These uniquely shaped coins hail from the era of the Fourth Crusade, a religious conflict initiated by the Catholic Church in 1202 CE. In 1204, Latin forces captured the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and its surroundings, subsequently minting these coins during the brief existence of a crusader state known as the Latin Empire.
The Fourth Crusade is remembered for being one of the most controversial in history. Proclaimed by Pope Innocent III, it originally aimed to reclaim Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim control. However, financial difficulties plagued the crusaders, leading to their indebtedness to the Doge of Venice while securing ships for passage across the Mediterranean. To offset this debt, the crusaders attacked the Catholic city of Zara under Venetian direction, an unprecedented act of Catholics assaulting a fellow Catholic city. The Pope, outraged by their actions, temporarily excommunicated the entire crusader army.
Out of funds and far from their intended destination, the Latin crusaders shifted their focus to the Byzantine Empire for monetary gain. In 1203 they laid siege to Constantinople, the Orthodox Christian capital, an event marked by extreme violence and plundering. The original mission to retake Jerusalem was abandoned, and the Latin Empire was established in 1204, heralding a brief period of unstable Catholic rule over parts of modern day Greece and Turkey. This empire survived for only 57 years before Byzantine forces reclaimed the territory in 1261.
The coins in question were minted either by the Latin Empire or its vassal, the Kingdom of Thessalonica. Known as trachae (singular: trachy), they are marked by their cup shaped Byzantine-style design. Typically, the reverse features the reigning emperors, while the obverse often depicts Jesus and occasionally the Virgin Mary.
All items include a Certificate of Authenticity.
A map of the Latin Empire (red) as of 1204 CE, also showing the Empire of Nicea (orange) and the Despotate of Epirius (yellow) which were still under Byzantine rule.
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