Diameter: 10.000 mm
Weight: 5.170 g
Gift of Dr F. Parkes Weber
Coins and Medals
Gold augustale of Emperor Frederick II, as king of Sicily
Sicily, AD 1231–50
A retrospective coin which began a revival
In the early Middle Ages most of western Europe had been confined to coinage made of silver. Some Christian lands which bordered on the Islamic world, such as the Spanish kingdoms, Sicily and the crusader states, had better access to gold, which mostly came from sub-Saharan Africa. They could produce gold coinage, but they normally copied Islamic designs. However, in the thirteenth century they began to use more self-consciously European designs.
The kingdom of Sicily was a pioneer, under Frederick II (reigned 1197–1250 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1220). From 1231 Frederick, whose life earned him the nickname Stupor Mundi ('Wonder of the World'), supplemented Sicily's small, Islamic-style gold tari with a splendid new coin, the augustale. The high relief portrait and imperial eagle makes them strongly reminiscent of classical Roman coinage. The clearly western design was intended to attract admiration for their issuer. The coins became familiar in Italy and prepared the way for the revival of gold coinage in western Europe which began in 1251–2.
P. Grierson, Coins of Medieval Europe (London, Seaby, 1991)
H. Kowalski, 'Die Augustalen Kaiser Friedrichs II', Revue Suisse de Numismatique, 55 (1976), pp. 77-150
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)