Constantine the Great

a curious cryptogram

ROMAE AETERNAE coin from Constantine the Great

Constantine I
A.D. 320
20x19mm 3.0gm
Obv. CONSTA-NTINVS AVG laur. helmet, cuir.
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 r3

  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 “Q’, which is the officina. The Greek cryptogram section reads epsilon rho omega sigma or Eros.

diagram of the EROS mintmark.

temple of Venus and Roma

This picture shows the close relationship of the temples for Venus and Roma located in Rome.

    The 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."


Before & After

before and after cleaning pictures of a ROMAE AETERNAE coin from Constantine the Great

This coin was in rough shape when I bought it. I could tell there was nice detail, but there were also many problems. There were a few red blisters where the corrosion was especially bad. I started with electrolysis, which was not removing the blisters of corrosion. I finally completely stripped it using a dremel with a brass cup brush. I re-toned it with Dellar's. The surface is a bit rough, but the detail is very sharp.


¹Alföldi, Andrew. The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome. translated by Harold Mattingly. Oxford University Press, 1998, pg. 80.

last modified on 26 April 2008

Constantine the Great