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Mezezios, Gold, Semissis, Syracuse, 668-669

 
 

Obverse

Bust with diadem facing right. Linear border.

e[Zez]-PPVcS

 

Reverse

Cross potent on globe. Linear border.

VICTORI VS

 

Obverse

Bust with diadem facing right. Linear border.

e[Zez]-PPVcS

 

Reverse

Cross potent on globe. Linear border.

VICTORI VS

 

Accession number BZC.1948.17.3888
Ruler Mezezios
Metal Gold
Denomination Semissis
Mint Syracuse
Date 668669
Diameter 16.0 mm
Weight 2.11 g
Relation of Dies 6:00
Shape Flat

Commentary

Mezezios, whose revolt in Sicily after Constans II’s death lasted from July 15, 668, until late January or early February 669, is one of the rare unsuccessful Byzantine usurpers whose coins are known. The authenticity of the modern solidi attributed to him (Lanz, 14, 1978, lot 497, now in the Munich coin cabinet) are debated (Hahn, “Mezezius in peccato suo interiit”). The London solidus of Constantine IV of similar type (BMC, no. 54, formerly de Salis collection) with blundered legend EEI may on the contrary be a genuine coin of Mezezios (Morrisson, “Note de numismatique byzantine: À propos de quelques ouvrages récents,” 215, note 8) since it was bought as an ordinary coin of Constantine IV in the 19th century.

The semissis here was not catalogued in DOC 2.2 by Grierson, who overlooked it and left it unpublished with “Barbarous coins.” He later published it in “A semissis of Mezezius (668-9)” and wrote “[Hayford Peirce] bought it as a coin of Benevento and himself reattributed it to Mezezius . . . its authenticity and its attribution to Mezezius are without question.” The style of the headdress differs from that of the Constans II semissis in Constantinople and its design is closer to that of Constantine IV of the same mint. It differs entirely from that of the Syracusan semisses of Constantine IV. The epigraphy is also without comparanda. If it were not for its having been bought as a coin of Beneventum at a moderate price of 30 (Gulden probably), its authenticity would be in doubt.

In arguing against the Mezezios solidi, Hahn raised complex iconographic and chronological arguments, namely that the obverse portrait with cuirass and shield was one used by Constantine IV himself in 669 and it was impossible that the emperor would have copied a previous type struck by a usurper. Vivien Prigent (“Des pères et des fils: Note de numismatique sicilienne pour servir à l’histoire du règne de Constantin IV”) has taken up the matter again with many new elements. He accepts the authenticity of the solidi and semisses, and suggests a different chronology for the history of these troubled years and proposes dating the issue from the renewed revolt led by John, son of Mezezios, in 672/673.

Note that another Mezezios solidus (of different dies than Lanz’s) was bought by Charles Fleischmann from Harlan Berk (Gemini II, 1 October 2010, lot 531 [CF-17a-01]).

Acquisition History

Schulman, Amsterdam, November 1928 as a Beneventum coin.