Frankish Greece

Coins in Frankish Greece

Rosie Weetch

In 1204 the army of the Fourth Crusade captured Constantinople, disrupting the entire Byzantine Empire, from the Adriatic to the Black Sea. The crusaders went westwards and carved up the remaining Byzantine lands into a number of new states, including the kingdom of Thessalonica, the duchy of Athens and Thebes, the principality of Achaia and the duchy of the Archipelago.

At the Museum of the Order of St John there are coins from both the principality of Achaia and the duchy of Athens.  The monetary affairs of the two were closely linked, and began producing plentiful coinages from the middle of the thirteenth century, initially in copper and then also in billon.


The Duchy of Athens

Genoses gate type. LDOSJ ATH2.

Genoese gate type. LDOSJ ATH2.

Denier Tournois, Athens. LDOSJ ATH4

Denier Tournois, Athens. LDOSJ ATH4

Thebes was the main commercial centre in the duchy of Athens and the mint there began to produce copper coins not before 1240 and continued until at least 1287.[i]  There are seven different types of copper coin that were minted in Thebes in the thirteenth century which can be distinguished based on their iconography and inscriptions. One of the earlier types features on its obverse a gateway which copies that found on the Genoese denaro, perhaps in order to accommodate trade with the Genoese, many of whom were living in Thebes.[ii] Those coppers which carry the title dux in their inscriptions date from after 1280 when the ducal title began to be used. At around the same time the lords of Athens also began to mint billon deniers in the style of the French royal deniers of Tours (deniers tournois).


The Principality of Achaia


Denier Tournois, Achaia. LDOSJ ACH26


Coin of Achaia with fortified gateway. LDOSJ ACH3

The first coins struck by the Latin prices in Achaia were copper and were produced at the mint in Corinth from around 1250. There were two issues: an earlier type inscribed CORINTUM that appears to have been minted in the 1250s; and a later type that reads CORINTI from the 1260s and 1280s.[iii] The first features a large fortified gateway surmounted with a cross, compared to the latter which have a small tower resembling the Genoese gateway. Deniers tournois were first issued in Achaia by William of Villehardouin (1246–78) in the 1260s. Two types are attributed to him and there appears to have been two mints active in making them: one at Corinth and the other at Clarentza. Charles I of Anjou (king of Sicily) (1278-85) continued to mint denier tournois at both Corinth and Clarentza, until about 1282 when it seems both mints closed at the start of the War of the Sicilian Vespers in Sicily.[iv] But minting activity was certainly restarted by 1289 with the accession of Florent of Hainaut (1289–97). Florent was the second husband of Isabelle of Villehardouin, and after he died in 1297 Isabelle began minting coins in her own name until her third marriage to Philip of Savoy in 1301. Deniers tournois were minted by all the princes of Achaia, and also another princess, Mahaut (Maud) of Hainaut (1316–21) until Robert of Taranto (1333–64).




Denier Tournois, Lepanto. LDOSJ LE2

One of the successor states of the Byzantine Empire was Epirus on the western coast of Greece. Philip of Taranto, who would later become the prince of Achaia (1307) and the Latin emperor of Constantinople (1313), was given the port of Lapanto (Naupaktos, Greece) in 1294 as part of his wife Thamar’s, daughter of the despot of Epirus, dowry.  In 1306 Philip assumed the title ‘despot of Romania’ which included a wide area covering Frankish Greece. It is this title that appears on the two varieties of deniers tournois that Philip struck at Lepanto, one reading +Phs.P.ACH TAR D.R (princeps Achaie, Tarenti, Despotes Romanie) and the other +Phs.P.TAR’ DESP.




Baker, J., 2015, ‘Money and Currency in Medieval Greece’, in N. Tsougarakis and P. Lock (eds.), A Companion to Latin Greece (Leiden: Brill), 217–54.

Metcalf, D. M., 1995, Coinage of the Crusades and the Latin East in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (London: Royal Numismatic Society and the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East).

Metcalf, D. M., 1979, Coinage in South-Eastern Europe, 820–1396 (London: Royal Numismatic Society).

Metcalf, D. M., 1965, ‘Frankish Petty Currency from the Areopagus at Athens’, in Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 34(3), 203–23.

[i] Metcalf 1995, 242

[ii] Metcalf 1995, 244

[iii] Metcalf 1979, 243–247

[iv] Metcalf 1995, 258