A Maiorina of Maximus of Barcino

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by seth77, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Maximus was a brief usurper in Spain, who controlled mostly the area around Barcino (modern day Barcelona) but had some degree of control over most of the provinces of Spain. In the summer of 410, he was raised to the purple and supported by Gerontius (Constantine III's general in Spain) with support also from local "barbarian" factions, after hearing news that Constans II (Constantine III's son and heir) would replace him as leader of the Spanish legions.
    Although at first victorious against Constans II and Constantine III, Gerontius would lose his soldiers to Constantius III (Honorius's general sent to Gaul to crush both rebels after their infighting had left them both weak) and therfore commited suicide in 411. Subsequently his protegee Maximus would also abandon his stronghold at Barcino and flee south to seek refuge with the "barbarians". It's possible that the same character would resurface in July 419 to claim the purple again aided by Spanish local interests. In February 421 though he was captured by Honorius's troops and brought to Rome where he was displayed and executed the following year at the celebrations of Honorius's tricennalia.

    During his brief control of Barcino and parts of Spain, Maximus minted coins sparingly, with siliquae being the most frequent and studied, but also AE2's and AE3's which are some of the most obscure base-metal issues of the period.
    I think this one is one of those AE2's:

    MAXIMUS of BARCINO AE2 23mm 5.01g (F+, very worn)

    AV: D D N MAXIMVS P P AG [?]; pearl-diademed, bearded, draped, cuirassed bust r.

    REV: [VICTO - R]IA AVCC[C]; Emperor holding victory on globe crowning him, raising woman with his right arm.

    EXE: SM[BA] Barcino mint.

    REF: RIC X 1602/3 rated - R4 p. 351, plate 46.1602; extremely rare, RIC records 3 specs (p. 150); Esty Type 58 410-411AD.

    Very interesting coin. Sometime, most likely at the beginning of the 5th century there are a few so-called "local Spanish versions" (see bottom of the page for examples) copying Magnus Maximus (383-388AD) Maiorinae that combine 2 different reverse types minted at Lugdunum: the design of REPARATIO REIPVB with the legend of VICTORIA AVGG. The mintmark of these (also rare and specific of the Barcino area, probably minted by the same ad-hoc mint as that used by Maximus), also copied from the earlier original Magnus Maximus Lugdunum types was LVG[P/S] or similar variations. Just a few, maybe only a couple of years after these "Spanish Maiorinae" were minted (can't be many, since the reverse design and legend are exactly the same) Maximus minted his own, changing only the mintmark, from the pseudo-Lugdunum LVG[] to SMBA - "Sacra Moneta Barcino", in order to officialize the unofficial mint and give legitimacy to his claim to the purple in Spain.
    What makes this coin here probably one of the extremely rare issue of this rare and rather obscure usurper against Honorius - cf. P. Grierson/M. Mays in "Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumberton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection" notes "only two specimens have been recorded." - are 2 features: the bearded bust specific of Maximus and the mintmark, which although very worn out, you can still see in the bottom left the upper hyphen of the S and the shadowy upper parts of the M from SMBA. The garbled obverse legend (D D N ... PP AG) can be put on the lack of quality control and skilled celators of this "unofficial" turned official mint. What is also very probable is that these Maiorinae minted under Maximus and the generic "Spanish Maiorinae" were probably the product of the same celators. A local copy, ulterior to Maximus, is also a possibility, as copies of his siliquae are also known.


    Also, you can watch faults present in this coin in some of his siliquae, for instance notice the P that looks like a D on the obv. legend on both this siliqua sold by Gemini in 2008 and on the AE2 presented here:


    RIC X has one of them pictured on Plate 46 1602, unfortunately the picture is in poor quality and the coin appears to be worse than this one presented here:

    maximus ric.JPG

    The 5th century is not really my focus, but this is an interesting numismatic curiosity that I wanted to share with you.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015
    ancientone, Ajax, randygeki and 17 others like this.
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  3. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus

    An interesting coin and a great writeup.
  4. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    That is a cool coin, especially since the write up was well done.
  5. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight Well-Known Member

    5th century is a focus of mine, so you are killing me with this very interesting coin :D I'd welcome this type into my collection any day.
  6. Gil-galad

    Gil-galad I AM SPARTACUS

    Very nice. I definitely don't have this usurper. Interesting write up as well.
  7. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago

    Include me within this sentiment as well.
  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your appreciation. What I find both interesting and confusing about the 5th century coinage is that many of these issues are borderline between official roman coinage and local issues, some semi-barbaric, like this one from Barcino or the ones for Theodosius II, Valentinian III, Leo and Zeno from Cherson.
    The fragmentation of the roman world becomes so evident when you study the coinage of the 5th century.
    Orfew and Mikey Zee like this.
  9. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Interesting and rare, congrats

  10. dlhill132

    dlhill132 Member

    Seth, neat coin and write up. Would love to have one like it.

    Doug H.
  11. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    In 2015 I studied the coin in the original post and considered that it might be one of the obscure AE2s minted during Maximus's reign in Barcino, but also that the possibility of it being either a pre-Maximus or post-Maximus continuation of the local base-metal coinage that must have started maybe even before 400 must still be taken into account.
    Mr. Pina from Tesorillo doubts that it's an actual issue of Maximus but considers it to be a peculiar case of "local Spanish immitation" - see here for his take on it. He also shows on his page the best version of Maximus Maiorina I have ever seen, almost full legends and exergue.

    Without excluding or contesting Mr. Pina's thoughts, I surmised my reasons for considering this piece a Maximus Maiorina in a 2016 article I wrote, and which can be read here as:

    1. The specific diameter and weight characteristics (23mm, 5,01g) are consistent with those recorded by both Kent and Balaguer.

    2. The bust appears to be both bearded and adorned by a relatively large and well-distinguished fibula (a feature one can often notice also on Maximus's siliquae).

    3. The mintmark, on which - although worn out and partially off-flan - the upper hyphen of the S and the shadowy upper parts of the M from SMBA are still visible.

    4. The fact that that although it has a negligent spelling, the obverse legend still presents features that are also evident in the carving of siliqua dies, like for instance the P that looks like a D, as seen on the siliqua presented as example in the original post.

    On the other hand, it is very true that this semi-official issue is extremely rare (maybe with a maximum of 5-6 known examples at best), while the local issues, although very scarce, very similar and also specific to that same area, are not of the same extreme rarity and as such, of the same obscurity.

    All we know for now is that this segment of Spanish numismatic history is still a puzzle and without new material to study, we are left with a lot of questions, like for instance, have these also circulated during the visigothic expansion into the Iberian peninsula? Some (the one presented in the original post included) show signs of wear specific to longtime use.
    Where these AE2s minted even after the ousting of Maximus, as regular official Roman AEs were not enough to satisfy the local economy, such it had been the case after the official demonetization of Magnus Maximus AE2s starting with 395?

    And to add another piece to this puzzle, here is another "local Spanish Maiorina" from an European collection:

    AE18/19mm 2.72g irregular flan
    OBV: [...] MAX[...]; draped, pearl-diademed bust r.
    REV: [...] A AV[CC]; Emperor holding victory on globe crowning him, raising woman with his right arm.
    EXE: ?

    An interesting fact to be noted here is that between the back of the bust at 6 o'clock and the MAX lettering at 9 o'clock there is no room for the regular Magnus Maximus legend DN MAG. Also note the low weight and the irregular flan. What does this mean? Does it even mean anything?

    Who knows?

  12. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

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