The year 2014 marked thirty years of creativity and achievement of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation. In 1984, the Bank of Cyprus established the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation under the main objective to encourage the research and study of Cypriote archaeology, art, history and literature, to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of Cyprus, and to promote Cypriote culture abroad, with a particular emphasis on the island’s Greek civilization.
Beginning in the 1960’s, the Bank of Cyprus has been purchasing ancient and medieval Cypriote coins from European auction houses, and in 1984, it bequeathed to the foundation, a small collection of Cypriote coins, mostly medieval in provenance, among other works of art, rare documents and antiquities. These coins formed the initial core of the collection, which – through planned and systematic purchasing – has developed into a significant specimen collection that covers the entire range of the Cypriote coinage, from the period of the city-kingdoms of mid-6th century BC to the modern issues of the Republic of Cyprus.
Included in the initial collection is a bronze coin from the Roman period that had been donated to the Bank by a member of the Board of Directors of the Group. This coin bears the legend “ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΚΥΠΡΙΩΝ” (League of the Cypriots), which was a symbol of unity among the peoples of the island; this particular coin has been the official logo of the Bank of Cyprus since 1963 [Fig. 1].
In order for the numismatic collection to be appreciated and utilised, the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation has implemented a long-term strategic plan pertaining to the preservation, conservation and enrichment of the Collection, by placing in parallel particular emphasis on research and education. In this context, the Cultural Foundation’s plan includes educational programmes, seminars, specialised lectures and periodical exhibitions, in Cyprus and abroad, and a publication programme devoted to numismatics.
The collection has developed into a Cypriote coins specimen collection through a specific programme of repatriating coins from established auction houses abroad. As a result, almost the entire spectrum of Cypriote coinage is represented, and significant and rare specimens have been acquired.
The Cypriote city-kingdoms (6th-4th centuries BC)
The Collection includes the early issues of the 6th century BC, the silver coins of king Evelthon of Salamis and his successors, as well representative series of silver coins of the 5th century from Salamis, Kition, Paphos, Lapethos, Amathous, Marion, Soloi and of unknown mints. One of the rare specimens is the silver siglos of king Baalmilk I (circa 479-449 BC) from Kition, and the silver siglos of Sasmas, king of Marion (circa 470-450 BC) presenting a lion and the legend of Phrixus.
The coinage of the 4th century BC includes silver, gold and copper issues of the kingdoms, among which the gold ¼ stater from Salamis, of king Evagoras I (411-374 BC) stands out [Fig. 2], and the silver siglos by the king of Paphos Timocharis (circa 385 BC) depicting Zeus and Aphrodite-Nemesis.
Hellenistic Period (332-30 BC)
The collection includes the coins of Alexander III, as well those of his successors and of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, all issued by Cypriote mints. Some of the rare specimens of this period are the gold octodrachms presenting queen Arsinoe and cornucopiae, and the copper coin of queen Cleopatra VI (51-30 BC), the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, depicting the queen holding baby Caesarion and cornucopiae.
Roman Period (30 BC-AD 330)
The Cypriote issues of this period are distinguished by their typology presenting on the reverse the sanctuary of Aphrodite at Paphos or the statue of Zeus Salaminios, and by the legend “ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΚΥΠΡΙΩΝ” (the league of the Cypriotes). A dupondius of emperor Geta (AD 198-212) showing the bust of the king seen from behind and a temple with the statue of Tyche, is considered among the rare specimens of this period.
Byzantine Period (330-1191)
The collection includes the copper Byzantine coins issued on the island during the 7th century and then the coins of the last Byzantine governor Isaac Comnenus. His electrum aspron trachy is considered a coin of extreme rarity. It presents Christ and the king crowned by Virgin Mary [Fig. 3].
Medieval Period (1191-1489)
The electrum bezants issued during the first 100 years of the Lusignan Dynasty are among the rare specimens of this period, particularly that of the first Lusignan king Guy de Lusignan (1192-1194). The collection includes a good variety of types of the Lusignan silver gros and gros petit. Some rare specimens of the Lusignan coinage are those issued by the usurper Amaury (1310), that of the queen Charlotte (1458-1459) and especially the gros petit of the last Lusignan king James II (1460-1473) [Fig. 4], and the gros of his wife Catherine Cornaro with their son James III (1473-1474).
Venetian Period (1489-1571)
The collection presents a series of overstruck coins by the Venetian authorities, as well as the Venetian billon carzia and sizins issued for circulation in Cyprus. The Pietro Loredano (1567-1570) sizin is one of the rare specimens. The copper coins struck by the last Venetian general-commander Marcantonio Bragadino were the last coins issued by a Cypriote mint.
Ottoman Period (1571-1878)
The collection includes Ottoman coins that circulated in Cyprus during this period.
British rule (1878-1960)
The collection includes all the types of British coins that were minted by the British for circulation in Cyprus, as well as the 45 piastre silver coin of king George V, issued in 1928 to commemorate the 50 years of British rule.
Republic of Cyprus (1960-today)
The Republic of Cyprus followed the same numismatic system of the British rule, with 1 pound equal to 1,000 mils. This system changed in 1983 with 1 pound equal to 100 cents until the introduction of euro in 2008. All these series are included in the collection, as well as the collector coins issued by the Central Bank of Cyprus.
The Collection Database: Preservation - Accessibility
In 1993, the Cultural Foundation began the digital cataloguing of its numismatic collection using a specialised software program, and in 2003 this data was made accessible on the Bank of Cyprus Cutlural foundation newly created website.
In 2009, the Numismatic Collection database was made available for the implementation of the Cyprus Numismatic Project (CNP), directed by Professor Keith Rutter, School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh. The CNP project’s aim was the creation of a website devoted to the coinages of Cypriote Kingdoms in association with the related literature and bibliography.
In 2013, the new upgraded website of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation was launched: www.boccf.org. It presents the profile, the activities, the publications, the Museums and the Collections as well as the e-shop of the Cultural Foundation. The Numismatic Collection is accessible at http://www.boccf.org/museums-and-collections/Museum-of-the-History-of-Cypriot-Coinage/collection-Items/. Also, there is a multimedia production presenting the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage at http://www.boccf.org/museums-and-collections/Museum-of-the-History-of-Cypriot-Coinage/.
In 2013, gold ancient coins from the Cultural Foundation’s collection were provided for analysis and study, under the scientific project NARNIA (New Archaeological Research Network for Integrating Approaches to ancient material studies), a Marie Curie Initial Training Network, funded by the European Union and directed by the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Cyprus.
In January 2014, the Cultural Foundation and the Cyprus Institute initiated a joint project aiming at the scientific visualisation of the Numismatic Collection, with the use of the innovative tool of RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging). This digital imaging takes place at the Science and Technology in Archaeology Research Centre (STARC) of the Cyprus Institute. The objective is to make this useful data accessible on the Internet both to the scientific audience and to the broader public. Moreover, it serves as a valuable educational tool and it contributes to the preservation of the Cultural Heritage of Cyprus.
A sample of the use of RTI imaging technology is presented at the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage, where the photographic documentation of the Roman coin with the legend “ΚΟΙΝΟΝ ΚΥΠΡΙΩΝ” (The league of the Cypriots), the coin that has become the logo of the Bank of Cyprus, is illustrated on a screen.
Exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad
In 1991, a large part of the collection was presented for the first time in an exhibition entitled “Cypriot Coinage from Evelthon to Marc Antonio Bragadino” in Athens. The following year, the Cultural Foundation presented the exhibition in Nicosia.
In 1994, in response to an invitation from the director of the Cabinet des Médailles in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, an exhibition was organised in Paris entitled “Chypre, Frontière de l’Europe: monnaies et antiques”, wherein a total of 259 coins were presented under the title, “Monnaies de Chypre d’Evelthon à Marc Antonio Bragadino”.
In 1997, the Cultural Foundation and the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki co-organized an exhibition entitled “Byzantine Medieval Cyprus”. 28 Byzantine and Medieval coins from the Foundation’s Collection were included among the exhibits. The following year, the same exhibition arrived in Nicosia.
In 2006, the Cultural Foundation and the Musée d’art de la Ville de Genève presented significant pieces from the Cultural Foundation’s Collection in Geneva in an exhibition entitled, “Chypre. D’Aphrodite à Mélusine: des royaumes anciens aux Lusignans”. 66 coins from the numismatic collection contributed to the outline of the exhibition, which illustrated 2600 years of historical continuity in Cyprus, from the mid-6th century BC through the end of Frankish rule.
In 2010-11, a selection of coins from the Collection, of the Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Medieval Periods were displayed in the exhibition "The Island of Cyprus: Crossroads of Civilizations" that was presented at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, USA.
In 2011, the periodical exhibition of the Numismatic Museum in Athens, “Our Daily Bread. How much does it cost. From Ancient to Modern Times” was adapted and presented in the premises of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation in Nicosia. The exhibition was organised on the occasion of the XVIII Meeting of the International Committee of the Money and Banking Museums (ICOMON), the meeting was hosted by the Cultural Foundation, between 10 and 13 of October 2011.
In 2014, the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage in collaboration with the Bank of Cyprus Historical Archive organised and mounted the periodical exhibition “Cyprus Banknotes. Environment-History-Folk Art. Their iconography through the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation Collections”.
All exhibitions [Fig. 6] are accompanied by catalogues published by the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation or by the collaborative Institutions (Please see Appendix).
The Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage
In autumn 1995, the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage opened its doors to the public. The Collection was now permanently displayed by revealing the history of the Cypriote coinage in a contemporary museological approach.
Until 2008, the Museum was housed in the Administrative Headquarters of the Bank of Cyprus and in 2009 it was transferred to its new location in the premises of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation in the old district of Nicosia. The Museum remains the only one of its kind in Cyprus.
More than 550 coins are exhibited in nine chronological periods: The Cypriote city-kingdoms (6th-4th century BC), the Hellenistic period (332-30 BC), the Roman period (30 BC-AD 330), the Byzantine period (330-1191), the Medieval period (1192-1489), the Venetian Period (1489-1571), the Ottoman period (1571-1878), the British rule (1878-1960) and the Republic of Cyprus (1960-today).
Each showcase has a brief introductory text enhanced by relevant illustrative material. Important coins from each historical period are illustrated in enlargement within the text, while each coin has a short explanation of measurements, weight and depicted icons [Fig. 5].
A specific showcase is dedicated to the mounting of small thematic periodical exhibitions. There have been presented subjects like: “Medieval coins of Cyprus” (2002), “Endemic plants and animals on the coins of the Republic of Cyprus” (2003), “Coins and Olympic Games” (2004), “Aphrodite on the ancient coins of Cyprus” (2005), “Influential coins of Europe from antiquity to the present day” (2007), “A small private collection of international coins. Donated by Nicos and Tasoula Pilides” (2011), “Commemorative coins of the Central Bank of Cyprus” (2012).
In the Museum premises a touch screen also presents the interactive multimedia production “From the electrum to the euro. A journey into the history of coins”.
Series of Numismatic Lectures – Publications – Multimedia productions
In 1996, the Cultural Foundation instituted a series of specialised biennial lectures, in order to encourage Cypriote and foreign scholars to study Cypriote numismatics.
The Cultural Foundation undertakes the publication of theses lectures, which are included in its general Publication Programme under the series dedicated to numismatics.
The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation within the context of its educational role produces interactive multimedia applications. In 2000 produced an innovative at the time multimedia game entitled “Opsys” that was a virtual treasure hunt game based on the presentation of coins in the museum. Other interactive applications or virtual tours followed which are also accessible on the Internet on the Foundation’s Website (Please see Appendix).
Education is a primary issue in the mission statement of the Museum of history of Cypriot coinage. Educational programmes have been organised since 1992, well before the permanent display of the numismatic collection in the museum, in 1995. Since then, the educational programmes were organised and delivered consistently and more than 70,000 students have attended. The programmes are addressed to schools across Cyprus and are delivered during school hours.
The success of the programmes is based on the fact that they manage to handle a difficult subject, the coin, in a way that fascinates and attracts students to elaborate on it, interact in a creative way and eventually learn and acquire inspiring experiences. The programmes are always accompanied by interactive activity books which are delivered under a variety of subjects such as: “Cypriot Ancient coins from king Euelthon to Alexander the Great”, “Medieval coins of Cyprus”, “Aphrodite on the ancient coins of Cyprus”, “From the first coins to the euro”, “Our Daily Bread. How much does it cost from ancient to modern times”, “Gods and Heroes”, “Cyprus Banknotes. Images and Symbols” [Fig. 7].
Participation in International Organisations
The Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage is represented at ICOMON (the International Committee for Money and Banking Museums: http://network.icom.museum/icomon/) through the participation of Eleni Zapiti, curator of the collection.1
The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation is a member of the International Numismatic Council (INC: http://www.inc-cin.org) and participates in the Congresses and in publications organised by the INC.
The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation Numismatic Publications Series
Launched in 1985, the “Numismatics” series includes Lectures on the History of Coinage. Providing a fine opportunity for the study of the history of coinage in Cyprus from antiquity to the present, it amply widens its scope to touch on the history of Cyprus itself and other topics beyond Cypriote coinage.
Pitsillides, A. 1985: Cyprus: 2500 Years of Coinage, Nicosia.
Iacovou, M. 1991: Κυπριακή Νoμισματoκoπία Από τoν Ευέλθoντα στo Μαρκαντώνιo Βραγαδίνo / Cypriote Coinage From Evelthon to Marc Antonio Bragadino, Nicosia.
Amandry, M. 1993: Coinage Production and Monetary Circulation in Roman Cyprus, Nicosia.
Iacovou, M. 1994: Monnaies de Chypre D'Evelthon à Marc Antonio Bragadino / Cypriote Coinage From Evelthon to Marc Antonio Bragadino, Nicosia.
Michaelidou, L. 1995: Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage Coin Catalogue, Nicosia.
Oeconomidou, M. 1997: Μυθολογία και Νόμισμα, Nicosia.
Kypri, Y. 1999: Η εδραίωση του Ελληνισμού στην Κύπρο την εποχή των πόλεων-βασιλείων μέσα από τα νομίσματα, Nicosia.
Touratsoglou, I. 2000: Ο Αλέξανδρος των Νομισμάτων / The Alexander of the Coins, Nicosia.
Stewart, J.R. 2002: Lusignan Cyprus and its Coinage, Nicosia.
Penna, V. 2002: Tο Bυζαντινό Νόμισμα Mέσο συναλλαγής και έκφραση αυτοκρατορικής προπαγάνδας / Byzantine Coinage: Medium of Transaction and Manifestation of Imperial Propaganda, Nicosia.
Metcalf, M. 2003: Coinage as Evidence for the Changing Prosperity of Cyprus in Byzantine and Medieval Times, Nicosia.
Tselekas, P. 2005: Αρχαίοι Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες και Νόμισμα / Ancient Olympic Games and Coinage, Nicosia.
Michaelidou, L., Zapiti, E. 2008: Coins of Cyprus From the Collections of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, Nicosia.
Markou, E. 2015: Νομισματική και Ιστορία. Η περίπτωση της Κύπρου κατά τους Αρχαϊκούς και Κλασικούς Χρόνους / Coinage and History. The case of Cyprus during the Archaic and Classical periods, Nicosia.
OPSYS, an interactive multimedia treasure hunt game, produced by Hypermedia, Nicosia 2000.
From the electrum to the euro. A journey into the history of coins, produced by Hypermedia, Nicosia 2006, accessible at the Cultural Foundation website: (http://www.boccf.org/museums-and-collections/Museum-of-the-History-of-Cypriot-Coinage/) (accessed on 24/10/2014).
A virtual tour in the Museum of the History of Cypriot coinage, produced by Hypermedia, Nicosia 2013, accessible at the Cultural Foundation website: http://www.boccf.org/museums-and-collections/Museum-of-the-History-of-Cypriot-Coinage/) (accessed on 24/10/2014).