Constantine I aureus - HERCVLI CONS CAES

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Heliodromus, May 21, 2022.

  1. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member





    I first saw this coin for sale a year ago, raw, at Swedish auction house Myntkompaniet. I was hoping it might fly under the radar, but no such luck and I was outbid. However, a few weeks ago it reappeared at Heritage, now slabbed, and I figured I'd try again. I was the only bidder, happy to win it for an opening bid of $2500, about half of what it went for raw at Myntkompaniet! Evidentially holed coins with "1/5 surfaces" isn't what Heritage bidders are looking for, even if slabbed! :)

    Despite being unlisted for Constantine, the HERCVLI CONS CAES type is a standard Antioch tetrarchic gold type for a western (i.e. Herculean) caesar, being paired with IOVI CONS CAES for his eastern (Jovian) counterpart. Other mints also issued similar Jovian/Herculean tetrarchic types, although not this specific legend.

    These HERCVLI/IOVI CONS CAES types had first been issued for Constantius/Galerius in the 1st tetrarchy, then for Severus II/Maximinus II in 2nd tetrarchy, and finally for Constantine/Maximinus II (both unlisted) in 3rd tetrarchy. The type was issued for Constantine on two occasions, once here as caesar, and later also as filius augustorm.

    Heritage made no attempt to date the coin, other than the obvious "from Constantine's time as caesar", but it seems we can narrow that down considerably since Constantine was out of favor in the east after aligning with Maximianus, and was only rehabilitated at Carnuntum in 11-308 when he was given the "filius augustorm" title. Bronze coinage for Constantine at Antioch stops with his unlisted appearance in the "ANT:" issue in 306-307 (my specimen below), and then only restarts after Carnuntum.


    RIC VI does list two bronze GENIO types for Constantine in the intervening 307-308 period, but both appear erronious. RIC 87b is attested only from a specimen in the British Museum, which is available online and can in fact be seen to really be the later RIC 104 with feint crescent in left field (it perhaps doesn't help that RIC 104 is misdescribed, and really has a CAES vs FIL AVG legend). RIC 94b is attested only from Voetter's Gerrin catalog, and is nowhere to be seen. Many of Voetter's entries are suspect, such as here where RIC notes him also having Licinius in same issue as RIC 94b, which is impossible since Licinius only appears after Carnuntum!

    So, we can date this HERCVLI CONS CAES aureus, for Constantine as caesar, to sometime between 7-306 when he becomes caesar to sometime before mid 307 when Constantine's alliance with Maximianus had become intolerable due to Maximianus having caused the death of Severus, necessitating Galerius himself to attempt to recover Rome. In all likelyhood it dates to the earlier part of this range (in 306 perhaps, or new year 307) since it was a pro forma type who's issuance was likely triggered by the event of change of tetrarchic lineup (death of Constantius I, elevation of Severus II, begrudging acceptance of Constantine as caesar). The bronze ANT: GENIO type for Constantine, above, presumably dates to same time (and note similar bust for Constantine).

    This type for Constantine would have been issued alongside the corresponding IOVI CONS CAES type for Maximinus II, which matches the description of RIC VI Antioch 68. However, RIC 68 is co-dated to RIC 67 for Severus, so that is an earlier issue. In fact the population of coins matching the description of RIC 68 can be divided into two parts:

    1) Coins with a rounded jaw matching the bust type for Severus. This is the real RIC 68.



    Above two coins both ex. NAC.

    2) Coins with an angular jaw, issued alongside this Constantine type, these RIC 68 specimens should really be given a different attribution and date.



    Above is my coin and a "RIC 68" specimen ex. Kunker 273.932. Another similar specimen for Daia is in the Glasgow Hunterian collection.

    Here's a visual of the overall sequence.


    The bottom coin in the above sequence is the same HERCVLI CONS CAES reverse type reissued for Constantine post-Carnuntum in late 308/early 309, now with a FIL AVG title. This type is also missing from RIC, but is recorded as Depeyrot 23-2 noting a specimen sold by Christies in 1986. The Christies' coin was subsequently resold by Stacks & Bowers at NYINC in 2013, which is the photo I used above.

    A final point to note is the double piercing of my coin, which some might find a distraction, but to me actually adds to the allure of the coin! This type of double (vs single) piercing is highly characteristic of coins that have been used as jewelry in India! This coin has a story to tell, from being minted in Antioch shortly before Constantine's fall from grace, apparent travel to India (likely by sea via Arabian gulf) for use in trade, at some point later appropriated and pierced for use as jewelry (who knows where it dangled!), and eventually lost before being discovered in modern times. Sadly the find spot isn't known.

    As always, please post anything related, such as coins from this Antioch time period, Constantine as caesar, or other holed coins!
    Last edited: May 21, 2022
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  3. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    The RIC 104 (corrected by Lech in Not in RIC) that you mention with the CAES obverse paired with GENIO CAESARIS reverse. This is I think scarce and around Carnuntm time.

    CI nob fil.JPG
  4. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member

    Nice coin, seth! DId you post that to FORVM a long time ago under a different user name? If so, I think I offered to buy from you, and you wisely declined! It's definitely quite rare. I was only finally able to obtain one myself late last year, below, from another collector who graciously agreed to sell it to me.


    Here's the BM RIC 104 specimen, RIC's spurious "proof" coin for RIC 87b.

  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the wonderful coin and great write-up! The holes wouldn't bother me at all.
    Heliodromus likes this.
  6. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Yes, I did, but it was more than 12-15yrs ago I think. The old pic was also used on Not in RIC. I remember getting some offers for it but I wasn't ready to give up an Eastern issue for Constantine and one with some ambiguity in RIC and still rather scarce by the present internet age standards.
    Heliodromus likes this.
  7. nerosmyfavorite68

    nerosmyfavorite68 Well-Known Member

    Great acquisition and the coin has an interesting story! I remember reading somewhere (Forum?) that ancient gold coins in India were frequently holed, and they might have been holed to keep them organized, whether it be a peg or a string.
  8. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member

    When roman gold (or local imitative gold) coins were pierced in India, it's usually with these double holes, which is understood to have been for use specifically as pendants (presumably two holes to help them lay flat).

    There's a long tradition of using gold coins as jewelry in India, whether individually or en-masse. You can google for "kasu malai" for modern examples.
  9. singig

    singig Well-Known Member

    Very nice coin , congatulations !
  10. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums Supporter

    Very cool!! And a fantastic analysis as well.

    This seems quite probable, but it's worth pointing out that the Chernyakhov culture holed gold coins from across the Danube are sometimes double-holed, and tetrarchic gold is quite common there - mostly imitations, of course, but some official. Here's an imitative example (not tetrarchic) from Anohin's book on the subject:
    Screen Shot 2022-05-21 at 1.01.56 PM.jpg
    So I think that's a possibility as well. (When I first saw the coin I actually wondered if it might be imitative in excellent style, but the stylistic similarities to the other official coins, including the follis, rules that out pretty securely I'd say.)

    Congratulations on a great acquisition!
    Heliodromus likes this.
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