Billon Coinage from Trier


Constantine the Great VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP billon coin
Licinius IOVI CONSERVATORI AVG billon coin
Maximinus SOLI INVICTO COMITI billon coin
Constantine 
RIC VII Trier 208A (in error)
VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP
two Victories standing, facing one another, together holding shield inscribed VOT PR on altar
Licinius 
RIC VI Trier 825
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVG
Jupiter head left, right holding thunderbolt, left transverse sceptre, seated on eagle standing right with wings spread.
Maximinus
RIC VI Trier 826
SOLI INVICTO COMITI
Sol, radiate, naked to waist, standing with head left in facing quadriga, right raised, left holding globe and whip.

 

    The billon (roughly 25% percent silver)1 coins above were minted circa 313 A.D. in Trier. Trier was the capitol of Constantine's Gallic Empire, so it would be expected to issue special coinage, like these billon coins. These coins, or Festmünzen, may have been issued to celebrate the short-lived reconciliation of the three Augusti following the defeat of Maxentius in 312. Bruun erroneously listed the Constantine coin as RIC VII Trier 208A.2 The reason that this is in error, is that the billon coinage of 313 was struck by only one officina--so the exergue for the billon coins always reads PTR. This could translate as "struck (percussum)for Trier" or "money (pecuniae) from Trier". In 318 though,when Trier struck base coinage, it had two officinae, so the coins have PTR and STR in the exergue-- prima and secunda or first and second officinae. The reason for the confusion is that the VLPP was re-issued in 318 after a re-tariffing. The 25% billon coinage was short-lived and the coins became debased, with as little as 1-2% silver. In 318, Constantine re-tariffed the coins, giving them 3-5% silver. The VLPP was re-introduced as part of this new higher silver content base coinage. This makes a lot of sense, since many people already associated the VLPP with higher silver content because of the billon issue. So because of the P and S officinae marks, Bruun listed the billon Constantine coin with the later base coins that looked pretty much the same as the billon issues (especially if the base coins were silvered). Maximinus never had a base coin issued though, as he committed suicide after a failed coup attempt in 313. Bruun also listed a bronze medallion with VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINCIPIS PERPETVI (RIC VII 208) with the 318-319 issue, but in the footnotes said that Alföldi thought that this medallion should be dated  immediately after the battle of the Milvian Bridge.3 It seems more likely that this medallion was struck in 313 and was associated with the billon coinage.

    It is interesting that two of the emperors were associated with gods, but Constantine was not. This may be an early effort on Constantine's part to move away from the pagan religion. Constantine was always depicted wearing a helmet on all the VLPP coins (except for a very rare issue from Arles). The helmet itself was an important symbol and on some rare issues from Siscia even has a chi-rho in the cross-bar. The helmet portrays the one that Constantine wore at the battle of the Milvian Bridge and could be associated with his religious policies.
 

    The twelfth Panegyric tells about the gifts that the Senate awarded Constantine after his victory over Maxentius (Paneg. Lat. XII, 25.4). He was given a statue, a shield, and laurel crown. The VLPP coinage might allude to these gifts. The reverse has a shield. On some of the post 318 busts, Constantine’s helmet is laureate. The exact type of statue that the senate gave to Constantine is unknown, but it seems likely to have been a victory type. This is all speculative, but interesting!
 
 


Suggested reading

Andreas Alföldi, The Conversion of Constantine and Pagan Rome. Translated by Harold Mattingly. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
 



1  this article explains the analysis of the coins and subsequent dating: Barrandon, J. & J. P. Callu & C. Brenot. "The Analysis of Constantinian Coins (A.D. 313-40) By Non-Destructive Californium 252 Activation Analysis." Archaeometry 19 (1977): 173-186.

2Roman Imperial Coinage Volume VII. Spink & Son, 1997, pg 181.

3 Ibid., pg 181.
 
 

These coin images are from CoinArchives.com

last modified on 28 July 2007