Does this chi-rho type exist?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    For many years I have paid attention to early Christian symbols on Roman coins. I have a website on them:

    There is one type mentioned in older literature that I doubt exists.

    On my site it says, "This is a line drawing copied from an article on early Christian symbols on coins. It is not certain that there really is a coin like this with a clear rho. If you have evidence it exists, please contact me. [It gives my e-mail.]
    Do not misunderstand what I am asking by exhibiting coins like this:

    Constantine2VIRTVSEXERCITc.jpg Constantine II
    Struck 319-320 at Ticinum
    19-18 mm. 2.05 grams. 5:30.
    RIC Ticinum 121, page 377

    Note the bump at the top of the Iota. It is not a rho, but it is close enough to induce scholars from long ago to write that this type exists with a chi-rho.

    I think it is a different symbol, like this:


    That is an example taken from page 234 of the massive book, Imperator Caesar Flavius Konstantin Constantinus der Grosse, Ausstellungskatalog herausgegeben von Alexander Demandt und Josef Engemann.

    What I am asking is if anyone has a coin, or an image to show us, where it is undoubtably a chi-rho with a clear rho and not just a line with a bump?
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  3. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Smiles, everyone! Supporter

    I see what your mean @Valentinian , about the * symbol on the Constantine II coin. I don’t think it’s a Chi-Rho but I can understand how it might be mistaken for one.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  4. otlichnik

    otlichnik Member

    If you search for images online you will see several examples of these Ticinum coins. Most only have the dot at the end of one arm of the symbol - the upper arm. There are serifs at the end of the other arms, but not the round dots. Furthermore, in many example, such as the one you show, the dot is clearly not centered at the top of the arm but is off-set to the right. This makes many scholars believe that it does represent a chi-rho, albeit one with a very small loop.

    Someone (i forget who) postulated that it might have been intentionally ambiguous - chi-rho to those who know and simple star for those who don't.

    Gavin Richardson and Volodya like this.
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Amen-Ra-Hotep

    I can't find any any examples where it is a definitive chi-rho.
  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    On coins of high enough grade to tell, do all show the bump?
  8. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter



    Constantine II



    The question is whether this is a Christian symbol.

    Licinius was not associated with Christianity, but we must take into account that each mint issued coins for all the rulers acknowledged at the time, but the types were not of their choosing unless the mint was in their territory. At the time of this issue, the Aquileia mint was Constantine's. If the symbol is Christian, Licinius was in no position to say to leave it off of the coins issued in his name.

    So, the symbol is sometimes (usually?) without a bump at the top. These three do not have a rho. Roman stars usually are eight-pointed, not six-pointed. Maybe this symbol is not composed of letters (iota-chi, or, chi-rho), rather just a simple six-pointed star.

    Is there any other evidence? What do you think?
    Bing likes this.
  9. otlichnik

    otlichnik Member

    Sadly I don't think we can be certain either way.

    The chi-rho was used on gold before this issue and appears regularly starting about a decade after this issue. The mark on this issue is similar to a chi-rho, but also to a star. Some have a dot that seems to indicate chi-rho others do not.

    To me the options are:
    - not a chi-rho, only a star,
    - a chi-rho but the design was not properly understood,
    - purposely ambiguous (plausible deniability by a Christian designer??)
    (I wish I remembered whose idea that was as it was not originally mine).

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