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Very Rare Issue of Interest to Both Byzantine & Crusader Collectors

250, Lot: 390. Estimate $300.
Sold for $710. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Theodore Gabras. Duke of Trebizond, circa late 1080s-1126. Follis (24mm, 3.80 g). Struck circa 1092-1098. [O (with central pellet/ Θ] downward to left, [Є]/O/Δ downward to right, facing bust of St. Theodore, bearded and nimbate, wearing tunic, breastplate, and sagion, holding spear and shield / Cross with pellet at each extremity. Bendall, “The mint of Trebizond under Alexius I and the Gabrades,” NC 1977, issue 10; SB -; DOC 10. Good Fine, dark green patina. Very rare.

The region of Trebizond had been captured by the Turks following the disastrous battle of Manzikert. In 1075, soldier and nobleman Theodore Gabras defeated the occupiers and returned the region to Christian hands. Gabras afterwards ruled over the region, regarding it as his own private domain, while still maintaining at least nominal allegiance to the emperor. Accordingly, Constantinople kept close watch over him and held his son Gregory hostage. In 1091, after requesting in Constantinople to have his son returned to him, Theodore, in a remarkably bold move, implemented a plan to sneak himself and Gregory back to Trebizond by merchant ship. This open act of rebellion against Alexius I was followed by swift action and the two were tracked down on their return journey. Under the circumstances, Theodore had no choice but to send Gregory back to Constantinople. He himself was allowed to return to Trebizond.

While some of Theodore’s coinage was struck in the name of Alexius, Bendall argued that this issue was struck in the years following his failure to recover his son, when tensions between the duke and emperor were at their highest, and that the figure of St. Theodore is little more than a thinly veiled portrait of the duke himself. He finds support of this in issues of Tancred (see CCS 4), Regent of Antioch in the early 12th century, which were inspired by Theodore’s type. As Tancred’s issue names the figure as such, Bendall posited “perhaps it was also generally recognized at the time that the prototype also, although described as St. Theodore, was similarly a portrait of Theodore Gabras, at least in popular belief.”