Emperor Heraclius with his sons Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas
- Place of origin:
ca. 630 (made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Given by Mrs E.A. Wallis in memory of Edwin Harold Wallis
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 8
Coins reached every corner of the Byzantine Empire and beyond. They helped to spread the visual imagery of Byzantium and are also useful in dating small-scale works of art with similar imagery. The ruler is normally shown on the obverse (front) of the coin, but Christ or
the Virgin is often shown on the reverse. These holy images reflect the best-known motifs of contemporary Byzantine art.
This coin was minted at a time of considerable insecurity in the Byzantine Empire. The three rulers depicted presided over a catalogue of military defeats and inglorious internacine conflict.
Small gold coin. The obverse depicts the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius with his sons on either side: on his right - Heraclius Constantine and on his left - Heraclonas. Heraclius has a moustacher and long beard, his sons are clean shaven. On the reverse is a cross on three steps, an inscription and mint marks.
Place of Origin
ca. 630 (made)
Materials and Techniques
Marks and inscriptions
reverse; plus other Mint marks
Diameter: 1.9 cm, Depth: 0.2 cm
Object history note
Given by Mrs. M.E.A. Wallis in memory of Edwin Harold Wallis, in 1964.
Historical context note
This coin was minted at a time of considerable insecurity in the Byzantine Empire. The three rulers depicted presided over a catalogue of military defeats and inglorious internecine conflict.
Heraclius siezed power in the Byzantine Empire, when he arrived from Africa with a fleet to overthrow the Emperor Phokas. On taking power Haeraclius found the empire in trouble: the Slavs and the Avars were invading the northern Balkans; while the Persians exerted severe pressure on the eastern frontier and partisans of the deposed Phokas rose in revolt. Heraclius considered moving the capital from Constantinople to Carthage, but abandoned the plan at the request of the population of Constantinople. The crisis reached a climax in 626 when the Persians reached the Bosphorous and together with the Kahn of the Avars besieged Constantinople.
The siege ended in failure and both armies retreated. Heraclius was able to invade Persia in the next year and re-captured the True Cross, which had been taken by the Persians. The success was temporary, the Arabs regrouped and invaded Syria imposing a crushing defeat on the Byzantine army at Yarmuk in 636. On his death in 641 his two sons Heraclius Constantine and his half-brother Heraclonas inherited the throne as co-rulers. Heraclius Constantine was plagued by ill-health and the opposition of his step-mother Martina. He failed to defend Egypt from Arab attacks and on his death (possibly the result of poisoning by his step-mother) Heraclius Constantine bequeathed a troubled empire to his half-brother.
Heraclonas ascended the throne, but it was his mother Martina who ruled de facto. With the assistance of the Thracian army, Martina attempted to remove Heraclius Constantine's supporters, who raleighed behind his son Constans II. Eventually the revolt of Valentinos Arsakuni overthrew the Heraclonas family and, after having his nose slit Heraclonas, his mother and brothers were exiled to the island of Rhodes.
Coin, Gold Solidus, gold, Emperor Heraclius with his sons Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas, Byzantine (Constantinople), ca. 630
Mint of Constantinople
Coins & Medals; Royalty; Sculpture