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    Incredible Byzantine Rarity

    Leo V, "the Armenian" (AD 813-820). AV solidus (21mm, 4.44 gm, 6h). Constantinople, AD 813. • LЄ-Oh bASILЄЧ,  facing bust of Leo, wearing crown with cross and chlamys (cloak) pinned at right shoulder with jeweled brooch, holding cross potent in right hand and akakia in left / • LЄ-Oh dЄ-SPOTIS ? X, crowned facing bust, wearing short beard and loros, holding globus cruciger in right hand. Sear 1626. DOC 1. Füeg 1.A. One of the greatest rarities of the Byzantine series, likely the finest of approximately eight specimens known. NGC Gem MS? 5/5 - 5/5.

    From The Providence Collection. Ex CNG 93 (22 May 2013), lot 1386 (realized $42,500).

    The Iconoclast Era was really a century-long civil war within Byzantine society that saw the great restorative work of iconoclast emperors such as Leo III , Constantine V  and Leo VI undermined by the active antagonism of a large majority of the empire's population.  The iconoclasts believed that veneration of sacred images, icons, was a form of idolatry prohibited by the scriptures; most Byzantines loved the images and made them central to their religious observance. Iconoclasm was strongest in the army, while icon veneration was popular among the laity. Leo V "the Armenian" launched the second wave of Iconoclast  persecution after the interlude provided by the Empress Irene, who restored  the icons during her five-year sole reign .  As implied by his epithet, Leo was of Armenian descent and rose through army ranks to become Strategos (governor general) of the Anatolikon theme, which held the empire's most powerful army. Following a major military defeat, Leo forced the abdication of the ineffectual emperor Michael I Rhangabe and seized the throne for himself.  With the Bulgarian Khan Krum laying siege to Constantinople, the situation was quite precarious, and Leo attempted to end the siege by having Krum assassinated during a parley. The stratagem failed, but Krum died soon thereafter and Leo led an attack on the leaderless Bulgarians that resulted in a great Byzantine victory and a 30-year peace treaty that brought the empire respite.  This accomplished, Leo V began pursuing his ultimate goal -- the restoration of iconoclasm.  He forced out the iconodule Patriarch Nicephorus, confiscated church properties and exiled churchmen and abbots who resisted. The undercurrent of distrust this caused led to conspiracies against the regime, which he ruthlessly suppressed. One of his victims was the general Michael the Amorion, whom he imprisoned; Michael, however, had many supporters and they mounted a final and successful attempt on Leo's life during mass at the chapel of St. Stephen on Christmas Day, AD 820. Dressed as monks, they surrounded and cut down the emperor on the high altar. Michael was crowned as the new emperor with his legs still encased in manacles.  

    This spectacular gold solidus was struck in the first few weeks of his reign, before he appointed his son Constantine as co-emperor. 


    View all of [The Providence Collection ]

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2015
    13th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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