The Revenge of the Solidi

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    by Jeremy Bostwick

    July 24, 2014 – The wonderful world of numismatics presents the perfect backdrop for a blending of history, art, and pop culture, with a healthy dose of puns thrown into the mix as well. Through this niche hobby, we will explore the niche humor, one niche cartoon at a time. Oh, the name? A solidus (plural solidi) was a gold coin used during the late Roman Empire and then throughout the Mediterranean world during the first half of the Byzantine Empire. Why ‘Revenge of the Solidi’? It’s funny. Kind of. Hopefully. Maybe not.
    To kick things off, a pun fit for any Byzantine enthusiast…

    The Backstory…
    Byzantine emperor from 602-610, Phocas lived and died by usurpation, seizing the throne from his predecessor, Maurice Tiberius, and having it be seized from him by his successor (and decapitator), Heraclius the younger. Had he actually utilized a focus group, he may have had better insight into the turmoil that was occurring during his reign.

    Gold Solidus of Phocas, struck between 603-607 at Constantinople. Ex CNG 87 (18 May 2011), lot 1216.

    In any event, in between all of the bloodshed, he did find the time to introduce the beard back into Romano-Byzantine imperial fashion, as it had ceased after Constantine I (the Great) abandoned it nearly 300 years prior. Thankfully, Phocas’s mug is instantaneously recognizable, due in large part to this wild facial hair, but also for his almost ‘deer in headlights’ expression – ubiquitous throughout his issues.

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