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An interesting Nicomedia siliqua of Valens


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This is one of the CT posts from last year that I would like to bring here also, in case other colleagues find them interesting. Also in tune with @Valentinian's new siliqua page. And with a new (I think) better picture.


AR18mm 1.97g silver siliqua, minted at Nicomedia, cca. 367
DN VALENS - PF AVG; pearl-diademed draped cuirassed bust r.
VOT / V /MVLTIS / X inside a wreath
SMN in exergue
RIC IX Nicomedia 21b, R

RIC puts this issue into the 24 August 367 to 17 November 375 period, but it's likely that it was minted before the elevation of Gratian in August of 367, as there is no Gratian issue known for the type. The type is rather rare, so there is a possibility that an issue for Gratian might still exist (siliquae for Gratian at Nicomedia are extremely rare in general), but in any case, this is very likely an emission dating to 367, either from the first part of the year, or very early after the elevation of Gratian. The later issue with VOT X MVLT XX, so minted as vota suscepta for the future decennalia (after ca. 368/9) is also missing Gratian, so it is possible that the lack of coinage from this issue is also due to the fact that Valens chose to strike far less silver in the name of his nephew than in the name of himself and his brother Valentinian. In 367 Valens is either at Constantinople or in Asia Minor, preparing to march against the Goths that had been allies to Procopius in his usurpation. Probably the minting of silver in 367 at Nicomedia and Constantinople relates to the preparations for this military venture, which starts that autumn. If this theory is correct, then RIC 20 and 21 (p. 254-5) -- of which just RIC 20 has a very rare issue for Gratian -- were minted until autumn 367, very early in the reign of Gratian, which could account for the rarity of coins minted in his name.

The campaign lasts into 368 and 369, so probably this is the period that sees the beginning of the new VOT X MVLT XX siliquae, in tune with the vota soluta of 5 years and the vows for 10 and 20 years as vota suscepta.

Edited by seth77
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Excellent and very interesting coin, @seth77!  You mention Warren's new page on siliquae; he also has a site on VOTA coins, including a page on the later ones, though focusing on AE; perhaps it could help with your dating puzzle though.  I see the AE version of your coin isn't known for Valens!

These VOTA types are always a bit tricky.  What kind of VOTA exactly, and when?  In anticipation, or celebration?  And in conjunction with what other event?  My own biggest puzzle here has to do with this (unique? for Constantinople) heavy miliarense of Theodosius (5.23g):


RIC dates the equivalent siliquae of Theo to early in the reign (379-83), as vota suscepta, which I assume is correct.  Since heavy miliarensia were presentation pieces (as opposed to the much more common light miliarensia), I really wonder when this coin was given out.  Probably not at his hasty elevation to replace Valens, as he was busy with the Goths.  (Though there could have been a small ceremony in his absence, I suppose?)  Maybe upon his entry into the capital in 380?  In 381 when he wowed Athanaric and the other Gothic chieftains with the marvels of the city?  Much to think about!  (I was lucky to snag this for a bargain, the corrosion turned other bidders off I guess.  I don't think they realize how interesting this coin is.  I'm betting you cherrypicked your Valens in a similar way, as is your wont! 👍)

Note: there's a distinct VOTIS V MVLTIS X heavy miliarense for Theo from Trier, but Matthew Ball has shown this was actually issued by Magnus Maximus in 383 or 4, when the two emperors recognized each other.)


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Your miliarense is of way more interest than my siliqua -- which btw, I think it is well established in the time frame of around 367. I think that the conventions regarding the dating of late Roman coinage in RIC (and DOC also at times) are more generic rather than intuitive, which leaves a lot of room for unnatural ballpark dates, as for instance coinage of Theodosius dated "378-383" when at least one of those dates is impossible.

Regarding your coin, I think it's from 383, which is such an important date for Theodosius, numismatically (and obviously dynastically) speaking: Arcadius is elevated as Augustus and the policy that Theodosius starts following in the East is clearly an independent policy from the West which becomes clear in coinage also, but this is when Theodosius consciously starts his own dynasty, apart from the Valentinians. The diplomacy with the Thervingi  and other Goths in Moesia and Thrace did go back and forth to the 380s, which might add another reason behind minting these, if he intended them as "gifts" -- now what might conclusively answer your question is if there was ever a similar issue for Arcadius?

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