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Licinius post-civil war reconciliation coinage


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In their first civil war of 316 AD, Constantine had initially battled Licinius at Cibilae, then pursued him to a second battle at Adrianople in Thraciae. The eventual outcome would be a truce, and reconciliation, but Constantine clearly had the upper hand since the negotiated settlement included Licinius ceding large amounts of territory (both Pannoniae and Moesiae) to him.

Somewhere between Cibilae and Adrianople, Licinius had attempted to strengthen his hand by appointing a general of his, Valerius Valens, as co-augustus, and had struck coins for him both at Cyzicus and Alexandria. However, Valens luck would soon run out as he was deposed and executed as part of the post-war settlement. Coins of Valens are rare and highly sought after (a must-have for that complete emperor set), and have sold in the $10-60K range.

However, for us poor plebes collecting on a more limited budget, there are still a few types, issued as part of the post-war reconciliation, that provide somewhat of an alternative.

Here is an example from the Berlin museum of the Valens type struck at Cyzicus, RIC VII Cyzicus 7 (officina VI):


And here is the corresponding type for Constantine, RIC VII Cyzicus 5 (also officina VI), that I just received a couple of days ago:


As can be seen, these are both from the same interesting "SKM" issue, with the type for Constantine presumably having been struck immediately after the war, probably after Valens had already been executed. It seems very scarce for Constantine (similar rarity to Valens, perhaps?).

This "SKM" issue, which appears to have been started during the civil war, is interesting and unusual in a number of ways:

1) The strange "SKM" mintmark that splits the typical eastern SM (Sacra Moneta) mintmark prefix by putting the mint designator "K" in the middle of it!

2) The use of roman numerals I-VIII (vs the expected greek letters) as officina designators. Not totally unique to the time period, but certainly unusual.

3) Very broad busts, but still obvious Cyzicus style, that make this issue pretty easy to recognize from obverse alone. For example, here's another coin of mine from this issue, RIC VII Cyzicus 6 for Licinius (the issue is common for Licinius).


It seems these odd characteristics may be related to this being a wartime issue, but not obvious why! The next issue (post reform) was back to normal.

The other mint to recognize Valens was Alexandria (with nothing from Nicomedia or Antioch) in the K-wreath/X/A-B issue.

Here's an example of RIC VII Alexandria 19, ex. Goldberg 42 (where it sold for over $40K!):


And here's an unlisted variant, ex. CNG 112, where Licinius is showing his displeasure at Constantine by replacing the inclusive "AVGG" reverse with "AVG", with Valens apparently not worth counting!


Here's my "poor mans" version of the above type, but for Licinius (still "AVG" vs "AVGG"), RIC VII Alexandria 16.


Part of the post-war settlement and making nice was for Constantine and Licinius to appoint, and jointly recognize, their sons as caesars, and interestingly they duly appear in this same issue as Valens (change of issue mark unaffected by politics). These coins are relatively scarce, and interesting since this is the only issue where they appear on the old nummus denomination before a joint coinage reform of Constantine and Licinius.

Here's my RIC VII Alexandria 21 for Licinius II, notable for the appeasing obverse legend of "VAL CONSTANTINVS LICINIVS N CAES".


I'd be curious to know the full extent of ancient sources that mention Valens. I've seen catalogers suggest that Valens was intended as a nominal replacement for Constantine, but not sure if that is just speculation.

Please show your coins of these Cyzicus and Alexandria issues if you have them. Does anyone have a Valens, perhaps?! Or, what other coins do you have that might be considered as a "poor mans" stand-in for something rarer ?


Edited by Heliodromus
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Related to this, I was just re-reading R.A.G. Carson's "The Geneva Forgeries" (which covers some forgeries of Valens coins among others), and realized he's got a couple of his plate pictures mixed up. He has one of the Geneva forgery specimens labelled as the genuine Berlin specimen of RIC VII Cyzicus 7 (as shown above), and the Berlin coin labelled as a fake.

Carson's article is available on JSTOR (free account required):


I wonder if NC ever published a correction? Hopefully Carson didn't inadvertently help sell any fakes!

You can tell the mix-up from two sources:

1) Berlin has their collection online, and their specimen matches the one Carson has labelled as fake

2) Another specimen of the Geneva forgery type (Carson knew of 11 of this type - all from same dies) is referred to as having sold in Ars Classica XV (1930), and that catalog is available online.

Here are the coins:

Geneva forgeries plate XV # 16, described as fake (but really the Berlin coin)


Berlin coin (genuine, same coin as above)


Geneva forgeries plate XV #b, described as the genuine Berlin coin (but really fake)


Ars Classica XV.1916, another specimen of the Geneva forgeries fake


Incidentally, RIC VII also has a plate mix-up related to this SKM issue - it has RIC VII Cyzicus 5 (for Constantine) listed for officinas VI and VII, citing specimens in the Cambridge Fitzwillam and British Museum respectively, and claims to show the Fitzwilliam coin on plate 22, but the plate coin is officina VII. I asked Fitzwllliam about this and they claim their coin really is officina VI, so presumably the plate coin is actually the BM one.




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Really interesting history to go with the coins. Uncharacteristically, I bought a common Licinius from Alexandria not for the history but simply because I like the distinctive style. His coins are always good value for times budget is tight (unlike Valerius Valens!)

Licinius I Follis, 316-317

Alexandria. Bronze, 21mm, 3.17g. Laureate head right; IMP C VAL LICIN LICINIVS PF AVG. Jupiter standing facing, holding sceptre and Victory on globe; at feet to left eagle holding wreath in beak; IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG, K wreath X B, mintmark ALE (RIC VII, 18).

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