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Constantine III, finally acquired


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Title says it all. After several years, I was finally able to obtain a rare Constantine III siliqua (407-411 AD). As a late Roman collector he was high on my list of rulers and other coin types to acquire, so he was definitely a white whale. And Constantine III is but one part of a handful of white whales that I have acquired so far in this successful collecting year. The few times he popped up over the years, given how expensive coins of Constantine III are, I simply didn't have sufficient funds at those times. Unfortunately though, around the time that I found my Constantine III siliqua for sale, I was already watching a coin of another ruler that I really wanted and I knew that I would not have the funds for both, plus this other ruler was in an auction and there was a real possibility that the bidding would go past what I had budgeted. And I was also worried my siliqua would sell while I was waiting/debating with myself on who to go for. So I made what I thought was the safest decision and bought my Constantine. The other coin I was watching did end up going for more than I was able to pay, so in hindsight my siliqua was the smartest choice. 

Constantine III, Western Roman Empire

AR siliqua

Obv: D N CONSTAN-TINVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right

Rev: VICTORI-A AAVGGG, Roma enthroned left, holding Victory on globe and spear

Mint: Lugdunum (Lyons)

Mintmark: SMLD

Date: 407-411 AD

Ref: RIC X 1529



Nothing is known of Flavius Claudius Constantinus' early life. He is reported to have started as a common soldier in the Roman field army stationed in the province of Britannia. Britannia had been on the decline for some time; raids by barbarians were more frequent, and the imperial hold on the island had weakened in the past decades in part by the Great Conspiracy (a coordinated attack by several barbarian groups in the 360s) and Magnus Maximus taking troops from the island as part of his usurpation in the 380s. There were also concerns that the barbarian invasions on the continent would spill over into Britannia. The general instability, and the fact that the Roman troops in Britain had not been paid for several years, caused them to rebel in 406 and elevate a soldier named Marcus to the purple; he was executed a few months after by those same troops when he did not produce results. A man named Gratian was then elevated but also suffered the same fate shortly afterwards. The dissatisfied army turned to Constantine, and declared him emperor in 407.


Constantine had grander designs than just being the ruler of a rebel province. Through maneuvering he was able to acquire help in taking over Gaul and winning the support of the Roman army stationed there. Constantine then moved to Gaul and took with him all of the mobile field troops from Britain, essentially leaving the local population to fend for themselves. The barbarians ravaging the Western Roman Empire had had free reign after crossing the Rhine at the end of 406 due to the central Roman authorities having neither the time or the resources to respond adequately. As a result, Constantine took it upon himself to deal with the invaders. He achieved a small victory against the Vandals, and secured agreements with other Germanic groups.

After cancelling a planned campaign against the Eastern Roman Empire, the Western emperor Honorius sent some of his forces to Gaul to put an end to Constantine's revolt. They were beaten back into Italy, but not before killing two of Cnstantine's main commanders in Gaul. With this victory, Constantine consolidated his position in Gaul and made Arles his capital. In 408, he recalled his oldest son from the monastery he had cloistered himself in and declared him Caesar and later co-Augustus; his son took the regnal name Constans (II). Constans and an important general serving Constantine, Gerontius, invaded Hispania and conquered it from Honorius' officials. 


Central Roman infighting (that included the death of the influential general Stilicho) and conflict with the Visigoths prevented a focused, coordinated response to Constantine's rebellion, and so in 409, to ease his own burden, Honorius recognized Constantine as co-emperor.

While Constantine had the trappings of power, he also experience the downsides of it. His general Gerontius, while stationed in Hispania, gave Constantine a taste of his own medicine by rebelling against him. Gerontius then declared one Maximus as emperor, who possibly was his son and very much under Gerontius' control. To have a better fighting chance against Constantine and Constans, Gerontius made an agreement with the barbarian tribes sacking Gaul to support him militarily.

Meanwhile in Britannia, despite Saxon successes against the token forces Constantine had left behind, the local Romano-Britons managed to organize and defeat the Saxons in 409. The failure of Constantine to defend them lead to a general expulsion of his officials from the province, and in doing so, Britannia became independent of the Roman Empire. Only a year had passed before the Romano-Britons, continuing to suffer depredations by the barbarians, requested aid from Emperor Honorius. However, busy with his own troubles, Honorius rejected their plea and informed them that they were on their own with their defense. This marked the official end of the almost four century-long Roman rule over Britain.


In the same year (410) as the abandonment of Britain, Constantine gathered his army and invaded northern Italy, with the possible intention of joining Honorius in fighting the Visigoths that had invaded Italy. But the falsely-reported death of a friendly ex-Honorius general triggered Constantine's early withdrawal back to Gaul. During these events, Constans had failed in his mission to defeat Gerontius in Hispania. Constans soon attacked again but was defeated a second time, causing Gerontius to counterattack and pursue him, killing Constans in a subsequent battle in 411. Gerontius then laid siege to Arles, trapping Constantine in the city.

Gerontius's fortunes changed for the worst, when Honorius tasked his general Flavius Constantius in putting down Constantine once and for all. Constantius arrived in Arles while Gerontius was besieging the city, causing most of the latter's army to switch over to Constantius' side. Gerontius subsequently retreated to Hispania, where he died by suicide soon after. Constantine's fortunes had also worsened; a now-larger army under Constantius' command was besieging Arles. Adding to his deteriorating situation, Constantine had received word that his forces defending the Rhine frontier had declared their support for another usurper, Jovinus. Facing a seemingly insurmountable situation, Constantine surrendered to Constantius, on the condition that he would be spared and allowed to retire as a clergyman. Constantius made this promise, but immediately broke it by having Constantine beheaded (a fate shared by his only remaining son, Julian), which occurred in August or September 411. As a warning to other would-be usurpers, Constantine's and Julian's heads were sent to Carthage to be displayed there.


History: Wikipedia

Maps: OmniAtlas

Edited by ValiantKnight
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Great catch and very interesting write-up!


Here is a Constantine III from my collection. The coin was found by a metal dectorist in England. I like the portrait with the eye that seems to be looking downward: (looks like he is trying to watch his back)



and a second one, which is not in great shape. I found this one in a lot, or better I spotted it in a lot and bought the lot to get this coin.


Edited by Tejas
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The lot was in a non-numismatic auction and I was the only one who spotted the Constantine III. As a result, the coin was dirt cheap. One of this rare moments were I underpaid for a coin.

However, the other one is more exiting and it was inexpensive too. I bought it at the small collectors market near Charing Cross in London, which is why I got the information that it was found in England.

Edited by Tejas
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Below is a Siliqua from my collection, which I think fits to this thread. It is an imitative Siliqua of Honorius. The coin was found in England, Walcott Folkingham, Lincolnshire. I think is was minted in the years after the rule of Constantine III, when Britain was left to its own devices and when local "authorities" tried to make up for the lack of official silver coins by producing such imitations. I bought the coin directly from the finder (who also organized metal detecting holidays).



In exergue: TR star (apparently referencing Trier, which didn't use this mint mark though). 


Edited by Tejas
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