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Late Roman Bronze "Captives" Coins: Valentinian, Valens, Theodosius, Honorius, and Arcadius. Some rare, some interesting or attractive, a couple boring.

Curtis JJ

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Eight new additions with Captives Reverse types…

Well, not necessarily new, acq. over the past 20 years, but newly photographed (or, in one case, newly identified). I haven’t yet added these examples to my “Barbarians, Captives, and Enemies” (BCE Collection) page (I'm about to), but for some types I’ve previously posted an example or two, sometimes better ones.

Several are interesting because they’re distinctly uncommon (it can be hard to tell which are “scarce,” “rare,” or “even more rare,” since they’re not valuable, and rarely documented in commerce). Rather than go into too much detail in the first post, maybe more will come out in comments.

A few might be attractive. And some are neither. But with a specialized interest, even one's “duplicates” are rarely “just duplicates.”

In order of general “interestingness” to me at this particular moment:

1. Theodosius AE3, Thessalonica (20mm, 2.16g, 6h), c. 383-384 (or -388). Emperor in galley with Victory and bound captive. RIC 61b, Esty Type 34:


My first example of one of these. It's interesting that the larger AE2 module with the galley has Victory, but not the captive, and the smaller type adds the captive! Don't see these types very often. Luckily it's in nice shape.





Not very attractive or artistic, but these seem outright rare. I could be mistaken, of course. If so, please tell me!

Valens AE3 (17mm, 1.91g, 6h). Constantinople, 367-375 CE.
Obverse: D N VALENS P F AVG. Bust of Valens, pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed, right.
Reverse: GLORIA ROMANORVM. Emperor advancing right, dragging captive with right hand and holding labarum in left. Crosses in fields to left and right; CONSΔ in exergue.
References: ERIC II p. 1098, No. 493 (tentative) = RIC (IX, Constantinople) 41b, Subtype 7 [+/+//CONSΔ]; OCRE 41b.7 ; (Zero examples cited).
Provenance: Acq. 9 Oct 2013 from N. Hochrein (Holding History Coins) for $2.11.

Esty Reverse Type 5 for GLORIA ROMANORVM Emperor dragging captive. See also next.


3. Valentinian I AE3 (17mm, 2.82g, 6). Rome mint, officina spelled out: R.SECVNDA.


I always liked these and saved them from group lots, so I’ve got a little baggie of mixed PRIMA, SECVNDA, TERTIA, and QVARTA types, but the majority are non-captives SECVRITAS reverse types.

Esty Reverse Type 5. As Esty writes on his “Officina Numbers” page:

“Spelling the officina number out in full (PRIMA, SECVNDA, TERTIA, QVARTA) was used only on coins minted at Rome, and only for three Roman emperors (Valentinian, Valens, and Gratian) and only on two types, GLORIA ROMANORVM and SECVRITAS REPVBLICAE, during the period 364-375 AD. […]
”The varieties with the officina number spelled out are scarce or rare. In each case, the number is preceded by an "R" for "Roma", the mint city.”

The “Officina Numbers” page has a nice table showing various examples. (But note: the link from @Valentinian's Type 5 page is broken, still points to old site.)


4. Honorius AE4 with TWO Captives. Very Rare. Honorius only. Esty Type 54.


Sorry for the tiny photo!!

This is the only one of these I’ve shown before. Unfortunately, I don’t have a better photo and can’t find the bag it’s in. (Probably in the safety deposit box. Clearly, I need to organize.) A previous post here reminded me that it was actually an official Honorius captives issue (not a barbarous “three emperors” or GLORIA EXERCITVS imitation, as I first believed).


5. Valentinian AE3 (19mm, 3.03g, 12h), Siscia, 364-375.


Ref: RIC IX 5a.ii; LRBC 1275; OCRE 5A.ii; Esty Rev Type 5.

This one is more attractive than most of mine for this type. I believe it was the earlier issues that lacked all the fieldmarks which clutter the reverse and crowd the figures (but make for more types to research and collect). Maybe they were a bit larger, too? Well struck and preserved, these can be very attractive and artistic for a small bronze of the late fourth century. (The larger AE2s even more so, but these little ones usually aren’t.)

6-8. Theodosius AE3, Aquileia; Arcadius AE2, Heraclea; Arcadius AE4, Thessalonica.


None of these three are very attractive or, as far as I can tell, very scarce. Multiple emperors struck all these types and often at many different mints and with numerous combinations of control symbols (especially the Victory dragging captive AE4). Consequently, it can be quite the challenge to try to fill in a “type set” for any particular reverse or ruler – much less for all the captives types for even very short periods.

It’s nice to have very nice examples; I find it nice to also have examples of very many types.

I’d love to see others’ examples of (Very) Late Roman Bronze Coins & / or “captives coinage” – nice or otherwise!


Edited by Curtis JJ
switched out the Arcadius AE2 photo
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Here’s a couple of my favorite Theos with captives, an Arcadius and a Valentinian II. At work so don’t have time to add the attributions… pretty common coins, if anyone wants more info, I can add it later.

…and a Valentinian II version of the Theo in the post above!


Edited by Orange Julius
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20 years ago captives were some of my first purchases, in uncleaned lots any ways.


Mint: Rome
423 to 425 AD
AE 4
Obvs: DN IOHANN-ES PF AVG, Draped and cuiassed right.
Revs: SALVS REIPVBLICE, Victory advancing left, holding trophy over shoulder and dragging captive. Christogram to left.
11x12mm, 1.12g
Ref: RIC X 1920


Zeno(second reign)
477 to 491 AD
AE 3
Obvs: DN Z[E]NO P VG, Diademed, draped and cuirassed right.
Revs: S ECNO, Victory advancing left, holding wreath and dragging captive with left hand. Chi-Rho and CR to l.
13mm, 1.2g
Ref: cf. RIC X 949


Zeno(second reign)
477 to 491 AD
AE 3
Obvs: DN ZE[   ] PE Λ, Helmeted, draped and cuirassed right.
Revs: No inscription, Victory advancing left, holding wreath and dragging captive. Chi-Rho to l
13mm, 1.0g
Ref: cf. RIC X 952a

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My latest Roman coin showing a captive (which happens to be my latest ancient coin, period) isn't a bronze, but I'll post it here anyway:

Western Roman Empire, Honorius (son of Theodosius I and younger brother of Arcadius), 393-423 AD, AV Solidus, ca. 402-408 AD. Ravenna Mint. [Note that the capital was moved from Milan to Ravenna in 402 AD.] Obv. Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right [“slender bust” type; see Sear RCV V 20919 at p. 453], D N HONORI-VS P F AVG / Rev. Honorius in military attire, standing right, holding a plain military standard (a signum in the form of a vexillum, i.e., a banner draped vertically from a horizontal cross-bar attached to a pole) in right hand, and Victory on globe in left hand, his left foot set on (RIC: “spurning”) a bound barbarian captive seated left on ground with both legs visible and sharply bent at knees (bent right leg is raised upright; bent left leg lies flat on ground with left knee extending below exergue line and left foot resting against right leg*), VICTORI-A AVGGG, R-V [Ravenna] across fields and COMOB [Comitatus Obryziacum **] in exergue. RIC X 1287 at p. 328 (1994), Sear RCV V 20919 (2014), Depeyrot II Ravenna 7/1 Honorius (7th emission) at p. 188 (763 examples from mint) [Depeyrot, George., Les Monnaies d'Or de Constantin II à Zenon (337-491) (Wetteren 1996)]; Dumberton Oaks Catalogue, Late Roman 735-736 & Plate 28 [P. Griessen. & M. Mays, Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, etc. (1992); see https://archive.org/details/docoins-late-roman/page/432/mode/1up and https://archive.org/details/docoins-late-roman/page/430/mode/1up ], Cohen 44. 21 mm., 4.45 g. Ex. Collection of Egon Gerson [b. 1921; d. 2021]; David R. Sear A.C.C.S. Certificate of Authenticity dated Dec. 16, 1998, issued to Egon Gerson, No. 50AB/RI/CO/CN (“almost EF, flan slightly bent”).



*Captive type does not seem to be included in list of captive types (a)-(d) associated with RIC X 1287 (list is under RIC X 1205 at p. 318), or in expanded list of captive types (a)-(g) for RIC X 1287 at Wildwinds; see http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/ric/honorius/solidi_table.html: 

“a = captive: one leg crossed over the other [from RIC]

b = captive: two parallel legs [from RIC]

c = captive: one leg visible, more or less straight [from RIC]

d = captive: one leg visible, sharply bent at the knee [from RIC]

e (added) = captive: kneeling

f (added) = captive: sitting

g (added) = captive: one leg straight, one leg sharply bent at the knee” 

The captive type on this coin -- with both legs visible and sharply bent at knee, one of them with the knee upright and the other with the knee flat on ground -- simply does not fit in any of these categories. I have made no attempt to review the 400+ examples of RIC X 1287 at ACSearch to determine if there are any with the same captive type as mine. 

** Signifying “pure gold of the Imperial Court (COMOB)” (see https://finds.org.uk/romancoins/articles/page/slug/officina), used on Late Roman gold coins produced at a number of Western mints including Ravenna. See also https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=comob (“COMOB is a late Roman - Byzantine mintmark abbreviating the Latin, Comitatus Obryziacum. COMOB was originally a mintmark for the comitatensian mint, the imperial court mint that followed the emperor, opened under Gratian. When that mint settled down in Rome and other Western mints were opened, other mint marks were added in the field: RM for Rome, MD for Milan, RV for Ravenna, and AR for Arles. In the east they changed the mark in the exergue to indicate the mint: CONOB for CONstantinople and THESOB for THESalonica”); https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=CONOB (further explicating “Obryziacum” as follows” “The solidus weighed 1/72 of the Roman pound. "OB" was both an abbreviation for the word obryzum, which means refined or pure gold, and is the Greek numeral 72. Thus the . . . OB . . . may be read ‘1/72 pound pure gold’”). 

A different interpretation of the COM in COMOB can be found in Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990). See the entry for COMOB and CONOB at p. 65, asserting that COMOB stands instead for Comes Obryzi: “The probable explanation is that it is the abbreviated title of the official who is known to have supervised the imperial gold supplies in the western part of the Empire, the ‘Count of Gold’ or Comes Auri . . ., in the alternative form, Comes Obryzi.” The only other authority I have found who states that COMOB means something other than Comitatus Obryziacum is David Sear: see Sear RCV V at p. 15, suggesting that the COM in COMOB “possibly indicat[es] the office of Comes Auri (‘Count of Gold’), the official charged with the responsibility of supervising the Imperial gold supplies in the western provinces of the Empire.” (Presumably, given the similar wording, either Jones took his interpretation from an earlier edition of Sear, or Sear took it from Jones.)


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11 hours ago, Curtis JJ said:

or otherwise!




Valentinianus I.
364-375 AD
AE-Follis, Siscia, 367-375
Obv.. DN VALENTINIANVS PF AVG / Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev.: GLORIA ROMANORVM M / * / P, BSIS in ex, Emperor advancing right, holding labarum and grasping captive
AE, 15 mm, 2.5g
Ref.: RIC 14a



Valens (AD 364-378)
Thessalonica Mint
Obv: DN VALENS P F AVG, Bust of Valens, pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed, right
Rev: GLORIA ROMANORVUM, Emperor advancing right, dragging captive with right hand and holding labarum in left, TESΓ
RIC 9, p.176, 16b ; Kankelfitz 3



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Valentinianus I




Diademed ,bust draped and cuirassed right  ; .rSISC

RIC IX 5a ii






Pearl diademed,  bust draped and cuirassed  right, SMAQP , branch in right field

RIC IX 7b viiia






Diademed ,bust draped and cuirassed right ; A/*F/?SISC















RIC IX 26 b















RIC XI 149







Edited by mc9
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