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taler - Despot Heraclid
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~40 mm diameter, ~28.5 g, silver
Obverse inside a linear circle the bust of Jacob Heraclid, crowned and wearing an adorned armor. In his left hand is an orb and in the right hand - with gauntlet - a sword. In the field, at both sides of the bust, year 1562. The digit 2 is written as letter Z.
Latin legend: + HERACLIDIS DESPOTE PATRIS PATRIE, the words being separated by six petal roses.
Reverse inside an inner pearled circle the coat of arms of Despot Heraclid, with 16 divisions, over the shield the Moldavian urus. Above the ornate shield a bicephalic crowned eagle.
Latin legend: VINDEX ET DEFENSOR LIBERTATIS PATRIE (the words being separated by six petal roses, and letters N are mirrored)

This is not an original coin, just a reproduction, probably a cast one.

About the coins struck by Jacob Despot Heraclid

The rule of Despot Heraclid was one of the most spectacular periods of the medieval Moldavian numismatics. Gold ducats, taler, quarter taler, silver denarii and bronze oboli were struck. In spite of the large production of such coins in 1562 and 1563 at the Suceava mint, all these coins are nowadays great numismatic rarities.

The mintage of Despot taler can be estimated (C. Zwecker, E. Oberländer-Târnoveanu, Un nou taler moldovenesc emis în anul 1562 de către Despot vodă - A New Moldavian Taler Issued in 1562 by Voivod Despot, in Cercetări numismatice VIII - Researches in numismatics, 2002) based on the number of dies pairs known today: 3 for year 1562 and 4 for year 1563. With a mechanical press about 50.000 coins can be struck for each die pair. A large number of these taler are supposed to have been used by Despot to pay his mercenaries. Despot taler are mentioned in 1572 in Germany as quite common coins. Another part of the mintage is supposed to have been used to pay the tribute to the Ottoman Empire, and another part was melted by Despot successors.

About the legend inscribed on Despot taler. About the coat of arms of Jacob Heraclid

On the obverse and reverse of the coin lies the Latin inscription HERACLIDIS DESPOTE PATRIS PATRIE VINDEX ET DEFENSOR LIBERTATIS PATRIE, meaning "[coin] of Heraclid Despot, father of the fatherland, the avenger and the defender of fatherland freedom". Despot has taken the title of "avenger and defender of fatherland freedom" as he pretended to be the one who had freed Moldavia from the tyrannical rule of prince Alexander Lăpușneanu.

The 16 divisions of the shield on the reverse contain references to Despot ancestors. The following charges are used: a stone tower, a laurel tree with a serpent coiled around it, a quartered shield (charged with a cross, three horizontal bars, two fleurs-de-lis, three globules - maybe coins?), a two-headed eagle, a lion facing the viewer, walking to the right (lion passant gardant), a fish with a ring in its mouth head left, a tree, a crown with two stars above, a cross. From these nine charges, the cross and the tree appear once, all other seven symbols being used twice.

About Iacob Heraclid Despot

A true adventurer, Jacob Heraclid Despot was born in the Greek island of Samos. He was a very cultivated person, good orator and polyglot - he spoke Greek, Latin, French, Italian, German. He claimed to be descendant from Heraclius, ruler of the Byzantine Empire between 610 and 641 and thus, through his alleged kin, being related to the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules), hence the name Heraclid. In his adventurous life Despot wandered in many European countries (France, Germany, Sweden, Poland, and others) and made many personal relations with people of influence. Jacob Heraclid possessed a diploma from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, diploma that recognized to Heraclid the title of Despot and the title of count palatine.

Despot acquired the reign of Moldavia in November 1561, with the help of Albert Laski, a Protestant Polish nobleman. The troops raised in Poland entered Moldavia by surprise, defeating the ruling prince Alexandru Lăpușneanu in the battle of Verbia. "This battle [...] was represented in quite a stately picture, from Despot's order, in the palace of the fortress in Iași but then, during the siege of Suceava, the painting was competely scraped off and destroyed as all his monuments.", we are informed in monograph "Life of Jacob Despot, ruler of the Moldavians" by scholar Johannes Sommer, former professor at Schola Latina in Cotnari, monograph printed in Latin, of course.

Despot was Lutheran and, during his rule, he protected the Protestants settled in orthodox Moldavia. At Cotnari near Hîrlău he established a Latin School (the academy of Cotnari), the ruins of which can be seen even today. Despot's plans were utopican: starting from Moldavia, he wanted to conquer Walachia and Transylvania as a first step and then to drive away the Turks from Europe, eventually to become emperor at Constantinople. So, he intended to unite under his reign the three medieval Romanian inhabited principalities.

Despot Heraclid has lost Moldavia's rule - and his life at the same time - in November 1563. The boyars mutinied under the leadership of hetman Ștefan Tomșa. Besieged in the fortress of Suceava, Despot was betrayed by his mercenaries. "... princely dressed he came out of the fortress, upstream of Suceava, at Areni, where the Country was gathered to pledge homage to Tomșa." - informed us the Moldavian chronicler Grigore Ureche. This dramatic attitude did not impress usurper Ștefan Tomșa, who struck Despot with the mace, after rebuking him for the felonies commited.

"His head [of Despot] [...] was peeled and stuffed with straws, then, that sanjakbeg who came with 500 Turks, carried it to the emperor of the Turks, inside a carriage where we have seen it" - noted Johannes Sommer in his "Life of Jacob Despot, ruler of the Moldavians", book printed in 1587 at Wittemberg.

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