Gold hyperperon of Emperor Manuel I Comnenus


British Museum

British Museum

In the twelfth century the emperors of the Comnenian dynasty, Alexius I, John II and Manuel I (1143-80), restored the Byzantine Empire to international importance after the defeats and problems of the late eleventh century. They restored the Byzantine coinage, which had been very reliable and of fine standards for centuries, but which had often become debased during the time of crisis. A new gold coin was created, known as the hyperperon, to the traditional weight standard of the old gold coinage, but less fine, being of 20 carat gold. The distinctive form of Byzantine coinage was retained: a relatively broad shape, 'dished' in form to give one concave side and one convex one. Designs on the coinage were fairly straightforward. On the front was the figure of Christ as an infant, Christ Emmanuel (a reference to the emperor's own name), one hand holding a scroll, the other raised in blessing. On the back was the image of the emperor holding an orb and sceptre, with the hand of God crowning him. To the emperor's right is his name and title (despotes - the usual word for emperor at this time), and to his left the extra description porphyrogenitus, ('born in the purple'), that is, as the child of a reigning emperor.

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  • Title: Gold hyperperon of Emperor Manuel I Comnenus
  • Date Created: 1143/1180
  • Physical Dimensions: Weight: 4.484g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: 1918,0503.18
  • Production place: Minted in Constantinople
  • Material: gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Ruler Manuel I


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