Bronze follis of Theodohad

Ostrogothic, AD 534-36
Minted in Rome, Italy

'Barbarian' coinage

Following the fall of Rome in the late fifth century, a number of Germanic kingdoms established themselves within the former Western Roman Empire. Many of these, including the Burgundians, Franks, Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Vandals, struck coins in the Roman style. All of these kingdoms were effectively independent, but most paid lip service to the overlordship of the Byzantine emperor, ruler of the former Eastern Roman Empire.

Minting gold coins was apparently regarded as a special right of the emperor, and although most of the Germanic kingdoms issued gold coins, they generally carried the name of the reigning Byzantine emperor. However, the same restriction seems not to have applied to silver and bronze coins, which generally carried the name of the local king who had them issued. Even so, the designs on most of these coins were closely copied from Byzantine coins.

Unique among these is the bronze coinage of Theodahad, king of the Ostrogoths (AD 534-36), minted in Rome, then part of his kingdom. Theodahad's coins show him wearing a jewelled spangenhelm, a helmet-like crown worn by the Germanic kings. This is a clear departure from Byzantine style, and the artistry of the design is much finer than anything to be found on contemporary Byzantine coins. Ironically, the Byzantines would have regarded Theodahad as a 'barbarian'.

Find in the collection online

More information


J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

P. Grierson and M. Blackburn, Medieval European coinage, wit (Cambridge University Press, 1986)


Diameter: 26.000 mm
Weight: 11.770 g

Museum number

CM 1847-11-8-378



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore