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Money in Constantinople, the Sea of Marmara, and the Northeast Aegean during the Fourteenth Century

Julian Baker, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, United Kingdom, Fellow 2012–2013, Spring

My research at Dumbarton Oaks explored the monetary dimension of the rapid collapse of Byzantium in the fourteenth century in the area of the imperial capital, and the parallel establishment of other powers (the Ottomans and Genoese). The project was initially structured around a number of separate, largely numismatic inquiries, which will constitute a comprehensive picture that takes into account and complements the general political and economic historiography of the area.

During my fellowship, I submitted two articles for publication, regarding hoards and stray finds from Ainos in Thrace, and a hoard from Miletos that contained many silver issues relevant to the northern Aegean. I also made good progress in classifying three hoards from the city of Constantinople: the Cerrahpaşa hoard of Byzantine gold hyperpyra; Belgratkapı 1986 of Byzantine tornesi; and Belgratkapı 1987 of Byzantine and foreign silver coins. These hoards are important cornerstones in any description of the fate of Byzantine coinage during this century: the huge output in an increasingly debased gold coinage, its large-scale hoarding, and dramatic demise in mid-century; the failed attempt by the Byzantine authorities to emulate a western-style, debased, fiduciary penny coinage; and the equally failed attempt to partake of the general fashion for large grosso-style silver coins. Both the stray find and hoard data suggest that Byzantium’s fiscal and economic administration was increasingly flawed, while the question of the empire’s general balance of payments is much more protracted and remains subject to further inquiries. I hope to flesh out this information in the future with more relevant coin finds from this area, and with a greater degree of quantification of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Genoese coinage issues.