In the Middle Ages, the term bezant (Old French besant, from Latin bizantius aureus) was used in Western Europe to describe several gold coins of the east, all derived ultimately from the Roman solidus. The word itself comes from the Greek Byzantion, ancient name of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
The original "bezants" were the gold coins produced by the government of the Byzantine Empire, first the nomisma and from the 11th century the hyperpyron . Later, the term was used to cover the gold dinars produced by Islamic governments. In turn, the gold coins minted in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and County of Tripoli were termed "Saracen bezants", since they were modelled on the gold dinar. A completely different electrum coin based on Byzantine trachea was minted in the Kingdom of Cyprus and called the "white bezant".
The term "bezant" in reference to coins is common in sources from the 10th through 13th centuries. Thereafter, it is mainly employed as a money of account and in literary and heraldic contexts.
Gold coins were rarely minted in early medieval Western Europe, up until the later 13th century; silver and bronze were the metals of choice for money. Gold coins were almost continually produced by the Byzantines and medieval Arabs. These circulated in Western European trade in smallish numbers, originating from the coinage mints of the Eastern Mediterranean. In Western Europe, the gold coins of Byzantine currency were highly prized. These gold coins were commonly called bezants. The first "bezants" were the Byzantine solidi coins; later, the name was applied to the hyperpyra, which replaced the solidi in Constantinople in the late 11th century. The name hyperpyron was used by the late medieval Greeks, while the name bezant was used by the late medieval Latin merchants for the same coin. The Italians also used the name perpero or pipero for the same coin (an abridgement of the name hyperpyron).
Medievally from the 12th century onward (if not earlier), the Western European term bezant also meant the gold dinar coins minted by Islamic governments. The Islamic coins were originally modelled on the Byzantine solidus during the early years after the onset of Islam. The term bezant was used in the late medieval Republic of Venice to refer to the Egyptian gold dinar. Marco Polo used the term bezant in the account of his travels to East Asia when describing the currencies of the Yuan Empire around the year 1300.An Italian merchant's handbook dated about 1340, Pratica della mercatura by Pegolotti, used the term bisant for coins of North Africa (including Tunis and Tripoli), Cyprus, Armenia and Tabriz (in today's northwestern Iran), whereas it used the term perpero / pipero for the Byzantine bizant.
Although usually the medieval "bezant" was a gold coin, medieval Latin texts have also silver coin bezants. The silver bezants were often called "white bezants".Occasionally in Latin they were called "miliaresion bezants" / "miliarense bezants". Like the gold bezants, the silver bezants by definition were issuances by the Byzantine government or by an Arabic government, and not by a Latin government, and the usage of the term was confined to the Latin West.
In heraldry, a roundel of a gold colour is referred to as a bezant, in reference to the coin. Like many heraldic charges, the bezant originated during the crusading era, when Western European knights first came into contact with Byzantine gold coins, and were perhaps struck with their fine quality and purity. During the Fourth Crusade the city of Constantinople was sacked by Western forces. During this sacking of the richest city of Europe, the gold bezant would have been very much in evidence, many of the knights no doubt having helped themselves very liberally to the booty. This event took place at the very dawn of the widespread adoption of arms by the knightly class, and thus it may have been an obvious symbol for many returned crusaders to use in their new arms. When arms are strewn with bezants, the term bezantée or bezanty is used.
The shilling is a historical coin, and the name of a unit of modern currencies formerly used in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and other British Commonwealth countries.
The Latin Empire, also referred to as the Latin Empire of Constantinople, was a feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin Empire was intended to replace the Byzantine Empire as the Western-recognized Roman Empire in the east, with a Catholic emperor enthroned in place of the Eastern Orthodox Roman emperors.
Byzantine currency, money used in the Eastern Roman Empire after the fall of the West, consisted of mainly two types of coins: the gold solidus and a variety of clearly valued bronze coins. By the end of the empire the currency was issued only in silver stavrata and minor copper coins with no gold issue.
The solidus, nomisma, or bezant was originally a relatively pure gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire. Under Constantine, who introduced it on a wide scale, it had a weight of about 4.5 grams. It was largely replaced in Western Europe by Pepin the Short's currency reform, which introduced the silver-based pound/shilling/penny system, under which the shilling functioned as a unit of account equivalent to 12 pence, eventually developing into the French sou. In Eastern Europe, the nomisma was gradually debased by the Byzantine emperors until it was abolished by Alexius I in 1092, who replaced it with the hyperpyron, which also came to be known as a "bezant". The Byzantine solidus also inspired the originally slightly less pure dinar issued by the Muslim Caliphate.
The ducat was a gold or silver coin used as a trade coin in Europe from the later Middle Ages until as late as the 20th century. Many types of ducats had various metallic content and purchasing power throughout the period. The gold ducat of Venice gained wide international acceptance, like the medieval Byzantine hyperpyron and the Florentine florin, or the modern British pound sterling and the United States dollar. In more recent usage, the ducat has been reinvented as slang terminology for a poker chip.
The denier or penny was a medieval coin which takes its name from the Frankish coin first issued in the late seventh century; in English it is sometimes referred to as a silver penny. Its appearance represents the end of gold coinage, which, at the start of Frankish rule, had either been Byzantine or "pseudo-imperial". Silver would be the basis for Frankish coinage from then on. The denier was minted in France and parts of the Italian peninsula for the whole of the Middle Ages, in states such as the patriarchate of Aquileia, the Kingdom of Sicily, the Republic of Genoa, the Republic of Siena, and the crusader state Kingdom of Jerusalem, among others.
The hyperpyron was a Byzantine coin in use during the late Middle Ages, replacing the solidus as the Byzantine Empire's gold coinage.
The modern Islamic gold dinar is a projected bullion gold coin, so far not issued as official currency by any national state. It aims to revive the historical gold dinar which was a leading coin of early Islam. The currency might consist of minted gold coins (dinars) or of silver coins (dirhams).
The maravedí, was the name of various Iberian coins of gold and then silver between the 11th and 14th centuries and the name of different Iberian accounting units between the 11th and 19th centuries.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars initiated, supported, and sometimes directed by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The term refers especially to the Eastern Mediterranean campaigns in the period between 1096 and 1271 that had the objective of recovering the Holy Land from Islamic rule. The term has also been applied to other church-sanctioned campaigns fought to combat paganism and heresy, to resolve conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or to gain political and territorial advantage. The difference between these campaigns and other Christian religious conflicts was that they were considered a penitential exercise that brought forgiveness of sins declared by the church. Historians contest the definition of the term "crusade". Some restrict it to only armed pilgrimages to Jerusalem; others include all Catholic military campaigns with a promise of spiritual benefit; all Catholic holy wars; or those with a characteristic of religious fervour.
Mancus was a term used in early medieval Europe to denote either a gold coin, a weight of gold of 4.25g, or a unit of account of thirty silver pence. This made it worth about a month's wages for a skilled worker, such as a craftsman or a soldier. Distinguishing between these uses can be extremely difficult: the will of the Anglo-Saxon king Eadred, who died in 955, illustrates the problem well with its request that "two thousand mancuses of gold be taken and minted into mancuses".
The Practica della mercatura, also known as the Merchant's Handbook, is a comprehensive guide to international trade in 14th-century Eurasia and North Africa as known to its compiler, the Florentine banker Francesco Balducci Pegolotti. It was written sometime between 1335 and 1343, the most likely dates being 1339 or 1340. Its original title was the Book of Descriptions of Lands ; its more common name is that from its first printing in 1766. Pegolotti's work is based on his own experience as a banker and merchant for the Bardi, and on various local documents, statutes and price lists available to him.
The Byzantine economy was among the most robust economies in the Mediterranean for many centuries. Constantinople was a prime hub in a trading network that at various times extended across nearly all of Eurasia and North Africa. Some scholars argue that, up until the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century, the Eastern Roman Empire had the most powerful economy in the world. The Arab conquests, however, would represent a substantial reversal of fortunes contributing to a period of decline and stagnation. Constantine V's reforms marked the beginning of a revival that continued until 1204. From the 10th century until the end of the 12th, the Byzantine Empire projected an image of luxury, and the travelers were impressed by the wealth accumulated in the capital. All this changed with the arrival of the Fourth Crusade, which was an economic catastrophe. The Palaiologoi tried to revive the economy, but the late Byzantine state would not gain full control of either the foreign or domestic economic forces.
The gold dinar is an Islamic medieval gold coin first issued in AH 77 (696–697 CE) by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. The weight of the dinar is 1 mithqal.
A tarì was the Christian designation of a type of gold coin of Islamic origin minted in Sicily, Malta and Southern Italy from about 913 to the 13th century.
The coinage of the Visigoths was minted in Gaul and Hispania during the early Middle Ages, between the fifth century and approximately 710.
The tetarteron was a Byzantine term applied to two different coins, one gold circulating from the 960s to 1092 in parallel to the histamenon, and one copper used from 1092 to the second half of the 13th century.
Byzantine silk is silk woven in the Byzantine Empire (Byzantium) from about the fourth century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
The East Roman or Byzantine Empire established and operated several mints throughout its history (330–1453). Aside from the main metropolitan mint in the capital, Constantinople, a varying number of provincial mints were also established in other urban centres, especially during the 6th century. Most provincial mints except for Syracuse were closed or lost to invasions by the mid-7th century. After the loss of Syracuse in 878, Constantinople became the sole mint for gold and silver coinage until the late 11th century, when major provincial mints began to re-appear. Many mints, both imperial and, as the Byzantine world fragmented, belonging to autonomous local rulers, were operated in the 12th to 14th centuries. Constantinople and Trebizond, the seat of the independent Empire of Trebizond (1204–1461), survived until their conquest by the Ottoman Turks in the mid-15th century.
The first mention of a "Serbian dinar" dates back to the reign of Stefan Nemanjić in 1214. Until the fall of the Serbian Despotate in 1459, most of the Serbian rulers minted silver dinar coins. The first Serbian dinars, like many other Southern European coins, replicated Venetian grosso, including characters in Latin. For many years it was one of the main export articles of medieval Serbia, considering the relative abundance of silver coming from Serbian mines. Venetians were weary of this, and Dante Alighieri went so far as to put the Serbian king of his time, Stefan Milutin, in Hell as forgerer :
E quel di Portogallo e di Norvegia lì si conosceranno, e quel di Rascia che male ha visto il conio di Vinegia.