Constantine the Great

a curious cryptogram


ROMAE AETERNAE coin from Constantine the

Constantine I
A.D. 320
20x19mm 3.0gm
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.

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."

    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

Constantine I
          votive Rome 225

Constantine I

A.D. 320- 321

19mm   3.2gm

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

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



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

last modified on 27 April 2016

Constantine the Great