The Bank of Greece will issue (13th July) their latest collector coins which are part of the multi-national numismatic programme Europa Silver Star. For 2020, all coins in the series focus on the Gothic era in Europe, which is divided into Early Gothic (1150-1250), High Gothic (1250-1375), and International Gothic (1375-1450).
A notable figure just before the early Gothic era was Alexios I Komnenos (c. 1048–1118), emperor from 1081 to 1118 and founder of the Komnenos dynasty, though he was not the first of his house to sit on the throne of Byzantium. As a young man, he was noted for his great military successes, having survived shifts in the regime, he became the strong right arm of successive emperors and put down a number of rebellions. He assumed the throne not by natural succession but by overthrowing his predecessor Nikephoros III Botaneiates (r. 1078–1081) during a time of acute administrative, economic, and military disarray. Driven to revolt, he secured the support of other aristocratic leaders and was proclaimed emperor on the 4th April 1081.
Alexios I, with considerable effort, succeeded in stabilising and consolidating the vast Byzantine state. He fought protracted wars against powerful enemies such as the Normans, the Pechenegs from Central Asia, and the Seljuk Turks, who were also marauding their way from Central Asia. Realising his need for greater military strength, while at the same time anxious to cooperate with the papacy, Alexios I succeeded in ending the schism of 1054 between the Eastern and Western Churches. He then sent appeals to the pope and others, urging westerners to help him fight in the East, which resulted in him successfully working with the First Crusade by recovering substantial territories of the empire.
He is also remembered for having reformed the monetary system and reorganising the economy by abandoning the debased solidus tetarteron and histamenon and issuing a gold coinage with a purity of .900 to .950 fine. First released in 1092, the coins were commonly referred to as the hyperpyron, and with a nominal weight of 4.45 grams, they were slightly smaller than the old solidus, but eminently trusted as a reliable source of trade or commerce and ultimately real wealth. Along with the hyperpyron, the aspron trachy worth a third of its gold counterpart was minted in electrum — a combination of 25 percent gold and 75 percent silver. The stamenon, a billon coin of primarily copper with silver plating (or wash), had a standard value of 48 pieces to one hyperpyron. Lastly, copper coins known as tetarterons and noummions worth 18 and 36 to the aspron trachy, were also placed into circulation.
Alexios I’s reform of the Byzantine monetary system became such an important basis for the financial recovery of Byzantine’s future and sustenance, it is remembered today as the cornerstone for what was a secure so-called Komnenian restoration. The new coinage re-established financial confidence and enabled the empire to experience a revival not only of its economic fortunes but also culturally and socially. Meanwhile, the literary renaissance that had begun in the ninth century was still ongoing, and Byzantine artisans continued to produce masterpieces which have survived to this day. The Gothic era made its way into the Greek world via the crusaders, leaving us such interesting monuments as the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller in Rhodes. Alexios I died on the 15th August 1118 and was succeeded by his eldest son John II Komnenos, who had been proclaimed co-emperor at the age of five in 1092 and was now emperor in his own right. The Komnenos Dynasty remained on the throne of Byzantium until 1185 with the death of Andronikos I Komnenos, a grandson of Alexios I.
The coins are produced by the Hellenic Mint at their facilities in Athens on behalf of the Bank of Greece and are designed by George Stamatopoulos. The design for the obverse side is inspired by a tile mosaic of the emperor, front-facing with a typical Byzantine-style crown resting on his head, signifying imperial supremacy. A detail of the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller in Rhodes was selected for the background of the coin. The denomination of 10 ΕΥΡΩ is placed to the right of the emperor’s likeness.
The reverse side is common to all the countries participating in the Europa Star programme and features an off-centre star, inspired by the Europa Star logo. This year’s theme, ΓΟΤΘΙΚΗ ΕΠΟΧΗ (Gothic Era), and the name of the issuing country are inscribed in a circular arc above the star. In the centre is the national crest of the Hellenic Republic, a crossed shield surrounded by a laurel wreath. The year of issue is shown to the right, and the mintmark is placed to the lower left of the star.
|10 euro||.925 Silver||31.1 g||38.6 mm||Proof||5,000|
Available from the 13th July, each Proof quality coin is presented in a custom Bank of Greece-branded case, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Collectors residing in Greece can visit the Bank of Greece’s headquarters in Athens. Those outside Greece are asked to e-mail the following mailing address:
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