Constantine V
"Copronymous",  Emperor,  741 - 775, 
"[Constantine V's] lust confounded the eternal distinction of sex and species, and he seemed to extract some unnatural delight from the objects most offensive to human sense."
Gibbon  Decline & Fall 
AV solidus of Constantinople, 764-773, officina , 4.36g, 20.3mm, 180º. Joint rule as Senior emperor with Leo IV (his son), 6 June 751 - 14 September 775.
Obv.  COηSτAητIηOSSLЄONOηЄO;  Facing busts of Constantine with short beard, on left, and similiar sized Leo IV beardless, on right, pellet and cross between them.
Rev.  (G)LE ON PAMYL;  Facing bust of Leo III, with short beard, wearing crown and loros and holding cross potent.
DOC 2d, SB 1551
Constantine's gold coinage is innovative in its association of the emperor and his heir with the founder of the dynasty, Constantine's father Leo III.

Branded with arguably the worst moniker in history by his iconophile foes, Copronymous ("Name of Shit") for having supposedly defecated whilst being baptized in 718, the hostility Constantine V evoked amongst many of his peers is evident. The ultimately victorius - and thus history writing - iconodules bitter hatred for Constantine has obscured many of this otherwise great emperor's virtues. Even though it had initiated the rebellion of his much-older brother-in-law Artavasdus which had almost kept him from ever claiming his throne, Constantine fiercely stuck with the divisive iconoclast policies of his father, Leo III.

Iconoclasm was particularly unpopular in the west. When Lombards threatened Rome, the Pope turned to the Franks for rescue rather than an heretical emperor. Popular in Anatolia, the controversy inflicted a serious decline in Imperial influence in the west.

Were it not for his religious policies and the increasing persecution of iconodules throughout his reign, Constantine might have been remembered as an extremely effective emperor. Though chronically sickly and prone to serious bouts of depression, in the military field he proved a masterful general. Constantine smashed the fledgling Bulgar state and capitalized on the civil war among the Muslims to push back the Arabs on land and sea. His allies credited his victories to a display of divine pleasure at the banishment of idolatory.

Despite these victories, his religious persecutions and confiscation of monastic properties made Constantine deeply unpopular beyond the ranks of those who had seen him on a battlefield. His monetary hoarding led to cash shortages and resultant deflation. (During his reign, we know a solidus could purchase sixty bushels of wheat, or seventy of barley.)

Whilst campaigning in 775, the fifty-seven year old emperor's limbs swelled and he was forced to lead his army from a litter. His condition worsened, and on 14th September, 775 he died at Strongylon. He was succeeded by his son Leo IV, known as "The Khazar" due to his mother, Irene's, being a Khazar princess. (She was second Khazar Empress, Justinian II also having married a princess of that tribe.) Constantine was buried with the emperors in the Church of the Holy Apostles, but his bones were disinterred in the 9th century, burned and thrown into the sea.

Constantine V "Copronymous" Though he appears on his coinage as bearded, we know from contemporary records that Constantine did not actually wear a beard. The incredibly stylized depictions on the coins of this period pay more heed to geometric design than any kind of recognizable portraiture, emphasizing the divine, not earthly, role of the emperor. To the Byzantine mind, it was the office and not the man that bore the honour: to depict the imperial figure in to recognizable a form would be too confuse this precedence.
Constantinople
AV solidus of Constantinople, 764-773, officina , 4.36g, 20.3mm, 180º. Joint rule as Senior emperor with Leo IV (his son), 6 June 751 - 14 September 775.
Obv.  COηSτAητIηOSSLЄONOηЄO;  Facing busts of Constantine with short beard, on left, and similiar sized Leo IV beardless, on right, pellet and cross between them.
Rev.  (G)LE ON PAMYL;  Facing bust of Leo III, with short beard, wearing crown and loros and holding cross potent.
DOC 2d, SB 1551
Constantine's gold coinage is innovative in its association of the emperor and his heir with the founder of the dynasty, Constantine's father Leo III.
Ravenna
DOC states "The coinage of Ravenna during the years 717-51 seems to have been scanty. No folles are known for either Leo III or Constantine V [however Sear lists one, albeit as unique], though this denomination was struck by Aistulf [the Lombard king who captured the city in 751] they are probably yet to be found." DOC also states that, as at Constantinople, were know there were different mints in Ravenna for the copper and gold coinage. Gold was struck in the palace complex which included the famous church of San Apollinare Nuovo, in the east of the city. From a writer in the 930s, when there was no longer a mint in the city, we know the copper coinage had previously been struck in a mint "in the northwestern part of the city, north of San Vitale and close to Santa Croce and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia."
Æ follis of Ravenna, 741, officina , 0.32g, 11mm, 180º.
Obv.  Crowned facing busts of Constantine and Leo.
Rev.  Large M; (cross above), (A/N/N/O) indictional year I (741) across field; (RAV).
Ranieri 833 ()
This is a curious coin. The coin depicts Constantine with his son Leo, but Leo was not crowned as co-emperor until 751, the year the city was captured by the Lombards and the exarchate extinguished. The coin was purchased from CNG, a very reputable dealer whose attributions are trustworthy. The Ranieri reference is to E. Ranieri's La Monetazione di Ravenna Antica dal V al VIII Secolo (Bologna, 2006). I've not seen this work myself but am quoting the seller's reference. I'd be very interested to see it however as this is, by all measures, a mysterious coin.
Syracuse
Æ follis of Syracuse, 751-775, officina , g, mm.
Obv.  Constantine V, bearded, on left, and Leo IV, beardless, on right stand facing, each wearing crown and chlamys, and holding akakia; between their heads cross, to left, K, to right (Λ) / Є / O / N.
Rev.  Leo III, bearded, standing. facing, wearing crown and chlamys, and holding cross potent; to left, (ЄO), to right, Δ / Є / C / Π.
Berk 864, DOC 19, SB 1569
Unlike most examples of this type, the flan here is actually not too small for the die, which usually leaves segments of the inscription missing. It is interesting to note that by the point the Sicilian mint felt no need to mark the coin with a denominational indicator, (though the mint in Constantinople was still marking its folles with an M.)This bronze issue is among the first ones to use entirely Greek inscriptions, as well as to refer to the Emperor as "Despot" (Lord) - a title that will be used occasionally through the end of the Empire, even after it was later broadened to denote the second in rank imperial office.
Æ follis of Syracuse, 751-775, officina , 2.41g, 20mm, 190º.
Obv.  Constantine V, beardless, standing three-quarter view facing wearing chlamys and holding akakia; to left, K / W / N / (S); to right, Δ / Є / C / Π.
Rev.  Leo III, bearded, standing three-quarter view facing, wearing chlamys and holding akakia; to left, (Λ) / Є / O / N; to right, (Δ) / Є / C / (Π).
BMC 34, DOC 18, SB 1568
As is usual for this type, the flan is to small for the mint die so some of the letters are off the coin. Easily mistaken with the class four folles of Leo III of Syracuse. See the note under those (Sear 1531) for the differences.
Last modified on 05 Jan 2017