Justinian II, first reign (AD 685-695). AV solidus (19mm, ...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionJustinian II, first reign (AD 685-695). AV solidus (19mm, 7h). ANACS AU 58. Constantinople, uncertain officina (off flan), AD 692-695. IhS CRISΤDS RЄX-RЄΣNANΤIЧM, facing half-length bust of Christ with long hair and full beard, wearing pallium and colobium, cross behind head, raising right hand in benediction, book of Gospels cradled in left arm / D IЧSTINI-AN-[ЧS SERЧ CHRISΤI ?] , full-length figure of Justinian II standing facing, wearing crown and loros, cross potent on steps in right hand and akakia in left; CONO-P below. Sear 1248. Struck on a smallish flan with reverse die break.
The portrait of Christ on the obverse of this solidus is the first numismatic representation of Jesus, and immediately followed the ruling of the Trullan Synod of AD 692 that Christ could be depicted in human form. Justinian II was ostentatiously devout and placing the divine image on his coinage was a reflection of this. The image is remarkably naturalistic and lifelike, and was likely based on the mosaic image of Christ in the apse of the Great Palace of Constantinople, which was itself influenced by Hellenistic depictions of Zeus. Some scholars have argued that Justinian's choice to produce this new type came in response to the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik's minting of Byzantine-style solidi bearing the Islamic statement of faith (the shahada) in AD 692, which he used in payment of tribute to the Emperor prior to the eruption of the Battle of Sebastopolis the same year.
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