Crispus & Fausta
The study of history can be hampered by political considerations and evidence colored by sources with an ax to grind. Some figures in history are held in such high esteem by popular opinion that a historian recording negative information is treading dangerous ground. Other figures are protected from objective evaluation by their position of power or the power of their successors. Time and the deaths of contemporaries makes it more acceptable to bring up negative data but by that time it may be too late to discover the full truth.
Never in history was this point better illustrated than it was by the scandal of 326 AD. Constantine the Great was the most powerful of the Roman Emperors. As the man who ended the persecution and converted the Empire to Christianity, he was loved by the Christian scholars and historians of the late Roman Empire. He was succeeded as Emperor by his sons (by his second wife, Fausta). There was no freedom or demand for histories that recorded negative information about Constantine until well after everyone involved had perished.
What was the scandal? In 326 AD Constantine executed both his eldest son (by his first wife) Crispus and his second wife, Fausta. Histories of the period do not even mention it. Later accounts vary in details to the point that we may learn more about the prejudices of the writer than about the facts of the case.
CRISPVS NOB CAES
ROMAE A-ETERNAE- XV on shield - PR - RP
FLAV MAX FAVSTA AVG
SPES REIP-VBLICAE SMHdelta
The coins shown are just two of many available to collectors that portray these two persons. The Fausta was issued near the time of the murders (RIC dates an issue with a dot following the mintmark to the period after Crispus died but while Fausta still lived). Some references describe the type as Hope holding two children; I prefer the view that this is Fausta holding the two of her three sons that had been named Caesar in 324 AD. The third and youngest, Constans, was not elevated until 333 AD and is not shown on this coin. The Crispus is a 318 AD commemorative of Constantine's having completed his tenth year and undertaken vows of five more years (the XV on the shield). Crispus, though only about 15 years old, is shown in a military pose even though his victories were yet to come.
The family of Constantine is well recorded on coins of the fourth century Empire. Constantinian bronzes are a popular specialty among collectors with many types easily available from a wide variety of mints.
Persons wishing to know more about Crispus and Fausta may enjoy the discussion in Jones, A. H. M., Constantine ant the Conversion of Europe, University of Toronto Press, 1978, pp. 198-200.
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(c) 1997 Doug Smith