatik Net Auction 2, 3 December 2017, Lot 963. Realized $97 USD.

[16] Leu Numismatik, Net Public sale 2, Three December 2017, Lot 965. Realized $112 USD.

[17] Leu Numismatik Auction Three, 27 October 2017, Lot 362. Realized $25,964 USD; estimate $7,500.

[18] Leu Numismatik, Net Auction 6, 9 December 2018, Lot 1520. Realized $605 USD.

[19] CNG Triton XIII, 5 January 2010, Lot 1727. Realized $500 USD; estimate $150.

[20] CNG Public sale 85, 15 September 2010, Lot 126. Realized $2,100 USD; estimate $1,000.

[21] CNG Public sale 85, 15 September 2010, Lot 128. Realized $320 USD; estimate $300.

References

Bedoukian, Paul Z. ‘The Coinage of Cilician Armenia’, American Numismatic Society NNM 147. New York (1962)

Bournoutian, George. A Concise Historical past of the Armenian Individuals. Costa Mesa, CA (2006)

Der Nercessian, Sirapie. “The Kingdom of Cilician Armenia”, A History of The Crusades. Philadelphia (1962)

Evans, Helen C. (editor). Armenia: Art, Faith and Commerce within the Center Ages. New York (2018)

Malloy, Alex, Irene Preston and Arthur Seltman. Coins of the Crusader States (2nd edition). Fairfield, CT (2004)

Macler, Frederic, “Armenia”, The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. IV. Cambridge (1923)

Metcalf, D. M. “Notes on the classification of the trams of Cilician Armenia”, Numismatic Chronicle 141. (1981)

Nercessian, Y. T. Armenian Coins and Their Values. Armenian Numismatic Society, Los Angeles (1995)

Saryan, Leon. “Analyzing Armenian coin values”, The Celator 12. (October, 1998)

Saryan, Leon. “An Unpublished Silver Double Tram of Gosdantin I (1298-1299), King of Cilician Armenia”, American Journal of Numismatics 12. (2000)

Vardanyan, Ruben. “Corrections to deep-rooted errors in the attribution and classification of coins of the Cilician Armenian kingdom, half I”, Armenian Journal of Close to Japanese Research 12. (2018)
 

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