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A new Late Roman gold Solidus


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We already have a thread on the subject of Byzantine solidi. But I couldn't find one specifically on the subject of what can be called the "Late Roman" solidus, issued during the first 100 years or so following the introduction of the denomination by Constantine I circa  309-310 AD (see https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Solidus ), and continuing into the 5th century, up to the indeterminate and somewhat arbitrary point when the iconography can be fairly characterized as more "Byzantine" than traditionally Roman. However one defines the term "Late Roman," I think my new solidus of Valens that just arrived the other day clearly qualifies as such, so I decided to begin a new thread for the subject.

Valens (younger brother of Valentinian I, reigned as Emperor in East AD 364-378), AV Solidus, Treveri (Trier) Mint, 1st Officina, issued 376 - mid-377 AD after death of Valentinian I [see Depeyrot pp. 77, 121]. Obv. Pearl-diademed (with double band of pearls held by single rosette gem at top), draped, and cuirassed bust right, DN VALENS – PF AVG / Rev. Valens & Gratian enthroned facing in single large throne, each with left leg uncovered and right hand on a globe between them; above and behind, Victory facing with wings spread; palm-branch on ground between them; VICTOR – IA AVGG around; in exergue, mintmark TROBC [TR = Treveri Mint; OB = “obryzum, which means refined or pure gold, and is the Greek numeral 72. Thus the . . . OB . . . may be read ‘1/72 pound pure gold’” (see https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=CONOB); C = Capita, for 1st Officina (see Depeyrot p. 52)]. 19.5 mm., 4.42 g., 6 h.  Depeyrot, Trèves [Trier] 45/1 Valens at p. 121 (45th emission for city since AD 337) (26 examples of type from 1st Officina; 33 overall) [Depeyrot, George, Les Monnaies d'Or de Constantin II à Zenon (337-491) (Wetteren 1996)]; RIC IX 39(d)1 at p. 21; Sear RCV V 19578 (obv. ill. p. 324). Purchased from CNG (Classical Numismatic Group, LLC) Electronic Auction 525, 20 Oct. 2022, Lot 1319; ex. “Conti Collection.”*


*This is my only example of a solidus bearing the reverse legend “VICTORIA AVGG” (“To the Victory of the Two Emperors,” see https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=VICTORIA%20AVGG), depicting two reigning emperors enthroned together on the reverse. This type was “for more than a quarter of a century . . . the main gold currency of the western empire,” issued in the names of all the co-emperors during that period, beginning with Valentinian I and Valens in the 360s AD. See RIC IX p. 5, in the introduction to the Treveri Mint section.

Despite relying on Depeyrot and correctly describing the obverse as depicting Valens with a pearl-diademed bust, CNG’s lot description for this coin was erroneous in several respects. Thus, CNG identified the coin as Depeyrot 43/2 rather than the correct 45/1, even though the obverse of 43/2 is identified in Depeyrot (see p. 119) with a code signifying a rosette-diademed bust rather than the code for a pearl diadem, used for 45/1 (see p. 121). As a result of this relatively minor error, and because 43/2 was issued before the death of Valentinian I, CNG incorrectly dates the coin to the period from mid-373 to April 375 AD, and incorrectly identifies the two emperors on the reverse of the coin as Valentinian I and Valens, rather than Valens and Gratian.

 As it happens, Depeyrot 43/2 overall is about four times as common as 45/1 (126 examples cited compared to 33), but the number of cited examples from the 1st Officina, with TROBC in the exergue, is approximately the same (28 as compared to 26). So I doubt that the price of this coin was materially affected by CNG’s errors in identifying it. Although I should point out that CNG’s citation of RIC IX 39b.1 for this coin also appears to be incorrect, independently: as far as I can tell, that type is coded as a coin of Valentinian I rather than Valens. Hence, my citation to a different type.

Not for the first time, I'm reminded that even the most reputable auction houses and dealers like CNG can make mistakes, and that relatively minor errors in assigning a catalog number to a coin can compound themselves, resulting in substantive mistakes in a coin description. Which is why I always try to confirm such descriptions from their sources, whenever those sources are available to me.

Please post any gold solidi you may have from the 4th century and first half of the 5th century AD, that you think can fairly be described as "Late Roman" rather than "Byzantine." I'll begin by posting the three other solidi I have from that period (footnotes omitted in all cases). The fact that my four solidi have four different reverse designs is not a coincidence; my choice not to buy more than one of each of the most common reverse types has been deliberate. I don't have enough money to spend it on multiple examples of the same basic type. As is, this is the first ancient gold coin I've bought since the very beginning of this year, and certainly the last one I intend to buy before the end of this year.

Valentinian I, AV Solidus, 365 AD [Sear, Depeyrot] (reigned 364-375 AD), Antioch Mint, 3rd Officina. Obv. Rosette-diademed (with square & round rosettes separated by ovoid pearls), draped, & cuirassed bust right, D N VALENTINI-ANVS P F AVG [Dominus Noster Valentinianus Pius Felix Augustus] / Rev. Valentinian, in military attire, standing facing, head right, holding labarum or vexillum ornamented with “T” [uneven/Tau cross?] in right hand* and, in outstretched left hand, Victory standing left on globe, holding up crowning wreath towards emperor, RESTITVTOR – REIPVBLICAE around; in exergue, ANTΓ [Antioch Mint, 3rd Officina**].  RIC IX (1951) Antioch 2b (var. unlisted) ***; Sear RCV V 19267 at p. 294 (rosette-diademed, with no cross in the reverse left field, no stars or dots in the reverse exergue, and known from Officina 3, as well as Officina 10) (citing Depeyrot); Depeyrot II Antioch 23/1 Valentinian I (p. 281) (examples with this mint-mark, without stars or dots, & monogrammed cross in labarum rather than Chi-Ro, known from Officinas 3 & 10) (citing 1966 sale of this coin as the one example from 3rd Officina, with one other from 10th Officina) [Depeyrot, George., Les Monnaies d'Or de Constantin II à Zenon (337-491) (Wetteren 1996)].21.2 mm., 4.44 g. Purchased from Odysseus Numismatique [Julien Cougnard], Montpellier, France, Feb. 2022, “from an old Parisian collection”; ex Maison Vinchon Auction Sale, Mon. 25 April 1966, Hotel Drouot, Paris, Lot 257 (sold for 780 French francs, = $159.16 in 1966 U.S. dollars).


Eastern Roman Empire, Arcadius (son of Theodosius I and older brother of Honorius), 383-408 AD, AV Solidus 397-402 AD, Constantinople Mint (9th Officina). Obv. Helmeted and cuirassed bust facing three-quarters right, holding spear over right shoulder and shield on left arm bearing image of horseman right; D N ARCADI-VS P F AVG / Rev. Helmeted Constantinopolis seated facing on throne, head right, with right knee bare and right foot resting on prow, holding long scepter with right hand and, on left hand, Victory with wreath standing on globe; CONCORDI-A AVGG Θ [Theta, for 9th Officina]; in exergue, CONOB [for Constantinople Mint]. RIC X 7 at. p. 240 (1994); Depeyrot II Constantinople 55/1 Arcadius at p. 246 (55th emission for city since AD 337) (30 examples of type from 9th Officina; 285 overall) [Depeyrot, George, Les Monnaies d'Or de Constantin II à Zenon (337-491) (Wetteren 1996)]; Dumberton Oaks Catalogue, Late Roman 207-217 (217 = 9th Officina) and Plate 8 [P. Griessen. & M. Mays, Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, etc. (1992)]; Sear RCV V 20706 (ill. p. 431) (1994). 20 mm., 4.44 g. Purchased from Dr. Busso Peus Nachf., Frankfurt, Germany, 1 April 2021. Ex. Auktionen Münzhandlung Sonntag Auktion 33 Lot 36 (23.11. 2020); ex. Auktion 116 München Münzhandlung Karl Kreß [Kress](Otto Helbing Nachfolger), Lot 729 (28.10.1960).


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”).


Edited by DonnaML
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38 minutes ago, JeandAcre said:

Yes, Donna, Mag (...dramatic pause) Nificent.

Here's an example of a penny of Alfred the Great that imitates the reverse of your first one.


From the Ashmolean Museum website: 


Interesting. So if it was issued by Alfred the Great, who is supposed to be represented by the two enthroned figures on the reverse?

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Very apt question, @DonnaML!  The sense I get, for what it's worth, is that when earlier medievals imitated (especially) later Roman designs, as they did all the time, any substantive referential significance happened as an afterthought, if that.  Sorry for such a boring answer.

It's fun, though, to speculate about how many hoards were found within the first few centuries of burial, and how large they could have been.  While you can't rule out an element of more or less continuous circulation, it seems intuitively likely that that would have been on the peripheries.

Edited by JeandAcre
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I won't pass up the chance to post my solidi, as I have many times before. This one fits both as a late Roman coin, and as a Two Emperors type. In this case, it features Magnus Maximus and Theodosius I (or so it is assumed, since Magnus Maximus needed Theodosius's support, but had his eye on Valentinian II's empire).

Magnus Maximus Solidus, 383-388
image.png.cce9ae28b74f0c0a4ae78f98acbb8d60.pngAugusta/London. Gold, 21mm, 4.59g, 6h. Rosette-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Magnus Maximus right, seen from front; D N MAG MA-XIMVS P F AVG. Magnus Maximus and Theodosius I seated facing on double throne, jointly holding globe between them; half-length figure of Victory above facing between, vertical palm branch under throne; VICTOR-IA AVGG; AVGOB in exergue (RIC IX, 2b; Biaggi 2312 (this coin)). Ex Leo Biaggi de Blasys. NGC #6057866-002Struck at a time when Magnus Maximus was trying to gain recognition from Eastern emperor Theodosius I after usurping the Western throne from Gratian.

@JeandAcre has even given me the chance to post my Saxon coin that copies this style (which I have posted many times in the Medieval forum, but not managed to post in the Roman forum). This coin is 250 years earlier than Alfred the Great, so the tradition of copying this design probably started before the Roman coins had to be dug up.

Pale Gold Phase ‘Two Emperors’ Thrymsa, 645-675
Kent. Gold, 13mm, 1.19g. Diademed and draped bust right; pseudo legend around. Two small busts facing; above, Victory with wings enfolding the figures; pellet to each side of Victory’s head (SCBC 767). Ex Jeroen de Wilde.

This is my other solidus, featuring Jovian, apparently suffering from the plague. This period saw Britons burying more Roman silver than any time and anywhere else in the Roman Empire. Gold wasn't uncommon in late hoards either, although I haven't seen much of Jovian.

Jovian Solidus, 363-364
Constantinople. Gold, 21mm, 4.51g. Rosette-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust to right; D N IOVIA-NVS P F PERP AVG. Roma, holding spear, seated facing and supporting shield inscribed VOT V MVLT X in four lines with Constantinopolis, holding sceptre and seated to left with foot on prow; SECVRITAS REIPVBLICAE; CONSP in exergue (RIC VIII, 170). From the West Norfolk Hoard 2020 (also known as Grimston), Portable Antiquities Scheme: NMS-669388.

Edited by John Conduitt
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9 minutes ago, John Conduitt said:

This is my other solidus, featuring Jovian, apparently suffering from the plague. 

I really did laugh when I saw that face. How exactly do eruptions like that appear on a coin?

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Because Depeyrot was published in the 1990s, I was curious to see how many examples of my specific type of Valens solidus (Trier Mint, first officina, pearl-diademed bust, Victoria Avgg reverse) have been on the market more recently. I found only 9 on acsearch; mine is not one of them. Here they are in order of descending hammer price. I paid something under the middle of this range for mine ($1,500 not including the buyer's premium). Judging from these prices, and relative condition, I think I did well.






Edited by DonnaML
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1 hour ago, Hrefn said:

@DonnaMLyou inspired me to check my own Valens solidus.  He is wearing the rosette diadem.  No officina.  I paid about the same as you did;  the difference is I bought mine 30 years ago.    image.jpeg.ba5c27f89fd74ff6a484a09e27362821.jpegimage.jpeg.67d0770c0c452c92a9b6bee08932f53f.jpeg


B is the 2nd officina. A beautiful coin.

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@DonnaML thank you.  You are correct of course.  I think I unconciously was looking at the coin in the context of later Byzantine solidi, where the officina letter usually follows the AVGG portion of the inscription.  I had a professor who used to tell us that you only see what you are looking for, and here is another proof of how wise he was.  

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