Gold Solidus: Byzantine Coinage


In this article, we will briefly cover the Byzantine gold Solidus. While the Byzantine Empire minted many different gold coins, non are as recognizable as the Byzantine gold Solidus.

Byzantine Coinage

Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, was known for the purity of its coinage up to the 11th century. The Eastern Roman Empire’s strict purity regarding their coins is one of the reasons they prospered, while the Western Roman Empire collapsed. The Western Roman Empire had long used debasement as a standard policy to increase the emperor’s spending,

Whereas Eastern Roman Emperors did their best to avoid it. Throughout its existence, the Byzantines minted beautiful coins made of both silver and gold (as well as other base metals). By name or weight, many Byzantine coins eventually started influencing Western European coinage for centuries.


The Gold Solidus

The Solidus was first introduced in 312 CE. The gold solidus maintained its purity and dimensions all the way into the 11th century. Throughout its existence, it was predominately minted in Constantinople, with some exceptions to this.

Compared to the Roman denarius (which only contained around 5% silver at the peak of debasement in ancient Rome), 1 Solidus equaled approximately 275,000 denarii.

Eventually, the Solidus would be debased and replaced by the Byzantine gold Hyperpyron in 1092 CE. Although the Hyperpyron would be first minted with an 85% purity, this was lower than the original gold Solidus purity. The effects of debasement had taken hold and would become an issue during the rest of the Eastern Empire’s life.

NGC gold-certified Solidus

The Fall of Constantinople

On the 29th of May 1453, Sultan Mehmed II came to the walls of Constantinople. He proceeded to start a 53-day siege which eventually led to the fall of Constantinople. After the fall of Constantinople, Mehmed II would take the Title of “The New Cesar.” He saw himself continuing the Roman empire rather than “ending it.”

The fall of the Eastern Roman Empire led to the end of the different Byzantine coins. The Ottomans likely melted down the gold they found in the city to mint their own coinage. While the Ottomans minted magnificent coins, they were based on the Islamic coins of the time rather than continuing the minting traditions of the Byzantines.


Collecting The Gold Solidus

The Byzantine gold solidus was an incredibly significant coin in the history of numismatics. Its purity and consistency for nearly 800 years are unparalleled in the history of coinage, and it became the international standard for currency exchange throughout the Mediterranean and Near East. The gold solidus was used to fund imperial power and helped establish the Byzantine economy as one of the most prosperous in the medieval world.

Example of the reverse of a Byzantine Gold Solidus.

Published by Invest in History Co.

We specialize in high-quality gold and silver coins. Focusing on Middle East, Eastern European, and Ancient coins. We carry Roman, Greek, Parthian, Phoenician, Celtic, Byzantine, Russian, Jewish, Islamic, and many other culture's coins.