Magnus Maximus London-Augusta Solidus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by John Conduitt, Sep 23, 2021.

  1. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    Historically, the ‘London Mint’ has not been a single entity. Instead, it covers everything from Londinium to Saxon, medieval and Tower mints. It’s not hard to find coins from these mints, but there’s one anomaly - the Roman mint’s possible revival under Magnus Maximus, after its closure in AD326.

    A Spaniard, Maximus’s involvement with Britain began during the Great Conspiracy of 367. This was an apparently coordinated barbarian attack on Britain while Rome was weak after a costly civil war. The Roman garrison on Hadrian's Wall rebelled and Britannia was simultaneously overrun by Picts, Scotti, Attacotti and Saxons. Valentinian I sent Flavius Theodosius to regain control. Flavius’s force included his son, later Theodosius I, and his ‘nephew’, Magnus Maximus.

    Constantius II Siliqua, 353-360
    Arles. Silver, 19mm, 2.1g. Pearl-diademed, draped, cuirassed bust, DN CONSTAN-TIVS PF AVG. VOTIS XXX MVLTIS XXXX in wreath, mintmark SCON (RIC VIII 207, S). From the Grimston, Norfolk (2015) Hoard, deposited 364-7, possibly during the Great Conspiracy. Grimston is near the ‘Saxon Shore’, a network of Roman fortifications built along the British coast to protect against raids.

    Flavius marched to Londinium, to the delight of the inhabitants, and made it his base. He discovered many British troops had deserted, and more had not been paid. Maximus was taking note. Once Britain was secured, it was reorganised. A new province, Valentia, was created to deal with the unruly north. London was renamed Augusta, perhaps after the 2nd Legion Augusta stationed there. Maximus was made commander of Britannia in 380, and in 383 negotiated with Theodosius I to overthrow the unpopular Gratian.

    Like his usurper predecessor Carausius, Maximus struck coins to secure the loyalty of his army. These comprised solidi with mintmarks AVG and AVGOB, where OB stands for obryzium (‘pure gold’), and siliquae with mintmarks AVG and AVGPS, where PS stands for pusulatum (‘pure silver’). These are presumed to be from Augusta, and the change in mintmark suggests two issues.

    Many of the solidi are heavier than the 4.5g standard, presumably since Maximus wanted to demonstrate a sound coinage, just as Carausius, also a former British commander, had done with his pure silver denarii. I’ve identified 15 Augusta coins, at least 8 in museums, including only 3 siliquae. Maximus may also have struck a solidus of Theodosius I, a gesture reciprocated in Constantinople, but all that remains is a single base metal copy.

    Magnus Maximus Solidus, 383-388

    Augusta. Gold, 21mm, 4.59g. Rosette-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust of Magnus Maximus; D N MAG MA-XIMVS P F AVG. Magnus Maximus and Theodosius I seated facing on double throne, jointly holding globe; Victory above, vertical palm branch under throne; VICTOR-IA AVGG, mintmark AVGOB (RIC IX 2b). This coin was once owned by Leo Biaggi de Blasys (1906-1979), who seems to have owned every Roman gold coin at some point.

    So many cities were renamed Augusta (after Emperor Augustus), there’s debate as to whether AVG is London at all. The doubt hinges on the assertion that emperors after 368 only struck gold or silver coins at the mint nearest to them, while Maximus departed Britain early on in his reign. There’s no evidence or reason for this, so the question remains unresolved. Neither are the arguments for alternative cities strong, not least because they must also meet the rule that the emperor lived nearby for two issues, while some contenders already had an active mint using a different mintmark.

    So, most sources have settled on Augusta being London. Perhaps an emperor who came to power in Britain struck coins there for his British army, having just seen what happens if you don’t pay them. Indeed, the only find spots I’ve seen are for a solidus in County Durham, a siliqua in Wiltshire and 2 siliquae in Somerset. But it’s a question that will likely never be resolved.

    A three-way division of the Empire lasted a few years, with Maximus in Britain, Gaul, Germany and Spain, Valentinian II in Italy and Africa, and Theodosius I in the East. The reverse of the solidus, however, points to Maximus’s feelings on the matter. It features just two emperors, suggesting he wasn’t happy with this tripartite arrangement. Indeed, he soon invaded Italy to get rid of Valentinian II.

    Maximian I Antoninianus, struck under Carausius, 286-293
    London. Bronze, 22mm, 4.3g. IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG . PAX AVGGG, S-P, mintmark MLXXI (RIC V 34). Carausius’s coins, the first from the Londinium mint, featured 3 Gs in AVGGG, expressing his hopes he’d be accepted as co-emperor alongside Diocletian and Maximian. He wasn’t. Conversely, Maximus excluded Valentinian II on his AVGG coins, hoping instead for a partnership with Theodosius I. That didn’t happen either.

    The attack on Valentinian II didn’t go well. Theodosius I quickly intervened, defeated Maximus and had him and his son executed. Maximus’s move from Britain left the frontier vulnerable to barbarian attack, contributing to the fall of the Empire in the West. 20 years later, Britain was abandoned.
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  3. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Wow that's a fabulous solidus, congrats!!! I agree the London attribution makes the most sense.

    Here's a relevant coin: a maiorina issued for Maximus in Constantinople, during the brief period when Theodosius I recognized him:

    maximus constantinople.jpg
    Note the absence of "Mag(nus)" in the obverse legend.
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  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Magnus Maximus, 383 - 388 A.D.

    AE 2, 24mm 5.7 grams

    Diademed head right, draped and cuirassed

    Maximus standing left, crowned by Victory, raising kneeled, turreted figure of a woman

    Mintmark: TCON (Arles)

    Reference: RIC IX, 26A, Sear 20650


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