Princeton University Library Acquires the Chris Theodotou Collection of Byzantine Coins
From a PUL Post:
Princeton University Library’s (PUL) Numismatic Collection nearly tripled its Byzantine coin collection when it acquired 11,256 Byzantine coins from the estate of Dr. Chris B. Theodotou on March 8, 2022. The acquisition adds to the 5,280 Byzantine coins of the Peter Donald collection, acquired in 2016. Both collections were acquired with support from the Friends of Princeton University Library and the Seeger Hellenic Fund, and, together with previous holdings, Princeton now has the largest Byzantine coin collection in the world.
The coins, which are primarily issues of the Byzantine Empire between C.E. 500 and 1453, were collected by Theodotou between 1979 and 1987. According to Curator of Numismatics Alan Stahl, Theodotou was both a friend and collecting rival of Donald.
According to Dr. Charlie Barber, Donald Drew Egbert Professor of Art & Archaeology, the Theodotou additions will create opportunities for new and diverse research projects. “Political and economic history have been granted a material ground from which to develop analyses,” Barber said. “Art historians can map the changing iconographies of power. Religious studies can contemplate the political play of the holy. We are truly fortunate to have a resource that can embrace the interests of so many and that can be put into conversation with communities and scholarly strengths already present at Princeton.”
Stahl mentioned the coins from Heraclius’ reign from 610 to 641 C.E. as notable examples of the stories the collection can tell. During his leadership, the Byzantine Empire was attacked by both the Sasanian Persians and the Arab. Adding to his status as a usurper of imperial power, these challenges created a need for him to spend much of his reign restoring legitimacy, a process which is detailed on the coins.
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