Frame 6d. LEO - Liber Excelsior Obryzium


Dr. Svante Fischer, Dr. Helena Victor, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University

The aim with the computer base LEO is to show from afar the growing importance of Constantinople and Byzantium with a focus on the 5th century to the mid 6th century AD. The rise of Constantinople successively diminished the role of other Western urban centers in the Mediterranean, notably Rome but also Ravenna, Milan and Arles to name a few. This had an impact on the pre-urban periphery.

Benefit of achieved aim
The prime benefit is that we have an already existent tool at hand, LEO, by means of which we can deliver a new view of the Late Antique urban development from a very different perspective, that of the pre-monetary economy at the outskirts of Barbaricum during a time of turbulence, where distinct sections of male society lead by leading members of the elite went off on pillage towards Mediterranean urban centers.

Scope of study
The scope is all Late Roman and Byzantine gold coinage found in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, 249-565 AD. In total, we have some 1, 200 posts in LEO. As a contrast and supplement to the coins we also use finds and contemporary texts from the Mediterranean and Barbaricum indicative of the use of networks and gold during this period.

Intellectual background – previous studies
Fischer has published extensively on Barbaro-Roman interaction in terms of literacy and ideological imitation. He has also founded the Institute runologique de France, the French equivalent of Runverket. Victor has published extensively on the Scandinavian Bronze Age, and has excavated an important Migration Period burial site with Byzantine imports. She has also been working with statistical analysis and GIS for several years.

The method used is that of a statistical analysis with a multiple correspondence analysis of the accumulated data. The result is also going to be visualized with GIS applications.

Fischer works with the identification of the individual coin types and their chronology, and with the search for die-identities. He identifies key issues that will be dissected in the statistical analysis, e.g. the interrelationship of weight ratios, die-identities, and specific chronological intervals in hoards. Victor is in charge of the operating of the computer base and of making the statistical analysis, especially with Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA). She is also in charge of the visualization of the results.

The data consist of some 1, 200 gold coins, the majority being solidi struck in Constantinople. Each coin is a post that is listed according to its provenance, find place, issuer, officina, chronology, relative wear, weight and possible die-identity, etc. In total, there are some 30 different aspects or variables to each post.

Expected results
We hope to show a number of things. First, there is the disappearance of the ambulant mints of the soldier-emperors of the late 4th century with a relative scarcity of a few very heavy issues of Constantinian and Valentinian multipla. Right afterwards, during the first half of the 5th century, comes the rise of two fixed mints, Ravenna and Constantinople. Then, we can show the ensuing hegemony of Constantinople during the concluding Justinian era of the 6th century. As this shift went on, there were direct contacts between the pre-urban barbarian periphery of Scandinavia and Ravenna, the last imperial residence in Italy. The elite of Öland must have played quite an important role there in 462-473 AD, and there is significant evidence of direct payments reaching Helgö and Gotland during the reigns of Odoacer and Thedoderic the Great in Ravenna, and Zeno and Anastasius in Constantinople, c. 476-526 AD. Another very evident phenomenon sets this corpus apart from gold coinage circulating in an urban environment such as Constantinople, namely the conspicuous absence of empresses on the obverse sides with only four specimens struck for Eudocia, Honoria, Adriadne, and Galla Placidia. The latter type of coinage was generally distributed within the urban environment. It is very clear that barbaric interaction with the mints of the great urban centers was reduced to very specific occasions, i e exceptional payments. Last but not least, one must also address the subsequent question as to what degree the urban mind of Late Roman and increasingly Byzantine ideology and mentality may have had on the itinerant bands of Scandinavian mercenaries, and if those influences had any significant impact on the Scandinavian societies in their path towards the first embryonic state-formations. Many of the barbaric successor-kingdoms proved to be a number of short-lived kleptocratic endeavors when compared to Constantinople.