"Byzantine" coinage began with the economic reforms of Anastasius I (491 - 518 AD) which laid the foundations for the survival and prosperity of the empire. The denominations of Byzantine coinage carried over from the West were the gold solidus and its fractions, the silver siliqua and miliaresion and the tiny nummus. The gold solidus (later the nomisma) became the most stable and desirable trade coinage throughout the Mediterranean to the borders of India until the late 11th century. Anastasius filled the large gap between the precious metals and the by introducing the follis (40 nummi); the ½ follis, (20 nummi) the decanumium (ten nummi), the pentanummia (five nummi) and later the ¾ follis (30 nummi).
The 7th century witnessed the rise of
Islam, which was to become the greatest rival and threat to
Byzantium and Christianity for the next 800 years. Byzantium
became the boundary between the Christian West and the Muslim East.
This role was reflected through the use of Christian religious
symbolism on coinage. The cross appeared early on coinage and
the image of Christ started with Justinian II and continued until
the end. The pagan image of Nike (winged goddess of victory from
Roman times) was converted into a male angel, the halo became
common along with globus cruciger (a globe with a cross mounted on
it symbolizing Christ's power over the world). Symbolism and
mysticism became central themes in the design of Byzantine gold
coins, creating an intriguing and beautiful
The Byzantine economy collapsed during the mid-11th century and was only stabilized at the end of the century by Alexius I. The old monetary system was replaced by 4 denominations - the gold hyperperon, the electrum aspron trachy (1/3 of the hyperperon and the billon aspron trachy (1/48 of the hyperperon). This system lasted throughout the 12th century until the disastrous Latin (Crusader) conquest of Constantinople in 1204. Byzantine gold coinage was suspended during the 14th century after a series of debasements, and the Byzantine Empire ended its long numismatic history with a modest silver and bronze coinage.