What is in a name? Many late Byzantine reference works refer to the sweeping and varied statelets that existed after 1204 within the old territory of the defunct pre-fourth-crusade Byzantium as one ”empire”. A wide ranging group of peoples at war who didn’t share boundaries, administrations, ecclesiastical structures, or allegiances are lumped into one catch-all state. The complexities and inter-dynamics of this era are washed away in a Palaeologan tinted hindsight that paints an inevitable picture of Constantinopolitan based decline to the Turk. Theodore Komnenodoukas and his Thessalonican based successors would be surprised to find themselves presented as contiguous with their rivals. The great Komnenids of Trebizond were proud of their independent heritage and even outlived the Palaeologan Byzantine state.
Who is to grant or deny entrance to the post 1204 Byzantine “empire” and what grounds? What qualifications allow a state to enter this fold and others to be rejected. As a numismatist, entrance factors into the late Byzantine category might look different than other branches of the field. Traditional players within the late “Byzantine” empire are first and foremost the Palaeologans. Second class statelets admitted are the Thessalonicans, Epirotes, Latins, and Trebizonians. Why should the Bulgarians, for example, who ruled in Byzantine style and minted Byzantine trachea be considered as separate from the numismatic issues of Latin Constantinople, Nicaea, Thessalonica, Palaeologan Constantinople, and Trebizond? Before one embarks on the journey of late Byzantine numismatics, it is of the upmost importance that these terms are defined. And how should an author begin to write a reference work when the very names used in field imply or exclude valid groups. The late byzantine numismatist must challenge his or her conceptions before engaging the field.
For the myriad of reasons shared above, I have decided to name this database ”Coinage of the Late Byzantine Realm”. Realm, unlike empire, implies no single state. Rather, the term serves to highlight those regions, kingdoms, fiefs, states, and empires that full under the shadow of the once mighty Byzantine empire, whose state was destroyed in 1204 and whose cultural influence slowly faded from center stage.