Featured Diocletian: Two Interesting Coins and a Legacy of Reform

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Dec 14, 2017.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    A recent trip to visit the remains of Diocletian’s palace in Split, Croatia have had me fascinated with all things Diocletian for the last several months! I have acquired two coins this year that were struck under Diocletian that I would like to discuss. My research led me in a lot of interesting directions so I will apologize in advance concerning the excessively long essay. I just can’t seem to curb my enthusiasm for my favorite new acquisitions. I hope that by writing essays like this on my research and offering it here to be freely available it will help others to learn when otherwise some of the information might be more difficult or expensive to find.

    1.0 – Early Life of Diocletian
    Diocletian was born some time ca. AD 244 near the Roman provincial capital of Salona in Illyricum (near modern day Solin, Croatia) during the anarchic period known as the Crisis of the Third Century. The first 40 or so years of Diocletian’s life are so obscure that most of what we know comes from sources written years and sometimes centuries after his death or else from sources that are considered less than reliable. Diocletian was likely born with the Greek name Diocles which he later changed after being hailed emperor in order to sound more Latin (he may have continued to use it in private). His family was of low status and his father may have been either a scribe or a freedman of the Roman senator Anullinus [1][2].

    Figure 2 – Salona, Illyricum (Modern Croatia). Hometown of Diocletian. Top left – Remains of the Basilica Urbana. Top right – Remains of one of the primary streets of Salona. Bottom – Remains of the Salona Amphitheater. Author’s photos

    Diocletian rose to power through distinction in the Roman army. Nothing is known of his early service but a 12th century Byzantine source claims that he eventually served as Dux Moesiae which means that he would have been a military leader in command of a specially formed army near the Danube frontier [2]. We do know with some certainty that he served as the commander of an elite cavalry unit that participated in a successful invasion of Persia [1]. After the death of both the emperor Carus and his son Numerian under suspicious circumstances during the campaign Diocletian was chosen as the new emperor by the troops. Zonaras claims that his first act upon taking the purple was to draw his sword in full view of the assembled troops and kill the presumably startled prefect Lucius Aper who he accused of assassinating the previous emperors [2]. Next he turned his attention to dealing with Carus’s only surviving son; the Emperor Carinus. In AD 285 the two opposing emperors met at The Battle of the Margus. During the battle the unpopular Carinus was killed by his own men who then hailed Diocletian as emperor of a united Roman Empire.

    2.0 – Reform, the Tetrarchy and the Stabilization of the Empire

    Diocletian now found himself in the precarious position of sole ruler of the Roman world. However, the empire that he inherited was not the wealthy and powerful Roman Empire of the second century. His victory had won him a divided and bankrupt empire that had nearly collapsed under the weight of 50 years of internal chaos. In the second century, Rome’s stability and strength had intimidated its potential enemies and deterred them from testing its defenses too forcefully. Now conversely, Rome’s unaccustomed weakness meant that the Sassanid Empire in the east and the Germanic tribes to the north could exploit the frontiers with ever increasing boldness. Even a competent emperor could not personally meet all challengers at once. To add to the dilemma, Diocletian knew that any successful general that he delegated authority to handle a crisis that he could not personally oversee would likely be hailed as a rival emperor by the troops he was leading.

    However, Diocletian was intelligent and far sighted and as such he developed a revolutionary strategy to reform the Roman state. To deal with the problem of multiple conflict zones within the empire Diocletian promoted his fellow soldier Maximian to the rank of Caesar in July of 285. This effectively made Maximian his heir which, in theory, would also help to solve another problem that had plagued the empire during the Crisis of the Third Century: the lack of an effective succession. This arrangement was so successful that Diocletian decided to take it a step further in 293 in order to deal with a series of military challenges that grew up in the west. Diocletian and Maximian would be Augusti (senior emperors) and two of their subordinates, Galerius and Constantius Chlorus, would become Caesars (junior emperors) in the east and west respectively. Under the new system, known as the tetrarchy, the Augusti would be tied to each other and to the gods by associating their new dynasties with the traditional Roman gods Jove (Diocletian) and Hercules (Maximian).

    This system brought stability and strength back to the Roman world. Within the empire a series of usurpers were defeated, in the north the barbarian incursions were checked and in the east the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon was sacked and the Persians were forced into a humiliating peace agreement. While the city of Rome began to lose its political primacy during this period the emperors spent lavishly on the types of public monuments (such as the Baths of Diocletian and improvements to the forum) that had not been built in the city of Rome in over half a century.

    Figure 3 – The Baths of Diocletian. Top – The exterior of the baths. Bottom – The interior as redesigned by Michelangelo.

    Despite some setbacks, Roman fortunes seemed to be improving steadily. Then in May of 305 Diocletian did something unprecedented: He abdicated his imperium and demanded that Maximian do the same. Diocletian would be the only emperor in Roman history to voluntarily relinquish his authority.

    Unfortunately for Rome it soon became apparent that the tetrarchy would not be able to function without Diocletian’s guiding hand. Soon after his retirement his successors began to fight and intrigue against one another for power. The ensuing chaos is fairly difficult to keep straight so in the interest of clarity I have built a timeline of events that shows how complicated the system got (even excluding most usurpers) (see Figure 2). Constantine the Great would eventually emerge from the struggle as the first sole ruler of the empire since Diocletian 40 years earlier.

    Figure 4 – Timeline of the Tetrachy from AD 284 to 324.

    3.0 – Who is Depicted on Diocletian’s Coins? (RIC V:II 161)

    Roman Empire
    Diocletian, AD 284-350
    AE Antoninianus, Rome mint, 6th officina, struck AD 285-286
    Dia.: 24.73 mm
    Wt.: 3.55 g
    Obv.: IMP DIOCLETIANVS AVG. Diocletian radiate bust right.
    Rev.: IOVI CONSER-VAT AVG. Jupiter standing holding thunder bolt and scepter. XXIZ below.
    Ref.: RIC V:II 161
    Ex Auktion GM 92, Ex Dr. Busseo Peus Nachf.

    One of the criticisms levelled at Diocletian by some numismatists is that his reforms brought about the institutional abandonment of realistic portraiture on Roman coins. Rasiel Suarez dedicates an entire section in his write up on Diocletian in ERIC II to discussing how Diocletian’s coinage reform served to end the practice of lifelike portraits on coins for over 1,000 years [6]. However, the iconography of Diocletian’s coinage was very deliberate and there was much more to the story than simple artistic negligence. In order to make the coinage of the empire uniform during the tetrarchy Diocletian chose to have all of the co-emperors depicted with the same idealized features. However, this strategy only makes sense in the context of a multi-emperor system. As Figure 4 clearly shows there was a short period at the beginning of his reign in which Diocletian was sole emperor.

    The reverse legend of the above coin reads IOVI CONSER-VAT AVG which is a clear indicator of an Augustus in the singular [7]. Once Maximian assumes the imperial title this is quickly changed to the plural AVGG with the exception of a few coins apparently struck in error during the transition [7]. That helps to date this coin type to a period no later than the summer of AD 286.

    So if this coin is too early to fall into Diocletian’s mandate for uniform imperial portraiture whose likeness graces the obverse? The most obvious answer would be that it is an attempt to show the features of Diocletian and when I first began to research these sole rule types that is the conclusion that I at first suspected. However a closer inspection of the style of portraiture from Diocletian’s sole reign shows that there are inconsistencies with his likeness depending on mint location and that it is possible that the mint at Rome (and elsewhere) fell back on a generic likeness for what they believed an “Illyrian emperor” should look like.

    3.1 – Portraits of Power

    In order to consider the issue of whether the portraits from the Rome mint represented Diocletian’s features it is useful to compare the portraits of Diocletian’s sole reign with previous imperial portraits from other mints as seen in Figure 5.
    Figure 5 – A comparison of 3rd Century Imperial Portraits. Photos courtesy of the author and CNG.

    The above is just a sampling from two of the mints I found most interesting for this discussion along with gold issues from various mints that seem to depict the best style for each emperor. A few points of interest that stand out upon examination of Figure 5:
    1. There seems to be a continuity of style at the mints that is retained even as features are modified to represent new emperors.
    2. There are enough individual features common to the representations of Cluadius Gothicus, Carus and Carinus that they can be identified reasonably well on coins from different mints (Ex.: The angular features of Claudius Gothicus, the shape of Carus’s head and the detailing of Carinus’s beard are all universal).
    3. The portraits of Aurelian, Probus and Diocletian struck at the Rome mint are all strikingly similar.
    Percy Webb had already identified the fact that the mint at Lugdunum struck unique portraits of Diocletian during his sole reign (Note: the claim in RIC that portraits of Diocletian and Maximian can be distinguished from Lugdunum needs to be reconsidered. See Post#27 and Post#42)[7]. However, RIC admits that it is unlikely that Diocletian ever visited Lugdunum during his sole rule and so the unique portraits may well be just artistic license on the part of the Gallic celators? There is a possibility that Diocletian visited Rome and he certainly visited Ticinum during his sole reign [8] and so these mints might well be expected to at least make nominal effort to capture his features. What seems most likely to have happened, however, is that upon Diocletian’s rapid conquest of the west and his apparently immediate need for money (his sole reign coinage is unexpectedly prolific) the mint at Rome simply reverted back to the iconography of the last reigning Illyrian emperor: Probus. An examination of the above figures shows that the antoniniani of Probus and Diocletian from Rome are virtually indistinguishable without the legends. In fact, from the time of Claudius II Gothicus to Probus (all from the province of Illyricum) there seems to have developed a somewhat uniform set of features for the so called “barracks emperors.” Aurelian, for instance, was over 60 when he became emperor but many of his coins show a much younger man with rounded and pleasant features that would later be adopted by Probus. Carus and Carinus were from a senatorial family that came from southern Gaul and so it is not surprising that they are depicted differently and with an eye for greater individual accuracy (especially Carus). When the mint at Rome needed to immediately begin striking for Diocletian it would not be surprising that they would have used Probus and Aurelian as models (all eastern provincials look alike right?) and that the pragmatic Diocletian did not object. A similar scenario is likely to have played out at other mints striking under the sole reign.

    Figure 6 - Portrait Bust of Diocletian(?)

    There is, of course, the outside possibility that the mint at Rome did indeed make an attempt to engrave new dies in the likeness of Diocletian and that he simply possessed the physical characteristics that were in style at the time (late classic good looks?). Most sculptural and other artistic representations of the tetrarchs are so stylized and abstracted that proper attribution can be tricky or impossible. The above bust is currently in the archeological museum of Istanbul and has typically been ascribed to Diocletian [10]. It was found in his imperial capital of Nicomedia and was sculpted in a style that mixes realism with ‘soldier emperor’ influence but avoids the abstract tetrarchic style. It shows similarities with early Rome (and a few other) mint coins and if it was a palace fixture not meant for public display it is possible Diocletian would have allowed his actual likeness to be carved in the same way that Maximian seems to have done [3].

    So in short my research on this coin has led to more questions than answers but that is part of the fun of researching these ancient works of art.

    4.0 – The Coinage Reform of Diocletian (RIC VI 33)

    Roman Empire
    Diocletian, AD 284-305
    AE Follis, Ticinum mint, struck AD 296-297
    Dia.: 31 mm
    Wt.: 8.63 g
    Obv.: IMP C DIOCLETIANVS P F AVG. Laureate head of Diocletian right
    Rev.: GENIO POPVLI ROMANI. Genius wearing mural crown holding patera and cornucopia
    Ref.: RIC VI 33

    The most lasting legacy of Diocletian for numismatists is the top-to-bottom currency reform he enacted around the year AD 294 [9]. The above coin was stuck at Ticinum (close to Milan) in the first few years after the reform. The style is not as abstract as coins struck in the following years would become but one can begin to notice a thickening of the neck to an almost impossible degree which is indicative of a move in that direction. This coin was introduced by Diocletian as an entirely new silver washed bronze denomination commonly called a Follis. This name is not what they were called in antiquity and more specifically it refers to a bag of coins from a later period [9][11]. Regardless of what it was called it was the workhorse of the new monetary system and its size and weight must have been comforting to traders used to the diminutive bronze antoniniani of the crisis years. The size of the coin may have been an attempt to recall the earlier imperial Aes while the raise of the gold weight and the restoration of a silver argenteus coin with the same content as Nero’s denarius are certainly references to the earlier monetary tradition.

    Assigning relative values to the coins of the reform and understanding how these coins traded against the coins already in circulation is not as easy as one might imagine. One of the items that make it incredibly difficult is the disagreement on what the XXI found on my pre-reform antoninianus and also on some (not all) of the post reform follis signifies. It has been suggested that it is a ratio of 20 to 1 (XX to I) bronze to silver within the coin [12] or that it means that the coin was valued at 20 of some denomination to 1 antoninianus. Sutherland makes the case that both the denarius and sestertius survived into the third century as a unit of account and that when Aurelian first introduced this symbol he was declaring that 1 antoninianus = 20 sestertii = 5 “denarius communis” (this being the pitiful descendant of the mighty denarius of republican fame)[13]. Sutherland’s view makes sense if the aim was to head off potential inflation and the silver content argument makes sense in that the measured silver content of post reform folli based on metallurgical analysis fall within a reasonable tolerance for the theory. If Sutherlands view is correct the continued use of XXI at some mints may have been continued in part to signify that the new follis was now valued at what the old antoninianus had been. The old antoninianus (and post reform radiates of similar size) were now worth 2 denarius communis which is likely not less than what they were trading at in any case.

    Regardless of which of the above theories you prefer is seems that the most widely accepted relative values can be summarized by Figure 7. Much of the evidence for the below comes from Diocletians “Edict of Maximum Prices” which you can find in the reference link below [4].

    Figure 7 - Diocletian's Coinage Reform

    It is worth noting that the denominations tariffed at set relationships were all on a silver standard. The relationship between the gold and silver pieces were likely allowed to fluctuate based on whatever the gold to silver ratio was at the time [9].

    5.0 – Four Emperors, One Coin Type

    I have saved the discussion of the reverse types for the end because I find them to be both fascinating and instructive for understanding the context of Diocletian and his policies. The reverse of the sole rule antoninianus shows the leader of the Roman pantheon, Jupiter / Jove, as conservator of the state. This was a popular theme on crisis coinage which noticed a sharp increase in the use of Jupiter in a military context. It also presages the association that Diocletian would make with his dynasty and Jupiter under the tetrarchy.

    The reverse of the post-reform coinage is different. It shows the “Genius” of the Roman people standing with a patera and cornucopia. The Genius can be defined as a spirit (closest thing in modern culture would be a soul) that could be representative of any individual, group or even object. The Genius holds a cornucopia as a sign of the prosperity that Diocletian promised under his new system. The Genius was a non-militant symbol of Roman unity that appealed to all levels of society (even the sizable minority population of early Christians would be unlikely to take offense). More importantly, this type appears on the vast majority of the coins struck during the tetrarchy creating an almost completely uniform currency across the expanse of the empire. Peace, prosperity, uniformity and stability were the order of the day according to the tetrarchs and these coin types are yet another extension of that philosophy.

    Figure 8 - Jupiter and Genius


    [1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Diocletian

    [2] Zonaras, J.: Online. http://speculumlinguarumetlitterarum.blogspot.com/2011/01/john-zonaras-alexander-severus-to.html

    [3] https://saintraymond.toulouse.fr/The-Roman-villa-of-Chiragan_a192.html

    [4] http://www.forumancientcoins.com/NumisWiki/view.asp?key=Edict of Diocletian Edict on Prices

    [5] http://saintraymond.toulouse.fr/Faites-un-bond-dans-le-temps-_a853.html

    [6] Rasiel, S., ERIC II: The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins. Dirty Old Books, 2010;

    [7] Webb, P. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume V. Part II. Spink & Sons, LTD, 1933; London, UK.

    [8] http://www.keytoumbria.com/Umbria/Diocletians_Rise_to_Power_(284-5_AD).html

    [9] Sutherland, C.H.V. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume VI. Spink & Sons, LTD, 1967; London, UK.

    [10] Prusac, M. Face to Face: Recarving of Roman Portraits and the Late-Antiquw Portrait Arts. Brill, Leiden 2011

    [11] Smith, D. Online: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/galeriusfol.html

    [12] Smith, D. Online: http://www.forumancientcoins.com/dougsmith/feac73xxi.html

    [13] Sutherland, C.H.V. Denarius and Sestertius in Diocletian's Coinage Refrom. The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 51, Parts 1 and 2. (1961), pp. 94-97
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2017
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  3. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Now that you have seen the coins who wants to see Diocletian’s palace?

    When Diocletian abdicated he didn’t run off to a cabin in the woods or a modest condo on the beach. Instead he spent years ahead of his retirement building a grand and imposing palace right on the waterfront near his hometown. By some accounts he became ill and weak before his abdication and decided to step aside instead of risk conflict with an impatient Galerius. Whether that’s the case or not he had certainly been planning for retirement for quite some time and it apparently suited him just fine. When he was begged to take back the government of the empire after the tetrarchy began to dissolve he is said to have replied;

    “If you could show the cabbage that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn’t dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never satisfied greed.”

    But unfortunately even the great Diocletian could not hold out in peace and tranquility forever in the midst of all the political turmoil. He lived to see his daughter banished after the death of Galerius and the memory of his old friend Maximian damned by Constantine. He died in his palace at some point between AD 311 and AD 317.


    Here you can see an artist’s reconstruction of the palace that is displayed near the main peristyle. Diocletian’s quarters would have been the rectangular portion running the length of the waterfront. The two square buildings would have been for his personal guard and household administration. The buildings between were a temple to Jupiter and Diocletian’s Mausoleum.


    At top you can see a reconstruction drawing originally made in the 18th century displayed in the Split City Museum showing what the peristyle might have looked like. Below is the peristyle as it appears today. Notice how the column closer to Diocletian’s residence are made from Egyptian stone that is the color of imperial purple.


    At top you can see the domed roof of the entry hall into the living quarters of the palace. The top of the dome is gone and you can just see the top of the bell tower (13th century) that was built on to the mausoleum long after it was converted to a church in the 7th century (perhaps I am getting too artsy with my photos). At bottom you can catch a glimpse of Diocletian’s private life… this was his dining room table!

    17-Croatia 306-1.jpg

    Above you can see the inside of the mausoleum that has since been converted to a Catholic Cathedral at left. The angle-like figures are actually cupids carrying portraits of Diocletian and his wife up to divinity. It seems that he may have intended that HE would eventually be worshiped here after his death. At right is the underground burial chamber were he would have been interred though his remains are no longer there.

    At bottom is the very interesting entryway to the cathedral. Our guide told us that the tomb of one of the children of Bela IV of Hungary is above the doorway here. The story is that when Bela IV was defeated by the Mongols at the battle of Mohi he fled to Dalmatia. On his way from Klis to Split one of his children died unbaptized. Since the church would not allow someone who was not baptized to be buried in the church a compromise was reached and a burial above the doorway was decided. I found this fascinating but if the story is true I have not been able to verify it with subsequent research yet.


    This amazingly cool Egyptian sphinx of Thutmose III from ca. 1450 BC was among the many that Diocletian had brought here to decorate his palace. This in the only one that survives intact. It’s amazing to think that this artifact was about as old to Diocletian as his palace is to us. All the others were ritually smashed by early Christians who saw them as pagan symbols. You can still see pieces of the other sphinxes built into medieval buildings in the old town of Split.

    19-Croatia 316-1.jpg

    I am all kinds of blocking what is officially the narrowest street in the world (whose name translates to “Let Me Pass”) next to the temple of Jupiter.

    20-Croatia 382-1.jpg

    It’s not as well known that Diocletian was not the last imperial inhabitant of the palace. Julius Nepos was deposed as emperor in the west and fled to Dalmatia where he set up court in Split. He was murdered right here in the palace in AD 480 and was either the last or next to last western emperor.

    After this the palace seems to have been used as a factory for various goods and then almost completely abandoned. Then in the 7th century the Avars and Slavs overran the area and forced the inhabitants of nearby Salona to evacuate to the islands. After a peace agreement brokered by the Byzantine emperor the citizens eventually moved into relative security within the walls of the old abandoned palace. From this point Diocletian’s palace would grow into the city of Split which, today, is the second largest city in Croatia.

    Please post any comments or coins you think relevant!
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2017
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  4. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    Fantastic write up and photos.

    I think this coin is relevant:

    ie8WN5kpNjK79odDq3LD2iaRG4BefQ (1).jpg
    AE Follis. Rome.
    300-301 CE
    8.86g, 28.15 mm

    IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG, laureate head right / SACRA MON VRB AVGG ET CAESS NOSTR, Moneta standing left, holding scales and cornucopiae. Mintmark S-club. RIC VI Rome 100b; Sear 13292.
    Note: Gloss black patina.
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Fantastic write-up. Thank you!
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  6. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Well-Known Member

    Yet another brilliant write up, and very informative as usual. Great coins and really those pics especially of Salona....hey wow how would you like to sit back on that porch overlooking the amphitheatre beer in hand. I have a coin of Diocletian doing a deal with Jupiter on a table. 20160903_150751.jpg 20160903_150732.jpg
  7. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Love that coin @Sallent !

    Thanks ACH :)

    Nice coin. He seems rather fond of bragging about hanging out with Jupiter on his coins :)

    Our guide told us that the house overlooking the amphitheater was built in the Middle Ages with stones taken from the amphitheater. The Venetians had previously destroyed it to keep the locals from using it as a fortification and in the lower levels at the time there were chapels set up to venerate martyrs that died in there.

    I wish I could have gotten better pictures but it was raining so I couldn't get out my camera. On the upside we had it all to ourselves :)
  8. Youngcoin

    Youngcoin Everything Collector

    Wow, that is an amazing write up worthy of being a feature on the home screen. Great write up and coins, I believe these are relevant-

    20171205_210638.jpg 20171205_210658.jpg 20171214_222913.jpg 20171214_222928.jpg

  9. LaCointessa

    LaCointessa Well-Known Member

    A fabulous article @Curtisimo. The Roman Tetrarchy time line is a keeper. It was helpful and will go into my binder.

    I always wondered why my Diocletian and Licinius coins have that cartoon look. I figured it was because die sculpture art was not as valued as it had been in the past and that the art had declined. Now I can see that it made some sense to have a stylized coin that could be used for more than one ruler.

    I need to shoot my coins that pertain to this thread. I will do that and get them posted here soon.

    Thanks again, Curtisimo, for writing this great research article and for everything you do to make CT a place for learning and fun, too.
    Theodosius and Curtisimo like this.
  10. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status

    Thank you so much for the knowledge. Informative and entertaining. Diocletian:the best laid plans.
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  11. TJC

    TJC Well-Known Member

    Fantastic write up!!!!! Definitely should be on the home page!!

    If anyone is ever in Rome try to check out Diocletians baths. It is both a church and a museum now. Great museum with a quarter of the crowds!
    Dio1x400_edited-1.jpg Dio4x500_edited-1.jpg Dio5x500_edited-1.jpg
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  12. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander find me at NumisForums

    Wow, phenomenal writeup!!! Are all those Rome mint ants yours? The Diocletian is sure awesome, and wow, what a set if the rest are yours too! (But I'm thinking some are CNG photos of others' wins?)

    I especially found your thoughts about the portraiture interesting. It's curious how the portraiture changed over the course of the 3rd century. Early in the century the classic realistic portraiture of the early empire was maintained reasonably well. As the crisis progressed, so did the likelihood of less realistic and/or idealized (and/or cartoonish!) portraiture. Then, somehow, there was this emergence of the stark, idealized tetrarchal style. As you've shown, it wasn't exactly a linear process! Here are a few coins that strike me as relevant to this theme:

    This Florianus (276) from Siscia really foreshadows the tetrarchal style, I think:
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 7.53.58 PM.jpg

    This eastern Carinus (Cyzicus) contrasts strongly with the western mint portraiture that you show. Resembles the early Diocletian portraits to some extent:
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 8.10.43 PM.jpg

    Speaking of early eastern Diocletian, here's Antioch, as early as it gets, i.e. 284 (thanks @John Anthony!) [correction: issued 285, the reverse on the earlier ones ends in AVG, this one is AVGG. Thanks to @Valentinian for the heads-up!):
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 8.11.00 PM.jpg

    And not much later, dating from 285-288, we have this rather tetrarchal looking Maximian from Ticinum, though still with an element of realism:
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 8.11.13 PM.jpg

    This contrasts with a western portrait of Maximian, at Lugdunum (though it's still rather impersonal):
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 9.46.19 PM.jpg

    Compare that with an early portrait of Maximian at Rome (issued 285-6), which isn't much different from your early Rome Diocletian. A bit curlier beard, more like your(?) Carinus:
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 9.47.30 PM.jpg

    This last coin is interesting for another two reasons. First, Max is represented as Augustus, although the standard historical account (which you present) says he was Caesar in 285. Here's what RIC has to say about that:
    Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 7.08.05 PM.jpg
    Thus the early dating from RIC.

    Second, this coin shows Jovian imagery on the reverse, paired with Max, the Herculean Augustus. Obviously they hadn't worked out the Jovian-Diocletian/Herculean-Max motif yet!

    Well that's about all I've got to say for now. Thanks for the great post!!!
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  13. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Excellent post, and wonderful coins!
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  14. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Terrific presentation! Certainly one of the most enjoyable on CT for me... informative, readable and thoroughly absorbing. Thanks for taking the time to put that all together and for sharing it with us. I've always loved that story about Diocletian and his cabbages :D. Oh, and those pictures that you took at Split... fantastic! I'd really love a visit some day.
  15. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE

    Incredible write-up @Curtisimo ! Well done! We need to move you from Civil Engineering to Marketing... well written, lotsa nice research, and great presentation! I feel this needs to be a FEATURED THREAD with all the great info, coins, and history.

    Here are my only Diocletians (purdy obvious, I do not specialize in this Era):

    RI Diocletian 284-305 CE AE Folles VOT XX.jpg
    RI Diocletian 284-305 CE AE Folles VOT XX

    RI Diocletian Ӕ Quinarius 1.46g 16mm Rome AD 284-305 IOVI CONSERVAT AVGG, Jupiter stndng thunderbolt sceptre RARE RIC 193
  16. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Fantastic addition Jacob. Thank you!

    Thank you @LaCointessa for the very nice word and for your consistently upbeat comments! :) I look forward to seeing your coins!

    Thanks Ryro! Some historians question Diocletians brilliance as a general but I don't think anyone can argue that he wasn't a sensational planner!

    Thanks Randy!
    Ryro and randygeki like this.
  17. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Cool post TJC. That scale model is super neat. Is that on site at the museum in the baths? I love scale models (both building them and admiring them :))

    I will be going to Rome this coming April and Diocletian's Baths are definitely on the list since I missed them the last time I was in Rome.
  18. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Fantastic post! Thank you for those additions. The Antioch, Lugdunum and Ticinum mint portraits are particularly fascinating and I did some reading on them but I didn't include some of what I read because I thought the article was getting rather long enough :). Most of these mints seemed to have produced conservative portraits based on previous styles just like Rome except... Lugdunum.

    Lugdunum is perplexing. How did they come up with the unique portrait of Diocletian? It seems strange that the style is so different and that Maximian is portrayed so noticeably different than Diocletian. I didn't touch much in the essay on Maximian's portraiture but link 3 in my references has some neat information on the context of one of his more realistic sculptural depictions.

    Also most of the coins shown in the comparison are from the CNG archives. I can dream that all those gold coins were mine though...
    quarian1 likes this.

    D.C. BOSLAUGH New Member

    Remarkable. Suggested reading about late Imperial Rome: The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. Peter Heather
    Curtisimo likes this.
  20. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago


    Now this is a thread totally deserving of all the previous accolades. I loved it!! Utterly fascinating in all aspects of scope and content!! I hope @jamesicus catches it.

    I'll pile on with an argenteus of Diocletian:

    AR Argenteus of Diocletian; Heraclea mint, 296 AD
    Laureate head right; DIOCLETIANVS AVG.
    The four Tetrarchs sacrificing over a tripod before city enclosure with six turrets.
    RIC 10a, RSC 491 b; 2.92 grams, 17 mm
    diocletian argenteus.jpg
  21. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I love posts like this. Thanks for taking the time and effort to do so.
    Curtisimo likes this.
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