The portrait of Christ was a familiar sight to the people of the ancient Byzantine Empire because His image appeared on the coins they used every day. From the 10th to the 12th Centuries AD, several Emperors of Byzantium struck coins with the portrait of Jesus Christ on the front, and a cross, inscription, or likeness of the reigning emperor on the back. Most of the coins were heavily worn from decades of circulation and daily use.
The portrait of Christ first appeared on coins struck during the first reign of the Emperor Justinian II (from 685-695 AD). On this issue Christ was depicted in the familiar manner with long, straight hair and a long beard. However, on the coins of Justinian’s second reign (from 705-711 AD), Christ is portrayed with a short, curly hair and a curly, cropped beard. The reason for this transformation is still a matter of debate, but all Christ portraits on coins struck thereafter show him with his more familiar appearance.