Имитации на златни монети на император Юстиниан II (685–695, 705–711) от североизточна България

Imitations of golden coins of Emperor Justinian II (685-659, 705-711) from Northeastern Bulgaria

  • Igor Lazarenko Varna Archaeological Museum


The numismatic collection of the Museum of Archaeology in Varna houses two copper gilded coin-like lamellae that imitate a type of golden coins of three nominal values (solidus, semis and tremis) of Emperor Justinian II from the rise of his second reign (705-711). Their obverses bear Jesus Christ in a tunic, with a short beard and short curly hair, and a cross behind his head; the reverses display a bust of the emperor with a crown and loros, in his right hand holding a cross upon a base with three steps, and in his left hand – globe with a cross (Pl. 000, fig. 1,2).

Both imitations are an-epigraphic and very different in style from the Byzantine originals. Beyond any doubt they have been made outside Byzantium. Their discovery in today’s Northeastern Bulgaria directs the quest for their issuer among the local Bulgarians.

Obviously they have been designed as cheap substitutes for expensive coins. Their diameters are the same as of the Justinian’s tremisses (16/17 mm), but their weight is lower compared to them (between 1,30 and 1,40 g). The fact that one of the lamellae is pierced for sewing or hanging associates them to some extent with the brass pendari (golden coins) for female costumes from the 20th c. During t he 7th – 9th c. some full coins and most of the fakes found in the past had such a secondary application among Bulgarians. They served as components of jewels or decorated garments. For that reason we can assume that despite their coin-like appearance they had only a decorative purpose.

Still another possibility suggests the Bulgarians have mastered some unfair financial techniques taken from the Byzantines including giving false coins when paying with neighboring peoples – Khazarians, Slavs and Avars. Alternative use of fakes would be misuse in commodity – monetary or interpersonal relations in the Bulgarian society.

The least likely is the introduction of Bulgarian imitation coins with a compulsory rate in Bulgaria itself. In case such a measure has been applied it was intended to withdraw to the treasury golden Byzantine coins available in the population.

The existence of imitative coins among the Bulgarians in the early 8th c. suggests that back then began the formation and realization of the idea of introducing their own analogues of Byzantine coins.


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