The Venetian Ducats were gold and silver coins that gained international acceptance for the trade between Europe and Asia from the 14th century BCE to 18th century BCE. The word ducat comes from the Medieval Latin ducatus meaning “relating to a duke (or dukedom)”, and initially meant “duke’s coin” or a “duchy’s coin”. One of the most popular of ducats was the Gold Ducat of Venice.

Venice was an independent state and by the 13th century had the control of the trade throughout the Mediterranean. Much of the commerce passed through its markets and further increased its power and influence.





The first Venetian ducats are said to be struck by King Roger II of Sicily, who was also the Duke of Apulia and who, in 1140, coined ducats bearing the figure of Christ and the inscription, “Sit tibi, Christe y, datus, quem tu regis iste ducatus” meaning “O Christ, let this duchy, which you rule, be dedicated to you.”

Initially both, gold and silver coins were called as ducats. However later the gold ducats of Venice became so popular that the name “Ducat” was associated exclusively with the gold coins and the silver coins came to be called as “Grossi”.

Many evidences refer to Doge Giovanni Dandaloo as the originator of the standard Venetian ducat in 1284. However some other references point the first of the standard ducats to be struck in 1274 by the Doge Lorenzo Tiepolo of Venice with the image of the Doge kneeling before St. Mark on the obverse and the figure of Christ on the reverse. They weighed 3.5 grams and were struck in .986 gold.


Spread and Popularity:

This design of the gold Venetian ducat remained unchanged for 700 years, from its introduction in 1284 to the Napoleon takeover in 1797. No other coin design was produced over such a long historical period. The 700-year of the ducat is unique in history.

The popularity of the ducats soon spread far and wide and quickly captured the markets of Europe, Middle East, India, Egypt and Africa. The standard weight, purity and design of the coin allowed any nation of the world to trade with another and have a uniform method of payment. The specifications of the coin were the same – 3.5 grams of .986 gold.

In later years, the ducat was also struck in fractions and multiples – from as small as 1/32 ducat to as large as the extremely rare 100 ducats.

All the ducats on the obverse showed the Doge of Venice kneeling before St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice who is holding a gospel and presents a gonfalon to the doge. The legend on the left identifies the saint as S M VENET, i.e. Saint Mark of Venice, and the legend on the right identifies the doge, with his title DVX in the field. On the reverse, Christ stands among a field of stars in an oval frame. The reverse legend is the same as on Roger II’s ducats, “Sit tibi, Christe y, datus, quem tu regis iste ducatus” meaning “O Christ, let this duchy, which you rule, be dedicated to you.”[1]

The Doges of Venice who came later continued with the same design for the ducats, changing only their name on the obverse.

Later during the 15th century, the value of the ducat in terms of silver money was stable at 124 Venetian ‘Soldi’, i.e. schillings. And hence the term ‘ducat’ came to be identified with this amount of silver money as well as the gold coin. At this point, the coin was called the “ducato de zecca”, i.e. ducat of the mint, which was shortened to zecchino, after the Zecca (mint) of Venice and later corrupted to sequin.


Ducats in India:

There was an enormous expansion of trade between the east and the west during the medieval period. The trade routes generally passed through the Ottoman Empire via Constantinople or through Egypt via Alexdria.[2] The Merchants and traders brought western coins to the east.

During the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries Venice in Italy traded with the ports of Western and Southern India. The Venetian traders brought Venetian ducats, the gold coins, to India issued by Venetian rulers — Francis Lorendano, Paul Rainier and Peter Grimani.[3]

The Venetian ducats were in great demand in medieval Kerala. The Indian rulers purchased these coins as gifts for priests and scholars. As these coins bore the figure of St. Mark, they were regarded as sacred objects by the Syrian Christians of Kerala. Many Syrian Christian ladies wore necklaces made of Venetian coins.

Venetian gold coins are found from many places in India. In 1981 the Directorate of Archaeology & Museums in Karnataka obtained a hoard containing 39 Venetian ducats of nearly 9 Doges from Bartholomew Gradenigo (1339-1341 AD) to Thomas Mocenigo (1414-1423 AD). [4]

These ducats were valued in India for their reliability in gold purity and unchanging weight.



Indian imitation of the ducat.

Imitations and use in jewellery:

Because of its consistency and wide recognition, the ducats were imitated throughout its minting.  In India the ducats were also used in jewellery and often exchanged hands as dowry. The ducats were called as “Putali” because of the idol (putali) or “Potli” as these ducats were given as dowry in a string bag (potli).

The ducats became so famous with the Indians that the local imitations later had the images of Radha and Krishna or Rama and Sita / Lakshman instead of the Doge and the saint.




The ducats later found its way into the jewelry also and many were worn as necklaces. Thus many ducats are found with holes or have extensions through which they were strung.



Image for representation purpose only

For information on other Indian coins visit our website!

[1] Historic Gold Coins of the World, BURTON HOBSON, pg. 39

[2] Venetian Gold flow to India, SANJAY GARG

[3] The Hindu, Online Edition, 16th March 2002

[4] Venetian Ducats from Sultanpur, Gulbarga Dt., Karnataka, R. GOPAL

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