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12th Century Trachea & Tetartera

The 12th Century Trachea & Tetartera.

The monetary reforms of Alexius I led to vast issues during the 12th century of petty coinage in the form of billon trachea and billon and bronze tetartera. While the trachea are mostly reasonably straightforward from a numismatic point of view, the tetartera present more than a few difficulties.

To start with it is not always obvious where the different tetartera were minted. But more particularly, the weights of some of the tetartera issues vary to such a degree that it is not always clear how they relate to each other, and for that matter to the trachea, with the result that it in some cases it is not immediately obvious whether some types should be rated as tetartera or half-tetartera (or even some other value).

I am not going to attempt to resolve these problems in this note, but rather my aim is simply to provide a convenient summary of the various types of trachea and tetartera which readers can use as a basis for assessing the analyses of the tetartera that can be found in the standard publications on these types.

This is done in the accompanying tables, which list the various types of both trachea and tetartera by Sear number, together with the average weights of the types. The latter are derived from two main sources firstly, the market, i.e. the weights quoted in auctions or other on-line sales, as revealed by acsearch for example, and secondly, the weights listed in DOC IV, the mean values of which are shown in square brackets in the tables. (For the commoner types the standard error in the mean weight is typically c.0.1 gm, but for the scarcer types the uncertainty is considerably larger).

For completeness the tables include a number of imitative types, dating mostly from the 13th century, which can easily be confused with their official models. These are shown in italics in the tables.

One point is worth making at this point. Rather oddly, although writers like Hendy and Metcalf discuss the problems of the trachea and tetartera in considerable detail, they never seem to consider one fairly basic question, namely, the weight standard for these types.

 Looking at the tables below it would seem that the mean weight of most trachea, and of many of the tetartera, was c.3.9 gm. This suggests that the weight standard for these types at least was 1/7 ounce, i.e, the weight of the later republican and early imperial denarius. However, it also clear that not all the tetartera conform to this standard, and just how these exceptional types fit into the monetary system is a problem yet to be solved.

 

Ruler

Mint

Trachea

Wt (gm) Market
[DOC IV]

Tetartera

"Half-Tets" &
Imitatives

Wt (gm) Market
 [DOC IV]

Notes

Alexius I

Const.

S.1918-19

3.95 [4.2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1920-23

 

3.8 [3.7]

 Scarce

 

Thess.

S.1928

[3.85?]a

 

 

 

 V. rareb

 

 

 

 

S.1929

 

3.3 [3.8]

 

 

 

 

 

S.1930

 

3.06c [2.7]

 Scarce

 

 

 

 

S.1931

 

3.1 [3.0]

 DOC 40a

 

 

 

 

 

S.1934

1.8

 Similar to S.1930 but
 1/2 Tets?
d

 

"Uncert. A"

 

 

S.1933

 

c.3.5

 Rare - small samplee

 

"Uncert. B"

 

 

 

S.1932

2.2 [2.1]

 DOC 45a (Open styles) often
 undersized flans
f - 1/2 Tets?

 

 

 

 

 

(Ditto)

1.3 [1.4]

 DOC 45b? (Compact styles)
 clipped/reduced flans?
g

 

 Local issues (contemporary?)

As S.1931

 

c.3.0

 CLBC 2.4.7 "Local Issue"h

 

 Local issues (mainly 13th C?)

 

As S.1931

1.7 [1.6]

 DOC 40b (mixed types)

 

 

 

 

 

(Ditto)

1.2-1.6

 Durres Types I-II i

 

 

 

 

 

As S.1932

[0.9]

 DOC 45c-d (lighter styles?)
 Small late types?

 

Philippop.

S.1936

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John II

Const.

S.1943

3.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1944

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1945

 

3.9

 

 

 

 

 

S.1946

 

[3.85]

 

 

Thessal.

S.1952

4.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1953

 

3.5? [3.7?]

 Small samples

 

 

 

 

 

S.1954

2.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1955

2.1

 (Cf. S.1980)

a: One worn example only (Gr.1053). Grierson gives a weight of 3.85gm (p.373), CLBC says 3.25gm but with no explanation.

b: DO lists four rare trachea of Alexius I under Thessalonica as DOC 27-30. Only one of these (29) is included in Sear, as S.1928.

c: One example only.

d: Half-Tets on 3.9 gm standard? Overstruck by later Thessalonican types.

e: Crude type - uncertain mint.

f: Generally undersized flans - heavier flans clipped to match 2 gm half-Tet weight?

g: Style as in CLBC 2.4.8 illustration. Compact designs squeezed onto small flans - value uncertain. Or are these later imitatives?

h: Distinctive type - sometimes attributed to "Turkic tribes", although with (it seems) little justification.

i: Data from P. Papadopoulou, Rev. Numismatique 161, 145-162 (2005).

Ruler

Mint

Trachea

Wt (gm) Market [DOC IV]

Tetartera

"Half-Tets" & Imitatives

Wt (gm) Market [DOC IV]

Notes

Manuel I

Const.

S.1962

3.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1963

3.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1964

3.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1965

4.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1966

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1967

 

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

S.1968

 

3.9

 

 

 

 

 

S.1969

 

[3.4]

 Scarce

 

 

 

 

S.1970

 

3.8 [3.4]

 

 

Thessal.

 

 

S.1975

 

4.2

 

 

 

 

 

S.1976

 

3.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1977

2.8 [2.55]

 Mgm 57 (small letters)
 "Heavy Half-Tet"

 

 

 

 

 

S.1978

2.9 [2.9?]

 "Heavy Half-Tet"

 

"Uncert."

 

 

 

S.1979

2.0 [1.7]

 Mgm 58 (larger letters)
  "Light Half-Tet"
a

 

 

 

 

 

S.1979v

2.3

 Mgm 58 (small letters)

 

 

 

 

 

S.1980

1.9 [1.9]

 As S.1975 (cf. S.1955)

 

 

 

 

 

S.1981

[1.9]

 As S.1978 but regular
 ("light") weight Half-Tet?
b

 

 

 

 

 

S.1982

2.1 [2.0]

 As S.1976

 

 Local Issues (earlier 13th C.)

 

As S.1979

0.5

 And similar v. small types
 (Argos hoards)
c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early issues (with the emperor clearly beardless) are shown in red. This would seem to suggest that the S.1977 & 1979 types predate S.1975-6.

a: CLBC makes S.1979 a later and lighter version of S.1977, rather than a separate issue.

b: S.1978 and S.1981 seem to be heavy and regular (i.e, "light") versions of the same half-tet type.

c: Frankish issues. J. Baker, "Two Thirteenth Century Hoards and some Site Finds from Argos", Num. Chron. 2007. p.313-33.

Ruler

Mint

Trachea

Wt (gm) Market [DOC IV]

Tetartera

"Half-Tets" & Imitatives

Wt (gm) Market [DOC IV]

Notes

Andron. I

Const.

S.1985

4.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.1986

 

3.8

 

 

Thessal.

 

 

S.1987

 

4.0

 

 

 

 

 

S.1988

 

2.57+
[2.55+]

 Rarea

 

"Uncert."

 

 

 

S.1989

1.9

 Scarce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaac II

Const.

S.2003

3.9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.2004

 

3.8 [3.5]

 

 

Thessal.

 

 

S.2005

 

{3.9}b

 DOC 5a  (Trefoil sc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

{4.0}b

 DOC 5b (Jew'd sc.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

{4.0}b

 DOC 5c  (Spear? = 5b?)

 

"Uncert."

 

 

 

S.2006

c.1.5c1
 [1.17]c2

 As S.2005 (Rare).
 Varying sized dies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex. III

Const.

S.2011-13

3.5 [3.6]

 

 

 

 DOC 3a-c

 

 

 

 

S.2014

 

c.3.5d
 
[3.38]c3

 DOC 4 - scarce

 

 

 

 

S.2014a

 

3.9e

 DOC 6, CLBC 8.4.2
 Rare - Tetarteron?

 

 

 

 

 

S.2014a

1.9 [2.13]f

 Ditto, but clipped down
 to 1/2 Tets?

 

Thessal.

 

 

S.2015

 

[3.7]

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.2016

1.9g [1.5]

 As S.2015 - scarce
 often clipped flans

 

 

 

 

 

S.2017-8

[1.8]

 Scarce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaac II & Alex. IV

Const.

 

 

S.2019-20

 

3.7 [3.7]

 Rare - small samples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a: These two examples only, both clipped.

b: Combined market and DOC IV figures.

c1: Two examples only.

c2,c3: One example only in DOC IV.

d: Mean weight of small sample.

e: Unique CLBC example (unclipped). Most examples of this type seem to have been clipped down to 1/2 Tet size.

f: One example in DOC IV, clipped?

g: Unclipped example (Aquila auction 2022).

 

Ross Glanfield

Nov. 2022

Revisions:

26 Dec. '22: Treatment of S.1978/81 revised.
 01 Jan. '23:  Isaac II & Alex. IV added.

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