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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Roman Coins| ▸ |The Late Empire| ▸ |Marcian||View Options:  |  |  |   

Marcian, 24 August 450 - 31 January 457 A.D.

Marcian was selected by Pulcheria to be the successor of her brother, Theodosius II. Marcian is described favorably by Eastern Roman and Byzantine sources, often compared to Emperors Constantine I and Theodosius I. His reign was seen by many later Byzantine writers, such as Theophanes the Confessor, as a golden age: Marcian secured the Eastern Empire both politically and financially, set an orthodox religious line that future emperors would follow, and stabilized the capital city politically. Some later scholars attribute his success not just to his skill, but also to a large degree of luck: not only had he been fortunate enough to have Pulcheria to legitimize his rule, for much of his rule the two greatest external threats to Rome, Persia and the Huns, were absorbed with their own internal problems; additionally, no natural disasters or plagues occurred during his reign. He was remembered fondly by the people of Constantinople, who would shout "Reign like Marcian!" at the installation of future emperors.


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At the beginning of Marcian's reign, the Eastern Roman treasury was almost bankrupt, due to the huge tributes paid to Attila by Theodosius. Marcian reversed this near bankruptcy not by levying new taxes, but rather by cutting expenditures. Upon his accession, he declared a remission of all debts owed to the state. Marcian attempted to improve the efficiency of the state in multiple ways, such as mandating that the praetorship must be given to senators residing in Constantinople, attempted to curb the practice of selling administrative offices, and decreed that consuls would be responsible for the maintenance of Constantinople's aqueducts. He repealed the Follis, a tax on senators' property which amounted to seven pounds of gold per year. Marcian removed the financial responsibilities of the consuls and praetors, who had since the time of the Roman Republic been responsible for funding the public sports games or giving wealth to the citizens of Constantinople, respectively; additionally, he made it such that only the Vir illustris could hold either office. By the time of his death, Marcian's shrewd cutting of expenditures and avoidance of large-scale wars left the Eastern Roman treasury with a surplus of 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of gold.
SH18897. Gold solidus, DOCLR 481 (also 7th officina), Ratto 217, RIC X Marcian 510, Hahn MIB 5, SRCV V 21379, Choice aMS, nice strike, tiny scratch on reverse at Victory's right hip,, weight 4.476 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 180o, 7th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AV, diademed (with jewel), helmeted, and cuirassed bust facing slightly right, holds spear and shield; reverse VICTORI-A AVCCC Z (victory of the three emperors, 7th officina), Victory standing facing, head left, holds a long jeweled cross which rests on ground, star right, CONOB in exergue; the officina appears to have been recut, from a die for the 10th officina (I); scarce; SOLD


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The Column of Marcian was dedicated to Marcian, built by the praefectus urbi Tatianus, sometime between 450 and 452. It still stands in modern Istanbul, though the statue of Marcian which originally topped it has been lost. Marcian also had a statue in the Forum of Arcadius, which contained the statues of several of Arcadius' successors.Column of Marcian
SH28069. Gold solidus, RIC X Marcian 509, RIC X Marcian 509, DOCLR 476, SRCV V 21379, Tolstoi -, Ratto -, Choice aEF, attractive centering, scratch in obverse right field, weight 4.482 g, maximum diameter 21.4 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, 25 Aug - Dec 450 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AVG, diademed, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield decorated with horseman spearing a fallen enemy; reverse VICTORI-A AVGGG (victory of the three emperors, no officina number), Victory standing left holding a long jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; scarce; SOLD


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In 450, Vardan II Mamikonian, who was leading a revolt against the Sassanian Empire, sent an embassy to Theodosius to ask for assistance. This was favored by Theodosius but these plans were dropped by Marcian. Later, c. 456, Marcian risked the anger of the Sassanids to strike against Gubazes I, the king of Lazica, which was nominally a vassal Roman state, who was attempting to form an alliance with the Sassanians to break free of Roman control. Marcian launched a military campaign against him in 456, forcing him to abdicate.
SH14768. Gold solidus, DOCLR 481 (also 7th officina), Ratto 217, RIC X Marcian 510, Hahn MIB 5, SRCV V 21379, Choice EF, weight 4.491 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 180o, 7th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, c. 450 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AVG, diademed, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield, diadem with large jewel and three pearls, shield decorated with horseman spearing a fallen enemy; reverse VICTORIA AVGGG Z (victory of the three emperors, 7th officina), Victory standing left holding a long jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; scarce; SOLD


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As noted in DOC: "Without frontal ornament on helmet, as under Theodosius II" .. "A faint stroke above the lower loop of the last two C's in CCC almost turns them into G's." Our splendid example clearly shows this 'faint stroke' on the last C, and close inspection reveals the second C has one as well. A great coin for the avid collector of this period.
SH18895. Gold solidus, RIC X Marcian 509, DOCLR 476, SRCV V 21379, Tolstoi -, Ratto -, EF, nice deep strike, marks on outer edges, clipped, weight 4.063 g, maximum diameter 20.4 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, 25 Aug - Dec 450 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AVC, diademed (no jewel), helmeted, and cuirassed bust facing slightly right, holds spear and shield (with horseman); reverse VICTORI-A AVGGG (victory of the three emperors, no officina number), Victory stands facing, head left, holds a long jeweled cross resting on ground, star right, CONOB in exergue; rare; SOLD


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Marcian indirectly saved Rome from Attila the Hun. In 452, Attila captured and ransacked Aquileia, Milan, and other cities in Northern Italy. It seemed Attila would soon attack Rome itself, whose walls were weaker than some cities Attila had already captured. Meanwhile, however, Marcian's Eastern Roman forces had taken the offensive across the Danube, attacking the breadbasket of the Hunnic Empire. The loss of food supply from Attila's own land, and a famine and plague in Italy, depleted Attila's forces, allowing the Western Roman Empire to bribe him into returning to his homeland. Back home, Attila threatened to invade the Eastern Empire and enslave the entirety of it. Marcian and Aspar ignored his threats. The Eastern Empire had already paid Attila about six tons of gold, yet he still threatened them. They reasoned that gold would be better spent building up armies. Attila's attack never came, as he died unexpectedly in 453, either from hemorrhaging or alcoholic suffocation, after celebrating a marriage to one of his many wives. Attila's tribal confederation empire fell apart within a year after his death. Marcian settled numerous tribes, formerly under Attila, within Eastern Roman lands as foederati (subject tribes which gave military service in exchange for various benefits). Map 450 A.D.
SH91162. Gold solidus, DOCLR 481 (also 7th officina), Ratto 217, RIC X Marcian 510, Hahn MIB 5, SRCV V 21379, Choice EF, well centered and struck with attractive dies, light marks, weight 4.445 g, maximum diameter 21.6 mm, die axis 180o, 7th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, c. 450 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, diadem with jewel and trefoil ornament, spear in right hand over right shoulder, shield on left arm decorated with horseman spearing a fallen enemy; reverse VICTORIA AVGGG Z (Z reversed, victory of the three emperors, 7th officina), Victory standing left holding a long jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; ex Neptune Numismatics; scarce; SOLD


Valentinian III, 23 October 425 - 16 March 455 A.D.

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Very rare type struck by Marcian within the first few months of accession on 25 Aug 450 A.D.
SH08027. Gold solidus, RIC X Marcian 505 (R4), DOCLR 863, SRCV V 21270, aEF, some light scratches, weight 4.31 g, maximum diameter 20.6 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, 25 Aug - Dec 450 A.D.; obverse D N VALENTIN-IANVS P F AVG, facing bust, pearl diademed (without jewel) and helmeted, spear in right over shoulder, shield on left arm; reverse VICTORIA AVGGG (victory of the three emperors, no officina), Victory standing left holding jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; very rare; SOLD


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After Eastern Emperor Theodosius II died unexpectedly in a riding accident on 28 July 450 the empire was met with its first succession crisis in 60 years, as Theodosius did not have any sons, nor had he designated any successor. Some later sources state that Theodosius willed the Eastern Empire to Marcian on his deathbed, but this was likely propaganda created by Marcian's supporters after his election. There was a one-month delay between Theodosius' death and Marcian's election, likely due to negotiations with generals Aspar and Flavius Zeno, and with Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius II. Pulcheria agreed to marry Marcian (although she would keep her vow of virginity, which she had taken at age 14), which legitimize Marcian's rule. Flavius Zeno was given the prestigious rank of patrician, perhaps a reward for supporting Marcian, rather than attempting to be made emperor himself. Pulcheria herself crowned him emperor, a unique event symbolizing that the imperial power was shared, likely to further boost Marcian's legitimacy. Marcian was elected without the consultation of the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, which has been viewed as a marker of further separation between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. Valentinian III would not recognize Marcian as Eastern Roman Emperor until March 452. Marcian had his daughter Marcia Euphemia, who came from a previous marriage, marry Anthemius, future Western Roman Emperor, in 453.
SH02917. Gold solidus, DOCLR 478 (also 4th officina), Ratto 214, RIC X Marcian 510, SRCV V 21379, Choice EF, weight 4.43 g, maximum diameter 20.2 mm, die axis 180o, 4th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, obverse D N MARCIANVS P F AVG, diademed, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield, diadem with large jewel and three pearls, shield decorated with horseman spearing a fallen enemy; reverse VICTORIA AVGGG ∆ (victory of the three emperors, 4th officina), Victory standing left holding a long jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; scarce; SOLD


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Marcian laid out many legal reforms in his five novels, or codes of law, many of which were targeted at reducing the corruption and abuses of office that existed during the reign of Theodosius. Marcian decreed that anyone who performed pagan rites would lose their property and be condemned to death, and that no pagan temples, which had previously been closed, could be re-opened. He repealed a marriage law enacted by Constantine I, which decreed that a man of senatorial status could not marry a slave, freedwoman, actress, or woman of no social status (humilis), in an attempt to preserve the purity of the senatorial class. Marcian adjusted this law by declaring that the law should not exclude a woman of good character, regardless of her social status or wealth. He banned the export of weapons, and tools used to manufacture them, to barbarian tribes. In order to ensure his laws were implemented, he set a penalty of 50 pounds (23 kg) of gold for any judge, governor, or official who did not enforce the law.
SH65218. Gold solidus, RIC X Marcian 510, Hahn MIRB 5b, SRCV V 21379, VF, punch below chin, slightly wavy flan, weight 4.481 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 180o, 2nd officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, c. 450 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AVG, diademed, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield, diadem with large jewel and three pearls, shield decorated with horseman spearing a fallen enemy; reverse VICTORIA AVGGG B (victory of the three emperors, 2nd officina), Victory standing left holding a long jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; scarce; SOLD


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Did you read the description and wonder, what is a staurogram? If so, note the term is in blue text. Click on any blue text in our website catalog to open a page or website where you will find a definition, explanation or related information.
SH70982. Gold semissis, RIC X Marcian 514 (R2), Hahn MIRB 13, DOCLR 486, Tolstoi 18 var. (broken rev legend), aVF, holed, weight 1.933 g, maximum diameter 17.7 mm, die axis 180o, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, obverse D N MARCIANVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse VICTORIA - AVCC, Victory seated right on cuirass, holding shield inscribed XVXXX resting on her left knee; awl in her right hand, star behind, staurogram lower right, CONOB in exergue; ex Roman Lode (Plymouth, WI); ex Dr. Garth R. Drewry Collection, ex Hans M.F. Schulman auction, 6-11 Jun 1969, lot 27 (illustrated); ex Thomas O. Mabbott Collection; very rare; SOLD


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After Eastern Emperor Theodosius II died unexpectedly in a riding accident on 28 July 450 the empire was met with its first succession crisis in 60 years, as Theodosius did not have any sons, nor had he designated any successor. Some later sources state that Theodosius willed the Eastern Empire to Marcian on his deathbed, but this was likely propaganda created by Marcian's supporters after his election. There was a one-month delay between Theodosius' death and Marcian's election, likely due to negotiations with generals Aspar and Flavius Zeno, and with Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius II. Pulcheria agreed to marry Marcian (although she would keep her vow of virginity, which she had taken at age 14), which legitimize Marcian's rule. Flavius Zeno was given the prestigious rank of patrician, perhaps a reward for supporting Marcian, rather than attempting to be made emperor himself. Pulcheria herself crowned him emperor, a unique event symbolizing that the imperial power was shared, likely to further boost Marcian's legitimacy. Marcian was elected without the consultation of the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, which has been viewed as a marker of further separation between the Eastern and Western Roman Empires. Valentinian III would not recognize Marcian as Eastern Roman Emperor until March 452. Marcian had his daughter Marcia Euphemia, who came from a previous marriage, marry Anthemius, future Western Roman Emperor, in 453.
BZ87504. Lead tessera, VF, triple struck, some adhesions on gray patina, huge lead tessera (or seal), weight 40.767 g, maximum diameter 37.9 mm, die axis 0o, 475 - 476 A.D.; obverse helmeted, diademed, and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield; reverse monogram of Marcian (triple struck); very rare; SOLD




  




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REFERENCES|

Carson, R., P. Hill & J. Kent. Late Roman Bronze Coinage. (London, 1960).
Cohen, H. Description historique des monnaies frappes sous l'Empire Romain, Vol. 8: Nepotian to Romulus Augustus, plus tesserae & cotorniates. (Paris, 1888).
Depeyrot, G. Les monnaies d'or de Constantin II Zenon (337-491). Moneta 5. (Wetteren, 1996).
Grierson, P. & M. Mays. Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. (Washington D.C., 1992).
Hahn, W. Moneta Imperii Romani-Byzantinii. (Vienna, 1989).
Kent, J. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. X, The Divided Empire and the Fall of the Western Parts, AD 395 - 491. (London, 1994).
King, C. & D. Sear. Roman Silver Coins, Vol. V, Carausius to Romulus Augustus. (London, 1987).
Ranieri, E. La monetazione di Ravenna antica dal V all' VIII secolo: impero romano e bizantino, regno ostrogoto e langobardo. (Bologna, 2006).
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. V: The Christian Empire...Constantine II to Zeno, AD 337 - 491. (London, 2014).
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).

Catalog current as of Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
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Roman Coins of Marcian