Individual identities are constructed within a social and political framework from a combination of elements that in turn contribute to building them. The flourishing literature of the thirteenth century provides rich evidence for the construction and expression of the individual identity of great authors like Niketas Choniates, Nicholas Mesarites and other contemporaries, in reaction to the dramatic collapse of 1204, notably the prevailing nostalgia for the oecumenical/universal past grandeur of the Romaioi and the emerging conscience of their Hellenic heritage and superior culture.1 Several papers in the present colloquium and in the many anniversary ones of 2004 dealt with this subject, which lies beyond the limited scope of the present chapter. It will rather consider the Byzantine identity encapsulated on coins and seals in the first half of the thirteenth century, what seventeenth-century scholars, intent on commemorative strikes, called histoire métallique. The iconography of coins and seals is conspicuously and essentially conservative, slow to change, but it also remains a formal, undisputable and welldated expression of political self-representation and identity. The 1204 trauma that had aggravated and completed the fragmentation already underway in several regions by the 1180s led to a disintegration that naturally also affected the various coinages of the smaller successor states, including the Latin Empire. Examining their iconography allows us to follow the evolution of their imperial, royal and national identities and their transformation from purely Byzantine-modelled ones
* The special fonts used in this chapter for seal and coin inscriptions were first created by the late Professor Nicolas Oikonomides in 1986 and subsequently enriched by Glenn Ruby and the Publications Department of Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. The editors are grateful to Dumbarton Oaks’ Program in Byzantine Studies for graciously releasing these fonts for use in scholarly publications and databases.