Christian martyrs and anonymous follis

Why were coins with the image of Jesus issued particularly during the reign of Nikephoros II Phokas? Find the answer in the new volume of Archaeologia Bulgarica.

How humble can an emperor be? And how come the warlike Nikephoros II Phokas (912–969)—famous for his victories on the battlefield and radical church reforms—became the first Byzantine ruler to renounce the right to perpetuate his image upon a number of imperial coins in favour of Jesus Christ? Yes, we are talking about the same Nikephoros Phokas who worked Sviatoslav Grand Prince of Kiev up against Bulgaria, in order to help him destroy his northern enemy once and for all. One could suggest that his personality was in a way like two sides of the same coin… and they would be wrong!

Mikhail Choref has come to some very interesting conclusions in his research entitled Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis, or on the reasons for the emission of anonymous follis, which was published in the new volume of  Archaeologia Bulgarica. The author defends the thesis that the purpose of the so called anonymous follis was not only to emphasize Nikephoros Phokas’ humility, but also to popularize the idea of Holy War and to raise the prestige of military service. The emperor consciously aimed at suggesting the idea that the Byzantine soldiers who died in a battle against Muslims were Christian martyrs.

The first volume of Archaeologia Bulgarica for 2019 also includes the publications of Stiliyan Ivanov: Typology and chronology of the red slip ware from the Roman manufacturing complex in the Varbovski Livadi site near Pavlikeni (North Bulgaria); Florin Curta: Ethnicity in the steppe lands of the Northern Black Sea region during the Early Byzantine times; and Georgi Atanasov: On the initial date of the medieval Lower Danube fortress of Păcuiul lui Soare and its harbour.

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