TYRANTS OF THE TYRRHENIAN & ADRIATIC SEAS
The lagoon of course is the long, relatively calm body of water known today as the Adriatic Sea stretching along the entire eastern side of Italy. Its dominant city is Venice, located at the northern end of the sea, which enabled the settlement to flourish by trading through the centuries with other cities and even distant civilizations reached by ship. The earliest coin in this section of the collection was made in the 9th century. It was followed by four centuries of coins made of gold called ducats, issued by the doges of Venice (one of the few complete collections of these coins), and concludes with a coin made in the 19th century by an Austrian king who briefly controlled Venice and its surrounding territory.
Presented here is the finest and only complete set of Venetian Gold Ducats in private hands. The importance of this collection cannot be overstated, and this is the first time a complete set has been exhibited outside of the Vatican.
The city of Venice was founded by refugees seeking freedom from the Lombard invaders of northern Italy after the collapse of the Eastern Roman Empire. These people organized themselves within the safety of the marshes of the Po estuary under a leader they called the ‘Doge’.
Giovanni Dandolo (1280-1289) who issued the first ducat from Venice which became the dominating gold currency of the Middle Ages for the next 500 years. No other trade coin can boast such a continued uninterrupted dominance as these gold Venetian ducats, later called Zecchino.
Venice, being strategically located at the head of the Adriatic, became a trade link between Europe and Asia and throughout the centuries became the commercial center of Europe. Venice also played an important role during the Crusades, serving as the commercial port for the crusaders on their way to Constantinople. Venice became one of the most important cities of the Middle Ages thru the Renaissance influencing art, architecture and literature.
By the late 12th century, Venetians knew that if they wanted to spread their influence and power they needed to make a currency which would be widely accepted world-wide. The coin introduced for this purpose featured the ruling Doge, Giovanni Dandolo. He is depicted n the obverse kneeling before St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice while the reverse shows Christ in glory accompanied by an inscription ‘Lord, thou rulest this duchy, to thee be it dedicated.’ It is from the last word of this legend that the coin derived its name, the ducat.
Doge after Doge struck this ducat, without dates, but retaining throughout its original weight (3.5 grams) and fineness of better than 98% pure gold.
William Shakespeare’s most famous play The Merchant of Venice is set in Venice. This being a story of love, money and greed. Jew Shylock, a central character in the play, helped to spread the anti-Semitism building in Europe which lead to the Inquisition and expulsion of so many Jews.