Constantine the Great

Founder of Peace


Fvndat Pacis fundat pacis
                    Constantine as the founder of peace
Constantine the Great GLORIA PERPET
Constantine the Great Sapient Princip
A.D. 313
FVNDAT PACIS  Mars advancing right with trophy over left shoulder, captive seated behind him
RIC VII Rome 12
A.D. 313
GLORIA PERPET  Two victories advancing right, both holding wreath and branch, standard between them
RIC VII Rome 14 
A.D. 313
SAPIENT PRINCIPIS Altar with owl, spear across altar, shield to left and helmet to right.
RIC VII Rome 16


   In A.D. 313, a set of three fractional coins was issued from Rome and Trier for both Constantine and Licinius. These small coins were probably distributed to the citizens as part of the Imperial largesse. A few things may have possibly been referenced by these coins, but they obviously commemorated peace in the Empire. This time of peace was the culmination of many events—Constantine defeated Maxentius, Licinius defeated Maximinus, Constantine’s sister married Licinius and cemented peace between the two rulers, and in A.D. 313, Constantine and Licinius signed the Edict of Milan.

    The FVNDAT and GLORIA coins are half-folles1 and the SAPIENT is  a quarter-follis. This quarter follis is the smallest coin that Constantine issued. The owl on the SAPIENT coin had long been a symbol of wisdom through association with Minerva; but the owl was also a symbol of good luck. According to Zosimus, before Constantine fought Maxentius, “an infinite number of owls flew down and covered the wall.” Of course, the owls were bad luck for Maxentius!

    These coins are quite unusual in their small size and reverse messages. FVNDAT PACIS translates as the founder of peace, GLORIA PERPET means peprpetual glory, and SAPIENT PRINCIPIC is wisdom of the Prince.

“Limited series of fractional bronzes have a more personal tone, recalling, for example, the honorary epithets conferred upon the emperor.”2

piissimo ac fortissimo fundatori pacis et restitutori publicae libertatis
"to the most pious and strongest founder of peace and restorer of public liberty"

    The edict of Milan talks about "public welfare and security" and the above inscription3 says that Constantine was the founder of peace and restorer of public liberty. So the FVNDAT coinage tied in nicely with the concept of peace for the public. Mars was the god of war, but he was also the peacemaker, because ironically, war does bring peace... eventually. There is also only one way to have peace... Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum -- "Therefore, whoever wishes for peace, let him prepare for war."4 In fact Mars was often depicted holding a symbol of peace-- the olive branch. As Mars and peace are two sides of the same coin, this coin with Mars on the reverse may have been, for the Romans, an easily recognizable and understood symbol for peace-- but a peace with an always implied promise for violence.


Edict of Milan
A.D. 313

Statue of Constantine in the
            narthex of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, circa 315 A.D.

 When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, of that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts) may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation. We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion. 
    Moreover, in the case of the Christians especially we esteemed it best to order that if it happens anyone heretofore has bought from our treasury from anyone whatsoever, those places where they were previously accustomed to assemble, concerning which a certain decree had been made and a letter sent to you officially, the same shall be restored to the Christians without payment or any claim of recompense and without any kind of fraud or deception, Those, moreover, who have obtained the same by gift, are likewise to return them at once to the Christians. Besides, both those who have purchased and those who have secured them by gift, are to appeal to the vicar if they seek any recompense from our bounty, that they may be cared for through our clemency. All this property ought to be delivered at once to the community of the Christians through your intercession, and without delay. And since these Christians are known to have possessed not only those places in which they were accustomed to assemble, but also other property, namely the churches, belonging to them as a corporation and not as individuals, all these things which we have included under the above law, you will order to be restored, without any hesitation or controversy at all, to these Christians, that is to say to the corporations and their conventicles: providing, of course, that the above arrangements be followed so that those who return the same without payment, as we have said, may hope for an indemnity from our bounty. In all these circumstances you ought to tender your most efficacious intervention to the community of the Christians, that our command may be carried into effect as quickly as possible, whereby, moreover, through our clemency, public order may be secured. Let this be done so that, as we have said above, Divine favor towards us, which, under the most important circumstances we have already experienced, may, for all time, preserve and prosper our successes together with the good of the state. Moreover, in order that the statement of this decree of our good will may come to the notice of all, this rescript, published by your decree, shall be announced everywhere and brought to the knowledge of all, so that the decree of this, our benevolence, cannot be concealed. 


From Lactantius, De Mort. Pers., ch. 48. opera, ed. 0. F. Fritzsche, II, p 288 sq. (Bibl Patr. Ecc. Lat. XI).

Translated in University of Pennsylvania. Dept. of History: Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European history, (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press [1897?-1907?]), Vol 4:, 1, pp. 28-30.

This text is in the public domain.

1  For a better idea of fractionals see this page

2 This quote is from RIC VII (pg 47).

3 The Latin inscription is from the Corpus inscriptionum latinarum VI (pg 1145) and was dedicated to Constantine circa A.D. 313.

4  Vegetius in De Re Militari

The picture of the FVNDAT PACIS coin is from Ancient Imports.

The pictures of the GLORIA PERPET and SAPIENT PRINCIP coins were  taken by Doug Smith and are from Victor Failmezger's book Roman Bronze Coins.

Thanks to Steve Minnoch, whose debate over this topic made me clarify my thoughts on this subject.

page created on 8 April 2008

Constantine the Great