ARMENIA, Cilician Armenia. Royal. Gosdantin I, 1298-1299. Double Tram (Silver, 27 mm, 6.05 g, 3 h), Sis. +ԿՈՍՏԱՆԴԻԱՆՈՍ ԹԱԳՈՐ ՀԱՅՈՑ ('Gosdantin King of the Armenians' in Armenian) Gosdantin, bearded and crowned, on horseback to right, his head facing, holding the reins with his left hand and a sword in his right; below, three pellets. Rev. +ԿԱՐՈՂՈԻԹԲՆ ԱՅ Ե ԹԱԿԱԻՈՐ ('by the will of God he is King' in Armenian) Gosdantin, bearded and crowned, standing facing in a long elaborate tunic, holding sword in his right hand and short Latin cross in his left; between his feet, two pellets; to lower left, three pellets. AC -. CCA -. L. A. Saryan: An unpublished silver double tram of Gosdantin I (1298-1299), King of Armenia, in: AJN 12 (2000), pp. 195-204 and pl. 26 var. (without the pellets on either side). Of the highest rarity, only the second known double tram of Gosdantin I and the first of this variety. Lustrous and of an astounding freshness, an exceptional piece of great historical interest. Minor areas of weakness and with a very light scratch on the reverse, otherwise, virtually as struck.
Cilician Armenia emerged as a strong regional power in the late 11th and early 12th centuries following the demise of the Byzantine Empire after the battle of Manzikert of 1071. In 1198/9, prince Levon II was, with the support of the Pope and the Byzantine and Holy Roman Emperors, crowned as Levon I (1198/9-1219), therefore becoming the first king of a unified Cilician Armenia. Levon and his successors played an important role in the everlasting struggles between the Byzantine Empire, the Latin Crusader Kingdoms, the various Muslim principalities and Sultanates and the Mongol Ilkhanids, but the rebellious Armenian nobles often seriously hampered the effectiveness of the Royal rule. The decade from 1289 to 1299 was especially turbulent, as it saw heavy infighting between four sons of Levon II (1269/70-1289) - Hethoum II, Thoros III, Smpad and Gosdantin I. In 1298, Gosdantin I defeated Smpad, who had overthrown and imprisoned Hethoum II in 1296. Gosdantin succeeded to the throne for one year whilst Hethoum, who had been partially blinded by Smpad, recovered from his wounds. When the latter ascended to his throne once more in 1299, Gosdantin, in turn, plotted against him together with Smpad, but the conspiring siblings were arrested and imprisoned for the rest of their lives. Gosdantin's coinage is uniformly very rare, and it is unique in showing, for the first and only time in the history of the Kingdom, the monarch holding a sword in his right hand - a remarkable attribute which undoubtedly refers to his victory in battle over his brother Smpad. It was long believed that Gosdantin, with the exception of extremely rare gold coins (only two of which are known to date), only issued silver trams and bronze kardezs. The emergence of the then unique double tram published by Saryan in 2000 therefore was a great surprise, all the more since the unusual denomination had not been struck since the death of Levon I in 1219. This and the extreme rarity of the issue indicates that Gosdantin's double tram served a ceremonial role rather than a commercial one: it may, in fact, have been struck to commemorate his accession to power and was probably distributed among his most important officers and followers. The present piece is only the second known example and the first of a new variety, with three pellets in the obverse field and five on the reverse. It is as such of the utmost importance, and the fact that the first double tram of Gosdantin ever to be offered in a public auction is in such a pristine condition makes it all the more exciting.