Intro
The History of Byzantine Coinage
Mints
Uses of Coins
Christianization of the Coin
Representation of Christ
Representation of the Virgin

The use of coins welds together our whole life, and is the basis of all our transactions. Whenever anything is to be bought or sold, we do it all through coins.

John Chrysostom


The wealth of the Byzantine emperor was equalled only by the kings of Sasanian Persia and the caliphs of Baghdad. A vivid description of the Byzantine court's sense of superiority toward the "barbarian" West has been preserved by Liutprand of Cremona, the ambassador of Emperor Otto II to Constantinople in 950, who quotes a high court official's arrogant comments:

"We surpass all other nations in wealth and wisdom and with our money which gives us power, we will rouse the whole world against [your emperor] and break him in pieces like a potter's vessels."

The annual budget of the Byzantine Empire in periods of great prosperity, such as the 6th and 12th centuries, has been estimated at some 7 million gold coins, but even in the 9th century, when so much territory had been lost to the Arabs, it still amounted to some 3 million nomismata. Although precious metals were available from mines in Asia Minor and the Balkans, apparently the government raised most of its revenue through taxation. The land tax was the most important source of imperial revenue and taxes were also levied on households as well as on commercial transactions and imported goods.


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Solidus of Constantine VII and Romanus I