Solidus of Irene, Syracuse

Solidus of Irene, Syracuse

Period: Middle Ages

Country: Byzantine Empire

Ruler: Irene of Athens

Denomination: Solidus

Mint: Syracuse

Weight: 3,85 g

Auction house: Gemini

Date: 6 April 2017

Starting price: 4.443 euros

Historical context

Irene was a legendary beauty from Athens who married the Emperor Leo IV. When Leo died her son Constantine VI became the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire under the regency of Irene. When his son became older she organized a revolt in 797 to be proclaimed as the only Empress and her son died in very strange circumstances. Empress Irene was a milestone in the Byzantine Empire as it marked the first time a woman ruled the Roman or Byzantine Empires in her own right. However, in 802 another revolt was organized against her and Nikephoros I became the new Emperor, thus ending the Isaurian dynasty.

As an empress, Irene minted solidus in Constantinople and Syracuse. It is typically the case that the solidus struck in Syracuse are not as beautifully done and not as well centered as the ones from Constantinople. As an example, we can see that the coin in the auction does not present all the letter of the legend. Regarding the solidus of Irene from Syracuse, two different ones can be found: the first variant presents a portrait wearing loros and another one wearing chlamys; the second variant presents both portraits wearing loros, as it is the case with the coin in the auction.


Despite the solidus of Irene are considered to be very rare they appear in public auctions very often. In order to estimate the price of the coin in the auction we can take some recent hammer prices as references. For example, this specimen was hammered for $5.500 and this other one for 5.000 euros. Hence, we can consider that around $5.500 would be reasonable for the coin in the auction. We can also see that specimens in which almost all the legend is readable get higher prices, such as this one (6.750 euros).

Description from the seller

Solidus, 3.85g (5h). Syracuse, . Obv: I – RIn – bA[SILISSH] Facing crowned bust of Irene holding globus cruciger and cruciform scepter. Rx: [IRIn] – bASILI Same portrait as on obverse, flanked by C – I in field. DO 4. Sear 1602.



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