Caparelli hoard

Cox, Dorothy Hannah, 1893-
Numismatic Notes and Monographs
American Numismatic Society
New York
Worldcat Works




Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.


Table of Contents




By D. H. Cox

A Small XIVth Century Hoard from Boeotia

In the summer of 1927, a hoard of 125 mediaeval coins was found by peasants cultivating a field outside of Caparelli in Boeotia near Thebes. In the hoard there were fifty-three Frankish tournois, 1 Sicilian tari, and 71 Venetian soldini. Judging by the names which appear on both the Frankish and the Venetian pieces, it is probable that the hoard was buried about 1360.

The Frankish coins are all of the well-known type first minted by William Villehardouin, after his visit, in 1249, to Louis IX in Cyprus. 1 They are small billon pieces copied from the French tournois, having a cross on the obverse with the name and title of the Prince, and on the reverse a crude representation of a castle and the name of the mint at which the coin was struck (Pl. I, 1). Of the 53 coins here, one was minted at Naupactos by Philip of Tarentum; 2 five are from the mint at Thebes, one was struck by William I, 3 Duke of Athens (1280–1287), and four by Guy II, Duke of Athens (1287–1308) 4 (Pl. I, 2). The remainder are from the mint at Clarenza. At first glance the proportion of Theban coins seems small in a Boeotian hoard, but after the Catalan conquest, about fifty years earlier than the probable burial of this hoard, the Theban mint was little used. 5

The later Dukes of Athens who were foreign princes, employed Achaian currency minted at Clarenza, introducing as well a certain amount of the coinage of their respective Principalities. Of this, the Sicilian silver tari 6 (Pl. II, 12) is an example. It was minted at Messina by Frederick III of Aragon, King of Sicily, and from 1355–1357 Duke of Athens.

The Achaian coins in the hoard are:

2 of Charles II of Anjou, Prince of Achaea 1278–1285
1 of Florence of Hainault 1289–1297
1 of Isabella Villehardouin 1297–1301
4 of Philip of Savoy 1301–1307 (Pl. I, 3)
4 of Philip of Tarentum 1307–1313
5 of Mahaulte of Hainault 1313–1318 (Pl. I, 4)
19 of John of Anjou and Gravina 1318–1333 (Pl. I, 5)
11 of Robert of Tarentum 1346–1364 (Pl. I, 6)

This sequence is continuous except for a significant break between the reigns of John and Robert. Here we have a period of thirteen years (1333–1346) in which Achaian currency is not represented. The Venetian coins fill this period admirably. There are 71 of these silver soldini. Forty-five bear the name of Francesco Dandolo, Doge of Venice from 1329–1339, ten of Bartolomeo Gradenigo (1339–1340), thirteen of Andrea Dandolo (1342–1354), two of Giovanni Dolfin (1356–1361), and one coin is illegible.


Coinage From 1332–1339

Number of examples
1. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX. 8
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. Pl. I, 7, 8 8
2. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 1
3. image FRimage DAN DVLO DVX
Rev. same as above. Pl. I, 9 3
4. image FRimage DAN DVL X.
Rev. +S Mimage C VS Vε Nε T1 1
5. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX.
Rev. + v S v MARC VS v Vε Nε T1. Pl. I, 10 1
6. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 3
7. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 6
One of these coins has an erased D on the reverse
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 1
8. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX.
Rev. +: S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 1
9. image FRimage DAN DVLO DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 2
10. image FRA DAN DVLO DVX
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. Pl. I, 11 2
11. image FRimage DAN DVLimage DVimage
Rev. | : S: MARC VS. Vε Nε T1 1
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 3
13. + FRimage DAN DVLimage DVX:
Rev. probably same as above double struck. Pl. I, 12 1
Rev. +. S. MARC VS = Vε Nε T1. Pl. II, 1 1

Of these readings No. 1 appears in the Corpus as No. 28, p. 65; No. 4 (?) as No. 26, p. 65: the other readings do not occur, although 10 coins are so worn that they can be attributed to several of the types given here, or can be read as new types but only one can be interpreted as a possible parallel to a third reading in the Corpus.


Number of examples
15. image image. GRADO NIC image DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1.
Pl. II, 3 and Pl. II, 4 4
Same as No. 15 p. 68 in Corpus.
16. image image CRADO NIC image DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 1
17. + image CRADO NIC O DVX
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. Pl. II, 5 1
18. + image GRADO NIC O DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. Pl. II, 6 1

These legends are doubtful. Two of these are probably identical with No. 15 and the third may be the same as No. 17 or differ from any quoted here or in the Corpus.

ANDOREA DANDOLO 1343–1354 12 Coins

Number of examples
19. image ANDimage DAN DVLimage DVX. image in field
Rev. Pl. II, 7 1
20. image ANDR DAN imageDVLO DVX.
Rev. image S = MARC VS = vε Nε T1. image in field 1
Same as No. 16, p. 71 of Corpus.
21. image ANDimage DAN DVLO DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε NεT1. 1
There is one coin which may agree with our No. 21, or may agree with No. 52, p. 76.
22. image ANDR imageAN DVLO DVX.
Rev. Reverse as above. 1
23. + ANDimage DAN DVLO DVX.
Rev. + S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 1
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. Pl. II, 8, 9, 10 4
25. Obverse same as above
Rev. + S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. Pl. II, 11 1
26. Obverse same as above
Rev. +. S. MARC VS. Vε Nε T1. 1

GIOVANNI DOLFIN 1356–1361 2 Coins

27. image IOimageS. Dε LP imageYNimage DVX in field
Rev. +. S. MARC VS = Vε NεT1. image
No. 5, p. 84 Corpus.
28. image+. IOimageS. Dε LP image YNO. DVX.
Rev. +. S. MARC VS = Vε Nε T1. image
No 14, p. 85 Corpus.

Caparelli, where this hoard was found, lies on the road from Chalcis to Livadostro,—that is, on the main thoroughfare between two Venetian trade centers. Euboea was commercially and practically a Venetian stronghold, and Livadostro was the port on the Gulf of Corinth offering the most direct communication between Euboea and the Ionian Islands and Venice. Hence, one would expect to find signs of Venetian trading along this route. In fact, the appearance of Venetian coins here seems so natural that were it not for a combination of suspicious circumstances, no further comment would be necessary.

Chalcis was a Venetian trade center as early as the first half of the XIII century, and the port of Livadostro 8 was in use from early Frankish times,—i.e., the beginning of the same century. Yet no Venetian coins earlier than those of Francesco Dandolo are found in the hoard, although there are Frankish coins for the previous fifty years. And in spite of the quantity of Venetian money, it is notable that only soldini are found. That Achaian coins were in general use by the Venetians in their trade in Greece, may be inferred by the fact that the Venetians, remarking that Achaian currency had depreciated about one-third since the days of Prince William, talked of establishing a mint at Coron or Modon. They never, however, carried out this project in spite of the fact that the character of the coinage was in no wise altered. It is possible but not probable, that as a result of this protest the Principality ceased to concern itself with its own currency and consented to a general use of imported Venetian money to the exclusion of its own.

In 1326, John of Gravina grew tired of his Greek principality and moved to Florence, where he occupied himself with furthering Angevin interests in Italy. Both he and Philip of Tarentum had incurred heavy liabilities to Florentine banking houses, especially to the great banking firm of Acciajuoli. In 1331, Niccolo Acciajuoli, then a youth of twenty-one, was sent to the court at Naples. His remarkable ability and tact at once secured him the favor of the Angevins. He especially ingratiated himself with Catherine, titular Empress of Constantinople, who confided to him the management of all her affairs and the direction of her children's education, and loaded him with privileges which scandal did not overlook. On the advice of Niccolo, in 1333, the Acciajuoli firm furnished 5,000 ounces of gold ($75,000) to John of Gravina, in exchange for which he made over all his rights in Achaia to Robert of Tarentum, eldest son of Catherine, receiving in return, Albanian and Epirote territories (Lepanto was excepted) and claims to which Robert or Catherine herself as widow, succeeded. Having successfully negotiated the recovery of Achaia by the house of Tarentum, Niccolo made arrangements with the bank at Florence for the transfer to himself of all fiefs and estates in the Principality which John had pledged, and bought up other mortgages to round out his holdings. He thus became a vassal of the Principality with a distinctly personal interest in its prosperity. At the direction of Niccolo, Catherine sent her financial advisor, Niccolo di Bojano, to make a report on local conditions. This report must certainly have included references to the state of the currency. To Acciajuoli, a banker, a reform in the monetary system must have seemed of primary importance.

The simplest and the usual way to bring back a depreciated coinage is to change the type. This alone would not be enough without the guarantee of reforms in Government. Such reforms would be slow and would demand the continued presence of a responsible person in the Morea. There was no resident prince, for Catherine and Robert remained in Italy until 1338, when they visited Greece accompanied by Niccolo, who, also, was unwilling to live there since his principal interests still lay in Italy. It was desirable to do something which would be more immediately effective than establishing a new type or reinstating the old. What was needed was a ready supply of money of unquestionable purchasing power. To Niccolo, who was unscrupulous as well as clever, it may well have occurred that the most expedient solution of the question was to supply just this. He had the mint at Clarenza to use, and the not too well known Venetian soldini (introduced in 1332, only the year before) to serve as models. The satisfaction of coining money in his own name might deter some princes from entertaining such a scheme,—a consideration of no weight here, for Catherine was completely under Niccolo's spell and he was apparently able to convince her that her name on some poor debased coins could add no glory to one who already styled herself Empress. She no doubt, also saw the advantage of immediate returns. At any rate, no coins bearing her name are known. It is most unlikely that the mint at Clarenza con- tinued to mint the coins of John after the purchase of the Principality in 1333. There are comparatively few coins of Robert known. Certainly not enough to account for an output over a period of thirty-one years, (1333–1364) and a few even for his actual reign of eighteen years. It is also possible that from 1333–1346, the mint was idle. But when we realize that Niccolo, by birth and training a financier, was at that time the most active and able person interested in the affairs of the Morea, this too seems highly improbable.

The alternative is to assume that some other coinage was minted at Clarenza. This may well have been the soldini of Venice. That the soldini of Francesco Dandolo were freely counterfeited there is no doubt and that these forgeries were cleverly executed is evinced from the fact that none has ever been recognized as such. 1 This is exactly what one might expect if Niccolo Acciajuoli undertook such a scheme. He would do the thing thoroughly. We may suppose that he found capable engravers, probably Italians, and set them to work. He also insisted that a fair percentage of silver be employed. Having embarked on this enterprise, he looked after it himself until the end of his baillie in 1341, and possibly until the death of Catherine in 1346, when his interest would naturally have become less keen and the false coinage would have been well established. Then Robert, weaker and less under the influence of Niccolo, became sole ruler. His vanity demanded coins bearing his own name and he again minted the old Achaian tournois. But the success of the Venetian money was so great that he not only continued the output of soldini, but according to Lambros and Schlumberger, added to them the sequins of Andrea. In fact, we may suppose things were going so well that he could not resist putting his own initials on the new coins. With the withdrawal of the active supervision of Niccolo, the Italians, having trained local engravers, would gradually have left, so that only Frankish workmen would have remained at the mint. The engraving rapidly deteriorated until the blatant forgeries of the soldini of Laurent Celso were the final result. This seems a fair assumption from historical evidence and is further borne out by the coins themselves.

The soldini were first minted by Francesco Dandolo. In 1332 the Senate 12 passed a decree creating two new types of money in the Republic, the messanino and the soldini with which we are here concerned. This coin, as described in the Corpus Nummorum Italicorum-Veneto, Part I, has on the obverse the name and title of the Doge encircling a field in which,

"Doge in cap and cape is kneeling to left holding in both hands the standard with cross, the banner is turned to right and on the banner are 3 dots; no circles."

Reverse: The words "S. Marco Veneti" and in field "lion rampant to left holding in fore-paws standard with banner to right, on banner three dots; circle separating field and inscription."

All of these Venetian coins are silver, about .67 fine but varying considerably in weight. In workmanship they are incomparably superior to the Frankish tournois of John and Robert, with which they are contemporary. On the best of the Venetian pieces, the lettering is executed with great precision; the drawing of the figure of the Doge is good, the detail fine, and the modeling of the head careful, even minute. The lion on the reverse is not quite so successful.

In handling the Venetian coins there is a perceptible difference in texture. They can be divided into two classes,—those that feel "resistant" and those which have a "soapy" feeling. There is also a slight difference in color. On being analysed, the "resistant" coins assayed 69.73% silver, 28.08% copper; the "soapy" and paler, 60.70% silver, 36.77% copper.

Papadopoli gives Ca. 67% silver as proper for the soldini of Francesco Dandolo, Bartolomeo Gradenigo and Andrea Dandolo.

The coins of Francesco, in this hoard, can be divided into 17 "resistant" and 28 "soapy."

The average weight of the first is 0.92 grammes. This difference in weight can be accounted for in part by wear and cleaning. In cleaning by acid a certain amount of base metal might have been removed, but little if any silver, so that we may assume that when new these coins approximated Papadopoli's figure both for weight and silver content.

These coins belong to the following categories according to inscription:

No. Coins
1 5
3 3
4 1
6 1
7 2
9 1
11 1
and 3 unclassified.

In spite of only five of these, those of class no. 1, being represented in the Corpus readings, there is nothing in the character of the coins not represented to make their genuineness questionable.

The coins of Bartolomeo Gradenigo consist of three which are "resistant" and seven "soapy." The first are heavier averaging Ca. 0.93 gr. as against 0.91 gr., and all three belong to category No. 15, again the only variety given in the Corpus.

The coins of Andrea Dandolo are more difficult to divide into classes. Nos. 1 and 2 of the category are purer silver and belong to the new type created in 1353, and are certainly genuine. The other ten seem to vary but little in texture. Two of these are badly clipped and weigh only 0.81 gr. and 0.85 gr. The others are distinctly heavier than those of Francesco. The average is 0.95 gr. with two weighing 1 gr. and 1.025 grs. respectively. The weight of the individual coins is of little significance. The soldini cited in the Corpus vary greatly in weight,—for instance, those of Francesco range from 0.77–1.02 gr., and those of Andrea from 0.85–0.95 gr. Both coins of Giovanni Dolfin are of the pure silver type and unquestionably genuine. On the majority of the "soapy" coins of Francesco Dandolo and Bartolomeo Gradenigo, and on most of the coins of Andrea, the lettering is less good than on the coins which we class definitely as "resistant." The spacing is irregular. The letters themselves are heavier, the broad lines broader, the fine lines not so fine. The small terminating lines of the main strokes are not short, straight and of uniform width, but long, curved and tapering so that in place of the tidy latin M or A we have something of this sort, image or image. In Ns and Ms the cross bar is horizontal, missing, or sloping up from left to right. Also the little end stroke often does not finish off the other at all, but crosses it casually toward the end, as in image. The size of the letters is frequently far from uniform. On coins with such lettering as I have described, the figure of the Doge is also less well done. The collar and ermine border of the cloak are strongly emphasized and the face slighted. The lion too, deteriorates—the line of the tail is frequently broken, as is also the standard. In some cases the free, almost florid character of the letters extends also to the E—compare image with image. There are other variations such as the use of )(= instead of the single dot, and a banner with two dots in field, or no field at all.

There seems nothing suspect in the many new combinations of legends. All are possible. There are no errors (the erased D is not an error but a correction), but the generally poor character of the lettering on the coins of low assay does seem to me significant. In this whole series it is, almost without exception, only the S (which is comprehensible), N and M that seem troublesome to the engraver. On the Frankish coins the N was frequently represented by two broad parallel lines. The connecting line, if indicated, was not necessarily horizontal. This was of no particular moment as the two vertical strokes were indication enough of the character of the letter. No confusion was possible. The H was always written image, the M as image. On the eighteen coins of John of Gravina, only three times does the line slope down clearly from right to left in the N; on the eleven coins of Robert, only twice. The usual form which the N on these coins takes is image, very much as the N and M both appear in the Venetian and soldini in question. The character of certain of the other letters is somewhat florid, and not unlike the Frankish pieces,—notably the image mentioned and the image.

This can be seen readily by an examination of the coins on Plates I and II. Nos. 3 and 6, Pl. I, illustrate the best of the Frankish coins contemporary with the Venetian in this hoard. Both in quality of workmanship and material, they show a marked deterioration from the earlier Frankish pieces (Pl. I, Nos. 1, 2, 3) and their inferiority to the Venetian is striking. Pl. I, No. 7, illustrates a soldino of Francesco Dandolo, which is without doubt genuine. Pl. I, Nos. 8–12 inclusive, and Pl. II, Nos. 1 and 2, show others of the same Doge. The character of these is more doubtful. In the same way Pl. II, No. 3 is a probably genuine coin of Bartolomeo Gradenigo, and the three following (Nos. 4, 5 and 6) are less certainly attributable to the mint at Venice. No. 7, Pl. II is one of the new type of Andrea, and of high per cent silver. Nos. 8–11 (Pl. II) are of the old type and not so certainly genuine.

We know that the coins of Francesco Dandolo were freely counterfeited. 16 A decree of the Quarantina, Nov. 17, 1338, prohibited the soldini manufactured in great quantity in Slavonia and elsewhere in imitation of the Venetian ones, and ordered the public officials to confiscate and destroy them. Shortly after, on the 18th of January, 1339, this and other penalties of the law were recorded against those who had and held knowingly "moneta de soladini mala et falsa." Finally, in May, 1339, the Senate took up the matter. In the time of Andrea 17 Dandolo, the gold sequins were imitated. Lambros published some which M. Schlumberger agrees should be attributed to Robert of Anjou and the mint at Clarenza. This attribution is strengthened by the find of a gold florin bearing the inscription R.CLAR. The sequins are characterized by the uneven quality of their gold, some having a high percentage of silver added. There are errors in the legends, and finally the addition of the letters, K, KO or R which are interpreted as the name of Robert. There is also one silver matapan of Andrea with the initial R. and several degenerate soldini of Laurent Celso (1361–1365) without the distinguishing initial which these authorities have also attributed to Robert at Clarenza.

Although doubt has been cast on the attribution of the silver matapan to Robert of Clarenza, since it corresponds so perfectly in style to the matapans of Francesco Dandolo, and these so often fail to show an initial F in the abbreviation FRA., and although the advisability of interpreting K.O. as R.O. is questionable, the florin and the soldini of Celso are still evidence of the unlawful activities of the mint at Clarenza.

If extended forgeries were being perpetrated during the time of Francesco Dandolo, and again when Andrea Dandolo and Laurent Celso held office, we may reasonably assume that they continued in the four intervening years when Bartolomeo Gradenigo was Doge. This evidence of forgeries, coupled with the doubtful character of the coins in this hoard, and the general state of the Morea at this time, and considering that the activity of the mint at Clarenza is unaccounted for during thirteen years and runs below capacity for another eighteen years, does seem to make fairly clear that here we have the previously unidentified forgeries of Francesco Dandolo, and similar forgeries of the coins of Andrea Dandolo and Bartolomeo Gradinigo, and that all are from the mint at Clarenza.

End Notes

1 Coins had previously been struck before this date at Corinth. This grant, therefore, seems to have been permission to mint coins of the same type as the French and of legal parity with them.
2 See Schlumberger, Numismatique de l'Orient Latin, p. 337.
3 See Schlumberger, Numismatique de l'Orient Latin, p. 338.
4 See Schlumberger, Numismatique de l'Orient Latin, p. 338.
5 See Numismatic Chronicle 1923, Vol. III, pp. 47H. Here Lord Grantly publishes some Catalan coins which seem to be from the Theban mint. Such coins are very rare.
6 This coin is similar to one illustrated in Heiss. Pl. 117, No. 1.
7 See Schlumberger, pp. 315–326
8 It was from here that Guy I sailed for the court of France in 1259.
9 Papadopoli, Le Monete de Venezia, p. 158.
10 Papadopoli, Le Monete de Venezia, p. 000.
11 Papadopoli, Le Monete de Venezia, p. 161.
12 Papadopoli, Corpus, p. 65H.
13 Papadopoli Corpus, p. 68H.
14 Papadopoli, Corpus, p. 71H.
15 Papadopoli, Corpus, p. 84H.
16 Papadopoli, Corpus, p. 160.
17 Schlumber id. p. 319.321








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