by Harlan J. Berk
On page 140 of Simon Bendall's article, he mentions that the 1/8th Stravata were made from holy vessels taken from the churches and melted down to pay soldiers, ditch diggers and builders. Bendall claims that since the payments were made for only a day at a time, only the 1/8th Stravata could have been used since full Stravatas were used for trade.
On the basis of examining the skill of the Celator's employed in the die cutting of the late Stravata in Bendalls work, I feel there is no doubt that these coins were in fact struck during the siege. There is not much question that the relatively finely made Stravata, such as Bendall #83, very likely could have been a coronation issue or used for trade as Bendall claims. But, #88 and later numbers in Bendall's system are of the very poorest quality with the portraits of the emperor being so poorly resolved that the head and features of the face at worst don't even exist. It is known that Constantine XI lost his gun- smith for non-payment of fees. I am sure that at the same moment he also lost his Celator.
What may seem to be against this theory is the relatively finely cut obverse dies portraying Christ. This is easily explained. Since the Byzantine Emperors were God and Christ's representative on earth, it becomes quite clear that Christ the "King of Kings" will always be on the obverse of the coins. For this reason, large quantities of these dies were prepared in advance. Even during the reign of John VIII and stored for their inevitable use. Dies portraying the emperor on the other hand, in these times of sudden endings, were in no security of being used in the future. Therefore, very few, if any of the mortal kings dies were in the ready.
It seems evident to me that when it became necessary to issue emergency coinage to pay soldiers, ditch-diggers, and their Commanders, dies were not prepared, and had to be cut by persons with no training or ability whatsoever. These later coins struck with these miserable dies Bendall 84 through 100, are in Mint State condition though they are very foul in appearance. there are also many die duplicates in this group, which taken with their poor artistic quality and their high condition, to point of wear, makes the fact inescapable that these coins were issued during the final days of the siege of Constantinople.
To answer the last hanging question, if Stravata were issued for trade, then why would these coins have been issued for internal use using the siege of the city? It was used to pay one of the individuals who commanded the soldiers, ditch diggers and brick layers. Who else could have amassed 158 silver coins in these troubled times?
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