Exhibitions/ Art Object

Solidus of Heraclius's Revolt

Made in Alexandria
Diam: 7/8 in. (2.3 cm); wt: 4.4 g
Credit Line:
Byzantine Collection, Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. (BZC.1963.19)
Not on view
The Byzantine Empire issued the gold solidus, or nomisma, used primarily for large transactions such as tax payments, and several denominations of copper coins, the money of daily business transactions. Mints in Antioch and Alexandria supplied the majority of the coinage circulated in the southern provinces. The newly established Arab government inherited an efficient monetary system and made few changes during its first decades. The caliph ‘Abd al-Malik (r. 685–705) introduced several issues of distinctively Islamic coinage.
Coins issued in Egypt are less varied than those of Syria, though they do follow similar patterns. Under the governor ‘Abd al-Aziz, ‘Abd al-Malik’s brother, a series of distinctive Islamic coins was issued. Archaeological finds suggest that Syria and Egypt formed separate economic zones.
Gold was generally not minted in Egypt. This coin is an example of one of the three types of solidi struck during the revolt of Heraclius against Emperor Phokas (r. 602–10) in 608–10.
Inscription: In Greek, on obverse: Our Lord, Heraclius, Consul; on reverse, left and right: Victory to the Consuls; in exergue: year 13; Constantinople, fine gold
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.