Since their first arrival on the Balkan penninsula early in the 6th c. and definite emergence on the historical scene, the South Slavs had their history and destiny inextricably tied with the Constantinopolitan state. Indeed, Balkan history throughout the medieval era (between late antiquity and the Ottoman invasion) closely parallels that of the Byzantine empire, which at different times acted as mentor, ally and foe of the Balkan Slav nations.
As such, Serb history of this period can not be understood without accounting for this complex relationship, and the powerful Greek state on the other end of it. The brief historical commentary provided with the exhibits is obviously not intended to be comprehensive in any way; rather, it is meant to highlight certain interesting facts, in particular some of those pertaining to the interactions and coexistence of South Slavic and Hellenic peoples and states in the Balkans during the Middle Ages.
While the beauty and richness of the ancient Greek and early Roman coinage remain unsurpassed, the Byzantine series, with both the stability and variety exhibited during its thousand-year span, remains unique in the history of numismatics. Throughout this period, Byzantine coins came in three basic metal types: gold, silver and bronze. Featured here are mostly bronze coins, which were the bulk of circulating money.
The transition point between the (Eastern) Roman and Byzantine empires - typically placed somewhere between the 4th and 7th centuries - is largely a matter of historical convenience, since the Empire itself knew no such distinction. The usual numismatic convention is to begin the Byzantine period of coinage with the great monetary reform of Anastasius I, in 498 AD. Here, our exhibits start with issues of Constantine I, in part since foundations for two basic tenets of the Byzantine Empire - a Greek tradition and Christian religion - were largely laid down by Constantine the Great himself.
Ties symbolized: King Milutin of Serbia presenting the charter of the Hilandar (Chilandari) monastery on Mt. Athos to his father-in-law, Byzantine Emperor Andronikos II, 1320
- Next >>