Constantine the Great






A previously unrecorded reverse for Constantine I




Constantine I VICTORIA from Arles

 

Constantine I

A.D. 313

21mm    3.7gm

IMP C CONSTANTINVS P F AVG; laureate and cuirassed bust right.

VICTORIA [AETERNA AVGG NN]; Emperor on right, in military dress, holding spear, receiving palm branch from Victory; kneeling figure between them [holding offering].

In exergue SARL

RIC VII Arles —





    The coin pictured above is a previously unknown reverse type for Constantine I. For people interested in Constantine and his coinage, this is an exciting discovery. New types do not appear very often and, surprisingly, this example turned up on eBay.  This coin was sold as part of a group of coins on eBay in January of 2017 for $460.55. Below are pictures of the obverse and reverse of the coins from the listing.



Lot obverse
Lot reverse

Seller’s description "Lot of 6 Obvious and Very Fine Roman Coins, The Licinus is 25 mm for Reference."





 

    Though this reverse type is unrecorded for Constantine, the iconography is very similar to coins minted by Maxentius from the mint of Ostia. Below are some pictures of Ostian coinage from Maxentius for comparison.



Mexentius coins
          from Ostia
Image from Vincent Drost, Le monnayage de Maxence (306-312 après J.-C.)




  

    The mint of Ostia was closed in A.D. 312 after Constantine defeated Maxentius. Shortly after, the Ostia mint was then transferred to Arles, sometime in early- mid A.D. 313. The new Arles mint even struck two coins to mark the occasion of the transfer of the Ostia mint to Arles -- VTILITAS PVBLICA (RIC VII Arles 49- 51) and PROVIDENTIAE AVGG (RIC VII Arles 30- 32). The VTILITAS reverse depicts the mint leaving Ostia, as the prow is pointed away from the soldier, so it is departing; while the PROVIDENTIAE type depicts the mint arriving at Arles, since personification of Arles is greeting it and the prow shows that it is arriving. Note the similar styles of the reverse imagery with the Ostian coinage pictured above.



VTILITAS PVBLICA Arles
PROVIDENTIAE AVGG
                  Arles
VTILITAS PVBLICA - mint leaving Ostia
PROVIDENTIAE AVGG- mint arriving at Arles





 

   

 Since the style is similar to Ostia coinage, it makes sense that this coin was issued shortly after the Arles mint opened. The problem is the reverse legend is not entirely legible. The VICTORIA part is clear, but the rest is not so evident. Below is another coin from Ostia. Note how the depiction of the emperor closely mirrors the VICTORIA from Arles. The reverse legend of the Ostian coin is VICTORIA AET AVGGG NNN. Three emperors are recognized on this coin- Constantine I, Licinius I and Maximinus II. Arles did not issue any coins in the name of Maximinus II, so the reverse from Arles would be something like AVGG NN. Perhaps the kneeling figure on the reverse of the VICTORIA coin from Arles represents Maximinus II.



VICTORIA AET AVGGG NNN Ostia
VICTORIA AET AVGGG NNN   Ostia mint




        Arles did not issue any coins in the name of Maximinus II, so it must have begun striking coins circa April 313, after hostilities began between Maximinus II and Licinius I. Accordingly, the reverse from Arles would only name two Emperors-- like AVGG NN. Since it is a Victory reverse and seems to reference some type of victory, It is tempting to associate the kneeling figure on the reverse of the VICTORIA coin from Arles with Maximinus II.

 

        The reverse legend is just not certain, VICTORIA AETERNA AVGG NN (or some variation) would seem obvious based on the Ostia coin; but the legend after VICTORIA is not clear. There are several possibilities that make sense, which of course could include any variations of said legends, most likely plural for two emperors, coupled with AVGG, AVGG N, AVGG NN, etcetera. It seems the second letter in the word after VICTORIA is an "E" which helps a little, so obvious possibilities include VICTORIA AE[TERNA], VICTORIA PE[RPETVA] or VICTORIA FE[LICITAS].

 


Constantine I VICTORIA from
            Arles


 

This coin is now back in Arles at the Arles Museum of Antiquity. Hopefully it will be on display for the public soon.

 






References

 

Roman Imperial Coinage VI: Diocletian to Maximinus. London: Spink & Son, 2003.

 

Roman Imperial Coinage VII: Constantine and Licinius. London: Spink & Son, 1966.

 

Drost, Vincent. Le monnayage de Maxence (306-312 après J.-C.)

 

Ferrando, Philippe.  L'atelier monétaire d'Arles de Constantin Le Grand a Romulus Augustule (313-476)










Constantine the Great