Description:In AD 324, twelve years after legalizing Christianity, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great transferred his capital to Byzantium which became Constantinople "New Rome." The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered on the capital of Constantinople and ruled by Emperors in direct succession to the ancient Roman Emperors. Although Greek was the main language spoken here, the Byzantine citizens still referred to themselves as Romans. The Empire was a cradle of Christianity and a major trade center. It helped to shield Europe from Muslim expansion and provided a stable currency for the region. The Empire also preserved much of the literary works and scientific knowledge of ancient Greece, Rome and many other cultures.
This 12th century coin features the nimbate Virgin Mary enthroned, while wearing pallium and omaphorion. She is holding the nimbate head of infant Jesus Christ before her. The reverse shows the crowned emperor Isaac II standing wearing loros with a jeweled collarpiece and divitision, while he is holding a sceptre cruciger and akakia. Isaac II was the Byzantine Emperor from 1185 to 1195. He was an inept ruler, which led to the loss of territories from all sides of the borders. In 1195, Isaac was usurped and imprisoned by his older brother Alexios III, who was proclaimed the new emperor. The Byzantine Empire would eventually recover and Constantinople continued to be the home of the Eastern Orthodox Church until the mid-15th century.