Featured Celebrating the Site of Constantine I's Vision and Victory

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by TIF, Jul 3, 2016.

  1. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I don't seek out many late Roman coins, but you could say this one spoke to me:

    "In hoc moneta vinces" :D

    Commemorative Series under Constantine I
    330 CE; Æ 14.5 mm, 1.16 gm
    Constantinople mint, 1st officina
    Obv: POP ROMANVS; draped bust of Genius left, with cornucopia over shoulder
    Rev: Milvian Bridge over Tiber River; CONS//A
    Ref: RIC VIII 21; LRBC 1066; Vagi 3043
    ex E.E. Clain-Stefanelli collection

    Small anonymous Constantinian-era bronze coins were presumably issued for distribution at consecration ceremonies for the empire's new capital at Constantinople. Struck from 330-348 CE, with some rare medallions struck for a few more years, there are many types (Victory on prow, she-wolf suckling twins, etc) and in general they are very common. This particular type shows the Milvian bridge, site of Constantine's storied vision in which he received battle tips from Jesus.


    Constantine I is credited with making Christianity a mainstream religion of Rome. His conversion to Christianity, as described in a contemporary biography by Eusebius, occurred the eve before battling Maxentius at Milvian bridge.

    The story does not appear in other written histories prior to the Eusebius biography. Constantine related the event directly to Eusebius, according to Eusebius.

    Here is the abbreviated version. I encourage you to read the original translated work (link at end of this post).

    After much reflection and introspection, Constantine determined that worshiping idols led to savagery and barbarism. He decided to be a Christian, and set out to battle the wicked emperor Maxentius.

    October 27, 312; mid day: Constantine, deep in prayer, received a vision. From Eusebius:

    "He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, "In hoc signo vinces" [In this sign, conquer]. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle."

    That night as he slept he received another vision, this time in a dream. "Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies."

    At dawn he arose and gathered his artisans, describing the sign. It sounds quite elaborate. His artisans must've been very skilled to make such a thing so quickly, and while encamped. The labarum, which Eusebius saw with his own eyes, is described thusly:

    "A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross by means of a transverse bar laid over it. On the top of the whole was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones; and within this, the symbol of the Saviour's name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of its initial characters, the letter P being intersected by X in its centre: and these letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet at a later period. From the cross-bar of the spear was suspended a cloth, a royal piece, covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious stones; and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. This banner was of a square form, and the upright staff, whose lower section was of great length, bore a golden half-length portrait of the pious emperor and his children on its upper part, beneath the trophy of the cross, and immediately above the embroidered banner."

    The engagement began and despite outnumbering Constantine's troops, Maxentius and his army were vanquished. The emperor himself drowned in the Tiber along with many of his troops.

    The rest, as they say, is history :D. The Chi-Rho insignia (Christogram) appeared on coins first as a minor device. Later, beginning under Magnentius, it appeared as a featured device.

    The Vision of the Cross, Raphael, c. 1520-1524

    The Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Giulio Romano, c.1520-1524


    In case you don't know about Genius on ancient coins, it's not some smart guy; it's a personification of the divine nature present in every man. With the legend POP ROMANVS ("people of Rome"), this coin celebrates the spirit of the Romans-- a fitting design for a commemorative coin.


    References and further reading:

    Eusebius. Life of Constantine. Chapters XXVI-XXXVIII relate Constantine's vision and victory at Milvian bridge. The chapters are brief and entertaining and I highly recommend reading them. It will only take a few minutes.

    An interesting and somewhat skeptical article about the Christian historian Eusebius; from ChristianityToday

    Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, Volume I, David Vagi, 1999.

    Review of Vagi's book by Doug Smith

    Wikipedia entry, Battle of the Milvian Bridge

    Warren Esty's page about Christian symbols on Roman coins

    Simplified overview of the tetrarchy on Livius.org

    A downloadable spreadsheet of Constantinian-era city commemorative bronze coins, from Dane Kurth. Scroll down the page for the spreadsheet. Bookmark the page if you haven't already; it contains many valuable spreadsheets of use to collectors of later Roman coins.


    One last pesky detail: there is not universal agreement about identity of the bridge shown on this coin or of the iconography's significance. Some scholars doubt that it is the Milvian bridge. I'm choosing to believe it is the Milvian bridge :D.

    Milvian bridge, c. 2005


    Please pile on with your Constantine-era city commemoratives and Christograms! :)
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
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  3. YOC

    YOC Well-Known Member

    I'd love that coin..
    I have one already, but. ...
    If you ever want to trade for a superb VRBS ROMA let me know.
    TypeCoin971793, Smojo and TIF like this.
  4. Smojo

    Smojo dreamliner

    Nice. I have the VRBS ROMA example for a commemorative but not a city themed comm.
    Will try for better pics later.
    20160702_111446_1467574711788.jpg 20160702_111328_1467574742468.jpg
    Roman Commemorative - She Wolf & Twins.

    Time of Constantine & his sons
    AE Follis, 17mm, 2.5g
    Trier mint 332-333 AD
    VRBS ROMA; Helmeted bust of Roma wearing imperial mantle LFT
    She-wolf standing LFT, with twins Romulus & Remus suckling beneath, two stars above TR•P
    Ref. RIC VII 542, P. 217
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
    ancientone, Orfew, Curtisimo and 15 others like this.
  5. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I don't recall seeing your Milvian bridge coin before. Let's see it :)
  6. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Yeah, I'll make that trade and throw in a Constantius II.

    Really, a beautiful coin and one I would dearlt love to have in my collection. Excellent write up as well little sister.
  7. Smojo

    Smojo dreamliner

    TIF, when & if you get around to designing an ancient coin themed "T-SHIRT" let me know.
    Greg Oelke and TIF like this.
  8. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Sweeeet!! => wow, I love the rare reverse (super cool ... the bridge & river rocks!!)

    I'm jealous of that baby (man, we see soooooooooo many of the usual Const-examples, so this baby is a real keeper)

    Greg Oelke, TIF and Smojo like this.
  9. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    great write up and a fantastic LRB!

    i didn't know magnentius coins had the first chi rho symbols (or had forgotten), here's a recent magnentius with the chi rho just on the flan...

  10. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Constans 14.jpg
    OBVERSE: D N CONSTANS P F AVG - Diademed, draped and cuirassed bust left, holding globe
    REVERSE: FEL TEMP REPARATIO, Constans standing left holding chi-rho banner in right and resting left on shield, two bound captives wearing Phrygian helmets standing to left, ASIS in ex
    Struck at Siscia 348-350 AD
    3.93g, 20mm
    RIC VIII 224
  11. tbc

    tbc Well-Known Member

    I think Mr Esty should step up with a picture of his Crispus...........
    TIF likes this.
  12. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    Great. I just picked up this coin from the back-up file. Constantine I- Milvian Bridge. RQ. Cohen 558.

    ConstRIC 6 349aRomMilvianbridge.jpg ConstRFollis  RQcohen558.jpg
  13. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The above neglects the bit parts afforded the Chi-Rho on coins several years before. What Magnentius did was make it into the type rather than a minor device.

    rx6040bb0810.jpg rx7080b00472lg.JPG rx7090bb1537.jpg
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  14. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Ah. Thanks for that correction! I was hasty in my reading of Warren's page :oops:. I'll read it more carefully and correct the writeup.
  15. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    7charles? ... that doesn't look like a bridge example?
    Mikey Zee likes this.
  16. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    It does commemorate the victory on the Milvian bridge. Am I right ??
  17. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I don't know, Charles. I'm not very familiar with most Constantine-era coins but do recall that a number of them celebrate that major victory.
  18. Jwt708

    Jwt708 Well-Known Member

    @TIF it's like you read my mind...I'm researching this battle currently!
    TIF likes this.
  19. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    The OP coin is excellent, and the writeup even better. The ancient testimony, "he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, "In hoc signo vinces" [In this sign, conquer]" has lead some to think Constantine saw a cross, but the other evidence cited by TIF, combined with the next coin, is convincing that it was a chi-rho.
    Chi-rho on the shield.
    IVL CRISPVS NOB CAES ("IVL" for "Julius")
    Bust of laureate Crispus left, holding spear in his right hand pointing back over his right far shoulder and holding a shield in his left hand. The shield has a bold chi-rho on it.
    BEATA TRAN - QUILLITAS around votive altar inscribed VO/TIS/XX, with globe on top and *** above.
    In exergue: • PTR • , a mintmark of Trier
    Struck 322-323 according to RIC.
    This coin: 19-17 mm.
    [Ex Langtoft hoard, found Sunday, 24 Sept. 2000 at Langtoft, near East Riding, Yorkshire, England.]
    RIC Trier 372

    Crispus was the first son of Constantine and was executed in 326, so even if the RIC date is not precise, this type certainly was issued at the latest in 326 (no more than 14 years after the battle of the Milvian Bridge) when many people would have remembered the event and understood the reference. It shows a bold chi-rho symbol on the shield held by Crispus as described by Lactantius.

    For more about early Christian symbols on coins, see:
  20. Johndakerftw

    Johndakerftw Mr. Rogers is My Hero

    Wow! Fantastic coins, TIF and everyone!

    I can't post pictures from my phone. But, so far, I have the 'eyes to heaven' and cross in the column (with the two facing victories) Constantine coins. I posted them in a thread a while back. Thanks to some of our fine forum members for the coins!

    Besides biblical coins, Christian symbols on coins is another focus I have.

    Thanks for the additions to the wish list!

    MerlinAurelius, Smojo and TIF like this.
  21. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Oh wow, I forgot to write the pedigree in the original post :facepalm:.

    It's from the E.E. Clain-Stefanelli collection, like several other coins which have recently been posted on CoinTalk. @Alegandron posted a bio about the interesting Ms. Clain-Stefanelli in another thread.
    Carthago and Alegandron like this.
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