Barbarous imitations of Magnentius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Tejas, Jan 22, 2021.

  1. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I found the coin below on Ebay and bought it for EUR 57. It is an imitation of a Magnentius bronze. The legend is blundered (note the TOV instead of VOT on the shield) and the coin is smaller (19.1mm) and lighter than official issues (3.16g). These imitations have been produced in large numbers. I wonder who made them and under what economic circumstances. Where they made to alleviate a shortage of official bronze coins? Do the represent contemporary forgeries? Would they have circulated together and on par with official coins, perhaps passing hands in bags?

    Screenshot 2021-01-22 at 20.03.24.png
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  3. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    I have a chewed up one of these that I think might be barbarous - the VOT seems to overlap the design. It was described as a Maiorina but I think it is half the weight (although this seems to depend on exactly when it was minted).

    Magnentius, 350s
    Two Victories, 18mm, 2.69g (cf Sear Amiens 18815, RIC VIII 7).

    There was something of an explosion of barbarous coin production in Britain and Gaul in the 350s due to coin shortages. I believe this was caused by the coin reform of Constantius II and Constans in 348AD. The London mint ceased production in 325, which wouldn't have helped.

    Quite often at the periphery of the Empire the Romans didn't pay too much attention to unofficial coins (or, indeed, ensuring there was adequate supply of official ones).
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2021
  4. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Very cool!

    The barbarous coins of this period are usually quite good - fully literate legends rather than I's or scribble marks. I guess they probably were meant to circulate at par with the official pieces, although as mentioned, they are usually smaller and lighter than official coins. Probably didn't matter so much as long as they spent the same in the local economy.

    I have one too, different reverse and struck with dies much too large for the flan
    barbarous magnentius.jpg
  5. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    A possible answer might be that this unofficial coinage was made and used during the period between 352 and 357 when the Rhine and parts of rural and suburban Eastern Gaul were de facto ruled by a confederacy of Germanic warlords, with Chnodomar as high king. Taking advantage of the civil war between Magnentius and Constantius II, Chnodomar and his Alamannic raiders spearheaded an invasion of Roman lands crossing the Rhine and defeating the meager defense mounted by Decentius Caesar in 352. As usual, the Germans were not just raiders and thieves, some were modest traders and peasants who moved westward over the Rhine in the wake of the Alamannic invasion. And the AE coinage of Magnentius and Decentius was the legal tender in Gaul so they used that and very likely when that went scarce, it was supplemented with locally-produced Magnentius and Decentius "Rhine-money."
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  6. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    Hoard evidence indicates that the imitations circulated alongside the official coins, primarily within the territories controlled by Magnentius. Bastien (ANSMN 30, 1985) cites a "small German hoard" of 23 Gloria Romanorum maiorinae, of which two are imitations, and a large hoard from "the Lyon area" made up of 458 'Two Victories' maiorinae, of which 131 are imitations.
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  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    It seems like Magnentius and Decentius had to scramble to raise money to pay for their campaigns against Constantius II, so probably there was a severe shortage of coins. Decentius was toppled by a revolt against the fiscal policies/taxation of the populace. Here's a regular issue of Decentius:

    Type: Bronze AE2

    Weight: 5.39 g

    Diameter: 24.00 mm

    Obverse: DN DECENTIVS CAESAR, bareheaded cuirassed bust of Decentius right

    Reverse: VICTORIAE DD NN AVG ET CAE, two Victories holding shield inscribed VOT / V / MVLT X

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  8. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    That’s missing the L in MVLT!
  9. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    That is a very interesting interpretation and something I had not really thought about before. These coins would therefore reflect a temporary breakdown or weakening of Roman control over the area. Roman urban life, complete with a monetised economy continued, but some of the imperial institutions like the mints were no longer fully operational, causing local officials, like town magistrates and the likes to step in. Had Roman control not been reestablished following the battle of Argentoratum (Strassburg) in 357, coin production (at least for small change) would have likely petered out and vanished completely.

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  10. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    That is interesting. It supports the view that these imitations were made by unofficial mints, but by order of Roman (or Alamannic?) officials during this period of instability before Julian II restored imperial rule in 357 to 358.
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  11. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    The prevailing view is that like other waves of imitation in the 4th century, the Magnentian copies were produced by profiteers as a response to shortage. As an analogy, consider the abundant imitation halfpence of George III which circulated in the UK and America.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2021
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  12. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Great thread idea! I think I prefer my barbarous Mags to the (semi) legit one simply on the merit of it being a barbaric failed Usurper!:
  13. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    Enjoyed the post and discussion, thanks everyone.
  14. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    My understanding is that the Germanic control was on the Rhine proper and in some of the Roman hinterland. If that meant some degree of separation between the mint cities -- that kept minting after 352 for both Magnentius and Decentius -- and the territory controlled by the Germanic coalition, then the people, mostly Roman population of Gaul and also Germanic traders and peasants (who where already familiarized with Roman money and with minting their own Roman money from at least the time of the BEATA type, so likely living memory for some Germans in the 350s), needed these unofficial coins to serve their small market needs. In 352 the official coinage of Magnentius and Decentius became of a smaller module which I think these "counterfeits" emulate. In early 353 the official coinage of Magnentius and Decentius introduced the large AE1, which was also copied but in smaller scale. After the reattachment of the West to the Empire of Constantius II, the minting cities reduced their output, which in turn increased the need for small change in the territories under Germanic control. Probably this is when the small AE3-4 unofficial issues copying the earlier Magnentian types started and it's possible that they circulated until at least 357.
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