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    Magnificent Michael III Solidus

    Michael III 'the Drunkard' (AD 842-867). AV solidus (21mm, 4.38 gm, 6h). NGC AU 4/5 - 3/5, scuffs. Constantinople, AD 856-866. IhS?S X-RIStOS*, facing bust of Christ Pantocrator, cross behind head, raising right hand in benediction, holding book of Gospels in left arm / +-MI-XAHL bASIL?', facing bust of Michael, wearing crown and diagonal pattern loros, holding vexillum emblazoned with cross and akakia; cross to left. Sear 1688. DOC III 3. Very rare!

    From the Morris Collection. Ex. Classical Numismatic Group 28 (8 December 1993), lot 505.

    Though now saddled with the unfortunate epithet "the Drunkard," Michael III showed real ability and it was under his reign that the great recovery in Byzantine fortunes later called "the Macedonian Renaissance" began. The son of Theophilus, he was only two years old when his father died and the purple passed to him. A succession of regents, mainly his mother Theodora, ran affairs of state until he reached his majority in AD 856, when his reign truly began. Guided by his uncle, the Caesar Bardas, his regime made astonishing progress on the domestic, diplomatic and military fronts. The Arabs were defeated and pushed back, the Slavs Christianized and incorporated within the Empire, the last embers of Iconoclasm stamped out, and a university established in Constantinople to advance higher learning. Byzantine art and iconography, too, began a strong revival, as indicated by this magnificent gold solidus. Later Byzantine historians blackened Michael's name as a drunken wastrel in order to glorify the dynasty of the man who murdered him and usurped the throne, Basil I the Macedonian, but he deserved better treatment.

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2019
    6th-7th Sunday-Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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