Jump to content

Constantine the Great (his birthday, and my new favorite coin!)


CPK

Recommended Posts

Lately, I've been taking an interest in the life and times of Constantine I - an individual, and period of history, that has had a tremendous, perhaps unparalleled, impact on subsequent world history up to the present day.

Constantine himself is certainly one of the most polarizing figures in ancient history - there are virtually no truly objective historical sources about his life. They either portray Constantine as the model Christian Emperor: pious, conscientious, completely devoted to and in touch with God, or else they consider him an unstable and ruthless tyrant who was the cause of all ills. The actual truth, as might be suspected, lies somewhere in the middle. Reading about it all has been an enjoyable and educating experience - so far I have finished reading Michael Grant's book Constantine the Great: The Man and His Times and have since started Constantine the Emperor by David Potter.

Today being the 1,751st birthday of Constantine I, I thought this might be a good time to show off a couple new coins I recently acquired. The first I will show is actually the most recent - acquired via Roma Numismatics E-Sale 106, lot 1202:

constantine_i_captives.jpg.bfe6c56b95fa98caddd2ac3f60ea7687.jpg

This coin shows a fine portrait of the Emperor, helmeted and cuirassed as for battle. (Even Constantine's greatest critics had to admit his superlative generalship.) The reverse is also militarily themed, showing bound and seated captives under a trophy inscribed with the VOTA for twenty years; the inscription VIRTVS EXERCIT (The Courage of the Soldiers) around the edge provides a neat summary of the coin's design. The coin itself is nicely toned and sharply struck with fine detail. There is a lot to like about the coin, and I am happy to have won it!

NOW, the other Constantine coin I recently purchased has quickly become one of my favorites in my entire collection. Some of you may know that I like to look for good portraits in Roman coins - something that becomes a little difficult when you get into the later Empire. There can be so much variety in style between mints and most of them lacking.

The mint at Rome seemed to be the most artistically inclined during this time period, and whoever engraved this die evidently extended himself, producing (IMO) one of the finest numismatic portraits of Constantine the Great I've ever seen:

constantine_rome_votxxx.jpg.de071182fe0f829c664eb05cdfb4fcb1.jpg

 

What strikes me most about this portrait is its sense of majestic gravity and regal splendor. I see in it the true Constantine - Dominus Noster, Maximus Augustus - sole ruler over the largest (and still) most powerful Empire on Earth. The proportions are exquisitely executed; the detail is superb. Constantine's expression is serious and grave but not without its humanity - he almost looks like he is about to smile. Crowned with a beautifully rendered rosette diadem, cuirassed, and draped, he presents an impressive, kingly figure, surrounded by his name and titles.

The reverse is a common type but also is very attractive - well-struck (although with a few areas of flatness.) I do really like the balance and symmetry of these VOT reverse types. 

The coin also has a beautiful golden tone which highlights the design. I've taken a short video to show how better how it looks in hand:

 

 

I would love to see your favorite Constantine I coins! Feel free to post your own coins, comments, or anything else relevant!

 

 

 

  • Like 22
  • Clap 1
  • Cookie 1
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, CPK said:

Lately, I've been taking an interest in the life and times of Constantine I - an individual, and period of history, that has had a tremendous, perhaps unparalleled, impact on subsequent world history up to the present day.

Constantine himself is certainly one of the most polarizing figures in ancient history - there are virtually no truly objective historical sources about his life. They either portray Constantine as the model Christian Emperor: pious, conscientious, completely devoted to and in touch with God, or else they consider him an unstable and ruthless tyrant who was the cause of all ills. The actual truth, as might be suspected, lies somewhere in the middle. Reading about it all has been an enjoyable and educating experience - so far I have finished reading Michael Grant's book Constantine the Great: The Man and His Times and have since started Constantine the Emperor by David Potter.

Today being the 1,751st birthday of Constantine I, I thought this might be a good time to show off a couple new coins I recently acquired. The first I will show is actually the most recent - acquired via Roma Numismatics E-Sale 106, lot 1202:

constantine_i_captives.jpg.bfe6c56b95fa98caddd2ac3f60ea7687.jpg

This coin shows a fine portrait of the Emperor, helmeted and cuirassed as for battle. (Even Constantine's greatest critics had to admit his superlative generalship.) The reverse is also militarily themed, showing bound and seated captives under a trophy inscribed with the VOTA for twenty years; the inscription VIRTVS EXERCIT (The Courage of the Soldiers) around the edge provides a neat summary of the coin's design. The coin itself is nicely toned and sharply struck with fine detail. There is a lot to like about the coin, and I am happy to have won it!

NOW, the other Constantine coin I recently purchased has quickly become one of my favorites in my entire collection. Some of you may know that I like to look for good portraits in Roman coins - something that becomes a little difficult when you get into the later Empire. There can be so much variety in style between mints and most of them lacking.

The mint at Rome seemed to be the most artistically inclined during this time period, and whoever engraved this die evidently extended himself, producing (IMO) one of the finest numismatic portraits of Constantine the Great I've ever seen:

constantine_rome_votxxx.jpg.de071182fe0f829c664eb05cdfb4fcb1.jpg

 

What strikes me most about this portrait is its sense of majestic gravity and regal splendor. I see in it the true Constantine - Dominus Noster, Maximus Augustus - sole ruler over the largest (and still) most powerful Empire on Earth. The proportions are exquisitely executed; the detail is superb. Constantine's expression is serious and grave but not without its humanity - he almost looks like he is about to smile. Crowned with a beautifully rendered rosette diadem, cuirassed, and draped, he presents an impressive, kingly figure, surrounded by his name and titles.

The reverse is a common type but also is very attractive - well-struck (although with a few areas of flatness.) I do really like the balance and symmetry of these VOT reverse types. 

The coin also has a beautiful golden tone which highlights the design. I've taken a short video to show how better how it looks in hand:

 

 

I would love to see your favorite Constantine I coins! Feel free to post your own coins, comments, or anything else relevant!

 

 

 

Lovely coins and great photography skills, @CPK!! Here's my latest Constantine I -- a gift from @Theodosius.

Constantine I PROVIDENTIAE AVGG Thessalonica.jpg
Constantine I, AD 307-337.
Roman billon centenionalis, 3.39 g, 18.6 mm, 6 h.
Thessalonica, AD 326-328.
Obv: CONSTAN-TINVS AVG, laureate head, right.
Rev: PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG, Camp gate with two turrets, without doors, with six stone layers; star above. -/•//SMTSΓ.
Refs: RIC vii, p. 518, 153; LRBC I, 829; Cohen 454; RCV 16254.

  • Like 17
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very nice coins! Thanks for posting them!

There are a couple nice things about Constantine's coins - one, there is so much variety! Not just the different types, but the different mint styles of those types. And two, they are refreshingly inexpensive. 😉 

@Amarmur That is a nice one - I've had my eye on several but haven't found one quite to my satisfaction yet.

@Orange Julius - simply superb! A very fine DAFNE with the "upward gaze". I was recently outbid on a similar type. 😞 Also the Sarmatia coin - I really like the portrait style on that one, kind of strikes me as a cross between the styles of Arelate and Rome.

@Roman Collector Can't go wrong with a nice camp-gate. 🙂 Plus, that one looks still fully silvered, unless it's the lighting?

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that the portrait on your Rome coin is superb! Wonderful coin, @CPK!! 🤩

I think I have more coins of Constantine than any other emperor.  Here are some of my favourites.

The crown jewel is surely this one, the very first coin issued in his name, from the London mint (RIC 66). It's a full size tetrarchal follis from the Rauceby hoard, buried not too long after he was proclaimed emperor:

image.jpeg.dacae245b8193c7bddd518ec2200e017.jpeg

Another London mint product I like is this very rare Adventus issue, celebrating Constantine's return to London to recruit for his expedition against Maxentius:

image.jpeg.01e9a7bbea01dff60fd8742dbcad71a1.jpeg

Right after he beat up on Maxentius at the Milvian bridge in 312 he issued a couple of Rome-only coins, including this small PACI PERPET:

image.jpeg.72a252a1227407cf6303ee011d5c93b9.jpeg

Even smaller (at 14mm and 1g) is this rare fraction (quarter follis) from Trier:

image.jpeg.a1583ccf8940cf80b699a96cc7f8dff4.jpeg

And here's a half follis, also from Trier, with one of the last depictions from the traditional Roman pantheon (Mars):

image.jpeg.6bb7a6485e508ccf8f46cb5b797cb118.jpeg

Another Trier coin (ex Mazzini) that I like, with its Sol portrait reverse:

image.jpeg.d2b1b3fc41ebfa3c6ef44e3ffa63fc11.jpeg

Moving east, and later, here's one of the scarce camp gate coins that are the first issues from the Constantinople mint:

image.jpeg.17b14a2eb4e6da6a32f3d8b07cb1835a.jpeg

Shortly afterwards came the various special issues associated with Constantine's move of the capital, including this one:

image.jpeg.d2aec3d1480d7c72a670e3093addb19c.jpeg

I like the portrait on ^this coin, but I think I like this next Nicomedia one even better, in part due to its dramatic patination:

image.jpeg.3dd62f6c45d9335ce8802af88713ec39.jpeg

I could go on...

  • Like 15
  • Clap 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice coins !

 

Constantine is outside of my collecting area, but here is one:

normal_Constantinus_I_R325_fac.jpg.bb60affa0922e70db11ea69eda22b658.jpg

Constantinus I. (306-337)
Obv: : IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG, Bust of Constantine I, laureate, draped, cuirassed, right
-Rev: SOLI INV- I -CTO COMITI, Sol, chlamys hanging behind, standing left, raising right hand and holding up globe in left hand-
AE, 3.27g, 19.6mm
Ref.: VI Rome 323a, p.388

 

  • Like 13
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

I agree that the portrait on your Rome coin is superb! Wonderful coin, @CPK!! 🤩

I think I have more coins of Constantine than any other emperor.  Here are some of my favourites.

The crown jewel is surely this one, the very first coin issued in his name, from the London mint (RIC 66). It's a full size tetrarchal follis from the Rauceby hoard, buried not too long after he was proclaimed emperor:

image.jpeg.dacae245b8193c7bddd518ec2200e017.jpeg

Another London mint product I like is this very rare Adventus issue, celebrating Constantine's return to London to recruit for his expedition against Maxentius:

image.jpeg.01e9a7bbea01dff60fd8742dbcad71a1.jpeg

Right after he beat up on Maxentius at the Milvian bridge in 312 he issued a couple of Rome-only coins, including this small PACI PERPET:

image.jpeg.72a252a1227407cf6303ee011d5c93b9.jpeg

Even smaller (at 14mm and 1g) is this rare fraction (quarter follis) from Trier:

image.jpeg.a1583ccf8940cf80b699a96cc7f8dff4.jpeg

And here's a half follis, also from Trier, with one of the last depictions from the traditional Roman pantheon (Mars):

image.jpeg.6bb7a6485e508ccf8f46cb5b797cb118.jpeg

Another Trier coin (ex Mazzini) that I like, with its Sol portrait reverse:

image.jpeg.d2b1b3fc41ebfa3c6ef44e3ffa63fc11.jpeg

Moving east, and later, here's one of the scarce camp gate coins that are the first issues from the Constantinople mint:

image.jpeg.17b14a2eb4e6da6a32f3d8b07cb1835a.jpeg

Shortly afterwards came the various special issues associated with Constantine's move of the capital, including this one:

image.jpeg.d2aec3d1480d7c72a670e3093addb19c.jpeg

I like the portrait on ^this coin, but I think I like this next Nicomedia one even better, in part due to its dramatic patination:

image.jpeg.3dd62f6c45d9335ce8802af88713ec39.jpeg

I could go on...

Lovely collection! I particularly like that first one - I assume that would have been struck after Constantine's return to his father but before Constantius's death? Or was it after Galerius had grudgingly promoted him to the position of Caesar?

Beautiful portraits on the bottom three coins as well. 👍

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Constantine the Great, Follis

Obv:– IMP C CONSTANTINVS P F AVG, Laureate, draped bust right (seen from the rear)
Rev:– GENIO POP ROM, Genius standing left, wearing modius and chlamys, sacrificing from patera on flaming altar and holding cornucopiae
Minted in Lugdunum (CI | H/S / PLC) A.D. Autumn A.D. 308 to start A.D. 309 (Bastien)
Reference:– Bastien 509 (75 examples cited). RIC VI 287 (though Bastien groups both Modius and Towered versions into one group)
6.35 gms. 25.67 mm.

RI_160dk_img.jpg

  • Like 9
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/28/2023 at 4:53 AM, CPK said:

Lovely collection! I particularly like that first one - I assume that would have been struck after Constantine's return to his father but before Constantius's death? Or was it after Galerius had grudgingly promoted him to the position of Caesar?

Thanks, @CPK!  Cloke and Toone (The London Mint of Constantius and Constantine, Spink 2015) date these to a range starting immediately after Constantius's death in late July 306 to the spring of 307, before the weight reduction in May.  (The hoard was buried in 307.)  One might wonder why, if these began in the summer of 306, why Constantine wouldn't be named Augustus as proclaimed by the troops.  Probably Galerius's acceptance of Constantine as Caesar came quickly enough for no coins of Constantine as Augustus to have been minted at this point.  (Also, on one version of events, it had been pre-arranged with Diocletian that Constantine would be Caesar, and so he may have been represented as such even before Galerius accepted Constantine into the college.)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

Thanks, @CPK!  Cloke and Toone (The London Mint of Constantius and Constantine, Spink 2015) date these to a range starting immediately after Constantius's death in late July 306 to the spring of 307, before the weight reduction in May.  (The hoard was buried in 307.)  One might wonder why, if these began in the summer of 306, why Constantine wouldn't be named Augustus as proclaimed by the troops.  Probably Galerius's acceptance of Constantine as Caesar came quickly enough for no coins of Constantine as Augustus to have been minted at this point.  (Also, on one version of events, it had been pre-arranged with Diocletian that Constantine would be Caesar, and so he may have been represented as such even before Galerius accepted Constantine into the college.)

That's interesting! I was wondering the same thing, why the coin didn't represent him as Augustus instead...since Constantine seemed to approve (though perhaps not outwardly) the proclamation by the troops, sending word to Galerius about it and obviously hoping for the official appointment. And it wasn't uncommon for mints to jump the gun on things like this and start minting right away. It would make sense if there had been an arrangement beforehand with Diocletian (something not unreasonable to suppose given Diocletian's penchant for administrative detail.) Or perhaps Constantine was just being especially circumspect, which would also not be surprising.

What would be the first coins minted proclaiming him Augustus? Would it be RIC VI 239 ?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...