Andrew Kurt

Visigothic Currency in its Making and Movement: a Varying State of Circumstances (pdf)

(*En Portugués aquí; En Español aquí; En français ici)


Consideration of coins in movement in and outside of the Visigothic kingdom in Iberia requires us to take into view not only the evidence of currency circulation itself, but also the many factors related to minting, including the rationale for issuing coin and how and why it might be distributed. In this article, the layout of the mint network, with its temporal and spatial and quantitative variables, leads to analysis of the state’s need for gold currency. Lines of inquiry along administrative and commercial aspects show different forces at work with respect to the gold tremisses issued widely across the kingdom from Liuvigild’s day. The state can be seen to have its own purpose in creating coin, but circulation and use were far from tied to a closed circuit revolving around taxation paid ultimately in gold currency by aristocrats. Copper-based currency in several forms and from various sources ran parallel to the ‘regal’ gold, though its circulation was more restricted on the whole and had a mostly separate use. Here the evidence on these matters and their implications are explored.


Circulation of coinage as a window opening to primary questions

Historians concerned with the Visigothic Kingdom in Iberia are so accustomed to thinking in terms of political, cultural, or religious history, or in a now more accelerated pace to matters of material history seen through the fruits of archeological labors, that an area of no small significance is often neglected. The making of currency, particularly gold coinage, was a staple of Visigothic rule in Iberia and Septimania from around the turn of the sixth century and to some degree of the regime in Aquitania before that. It is a field of study with its own specialization, perhaps the main reason for the reticence even of most scholars covering the period in broad terms to enter it in any depth. But the making and movement of currency deserves to be incorporated into the advancing picture of post-Roman Hispania, and the field has been in a ripe state for forming stimulating hypotheses and conclusions.[1]

If we start with a thematic component of these papers, that of circulation, some basic questions suggest themselves. There is the question of what the geographical pattern of currency movement looks like. When we consider the nature of the movement of coinage we approach the problem of possession of coin. In other words, how were gold coins used, and by whom? This gets at the very essential question of why coins were made, and exactly by what authority they were produced. These issues will be explored in opposite order, taking up the outlines of the minting system as a necessary grounding.  How coins were made in the raw material sense is a distinct question, but how coin-making was arranged, its oscillations, and the conclusions one makes about the very reason for the state to issue currency are all interrelated to coin circulation. The main focus here will be on ‘regal’ coinage starting in the mid- to late-570s under Liuvigild, who began minting the gold coins in the king’s name and soon also added site-names on each of the tremisses.  These features permit the identification, tracking, and tallying of coins in ways that the so-called pre-regal coinage does not allow.[2]

Measurable movement is from the point where a coin emerged, which is taken to be the mint named on the reverse of the post-578 tremisses, to the place where found.  Circulation has its own lines of inquiry, and these will be taken up in this article, but necessarily as a second layer. The very fact that gold currency was available and in motion opens up a first tier of inquiry which is fundamental for a solid understanding of currency in the Visigothic, or for that matter any post-Roman, kingdom. Are the mint-names the actual place of issue? If so, how many mints were there, and why were the places of minting chosen? Did these places shift at all, so that there were increases or decreases in the number of mints, new sites of currency emission opening up at times, or increases or decreases in the amounts of gold coinage produced at the mints?  Furthermore, challenges of how all of this can be discerned are an important aspect of this field of inquiry.

A vast minting network

It happens that describing the first layer of currency operations depends in part on what is known of the circulation of coin. Among various elements which indicate that the names on the tremisses reverses are indeed the places of issue is the high preponderance of relatively local finds of specimens from any given mint.[3] That is no small point, since therefore it is also true that gold currency was not produced and subsequently issued centrally. In the absence of any actual description of the minting network from that time, this is crucial. Quite unlike the later Roman and contemporary Byzantine minting system for gold currency, which was highly concentrated at just one or a very few mints, the Visigothic regime opted to create coined money in a dispersed minting over a large network of sites (see Figure 1 below). Today just short of one hundred mint-sites are known for the entire era of regal coinage from around 575 to perhaps 714, though during any single reign only roughly 30-50 mints were active, according to the corpus of coins which have come to light.[4] The extraordinary divergence from the Roman/Byzantine system represented by the Visigothic apparatus – only less stark a contrast than the perhaps hundreds of Merovingian mint-sites – has provoked interrogation of the reason for so minting, especially considering that the point of departure for the Visigoths’ currency was the gold coinage of the Roman empire.  Roman gold, at first closely imitated in the fifth century and then still loosely a model during the period of the regal series, was issued in a strictly centralized setting wherein fineness and weight were well maintained. Visigothic gold currency was far more sporadic both in terms of production sites and, presumably as a consequence, of quality (purity of gold) and weight.

The rationale behind the network has been explained in various ways. It has been argued that Visigothic gold was not minted to provide a medium of exchange but rather to express the royal authority and maintain prestige at the highest levels.[5] It is also possible that the currency system does not stand within such a dichotomy but rather served a variety of functions which might include these as well as others. Furthermore, there is another possibility which, not altogether surprisingly, corresponds to the empire’s main purpose in striking coinage – to facilitate its massive administrative requirements. In so far as this can be demonstrated, it would signal a quite different way than that of the imperial administration of accomplishing the same basic goal.

The puzzle of the complex arrangement of currency-making in the kingdom can begin to be solved by discerning those mints that appear to have been more or less consistently in operation. These are only some fifteen to twenty sites that meet the criterion of minting across at least five reigns, although a few of these either started several decades after Liuvigild’s reign and/or were ceased by the middle of the seventh century. Those that remain are noticeably all provincial capitals or significant regional centers. It is a reasonable supposition that they were established in place for some consistent need or set of needs. Administrative purposes, essentially the need to provide payments and on the flip side to turn payments to the state into immediately useable and accountable form, best explain their existence. In other words, they can be said to correspond to a cycle of revenue and expenditure. While on the whole the written evidence regarding Visigothic coinage is sparse, one addendum to a provincial ecclesiastical council in 592 in Barcelona furnishes extraordinary evidence of the taxation process and the valuation and presumably payment in gold coin. This is known as the De Fisco Barcinonensi.  Barcelona appears to have acted during this time as the tax center in place of Tarragona, the capital of the province, and in fact the extant tremisses from the former outnumber those from the latter in the reign of Reccared when this arrangement was established.[6]  There is a good deal more evidence that taxation was still exacted on some scale at least into the seventh century, though later in that century indications are of a reduction of tax administration.[7]

The vast majority of mints can be deemed to have been secondary, or impermanent, if one keeps in view the whole course of the minting network throughout the regal period.  Nowhere is this more significant than in a large belt south of Toledo. Several new mints in central-southern Iberia open up precisely in the decades of active warfare against the eastern Roman occupation between Liuvigild and Suinthila, from the 570s to the 620s.  A major spike in production rates in that zone is apparent just as the heaviest contests occur in the final two decades before successful expulsion of the Byzantines around 624. There are several possible explanations for temporary venues for gold currency production, all of them tied in some way to the reconquest of territories in which these mints arose. The new imposition of taxation as well as the re-minting of old (foreign) coinage for new probably figured in the south especially as important elements in the decision about where to produce coinage, in what quantity, and for how long. But financing the frequent engagements of troops seems an ineluctable part of the minting. The military motive ascribed by several scholars to much of the peripheral minting can now be reaffirmed for most of the secondary sites.[8] The great preponderance of southern minting at the height of the armed struggle against Byzantine Spania cannot be considered mostly an accident of hoard bias based on the southern location of the very large finds, since the calculus without identified La Capilla hoard coins (ca. 1,000 tremisses) – and before the massive discovery in 1984 at Fuentes de la Andalucía – still reveals lower Carthaginensis and Baetica as the single source of most gold pieces recorded from 612 through 636.[9] The low numbers of finds in physical proximity to battles in the north and northwestoffer less evidence of additional possible factors there apart from the requirements of troops. As touched on below, on multiple occasions tremisses produced in association with campaigns were inscribed with Victory propaganda, a royal message of reinforcement to local populations.


Circulation and communication in relation to currency

For these reasons, in addition to a basic uniformity in coin manufacture in spite of variations and metallic fluctuations, minting of gold can be affirmed as the king’s affair, a prerogative based on its utility in fiscal operations as well as its long-privileged place in the Roman system. The second tier of inquiry involves questions of how the coins were used. One general result of circulation – movement beyond the mint, presumably involving a series of changing possession of coins – was an enhancement of the power of the monarch as expenditures were made for maintaining the court, sometimes establishing new cities, building churches, securing services, supporting military campaigns or paying off a potential threat. All of this was dependent upon a regularized inflow of taxation paid to a large degree in coin, and in this way currency operated as a key mechanism of the exercise of royal power as it converted agricultural yields into easily transferable wealth. As increasingly understood in recent years, beginning particularly with the work of Félix Retamero and Miquel Barcelóthe currency cycle worked in association with potentes, who enjoyed a necessary role in the state’s ability to capture wealth, and thereby reaffirmed their local position.[10] The exact place of elites within the actual minting process is not well known, yet it is presumed that taxation from below flowed through them to collection points,[11] a dynamic in which bishops were certainly involved, sometimes as landholders but also as sanctioned arbiters in the establishment of rates and overseers of the process.[12]

Nevertheless, the idea that small landholders or lessees handled currency has been subject to doubt in the rendering of the process by Retamero and others. What peasants delivered were crops to the local lords, who were the ones equipped to hand over large-value currency by way of their own sales in the market, selling to public buyers but occasionally perhaps to state agents.[13] Retamero admits that the exact implementation of taxation remains obscure, and so we must be mindful of the possibility that low-level free landholders and even tenant farmers used tremisses to fulfill their tax obligations.[14]  Likewise, since the whole volume of Visigothic coinage is not necessarily as small as assumed within this same line of argument, it cannot be taken as affirmation that coins passed merely among the upper echelon of society, or within a small circle. We will return to this problem later. Yet, in so far as aristocratic elites stood as mediators in the movement of taxes and as the major figures in the acquisition and valuation of wealth in convertible form, gold currency enhanced the power of the limited elite sphere directly engaged with coined money on a large scale.[15]

Because minting was royally-directed and geared toward fiscal ends, the entire process rested on the power of the monarchy, which reaped the most benefit. Gold currency disseminated as its emblem, tangible proof of the reach of a central authority capable of extracting productive resources in the kingdom.[16] At the same time there was propaganda value, not infrequently of specific military victory but also with respect to a general projection of Visigothic equality with Rome and political dominance over the vast majority Hispano-Roman population, and from 585 the Sueves and Hispano-Romans of northwestern Iberia.[17] Liuvigild’s creation of the regal series must be contextualized within his efforts to establish firm control over the whole of the peninsula and assert the status of the Visigothic monarch. The dawn of a recognizable Visigothic coinage came in the wake of Liuvigild’s successful campaigns, improved political and fiscal organization of the kingdom, and imitation of the imperial trappings of authority.[18] Kings now had a tool both within the realm and to some extent in foreign territories for expressing and reinforcing their rightful position of power. Equality was periodically projected in some form of imitation of Byzantine imagery or inscription on the gold coinage.

Some sense can be gained of how widely the coins disseminated within the realm. An underlying concept is the rough maintenance of Roman urban structures well into the mid-sixth century, although urban topography saw major transformations during the Visigothic tenure in terms of demographic decline and the turning from classical lines to largely ecclesiastical focus. In the late sixth and early seventh centuries urban development came sometimes in the form of new royal foundations or repairs of older city centers or walls. Find patterns of individual coins and of the varied contents of hoards show circulation revolving primarily around urban locations and fortified aristocratic centers.[19] Tremisses circulated rapidly and fairly evenly, mostly ending up at local-to-medium distance from the mints; nearly half of individual coin finds come within 200 km (125 miles) from the mint of origin. But in over a third of the cases a few hundred miles or more from the place of origin. A northward movement of much of the gold struck in central-southern mints has been traced; in Tarraconensis an unusually large percentage of finds traveled from very distant mints, including these.[20] More coins are found in the south than anywhere else, and this may be a result of southern hoard bias, much more southern minting, the greater development and agricultural yield and therefore taxes in the region, or the more intense commerce there – or as I suspect, a combination of all of these factors. From Liuvigild’s reign gold must have circulated almost entirely within the borders, as far as find data indicates, but prior to 575 a small portion of gold from the kingdom spread well beyond Spain, and conversely foreign coinages made their way westward to the peninsula.[21] A new policy in the kingdom and abroad of melting down foreign currency might explain the change, but either way it opens the question of the sort of interactivity in which Visigothic gold was involved. The answer in a number of ways appears connected to trade.

What does the rather wide circulation of solidi and later tremisses suggest? Michael Metcalf took this as confirmation of the largely commercial setting of Visigothic gold currency, while a far greater volume of circulating coinage discernable through a large pool of dies evident from the coins is taken as a concomitant indication of the broad utilization of tremisses. It is certainly true that the life of a coin beyond the mint would entail more or less interchange. Incorporation into hoards of older coins sometimes minted decades prior to burial implies a long life, particularly if re-minting was done regularly within the course of taxation (as was more apparently true from the 640s, at which point the spans of reigns within hoards are less). It suggests a portion of the currency remained outside of the fiscal workings. How and to what extent coined money was employed in society is only hinted at by discovery patterns. Although the Visigothic monarchy did not produce coinage to facilitate economic exchange, this by no means negates such a role in between minting and later collection by the state of a large segment of the species dispensed.

Whether connected to trade on a larger or more local scale, there is indeed much evidence to imply a partial monetization of society from written references to gold coins and several archeological settings involving coinage. A flow of coinage in connection to elites may not be considered unexpected. Visigothic law established a dower at ten percent of a husband’s patrimony, an amount fixed for the higher nobility at 1,000 solidi – with the possible addition of 20 slaves and 20 horses – based on a postulated holding of 10,000 solidi. The same edict stipulated a 100-solidi dower for a patrimony of 1,000 solidi, read as an average fortune.[22] We know of aristocrats’ erection and sometimes repairs of churches, for instance by Justinian of Valencia, a bishop of the mid-sixth century also known for his funding of religious festivals.[23] We can be confident that coinage was often transferred in such pursuits. This was explicitly the case in at least some of the prodigious building and charity works of bishop Masona of Mérida (fl. ca. 570-606). In addition to handing over half of his entire patrimonial revenues to doctors of his xenodochium, a quasi-hospital “to serve travelers and the sick,” to be given to those suffering illness, Masona established a fund of 2,000 solidi to assist those in pecuniary need.[24] A specific story of his generous habits is instructive of the ordinariness of money among people of humble status. It occurred during his exile imposed by Liuvigild. After the bishop donated all that he and his servants had, a poor widow beset with hardship came to him to ask for alms. Masona and his servants could find nothing left to offer, until the head servant made a revelation: “I have a single solidus, but if I give you this we will have nothing at all with which to buy food for ourselves and our mule.” Masona ordered the servant to hand over the solidus. A few moments later, we are told, the same servant “ran after the woman and begged her as he had nothing with which to buy food for himself to give back at least a tremiss of the sum […]. She gave him one tremiss without any sadness and took the other two off with her, glad at heart.” Such a story fit naturally within a hagiographical work intended to be read aloud to, and no doubt understood by, common worshippers at Mass. Readers today are perhaps more in need of interpretation. Solidi were no longer minted in the kingdom by the last quarter of the sixth century, but remained as a unit of account, as had long been true in the Roman world. It is made clear in the interchange that the widow received three tremisses. The unfolding lesson continues with the appearance of a spontaneous reward and Masona’s projection of a far greater bounty in solidi and goods that would have been received if the servant had acted with true magnanimity.[25]

Legal evidence similarly points to a rather broad circulation of coinage. Laws and slates make references to both solidi and tremisses. In fact, numerous edictsin the seventh-century Liber Iudiciorum, some with more ancient foundation, are occupied with coinage in relation to subjects of all classes.[26] Adulteration of gold pieces, fraud, and demanding acceptance of the full value of a coin although it be of proper weight are met with harsh punishment. It is hard to imagine such injunctions would be made were it not for recurrent infractions.[27] Inferred in the last instance here is the habit of rejecting gold coins with low gold quality, which on very basic monetary principle makes sense; but the law commands that if a coin were of proper weight (that is, fell within acceptable weight range, since coin weights varied greatly), it could not legally be refused – possibly, however, on condition of payment adjustment after weighing, at least in the case of larger purchases. Evidence of commonplace monetary conventions and even possession is afforded by the many fines laid down in monetary units in the law code. Pecuniary forfeiture is the standard form in the code, from payment of one solidus in punishment for destroying an owner’s grapevine or several solidi in the case of a tree to 300 for killing another’s skilled slave. Absence of any mention in the code of recourse to reverse commutation to payment in kind makes it very likely that the valuation in coinage alone was for a reason and indicates familiarity with currency.[28] So do Visigothic-era slates containing references to money values, more of which are coming to light.[29] So also does a law on loans which spells out the lending of money (pecuniam) among other forms, and furthermore expresses the maximum of 1/8 interest in monetary units.[30]

The Visigothic law code implies transmission of coinage, which appears to have been a fairly ordinary part of urban and rural life. While a strict definition of monetization is not met by the mixed assortment of payment types, broad monetary habits are inferred in the written record. Almost as bookends of the period of the Visigothic kingdom as it concentrated in the Iberian peninsula, the donative granted to soldiers of Alaric II in 506 and the inclusion of dinars (essentially Islamic solidi) within the tribute stipulated in Theodomir’s pact in 713 are yet further manifestation of the wide diffusion of currency.[31] Beyond what is specified, it stands to reason that the many costs of royal power must have put money into the hands of people at a level below elite status. To maintain a palace, court and retainers, to build and administer the royal cities of Reccopolis and Victoriacum (under Liuvigild) and Ologicus (under Suinthila), to provide munificence, and to satisfy the assuredly huge costs of war required more than a little currency. Payments to artisans, attendants, sellers of royal apparel and equipment, and perhaps soldiers and bureaucrats, served to put coinage in circulation.

Trade on any substantial scale no doubt involved currency and accounted for some of its movement. For Barral i Altet and Metcalf gold was oriented toward trade,[32] but we should rather see commerce as utilizing coinage struck for the state’s own purposes and as a sign and further cause of circulation. One major problem in averring that coinage was issued mainly or largely for economic purposes is that the more we know of long-distance trade and of minting sites – and there have been many gains in both fields in the last several decades – there is little correspondence between these aspects of early medieval Iberia. This was not because commercialism was negligible in post-Roman Hispania. Between the fifth and sixth centuries, the largest concentration of international commerce in the peninsula saw a general shift from the Ebro River region to a broad area of the center-south, but a wide trans-Mediterranean and intra-peninsular trade still flourished into at least the first half of the sixth century.[33] Cities along the eastern coast, most especially Tarragona, engaged in a continuing sea-borne trade.[34]  Some imported wares still are traceable in rural areas into the sixth century. Meanwhile northwestern Iberia experienced trade of Eastern Mediterranean origin as a result of Byzantine commerce with Britain. Recent account of Visigothic Spain’s trading activities with distant points within the Mediterranean is enlarging the geographic and for certain locations the chronological scope. The seventh century certainly saw deterioration, but with modifications rather than collapse.[35] In the face of lower-scale commercial production in Iberia in so far as currently ascertained, the coastal cities appear to have relied heavily on Mediterranean imports. Written and material evidence tells of substantial exchange in both directions between the peninsula and North Africa, under the Vandals as well as the eastern Romans. Starting around the 550s, when the kingdom was at war with Byzantine forces, a greatly diminished imperial commerce with the West in general, together with other changes, had a role in the reduced use of gold internationally.[36] Within the coastal Byzantine enclave in Spain there is good indication of commerce with other littoral urban points. It is possible that some barter was employed in all the trade taking place, but it could not be undertaken without recourse to currency.[37] A mere glimpse is afforded of major commercial transactions by a rare account of a sum of 758 solidi for shipping costs in a tax payment of wheat from Spain to Rome in the 520s.[38] 

As we turn to the map of mint locations, it lacks clear correspondence to the merchant activity on the coasts, especially when we consider that most mints had little overall production. Only in the NE was there potentially substantial correspondence. The heavy striking in the southern cities of Seville, Mérida and Córdoba possibly bear a relation to the extensive economic activity there, but there may also be other factors at work such as the administrative ones referred to above. Some interior cities such as Reccopolis and Toledo, which demonstrate inter-state commerce by the presence of foreign wares and gold coins, had mints as well. Other cities such as the late-sixth century foundation Eio, a production center of some size and a bishopric, did not have a mint. Gallaecia’s minting is quite peculiar because so many mints put out so little coinage. The pertinent point here is that no currency has been shown to come from Vigo, the one coastal site which recent archeological research confirms as having been intensely involved even into the seventh century in trade from the eastern and southern Mediterranean shores as well as from western Gaul. In fact, none of the production sites along the whole Galician coast match Visigothic or for that matter Suevic mint locations, an indication that the trade economy was not a determinant of mint placement and perhaps not even a factor in currency production itself.[39]  

The lack of correspondence between minting and areas of large commerce derives, I contend, from the fact that the purpose of minting was entirely other than to facilitate exchange in society or provide a helpful economic tool. The nature of minting in the Visigothic kingdom was to facilitate the monarchy’s expenditure needs and procurement of revenue, primarily through taxation but also in the form of fines. Based on the imperial model, albeit far simpler, a regally-organized minting network at some ‘public’ level was still in place in the Visigothic kingdom of Toledo. When gold coinage does enter into the hands of merchants, and into the hands of inhabitants of the kingdom who will bring it to mostly local merchant exchange as well, it is as a by-product of the state’s own purposes in generating money. In other words, coins once made can and did have more than one use.

The fiscalist perspective I have enunciated entails major arguments regarding circulation and volume of currency and who possessed gold coin in these post-Roman centuries, just as is true of the late Roman system or indeed all of the late antique systems of the Mediterranean world. The reigning fiscalist view carries a minimalist take on circulation. In the opinion of Félix Retamero, Miquel Crusafont, Iñaki Martín Viso, Santiago Castellanos, and Ruth Pliego, only elites utilized money on any regular basis. A similar evaluation was made of the late Roman fiscal engine by Chris Wickham in Framing the Early Middle Ages, where the movement of goods across the empire was caused by fiscal mechanisms much more than by private commercial enterprise.  Both he and Michael Hendy, recognizing a much lesser scale in post-Roman Spain, have nevertheless thought in terms of a state-driven economy and only small echoes of it within an upper social echelon.

I have concluded differently, neither seeing a commercial purpose and an immense production of coin, nor a highly restricted body of currency. Although the volume of coinage can appear quite small from the corpus of only around 7,500 known coins, the number has more than doubled since George Miles published the first general catalog in 1952 (The giant increase based on the discovery of just two or three massive hoards whose contents are still emerging can tip the scale on the volume debate either way, since there are not many random finds, at least that are reported. But there is also a growing recognition by numismatic specialists that the number of separate dies used can be said to have been quite large, indicating more significant outputs than the corpus of finds will ever show.)[40] In envisioning a large rather than narrow circuit of currency I side more with Jairus Banaji on circulation in the late Roman world.[41] Gold coin and possession of it can be shown to have been a commonplace, even if there is reason to doubt that everyone had tremisses. Coinage flowed fairly widely, probably in association with barter. However, two major provisos pertain to the assessment of a mostly barter-oriented society. One is that the emphasis is on coin and not barter or goods in the law code and in references to taxation such as the singular document from Barcelona in 592, the De Fisco Barcinonensi, depicting the basic tax operations on the northeastern coast. The other is that quite a bit of copper-based coinage circulated. That is a fairly new understanding, which by itself can put to rest the old conclusion that early medieval Spain’s monometallism demands a very reduced estimate of interactions between non-aristocrats and merchants.[42]

There is now abundant evidence of the continued Mediterranean-wide circulation of fourth-century and fifth-century bronze money as production of this metal declined in the following decades. The decreased availability had a heavier impact on the West where minting had been more curbed than in the East, and especially in Spain where no official imperial mints had operated since the first century.[43] Archeological evidence has continued to demonstrate monetary adaptations in the peninsula in the form of re-use, imitation bronzes on the eastern Iberian seaboard and even in the interior, an influx of foreign emissions (late Roman, Vandal, and Byzantine) of the fifth and sixth centuries into Spain, partitioning of external currency, and local production in Spain itself primarily in the south.[44]  The bronzes of various classes were of very small value but indispensable for the daily, mundane level of transaction and stand as indicators of a monetary economy. Visigothic copper-alloy pieces stayed local, not following the principal commercial routes.[45] Bronze coins in Iberia rarely circulated with gold, so that two levels of interaction appear to have obtained.[46] The royal administration does not appear to have attempted to abolish the small denomination currency produced at a municipal level. The state ignored this base currency manufacture, perhaps acknowledging its usefulness.[47] Copper-alloy emissions from cities in the south of Spain give one indication of a need for this economic medium and signal a greater economic sophistication than might otherwise be understood.[48] Foreign currency in the form of gold but much more so of bronze came to Spain’s littoral not by imperial policy, but through normal, private commercial life that had linked distant shores of the middle sea for hundreds of years.[49] Throughout much of its existence the Visigothic kingdom in Spain formed one significant part of the Mediterranean commercial connectivity.

Gold coin must have had a role in larger business activities, though the reduced evidence we have from the seventh century, both in literary and numismatic terms, correlates with a general economic downturn. Unlike copper-alloy coinage, gold currency was not manufactured for commercial purposes and instead was geared toward the realm’s fiscal-administrative needs and may have been in the possession of relatively few. Yet the strong possibility is that some gold coin did trickle back to freeholding peasants and perchance renting tenants to thereby enable them to make tax payments, or indeed purchases or payments of fines and the like. In divergent circuits, and with varying patterns of production, both gold and copper moved about quite extensively in the Visigothic kingdom.


Adaptations in the network of mints occurred frequently over the period from around 500 to 711, when the Visigothic kingdom was centered in Iberia. Expansion from a very few mints at first to probably several more at minimum some decades later (to tell from the variety of busts and craftsmanship), then Liuvigild’s development of coin-making as he unified most of the peninsula, and later the explosion of mints and their output at the height of the war against Byzantium in the first third of the seventh century, form the main outline to that point. In the 640s and 650s, during the reigns of Chindaswinth and Recceswinth (642-49 and 653-72, respectively, with a joint reign in between), the number of mints was drastically reduced. This significant change may have been made in view of the conclusion of war and its aftermath of a decade and a half, or because of the reduced fiscalism of the seventh century as hinted at in the written evidence. A partial revival in the number of mint-sites occurred in the 680s, though not in Gallaecia.

For some time, declining long-distance trade and flow of Byzantine gold westward had evidently also caused a diminution of the kingdom’s gold supply. All of these factors are tied together in the rampant fluctuations of the three decades before Chindaswinth, when weights swung wildly and fineness dipped to approximately 50% on average.  Pressures of the demand for gold coin brought about lower-quality emissions.  Chindaswinth initiated a response by tightening up the monetary system in terms of dispersion of mints, level of output, and fineness of the tremisses, and he furthermore seized many grandees’ possessions. Presumably as part of his effort to regain control of the coinage he enforced the practice of renovatio monetae, the regularized re-minting of gold currency that made its way back to the state’s coffers. Although this requires somewhat different estimates about production and circulation, and furthermore die studies are even less advanced for the later Visigothic period than for the period before mid-century, a consequent decrease in volume of coinage can be supposed immediately after the reforms. As mints and output apparently expand under Ervig (680-87) and Egica (687-700), notably fineness begins the drop to its lowest point, to an average of around 30%. The basis of the tax system was in place, if perhaps struggling.[50]

While the exact relation is impossible to pin down, increased minting does not correspond neatly with a modified military system over the course of the seventh century from a standing army and garrisons to mainly reliance on personal armies, a situation wherein soldiers were less likely to have been paid salaries.[51] The expansion may have something to do with the volatilities of those years, including the rebellion of Suniefred in the royal city itself (ca. 693) and an attack by a Byzantine force on the southeastern coast of Spain (ca. 698 or a bit later).[52] Or perhaps the notion of the militarization of government and the beginning of a protofeudal state by the latter half of the century, with a very diminished role of coinage, is far overstated.[53] This part of the debate is beyond the scope of this article, but since minting did not transpire without direction[54] we may suspect some of the same motivations at work as at other times – administrative needs handled mostly through specific cities and their workshops and quite possibly the occasional military mint. Over the duration of Visigothic rule we see, sometimes more clearly than others, ways in which the movement and use of troops, goods, mints, and coinage correlated in a varying set of circumstances. If we do not make serious attempts to draw these aspects together we are liable to miss important dynamics within the kingdom.

List of figures

Kurt, Visigothic Currency, Visigothic Symposia 3 (2019), Fig. 1.jpg

Figure 1: Mints of Regal Tremisses, ca. 575 – ca. 714– In Andrew Kurt, Minting, State and Economy in the Visigothic Kingdom: From Settlement in Aquitaine through the First Decade of the Muslim Conquest of Spain (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming), Appendix I.


[1] Especially true since the publication of Ruth Pliego Vázquez, La moneda visigoda, 2 vols. (Seville:  Universidad de Sevilla, 2009): Vol. I:  Historia monetaria del reino visigodo de Toledo (c. 569-711); Vol. II: Corpus., superseding George C. Miles, The Coinage of the Visigoths of Spain: Leovigild to Achila II(New York: American Numismatic Society, 1952). Pliego has also made numerous contributions to the field for over a dozen years by way of focused articles and chapters. Previous foundational studies and fruitful recent considerations are engaged in vol. 1 of her book. See also Andrew Kurt, Minting, State and Economy in the Visigothic Kingdom: From Settlement in Aquitaine through the First Decade of the Muslim Conquest of Spain(Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming).

[2] Pliego, La moneda visigodacategorizes the Visigothic Gallic period coins of the fifth century as imitation issues and the Iberian phase coins as pseudo-imperial. Despite inadequacies of both terms raised by Miquel de Crusafont et al., “Silver Visigothic Coinage,” Numismatic Chronicle176 (2016): 241-60, the convention of using the label “pseudo-imperial” to refer loosely to all the gold currency before Liuvigild’s transformations still has usefulness.

[3] Circulation patterns are treated at length in Xavier Barral i Altet, La circulation des monnaies suèves et visigotiques. Contribution á l’histoire économique du royaume visigot(Munich: Artemis Verlag, 1976). Another indication is the differentiation within type (bust) design at each locale, even within a frequently regional basis of design, a significant facet discussed extensively in Chapter 3 and Appendix II of Kurt, Minting, State and Economy. It is noteworthy that no same obverse die is ever used on coins with separate mint names; in other words, different minting locales employed different dies for the obverse bust–royal inscription combination.

[4] This factor – coins actually unearthed and recorded – is one which must constantly be borne in mind, since it is always possible that not all mints active during a reign (or over the whole Visigothic period) are in evidence. Also in this respect hoard bias, that is, the likeliness of a coin treasure to represent mints closer rather than farther from the find-spot, is a factor to be recognized within the corpus. The corpus of nearly 7,500 tremisses assembled by Pliego by 2009 was drawn up in a convenient table in Pliego, La moneda visigoda,v. 2, 47-50. See the slightly updated version in Kurt, Minting, State and Economy, now with 99 mints.

[5] Peter Spufford (“Coinage and Currency” in Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vol. 2, ed. Edward Miller, Cynthia Postan and Michael Postan [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987], 791) expresses the general consensus simply: “It was a basically non-commercial coinage of gold that the barbarians inherited.” What the purpose of making gold wasis a matter of less agreement. For the position that it was primarily a gift or prestige economy, with gold currency sometimes paid to troops and fairly regularly utilized by merchants see Ruth Pliego Vázquez, “El tremisde los últimos años del Reino Visigodo (702-714),” in Monnaies du haut Moyen Âge: histoire et archéologie (péninsule Ibérique – Maghreb, VIIe-XIe siècle), ed. Philippe Sénac and Sébastien Gasc (Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Midi – Collection Méridiennes, 2015), 17-58, at 37-41. Similarly, Ruth Pliego Vázquez, “La acuñación monetaria en el Reino Visigodo de Toledo:  El funcionamiento de las cecas,” Els tallers monetaris: organització y producció, XII Curs d’Historia monetaria d’Hispania(Barcelona: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, 2008), 117-41, at 133 ff. and Ruth Pliego Vázquez (La moneda visigoda, v. 1, 215-30) views the main purpose of Visigothic gold coinage as facilitating royal payments and relations with nobility through gifts. Pliego plays down an effective fiscal mechanism, though it does account for some of the monarchy’s revenues; re-supply of gold came mostly through fines and confiscations.

[6] For the document see Concilios visigóticos e hispano-romanos, ed. José Vives (Barcelona-Madrid:  Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1963), 54. I discuss De Fiscoat some length in my forthcoming book. See the discussion of this document in Michael F. Hendy, “From Public to Private:  the Western Barbarian Coinages as a Mirror of the Disintegration of Late Roman State Structures,” Viator19 (1988), 29-78, at 53-56 and Damián Fernández, “Statehood, Taxation, and State Infrastructural Power in Visigothic Iberia,” in Ancient States and Infrastructural Power Europe, Asia, and America, ed. Clifford Ando and Seth Richardson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 243-71 at254 ff.

[7] Luis A. García Moreno (“Estudios sobre la organización administrativa del reino visigodo de Toledo,” Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español44 [1974]: 5-155) is the essential study of early transitions in Visigothic taxation and the public officials responsible for it. See also Hendy, “From Public to Private,” and Fernández, “Statehood, Taxation.” For references to customs dues and taxes on trade cf. E. A. Thompson, The Goths in Spain(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), 126-27; Luis A. García Moreno, “Algunos aspectos fiscales de la Península Ibérica durante el siglo VI,” Hispania Antiqua1 (1971), 233-56, esp. 240-43; and, Félix Retamero, “As Coins Go Home: Towns, Merchants, Bishops and Kings in Visigothic Hispania,” in The Visigoths from the Migration Period to the Seventh Century: an Ethnographic Perspective, ed. Peter Heather (San Marino: Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Social Stress, 1999), 271-320, esp. 279-85.

[8] The assertion was long ago made by Luis A. García Moreno, “Cecas visigodas y sistema económico,” in IIareunió d’arqueologia paleocristiana hispànica(Montserrat, 2 al 5 de noviembre de 1978) (Barcelona:  Institut d’Arqueologia i Prehistòria, 1982), 333-45 and Miquel Barceló, “La cuestión del ‘Limes Hispanus’:  los datos numismáticos,” Acta Numismática5 (1975), 31-45. James Spaulding (“The Mint-cities of Visigothic Spain: Leovigild to Achila II” [PhD dissertation: Duke University, 1970]) elaborated a similar case, however, many of his specific points cannot now be considered viable; the quite general conclusions of Crusafont i Sabater, El sistemaand Crusafont i Sabater, “Monete suebe e visigote” share the basic argument. With different emphases and timing of the process of change, three works may be referenced on the disputed make-up of the army, which may have had a relatively small standing component during most of the Visigothic period: Amancio Isla Frez, Ejército, sociedad y política en la Península Ibérica entre los siglos VII y XI(Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2010); Dionisio Pérez Sánchez, El ejército en la sociedad visigoda(Salamanca: Universidad de Salamanca, 1989); and, Chris Wickham, Framing the Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 98-102. An article within this collection makes a solid argument for the development of a standing force in the era of Liuvigild and his son Reccared: Jason Osborne, “A Call to Arms:  Cross-regional Communication and the Visigothic Military,” Visigothic Symposium3 (2018): 55-71 (

[9] I expound on military minting in Chapter 4 and several corresponding graphs in an appendix of Kurt, Minting, State and Economy. A probable establishment of garrisons in the recovered cities is one possible reason why major levels of minting would continue after the war ended. One further point investigated in my forthcoming book, too involved to explicate here, is the frequent traveling of die engravers among several mint-cities, often in association with wartime issues of gold currency.

[10] Miquel Barceló and Félix Retamero, “From Crops to Coin: Which Way Back?,” Gaceta Numismática122 (1996): 53-60. Félix Retamero (“As Coins Go Home,” 286-92 and Félix Retamero, “La moneda del regnum gothorum[ca. 575-714]. Una revisión del registro numismático,” in Between Taxation and Rent:  Fiscal Problems from Late Antiquity to Early Middle Ages, ed. Pablo C. Díaz and Iñaki Martín Viso [Bari: Edipuglia, 2011], 189-220, at 193-6) incorporates more recent coin discoveries. In a similar vein is Santiago Castellanos, “Tributa and Historiae:  Scale and Power at a Turning Point in Post-Roman Spain,” in Scale and Scale Change in the Early Middle Ages: Exploring Landscape, Local Society, and the World Beyond, ed. Julio Escalona and Andrew Reynolds (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), 187-214. For the view of taxation and the issuing of gold coinage as means of confirming bonds between central and local authorities see Iñaki Martín Viso, “Circuits of Power in a Fragmented Space: Gold Coinage in the Meseta del Duero (Sixth-Seventh Centuries),” in Scale and Scale Change, ed. Escalona and Reynolds, 215-52, esp. 221. Rory Naismith (“Gold Coinage and Its Use in the Post-Roman West,” Speculum89 [2014], 273-306, at 290) views the principal rationale behind gold minting in terms of fiscal operations and not commerce. As the same author observes, “Numerous mints generally reflect localised structures of power and communication rather than a strong monetary economy (“Mints, Moneyers,” 7).

[11] I assert the centers of collection were regional, essentially the permanent mints consisting of provincial capitals or major administrative hubs such as Córdoba or Evora. The plethora of mint-names, the mostly local or regional nature of coin losses, plus the lack of major finds in central Spain confirm that coin output was not concentrated at Toledo, and so neither was intake of specie. In this sub-centralized apparatus, the fiscal system is not so different from the imperial one. I conclude that the arrangement rested on the lesser infrastructural capability than the Empire, with its well-worked system centuries in the making, supported by an elaborate road network and transportation mechanism, full bureaucracy, and standing army.

[12] Fernández, “Statehood, Taxation.”

[13] Retamero views the Visigothic monetary economy as closely entwined with the fiscal mechanism and having little effect as a redistributive instrument through market activities.

[14] The point of De fisco Barcinonensi, a letter from bishops of the territories around Barcelona to the appointed local tax officials, was to approve a fair rate converting a unit of taxation in kind (modius canonicus) into gold, as stipulated in the acts of III Toledo (canon 18) concerning episcopal involvement.  Ecclesiastical and royal enactments endeavor to protect the populos, and it is worth observing that potentesare not mentioned in this or similar fiscal contexts. Populosare also mentioned in Ervig’s remission in XIII Tol. (Vives, Concilios, 435-37).

[15] Retamero in “As Coins Go Home” at 286 remarks: “…crops – the product of the peasant – do not necessarily require coins to ensure their existence. However, coins must be made exchangeable for crops to become money. Otherwise, they could never transcend their original condition as a product.” Fernández examines landlords’ roles and bishops’ close oversight in tax collection; the nature of contemporary legal references to common landholders (“Statehood, Taxation,” esp. 250 ff. and 256 ff.) obliges me to suppose in contrast to Retamero that it was not uncommon for peasants to also make use of tremisses.

[16] Castellanos, “Tributa and Historiae,” 202; Martín Viso, “Circuits of Power,” 221, who in the same work also discusses the instrumentality of gold coinage in the interplay of authority at various levels.

[17] See Hillgarth, “Coins and Chronicles”; McCormick, Eternal Victory, 304, 317-19; Pliego, La moneda visigoda, v. 1, 90-95, 182 ff. et passim (for one example, a Liuvigild tremiss with VICTOR on the reverse legend, see v. 2, 76, no. 58; ibid., 114-19 catalogs Reccared’s Gallaecian coins, of which nearly ten bear victory epithets); and Pliego, “Gallaecia,” 96-101 specifically on Gallaecian mints communicating triumph, perhaps over pockets of defiance in the years following the conquest of Suevia. Varieties of the reverse legend PIVS BARBI VI(CTOR/IA)on trientes of Sisebut will be found in Pliego, La moneda visigoda, v. 2, 172 ff., nos. 268 (1, 2), 269(c) (1, 2), 269(d) (1). They are discussed in Peter Bartlett and Gonzalo Cores, “The Coinage of the Visigothic King Sisebut (612-21) from the Mint of Barbi,” Gaceta Numismática158-159 (2005): 13-21; and Sebastián Corzo Pérez and Susana Sempere Díaz, “La ceca visigoda de Barbi:  aspectos historiográficos y arqueológicos,” Numisma45.236 (1995): 125-38, esp. 136, where the authors believe the purpose of the mint of Barbi was to assist the army. In my forthcoming book I discuss the coin propaganda of war-related circumstances during the rebellion of Hermenegild, in Liuvigild’s contests against Byzantine forces, autonomous entities, and the Suevic kingdom, and in the final decades in the drive to eradicate the eastern Roman occupation in Hispania.

[18] Dietrich Claude, Adel, Kirche und Königtum im Westgotenreich(Sigmaringen:  Jan Thorbecke Verlag, 1971), 55-77; García Moreno, “Estudios”; Thompson, Goths in Spain, 58-64. Manuel Castro Priego, “Reccopolisy los contextos numismáticos de época visigoda en el Centro de la Península Ibérica,” Revue Numismatique 6.171 (2014): 463-95 at 463-67 discusses the foundation and embellishment of cities as facets of aemulatio imperii.

[19] Bishops: Retamero, “As Coins Go Home,” 271-74. Find patterns: Manuel Castro Priego, “Absent Coinage: Archaeological Contexts and Tremisses on the Central Iberian Peninsula in the 7thand 8thCenturies ad,” Medieval Archaeology60.1 (2016): 27-56, at 30-32; it may be overstated to claim that circulation is limited to these areas, however. The example of tremisses found at dispersed spots at the village in Lleida called El Bovalar, together with a few other rural milieux, qualifies this statement. On El Bovalar, see Pliego, La moneda visigoda, 254; Pliego, “El tremisde los últimos años,” 23-25; and, Michael Kulikowski, Late Roman Spain and its Cities(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), 301. For other finds, see Fernando Regueras Grande and Isabel Rodríguez Casanova, “Triente de Sisebuto y dinar de indicción en dos villaeromanas leonesas,” Brigecio27 (2017): 11-24, at 13-16.The fortified sites, whose utility is understood as maintaining control of extra-urban territory, stand somewhere between city and countryside.

[20] See David M. Metcalf, “Some Geographical Aspects of Early Medieval Monetary Circulation in the Iberian Peninsula,” in Problems of Medieval Coinage in the Iberian Area, v. I, ed. Mário Gomes Marques and M. Crusafont i Sabater (Ávila: Sociedad Numismatic Avilesina, 1986), 307-24, at 314, fig. 3, based on Barral i Altet, La circulation, which provides a solid understanding of gold coin movement in early medieval Iberia as could be known to that point. Currency flows in the peninsula have been much understudied, but part of the difficulty lies in the furtive provenance and sporadic appearance of coins in recent decades mostly deriving from one or two massive finds referred to above.

[21] See Barral i Altet, La circulation, esp. 147, fig. 20, a map of finds of Visigothic coins issued before c. 575, though since the 1970s the totals have increased by way, for instance, of French hoards and finds which I treat in Chapter 1 of Kurt, Minting, State and Economy. Visigothic gold coins circulated throughout Gaul, and several reached Kent in SE England. Barral i Altet (La circulation, 64-66) discusses foreign currency discovered in Iberia from the same period. A major database project established at Princeton University, called FLAME(Framing the Late Antique & Early Medieval Economy), will make available copious data concerning minting and coin finds for Mediterranean-linked territories from the years 325-725, providing visualizations of geographical movements and quantities.The sensible interpretation of the evidence by Ruth Pliego (“El tremisde los últimos años,” 40) is that foreign merchants probably did not accept Visigothic regal tremisses, which must normally have been melted down (there are not elevated numbers from contemporary Gaul or Byzantium, for instance, where we know from contemporary sources that occasionally great amounts were directed).

[22] José Orlandis, La vida en España en tiempo de los godos(Madrid: Rialp, 1991), 60 ff., ref. LVIII.1.v of Chindaswinth, affirmed by Ervig but setting the maximum gift at 1,000 solidi. The author’s suggestion that the recovered hoards appear to confirm such resources has since been affirmed.

[23] See Kulikowski, Late Roman Spain, 289 ff.; the vir inlustrisGudiliuva in the southeast of Hispania in the late seventh century had a number of churches built, and canons of church councils refer to similar activities.

[24] Vitas Sanctorum Patrum Emeritensium, in Lives of the Visigothic Fathers, ed. and trans. Andrew T. Fear (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1997), xenodochiumat 5.3.4 (ed. Fear, 74), the fund at 5.3.9 (ed. Fear, 75 ff.). Towards the end of his life Masona manumitted a number of slaves in his service, providing them with a little land and money – evidence of currency in the hands of freedmen still in semi-servile status on church lands, if a practice known from later was already being followed: VSPE13.4 (ed. Fear, 101).

[25] VSPE5.7, in Lives, ed. and trans. Fear, 87ff. No sooner did the head servant get his tremiss than a huge cargo of foodstuffs from well-wishers showed up – 200 loaded asses. Masona scolded his servant by remarking, “You gave two tremisses and, behold, you have obtained two thousand solidi and two hundred asses […] had you not taken that third tremiss you would have received three hundred loaded asses.”

[26] See Javier de Santiago Fernández, “Legislación y moneda en la Hispania visigoda,” Mélanges de la Casa de Velázquez41.2 (2011): 55-74.

[27] Fraud was conceived as possible by slave or free man alike (LI 7.6.2).Torture of slaves was allowed to gain such information about either a lord or a lady (LI7.6.1). Another law ordered“that no one will refuse a solidus of full weight” (LI7.6.5): “Solidum aureum integri ponderis, cuiuscumque monete sit, si adulterinus non fuerit, nullus ausus sit recusare nec pro eius aliquid moneta requirere preter hoc, quod minus forte pensaverit […] (Zeumer, ed., MGH. LL I.I, 311).” Frequent debasement of official coinage requires that the phrase “si adulterinus non fuerit” refers to unauthorized alterations: Santiago, “Legislación y moneda,” 57. Cf. the analysis in Ruth Pliego, “La falsificación y manipulación de la moneda visigoda,” in Falsificació i manipulació de la moneda, XVI Curs d’Història monetaria d’Hispania(Barcelona: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, 2010), 81-102. Byzantine legislation stipulated that old gold coinage was still legal tender and should not be avoided (I am grateful to Andrei Gandila for this observation communicated personally). This law here therefore possibly refers to older Visigothic coinage or even non-Visigothic coin of equal standard. I discuss the implications of variations in weight and fineness in Kurt, Minting, State, and Economy.

[28] For more on the numerous fines from the Liber Iudiciorum(Leges Visigothorum) see Naismith, “Gold Coinage and Its Use,” 282; Orlandis, La vida en España, 53f; and, Pliego, “La falsificación.” Santiago (“Legislación y moneda,” 58-62) points out that fines may have been always valued though not always paid in coin.

[29] Payments mentioned in these writing tablets are most frequently expressed in kind, therefore the less frequent coin amounts (in solidi or tremisses) may be simply units of account. But specific expressions such as suscepto solido uno, or a securitasof ten solidi for several pigs, accord with actual currency transfer: Santiago, “Legislación y moneda,” 60. On enumerations in slates as parts of tax records, linking landowners directly to satisfaction of tax dues, see Iñaki Martín Viso, “Tributación y escenarios locales en el centro de la península ibérica: Algunas hipótesis a partir del análisis de las pizarras ‘visigodas’,” Antiquité Tardive14 (2006): 263-90 and Iñaki Martín Viso, “Prácticas locales de la fiscalidad en el reino visigodo de Toledo,” in Lo que vino de Oriente:  Horizontes, praxis y dimensión material de los sistemas de dominación fiscal en Al-Andalus (ss. VII-IX), ed. Xavier Ballestín and Ernesto Pastor (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013): 72-85; so also Castellanos, “Tributa and Historiae,” 204 ff.

[30] LI 5.5.8:  “tres siliquas de unius solidi […] et de solidis octo nonum solidum”; see Santiago, “Legislación y moneda,” 59.

[31] On Alaric’s donative see Orlandis, La vida en España, 141, citing the Life of St. Avitus of Périgord which recounts the young Avitus compelled to join the Visigothic campaign. The gold piece owed annually by the Christians under Theodomir might actually have been paid in Visigothic tremisses, the gold coins they would be most likely to possess. Some continued circulation of Visigothic tremisses for several decades after the conquest, and sometimes circulation of Visigothic gold together with Islamic bronzes, is known: Castro Priego, “Absent Coinage;” Alberto Canto García, “El Pacto de Tudmîr:  aspectos económicos,” eHumanista/IVITRA Journal of Iberian Studies5 (2014), 370-91, at 378f on circulation of Visigothic and Roman coins in areas under treaty with the new Muslim government, ref. Sonia Gutiérrez Lloret, “El Tolmo de Minateda en torno al 711,” Zona arqueológica15 (2011) (Dedicated issue title:  711:  Arqueología e historia entre dos mundos): v. 1, 359-372. See also ibid., 382, 387; and 379 on the Gothic population’s need to melt down precious metal goods to meet treaty requirements.

[32] Barral i Altet, La circulation, esp. 67-77. David M. Metcalf, “For What Purposes Were Suevic and Visigothic Tremisses Used?” in Problems of Medieval Coinage in the Iberian Area, v. 3, ed. Mário Gomes Marques and Miquel Crusafont i Sabater (Santarém: Instituto Politécnico de Santarém, 1988), 15-34, at 20-21.

[33] Paul Reynolds (“Hispania in the Late Roman Mediterranean: Ceramics and Trade,” in Hispania in Late Antiquity, ed. Bowes and Kulikowski, 369-485) discusses several ongoing trade circuits within Iberia and between the peninsula and other regions such as Tunisia, southern Gaul, and the East, some of which continued into the sixth century. See also Pliego, “El tremisde los últimos años,” 39-41.

[34] Kulikowski, Late Roman Spain(esp. 256 ff., 287-309) and Wickham, Framing, esp. 656-65 and 748-55 provide solid treatment of the changes.

[35] Jaime Vizcaíno Sánchez, La presencia bizantina en Hispania, siglos VI-VII: la documentación arqueológica(Murcia: Universidad de Murcia, 2009), 310, 317 ff. draws on studies marking a flourishing Spanish coastal trade through the sixth century, waning in the following century yet more modified than broken off.

[36] Filippo Carlà, “The End of Roman Gold Coinage and the Disintegration of a Monetary Area,” Annali dell’Istituto Italiano di Numismatica56 (2010): 45-114, at 89 remarks on the Empire’s reduced commerce with the West.

[37] See Paul Reynolds, “Material Culture and the Economy in the Age of Saint Isidore of Seville (6thand 7thCenturies),” Antiquité Tardive23 (2015): 163-210.

[38] Cassiodorus, Variae 5.35 (a. 523/526).

[39] José Carlos Sánchez Pardo, “Power and Rural Landscapes in Early Medieval Galicia (400–900 ad):  Towards a Re-incorporation of the Archaeology into the Historical Narrative,” Early Medieval Europe21.2 (2013): 140-68, at 150-52, 157, 160, and José Carlos Sánchez Pardo, “Sobre las bases económicas de las aristocracias en la Gallaecia suevo-visigoda (ca. 530-650 d.c.). Comercio, minería y articulación fiscal,” Anuario de Estudios Medievales44.2 (2014): 983-1023. See also María Filomena Guerra et al., “The Treasure of Guarrazar:  Tracing the Gold Supplies in the Iberian Peninsula,” Archaeometry49.1 (2007), 53-74 at 60-63 and María Filomena Guerra, “The Circulation of Monetary Gold in the Portuguese Area from the 5thCentury to Nowadays,” Anejos de Archivos Español de Arqueología32 (2004), 423-31 at 425, where analyses of some Suevic and Visigothic gold pieces are taken to support local gold sourcing from northwestern Iberia rather than the south as in the case of other Visigothic gold coinage, based on Roman tradition (given the inconsistencies in the results, however, David M. Metcalf sees corroboration of the widespread circulation, melting down and re-minting of tremisses). Sánchez Pardo infers a match between the site of many Galician mints and mining activity, and reports on a sizeable trade in tin and gold which ran through Vigo. Although a map displaying locations of mints near some of the apparent gold mining sites is suggestive, it is equally impressive how many gold mining spots do not match mint placement, and vice versa (see “Sobre las bases económicas,” 993).My forthcoming book contends that the chronological and spatial patterns of currency-making, in addition to several suggestively positioned “Victory mints,” paint a somewhat different picture. His associating northwestern mints with pacts made with local and regional potentates is nevertheless intriguing, and alluvial mining in the region merits further investigation. I propose one obvious question: If the Visigothic monarchy had such a source of gold at hand just as the need for coin production in the kingdom increased, why would it sell (or allow to sell) much of the gold and resort to considerable currency adulteration in Baetica and elsewhere?

[40] Pliego (La moneda visigoda, v. 1, 229) observes the great number of dies in use and supposes regular re-minting, resulting in a far greater quantity of coinage in circulation than the relatively small numbers in the present corpus seem to indicate.

[41] Jairus Banaji, Exploring the Economy of Late Antiquity: Selected Essays(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), e.g. 13 ff., presents a critique of the economic minimalism commonly applied to late antiquity. He largely concurs with Elio Lo Cascio.

[42] This was the view of Philip Grierson, who presumed that the abundantly agrarian structures of society in the Visigothic kingdom coincided with a lack of need for small-value currency (Philip Grierson, “Monete bizantine in Italia dal vii al xi sécolo,” in Moneta e scambi nell’ alto medioevo[Spoleto: Presso la sede del Centro, 1961], 35-55; cf. the discussion in Crusafont,El sistema, 95).

[43] Teresa Marot, “La península ibérica en los siglos V-VI: consideraciones sobre provisión, circulación y usos monetarios,” Pyrenaenos. 31-32 (2000-2001): 133-60, at 134 et passim.

[44] Coppers were probably municipal issues emitted mostly in Seville and perhaps in Málaga, Córdoba and nearby locations, possibly as well as along the eastern coast between Cartagena and Valencia. See Ruth Pliego, “The Circulation of Copper Coins in the Iberian Peninsula During the Visigothic Period:  New Approaches,” Journal of Archaeological Numismatics5-6 (2015-2016), 125-60. On copper coinage more generally see Marot, “La península ibérica,” 135-46. Imitation bronzes produced into the sixth century are associated with urban areas such as Barcino, Tarraco, Iluro and the Balearic Islands. Both these low-value imitations as well as their imperial models were often of low weight. Carthage was the source of the majority of the Byzantine coinage, though some arrived from Constantinople and, after the Byzantine incursion of the mid-sixth century, Carthago Spartaria (Spanish Cartagena).

[45] Lauro Olmo Enciso and Manuel Castro Priego, “Coins, Cities and Archaeological Contexts in the Centre of the Iberian Peninsula between the 6th and 8th Centuries ad: Reccopolis and Toledo,” in Numismatica e archeologia. Monete, stratigrafie e contesti. Dati a confronto, ed. Giacomo Pardini, Nicola Parise and Flavia Marani (Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2018),  557-71, esp. 564.

[46] Separate circulation may result from the underlying habit of hoarding gold rather than bronze because of the major differences in value. So, the two species did not circulate together, but at some sites gold as well as bronze coins are found in various places.The gold-bronze relationship can be seen from the anthropological perspective of spheres of exchange (different media of exchange used in different kinds of transactions for practical purposes, perhaps even among different social levels as Polanyi ascribed) or something like the system documented in Late Roman Egypt, where bronzes provided the means for making small transactions tally up to large enough values to equal gold currency. My thanks to David Yoon of the American Numismatic Society for his helpful observations on these matters.

[47] Marot, “La península ibérica,” 137. Pliego, “The Circulation of Copper Coins,” 142-44.

[48] Jocelyn N. Hillgarth, The Visigoths in History and Legend(Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2009), 12 n. 30. Iberian integration within the late ancient Mediterranean is emphasized on several counts in Hispania in Late Antiquity: Current Perspectives, ed. Kim Bowes and Michael Kulikowski (Boston and Leiden: Brill, 2005). An example of the economic significance of contemporary copper-based currency across the Mediterranean is provided by Florin Curta, “Byzantium in Dark-Age Greece (the numismatic evidence in its Balkan context),” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies29 (2005), 113-146, at 113: “Instead of signalising decline, low-denomination coins, especially from Athens, may point to local markets of low-value commodities, such as food, as well as to the permanent presence of the fleet.”

[49] “Beyond political frontiers again, [bronze] flowed by land and sea routes […],” an observation which applies to late Roman, locally-produced Hispanic, and Byzantine coins:  Bartolomé Mora Serrano, “Old and New Coins in Southern Hispania in the 6th Century ad,” inProduktion und Recyceln von Münzen in der Spätantike. RGZM – TAGUNGEN 29, ed. Jérémie Chameroy and Pierre-Marie Guihard (Mainz: Schnell & Steiner, 2016), 139-53, at 149. See also Marot, “La península ibérica,” 138 ff.; an insufficient number of gold finds does not allow us to determine whether foreign gold circulated widely in post-Roman Iberia, while in Gaul it was re-minted. Vandal bronzes continuing to circulate in the peninsula as well as in the Peloponnese in the decades after the Byzantine reconquest of North Africa are attributed to trade mostly because they are associated with long-distance movement of ceramics. See Cécile Morrisson, “Regio dives in Omnibus bonis ornata. The African Economy from the Vandals to the Arab Conquest in the Light of Coin Evidence,” in North Africa under Byzantium and Early Islam, ed. Susan T. Stevens and Jonathan P. Conant (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Publications, 2016), 173-198 at 196.

[50] Remissions of arrears of tributumwere granted by Ervig in 683 (XIII Toledo, Tomus;LI12.1.3) and by Egica in 691 (III Zaragoza, epil.; XVI Toledo 8). During the same period, taxes and large fines on Jews who did not convert were imposed, though perhaps of prior establishment: see Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain: Unity in Diversity, 400-1000, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1995), 134-35.

[51] Wickham, Framing, 98-102; Isla Frez, Ejército, esp. 9-22; Pérez Sánchez, El ejército. Some garrisons were probably still maintained in the new circumstances. Pliego, La moneda visigoda, v. 1, 222-24 sees taxation and minting turned more toward court personnel and ceremonial and less toward providing for military activity in the last century of Visigothic rule.

[52] The Byzantine episode is told only in the fragmentary manuscript tradition of the Chronicle of 754, on which see E. A. Thompson, The Goths in Spain(Oxford, 1969), 249 and Roger Collins, Visigothic Spain, 409-711(Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 109.

[53] See especially Luís García Moreno, Historia de la España visigoda(Madrid: Cátedra, 1989), 170-90, 332-37 and Luís García Moreno, “Estudios,” 125 ff.; Vigil and Barbero, “Algunos aspectos.” Pliego,La moneda visigoda, v. 1, 222-24 assesses the fiscal operations as a mere shadow of the late Roman system rather than transformed by a militarizing process; but see also Ruth Pliego Vázquez,“El tremisde los últimos años,” 38 suggesting some use of coinage in relation to the army even as privatization of fighting forces was occurring.

[54] Philip Grierson and Mark Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage, vol. I: 5th-10thCenturies(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 53: “Only government intervention can explain the changes in weight and fineness of Liuvigild’s reign and the two conspicuous changes in type and inscription under Chindaswinth, Recceswinth and Egica.” Furthermore, “Only the government can have laid down that the coins should bear the names of both king and mint, and not those of moneyers as in Gaul.” Recceswinth’s sub-type 1h (Miles, The Coinage of the Visigoths, 51 and 54), used in many parts of the kingdom, reverted back to an early Liuvigildan style and could not have occurred without a mandate from Toledo. The same could be said of Egica-Wittiza coins, all having on obverse two busts facing each other, yet greatly varied in style at the many mints. Egica’s minting reveals dispersion, but intriguingly trending toward very highweights. Kurt, Minting, State and Economy, Appendix I, contains frequency tables for the coins of all mints; for the behavior of the main mints – Emerita, Toleto, Ispali – see Pliego, La moneda visigoda, v. 1, 210, table 18.



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