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Lot 159

Byzantine Empire. Basil I, the Macedonian, 867-886 AD. Gold Solidus (4.36 g), Constantinople mint, 868-879 AD. Christ, nimbate, enthroned facing and holding Gospels, right hand raised in benediction. Reverse: Crowned facing busts of Basil, at left, wearing loros, and Constantine on right, wearing chlamys, and holding between them a long patriarchal cross. D.O.C. 2c; SBC 1704. Well centered and evenly struck. A few slight deposits remain on the metal. NGC graded About Uncirculated.

Basils' reign ushers in the "Macedonian" dynasty, which brought the medieval Byzantine State to the apogee of its power and influence. But as is not unusual for its time and place, the character and moral qualities of the dynasty's founder could hardly be said to have been "respectable." As one historian has put it: "Seldom has there been such an accumulation of moral filth as in the family of Basil the Macedonian."

The preceding emperor, the weak-willed and dissolute Michael III, so-called 'the Drunkard,' had the misfortune of taking notice of, and then a liking to Basil. A peasant from the vicinity of Adrianople in Macedonia, Basil had some skill with horses. Apparently blessed with handsome features, this along with his powerful build and athletic strength attracted the notice of a high official in the court. He was made a groom at the imperial court, where he quickly acquired a taste for politics and power. He eventually ingratiated himself to the king, Michael, and soon became his favorite. Basil also shared his charms with women with equal ease. His scandalous relationship with the elderly (and extremely wealthy) Danielis of Patras, produced gifts from her that would lay the foundations of Basil's fortunes. Meanwhile, his political ambitions knew no bounds. Tightening his hold on Michael and his circle, Basil married the emperor's mistress, Eudocia Ingerina, while readily acquiescing to Michael's wishes that she remain his mistress, even in marriage. Basil's next target was Michael's "junior colleague," the Caesar, named Bardas. (Bardas was the brother of Michael's mother and, in terms of performance, the actual helmsman of the State. Earlier, with the young Michael's connivance Bardas helped engineer the removal of the regency of his sister and her lover. As reward, Bardas received the office and title of Caesar from the grateful Michael.) Basil now turned his energies to having Bardas assassinated, and with that success, persuaded Michael to crown him as co-emperor in 866. The following year, on September 23, 867 AD, Basil had his unfortunate patron murdered.

His dubious method of achieving the throne notwithstanding, Basil actually proved himself a very competent ruler. Despite the loss of Malta to the Arabs, along with depriving the Byzantines of all of Sicily in 878 AD, Basil actually made some headway in the territorial incursions of Islam, and regained land in Mesopotamia as far east as the Euphrates. His reign also saw the growth of Byzantine influence in the Balkans, and increasing trade in that direction. So too was seen the rise of Venice as a distributor of Byzantine goods in the West. Ironically, in home affairs Basil was very active in jurisprudence. Basil died in 886, following a hunting accident. He was succeeded by his second son, Leo VI.
Estimated Value $900 - 1,000.
Illustrated in Money of the World, coin 62.

Realized $1,783

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