Crusader Coins in Antioch
The city of Antioch, situated on the banks of the Orontes River in modern day Turkey, was captured in 1098 during the First Crusade. Bohemond of Taranto, who led the siege against the city, named himself prince of Antioch and the city became the centre of a new crusader state: the principality of Antioch. The coins that were minted during the period of this crusader principality form a significant proportion of the crusader coin collection at the Museum of the Order of St John, numbering 110 in total.
The early coins of Antioch
The earliest coins minted in Antioch, like those in Edessa, imitated the form of Byzantine copper coins (folles) and employed both Greek and Latin inscriptions. Within a few years of taking control Bohemond began minting such coins with a bust of St Peter, patron saint of the city, haloed with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a cross. Before the First Crusade Bohemond had adopted this image of St Peter for his official seal,[i] an example of which survives in the collection of La Basilica di S. Nicola in Bari, Italy. On the reverse of of Bohemond’s coins is a cross inscribed with an abbreviation of his name (B – H – M – T) in the angles. Such coins are rare, but the use of St Peter was continued by his nephew Tancred of Hauteville, who acted as at various points as both regent and prince of the principality of Antioch between 1103 and his death in 1112. In addition to this first type Tancred issued three other copper coins, including one with an image of a standing figure of St Peter (third type) and another with the bust of Christ (fourth type). But it is his second type that has generated the most debate.
The image on the obverse of the second type coin is a bearded bust of Tancred himself, raising his sword in his right hand and wearing what appears to be a jewelled turban on his head. The identification of Tancred’s headdress has been the subject of many discussions. Some have argued that it does indeed represent a turban, and that the use of this iconography reveals Tancred’s desire to appeal to the diverse and complex audience who handled these coins in the local markets of northern Syria,[ii] and perhaps as evidence of the crusader princes’ rapid assimilation of Oriental practices.[iii] Others are more sceptical, with David Metcalf describing the turban as ‘a figment of the imagination’.[iv] Metcalf and others support the view of Simon Bendall that the strange headdress arose from the fact that the prototype of this coin was an example from the Trebizond mint showing the soldier-saint Theobald – the ‘turban’ therefore being a translation of the halo.[v]
Tancred’s successors continued to mint copper coins with religious iconography and both Latin and Greek inscriptions. Roger of Salerno (1112–18) was the first to use a title other than the formulaic ‘servant of Christ’ on his coins, proclaiming himself PRIGKP / OC (Prince). Roger’s coin is also interesting for the fact that it bears one of the earliest images of St George and the dragon on a coin. When Bohemond’s son, Bohemond II (1126–30), came to Antioch he continued to mint coins types introduced by his father, reviving the use of the bust of St Peter. Bohemond II was the last to mint copper coins in the city of Antioch, and represents the end of Byzantine influence of the coins of crusader Antioch.
The billon deniers of Antioch
Just before the middle of the twelfth century the Frankish princes of the crusader states of Antioch, Tripoli and Jerusalem began to mint deniers in the style of the silver and billon (a silver alloy) coinage of the west. Such coinage was almost unheard of in the eastern Mediterranean, and the use of deniers by the crusaders marked a shift in the economies of the region.[vi]
At Antioch it was Raymond of Poitiers (1136–49) who initiated the minting of this western form of currency. These coins are very rare,[vii] so it is not surprising that there is only one example in the Museum of the Order of St John. The obverse features a right facing profile bust with a bare head surrounded by a legend with his name +RAIMVNDVS, the reverse gives the name of the city +ANTIOCHIE around a short cross. His son, Bohemond III (1149–1201) continued this type, for around fifteen years,[viii] changing Raymond’s name for his own, until the mid-1160s when the bare-head type was thoroughly replaced by a new coinage.
The obverse of Bohemond III’s new coinage utilised a unique iconography that was completely unprecedented. Surrounded by a legend bearing the prince’s name sits a bust in profile wearing a round helmet emblazoned with a cross with prominent nasal-guard and a mail coif (hood) covering the neck. No other coin from the east or west makes use of an armoured bust in this way.
To find comparisons we have to look at other art mediums, outside of the eastern Mediterranean.[ix] The first are the celebrated wall paintings in the Templar chapel of Cressac-Saint-Genis (Charente) produced around the year 1200. Here one of the scenes shows the Battle of Antioch (1098) with the crusaders shown with their kite-shaped shields and, significantly, in profile with round helmets with nasal-guards of the same form as those seen on the coins. A second interesting comparison can be found in the Royal Library in The Hague in the illustrations of a bible (KB, 76 F 5) made in France between 1190 and 1200. One illustration shows a plan of Jerusalem and below a group of knights on horse-back wearing the distinctive helmet and mail armour. The form of the helmeted bust on these coins may therefore speak of enduring Frankish influence over the coinage of the Latin East in the twelfth century.
Bohemond III’s distinctive coins were produced in vast quantities, and remain the most common type of crusader coins encountered in museum collections.[x] It is therefore not surprising that these coins are the single most plentiful type at the Museum of the Order of St John with 68 examples. The type became immobilized and continued to be used until the fall of Antioch in the 1260s. In that time many variations have been noted, but all feature the helmeted bust on the obverse and short cross on the reverse. While the relative chronology of the coins has been established, it has proved difficult to tie down its absolute chronology. This means that it is very difficult to determine exactly which of the princes of Antioch named Bohemond struck which coin. Change to the coinage can be seen during Raymond Roupen’s (1216–19) reign when he replaced the name Bohemond with his own: RVPINVS. The latest issue of the helmet types deniers are a distinctive smaller coins on a reduced weight standard, probably produced between 1225 and 1250.[xi]
The longevity and prevalence of this distinctly Antiochene coin type during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries may have also influenced local artists. In discussing the miniatures in a mid-thirteenth century Antiochene codex of William of Tyre’s History of Outremer (Rome, Bibl. Apostolica Vaticana MS Lat. Pal. 1963) Jaroslav Folda has noted that in one particular scene (fol. 49r, book 6), which shows the crusaders attacking the citizens of Antioch, the city has been rendered in a way that shows the artist must have been intimately familiar with the city. Further, the crusaders in the lower half of the scene have been depicted in a style that appears to have been directly influenced by the contemporary helmet deniers[xii] – even the cross on the side of the helmets has been carefully reproduced, suggesting that the artist was not only familiar with the topography of the city, but also its coinage.
The other coins of Antioch
Alongside the early Byzantine-style coppers and the billon deniers, a variety of other coppers were made and used in the principality. These are far scarcer today and, as they are rarely found in hoards, have proved difficult to date. Some bear the name of Bohemond, but many are anonymous with the legend only recording PRINCEPS ANTIOCHIE. The Museum of the Order of St John only has four of these copper Antioch coins in its collection. Three are of the so-called fleur-de-lis type in the name of Bohemond; and the final one has a large letter B on the obverse, and is again in the name of Bohemond.
Bendall, S., 1977, ‘The Mint of Trebizond under Alexius I and the Grabrades’, in Numismatic Chronicle 137, 126–36.
Folda, J., 2005, Crusader Art in the Holy Land, from the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre: 1187–1291 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Georganteli, E., 2012, ‘Transposed Images: Currencies and Legitimacy in Late Medieval Eastern Mediterranean’, in J. Harris, C. Holmes and E. Russell (eds.), Byzantines, Latins, and Turks in the Eastern Mediterranean World after 1150 (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 141–80.
Malloy, A., Preston, I., and Seltman, A., 1994, Coins of the Crusader States, 1098–1291 (New York: Attic Books).
Metcalf, D. M., and Belaubre, J., 1995, ‘The Early Coinage of Bohémond III of Antioch (1149–1201) Reconsidered’, in Revue numismatique, 6e série – Tome 150, 133–48.
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).
Porteous, J., 1989. ‘Crusader Coinage with Greek or Latin Inscriptions’ in K.M. Setton (ed.) A History of the Crusades, vol. 6 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), 354–87.
Rheinheimer, M., 1991., ‘Tankred und das Siegel Bobmunds’, in Schweizerische numismatische Rundschau, vol. 70, 75–92.
Smail, R. C., 1978, Crusading Warfare 1097–1193 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
[i] Rheinheimer 1991
[ii] Georganteli 2012, 153–57, and n. 45; Malloy et al. 1994, 181
[iii] Smail 1978, 41, n. 1
[iv] Metcalf 1995, 27
[v] Bendall 1977, 132–3; Metcalf 1995, 27; Porteous 1989 vi, 367
[vi] Porteous 1989, 371
[vii] Metcalf 1995, 120
[viii] Metcalf and Belaubre 1995, 134
[ix] Porteous 1977, 372
[x] Metcalf 1995, 126
[xi] Metcalf 1995, 135
[xii] Folda 2005, 347