a curious cryptogram
Obv. CONSTA-NTINVS AVG helmeted and cuirassed bust right.
Rev. ROMAE AETERNAE [To everlasting Rome, fifteen yearly vows (quindecennalia)] Roma std. r., shield in lap inscribed X/V
in ex. R eros (in Greek) Q
RIC VII Rome 194
Part of this mint mark is a cryptogram, and is Greek for eros, which in Latin is amor. Amor and Roma are palindromes-- they read the same backward or forward. Amor was the secret name of Rome. This may have been an attempt by the pagan aristocracy of Rome to use the old religion of mystery and romance to confront the pro-Christian policies of Constantine.¹ The first letter in this mintmark is the Latin letter “R”, for Rome. The next symbol is a ligature, which consists of two Greek letters epsilon and rho, and then an upward sweep which transforms the ligature into the Greek letter omega. What looks like a “C’ is actually the Greek letter sigma. The last letter is the Latin letter “Q’, which is the officina, there were four workshops at this time- P, S, T and Q. The Greek cryptogram section reads epsilon rho omega sigma or Eros.
This picture shows the close relationship of the temples for Venus and Roma located in Rome.
Romans were fond of palindromes, and there is a famous example
in Virgil’s Aenid (4:37), where Aeneas said to Dido that the
oracle commanded him to go to the land of his “amor”-- which
is Roma. Sidonius Apollinaris was a Gallo-Roman poet who lived
from A.D. 430-480. He was the author of a classic palindrome--
roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor, which roughly translates
as "Rome, your love will suddenly collapse in disturbances."
This mintmark was not only used for
Constantine I; it was used on coins for all the rulers at the
time. The cryptogram was also used on a series of votive coins
A.D. 320- 321
CONSTAN-TINVS AVG; Laureate head right.
DN CONSTANTINI MAX AVG laurel wreath enclosing VOT XX
In ex. R eros (in Greek) P
RIC VII Rome 225
Before & After
Andrew. The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome.
translated by Harold Mattingly. Oxford University Press, 1998, pg.
last modified on 27 April 2016