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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Roman Coins| ▸ |Constantinian Era| ▸ |Helena||View Options:  |  |  |   

Helena, Augusta 8 November 324 - 328 to 330 A.D.

Helena was the first wife of Constantius I and mother of Constantine I. Although abandoned by her husband, Helena was brought to the Imperial court by her son and was given many titles. She exercised immense influence over the government of the empire and was instrumental in the continued growth of Christianity. Famed for her piety, Helena is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches. Her feast day as a saint of the Orthodox Christian Church is celebrated with her son on May 21, the "Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles." Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church falls on August 18. Her feast day in the Coptic Orthodox Church is on 9 Pashons. Eusebius records the details of her pilgrimage to Palestine and other eastern provinces (though not her discovery of the True Cross). She is the patron saint of new discoveries.


Chersonesos, Thrace, c. 386 - 338 B.C.

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Chersonesos is Greek for 'peninsula' and several cities used the name. The city in Thracian Chersonesos (the Gallipoli peninsula) that struck these coins is uncertain. The coins may have been struck at Cardia by the peninsula as a league, or perhaps they were struck by lost city on the peninsula named Chersonesos. Chersonesos was controlled by Athens from 560 B.C. to 338 B.C., aside from a brief period during this time when it was controlled by Persia. It was taken by Philip II of Macedonia in 338 B.C., Pergamon in 189 B.C., and Rome in 133 B.C. It was later ruled by the Byzantine Empire and then by the Ottoman Turks.
GS89040. Silver hemidrachm, McClean II 4120; Weber 2432; BMC Thrace p. 186, 50; HGC 3 1437; SNG Cop -, Choice gVF, fine style, well centered, tiny edge cut, weight 2.370 g, maximum diameter 13.6 mm, die axis 270o, Chersonesos (Sevastopol, Ukraine) mint, c. 386 - 338 B.C.; obverse lion forepart right, head turned back left, tongue protruding; reverse quadripartite incuse with alternating shallow and deeper sunken quarters, pellet above X in one sunken quarter, kerykeion in the opposite sunken quarter; ex CNG e-auction 249 (9 Feb 2011), lot 34 (realized $320 plus fees); SOLD


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Jerusalem was still being rebuilt following the destruction caused by Emperor Hadrian. He had built a temple over the site of Jesus's tomb near Calvary, and renamed the city Aelia Capitolina. Accounts differ concerning whether the Temple was dedicated to Venus or Jupiter According to tradition, Helena ordered the temple torn down and, according to the legend that arose at the end of the 4th century, chose a site to begin excavating, which led to the recovery of three different crosses. The legend is recounted in Ambrose, On the Death of Theodosius (died 395) and at length in Rufinus' chapters appended to his translation into Latin of Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, the main body of which does not mention the event. Then, Rufinus relates, the empress refused to be swayed by anything short of solid proof and performed a test. Possibly through Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, she had a woman who was near death brought from the city. When the woman touched the first and second crosses, her condition did not change, but when she touched the third and final cross she suddenly recovered, and Helena declared the cross with which the woman had been touched to be the True Cross. On the site of discovery, Constantine ordered the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; churches were also built on other sites detected by Helena. Sozomen and Theodoret claim that Helena also found the nails of the crucifixion. To use their miraculous power to aid her son, Helena allegedly had one placed in Constantine's helmet, and another in the bridle of his horse.
RL32703. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Lyons 234 (R2), Bastien 192, LRBC I 177, SRCV 16595, Cohen VII 12, Hunter V -, aUNC, great style, sharp, bold, patina mostly very glossy undoubtedly formed over mint luster, as struck by an absolutely fresh die., weight 3.181 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 180o, 1st officina, Lugdunum (Lyon, France) mint, 324 - 325 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, draped bust right; reverse SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (security of the Republic), Securitas standing half left, branch pointed down in right, raising pallium with left, PLG in exergue; ex Freeman and Sear; rare; SOLD


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Constantine appointed his mother Helena as Augusta Imperatrix, and gave her unlimited access to the imperial treasury in order to locate the relics of Judeo-Christian tradition. In 326 - 328 Helena undertook a trip to the Holy Places in Palestine. According to Eusebius of Caesarea she was responsible for the construction or beautification of two churches, the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, and the Church on the Mount of Olives, sites of Christ's birth and ascension, respectively.
RL77187. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Heraclea 95 (R5), LRBC I 892, SRCV IV 16616, Cohen VII 12, Hunter V -, Choice EF, excellent centering and strike, green patina, traces of silvering, weight 3.217 g, maximum diameter 18.8 mm, die axis 180o, 5th officina, Heraclea (Marmara Ereglisi, Turkey) mint, 327 - 329 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right; reverse SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (security of the Republic), Securitas standing half left, veiled head left, branch pointed downward in right hand, raising pallium with left hand, •SMHE in exergue; rare; SOLD


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In 327, Christianity was adopted as the state religion of Georgia.
RL63757. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Cyzicus 54, EF, well centered, some silvering remains, weight 3.085 g, maximum diameter 17.7 mm, die axis 135o, 5th officina, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 327 - 328 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right; reverse SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (security of the Republic), Securitas standing half left, branch pointed down in right, raising fold of pallium with left, pellet right, SMKE in exergue; scarce; SOLD


Helena, Augusta, 8 Nov 324 - c. 330 A.D., Mother of Constantine the Great, Error Coin with Fausta Reverse

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This coin combines an obverse of Constantine the Great's mother Helena, with a reverse of his wife, Fausta - a very rare mule error coin.
SL85519. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Alexandria obv. 38 (Helena, R3) / rev. 39 (Fausta, R2), NGC Ch XF, strike 5/5, surface 2/5, weight 3.024 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Alexandria mint, 325 - 326 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, pearl-diademed and mantled bust of Helena right wearing double necklace; reverse SALVS REIPVBLICAE (health of the Republic), Fausta standing facing, looking left, holding infants Constantine II and Constantius II, SMALB in exergue; photos were taken before certification, now in an NGC holder; very rare; SOLD


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Helena is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches and famed for her piety. Her feast day as a saint of the Orthodox Christian Church is celebrated with her son on May 21, the "Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles." Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church falls on August 18. Her feast day in the Coptic Orthodox Church is on 9 Pashons. Eusebius records the details of her pilgrimage to Palestine and other eastern provinces (though not her discovery of the True Cross). She is the patron saint of new discoveries.
RL57062. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Alexandria 38 (R3); LRBC I 1406; SRCV IV 16629; Cohen VII 12; Hunter V p. 258, 17 var. (2nd officina), Choice aEF, weight 3.648 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 0o, 1st officina, Alexandria mint, 325 - 326 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, pearl-diademed and mantled bust right wearing double necklace; reverse SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (security of the Republic), Securitas standing half left, branch pointed downward in right hand, raising pallium with left hand, SMALA in exergue; rare; SOLD


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The cross was rarely used in early Christian iconography, perhaps because it symbolized a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution that most early Christians would have personally witnessed. In 315, Constantine abolished crucifixion as punishment in the Roman Empire. The Ichthys, or fish symbol, was used by early Christians. Constantine adopted the Chi-Rho Christ monogram (Christogram) as his banner (labarum). The use of a cross as the most prevalent symbol of Christianity probably gained momentum after Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, traveled to the Holy Land, c. 326 - 328, and recovered the True Cross.
RL79443. Billon reduced centenionalis, RIC VIII Trier 42 (S), LRBC I 104, Voetter 9, SRCV V 17491, Cohen VII 5, Hunter V 1 var. (1st officina), EF, well centered on a tight flan, obverse die break, weight 1.447 g, maximum diameter 14.5 mm, die axis 0o, 2nd officina, Treveri (Trier, Germany) mint, 337 - 340 A.D.; obverse FL IVL HELENA AVGVSTA, diademed and mantled bust right wearing necklace; reverse PAX PVBLICA, Pax standing left, olive branch pointed down in right hand, long scepter transverse in left hand, cross lower left, TRS in exergue; scarce; SOLD


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Helena is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches and famed for her piety. Her feast day as a saint of the Orthodox Christian Church is celebrated with her son on May 21, the "Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal to the Apostles." Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church falls on August 18. Her feast day in the Coptic Orthodox Church is on 9 Pashons. Eusebius records the details of her pilgrimage to Palestine and other eastern provinces (though not her discovery of the True Cross). She is the patron saint of new discoveries.
RL04496. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Alexandria 48 (R4), LRBC I 1417, SRCV IV 16631, Cohen VII 12, Hunter V -, gem uncirculated, weight 2.87 g, maximum diameter 16.9 mm, die axis 180o, 2nd officina, Alexandria mint, 327 - 328 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, diademed and mantled bust right wearing double necklace; reverse SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (security of the Republic), Securitas standing half left, branch pointed downward in right hand, raising pallium with left hand, wreath left, B right, SMAL in exergue; from the Aiello Collection; rare; SOLD


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In 337 A.D., Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans succeeded their father Constantine I and ruled as co-emperors. The Roman Empire was divided between the three Augusti. A number of descendants of Constantius Chlorus, including the caesar Delmatius, as well as officials of the Roman Empire, were executed. The three Augusti denied responsibility for the purge.
RL63718. Billon reduced centenionalis, RIC VIII Constantinople 33 (same legend breaks); LRBC I 1046 (same); Hunter V p. 281, 3 (HEL-ENAE); SRCV V 17497; Cohen VII 4, EF, weight 1.150 g, maximum diameter 16.5 mm, die axis 0o, 5th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, 9 Sep 337 - spring 340 A.D.; obverse FL IVL HE-LENAE AVG, diademed and draped bust right; reverse PAX PVBLICA•, Pax standing left, olive branch pointed down in right hand, long scepter transverse in left hand, CONSE in exergue; SOLD


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Helena gave birth to the future emperor Constantine I on 27 February of an uncertain year soon after 270 (probably around 272). At the time, she was in Naissus (Nis, Serbia). In order to obtain a wife more consonant with his rising status, Constantius divorced Helena some time before 289, when he married Theodora, Maximian's daughter under his command. (The narrative sources date the marriage to 293, but the Latin panegyric of 289 refers to the couple as already married). Helena and her son were dispatched to the court of Diocletian at Nicomedia, where Constantine grew to be a member of the inner circle. Helena never remarried and lived for a time in obscurity, though close to her only son, who had a deep regard and affection for her.
SH47516. Billon centenionalis, RIC VII Cyzicus 28, Choice EF, very attractive near black patina with earthen fill, weight 2.769 g, maximum diameter 19.4 mm, die axis 0o, 4th officina, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 324 - 325 A.D.; obverse FL HELENA AVGVSTA, diademed and draped bust right; reverse SECVRITAS REIPVBLICE (security of the Republic), Securitas standing half left, branch pointed down in right, raising pallium with left, SMK∆ in exergue; scarce (RIC R3); SOLD




  




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OBVERSE| LEGENDS|

FLHELENAAVGVSTA
FLIVLHELENAEAVG
FLAVIAHELENAAVGVSTA
HELENANF


REFERENCES|

Bruun, P. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VII, Constantine and Licinius A.D. 313 - 337. (London, 1966).
Carson, R., P. Hill & J. Kent. Late Roman Bronze Coinage. (London, 1960).
Carson, R., H. Sutherland & J. Kent. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VIII, The Family of Constantine I, A.D. 337 - 364. (London, 1981).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 7: Carausius to Constantine & sons. (Paris, 1888).
Depeyrot, G. Les monnaies d'or de Dioclétien a Constantin I (284 - 337). (Wetteren, 1995).
Failmezger, V. Roman Bronze Coins From Paganism to Christianity, 294 - 364 A.D. (Washington D.C., 2002).
Milchev, S. The Coins of Constantine the Great. (Sophia, 2007).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. V. Diocletian (Reform) to Zeno. (Oxford, 1982).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. IV: The Tetrarchies and the Rise of the House of Constantine: The Collapse of Paganism and the Triumph of Christianity, Diocletian To Constantine I, AD 284 - 337. (London, 2011).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. V: The Christian Empire: The Later Constantinian Dynasty and the Houses of Valentinian and Theodosius and Their Successors, Constantine II to Zeno, AD 337 - 491. (London, 2014).
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).
Voetter, O. Die Münzen der romischen Kaiser, Kaiserinnen und Caesaren von Diocletianus bis Romulus: Katalog der Sammlung Paul Gerin. (Vienna, 1921).

Catalog current as of Wednesday, October 23, 2019.
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Roman Coins of Helena