The House of Valentinian & Theodosius Coins from the Junkbox: Part Two
|A popular section on this site is the survey of common coins of the Constantinian period that are often found in 'unsorted' lots and 'pick out pots'. These same sources will usually contain many coins of the emperors that ruled Rome after the end of Constantine's dynasty until Rome was well on its way to the 'Fall'. A dynasty founded by Valentinian I in 364 AD lasted until the middle of the next century. Throughout the period, Rome was in constant conflict with barbarians on the borders. Vast quantities of low value bronze coins were produced by over a dozen different mints scattered across the Empire. As before, this is not a catalog of available coins but simply a display of some of the most common types and rulers. During this period, even more than before, coins were issued by several rulers sharing power. Coins shown here for one ruler and one mint usually can be found from other people and other places. Styles and organization of mintmarks vary greatly from time to time and place to place. Our samples can not claim any degree of completeness but should give an idea of what might be found.
This site attempts to show a variety of coins and point out why they are interesting to collectors. I claim no expertise in the coins of this period. Since these coins are often available to beginning collectors, this page is offered as a basic resource. If you are a specialist in these coins and see something that I stated improperly, please write. Rare rulers and types are omitted altogether.
Denomination names are not understood for this period. Therefore the coins shown here will be described using the AE1-AE4 scale explained on my denominations page.
Valentinian I - 364-375 AD - AE3 - Emperor holds Victory - Sirmium mint 2nd workshop
DN VALENTINI-ANVS PF AVG / RESTITV-TOR REIP - B SIRM
Valentinian I - AE3 - Soldier with labarum drags captive - Siscia mint 2nd workshop
DN VALENTINI-ANVS PF AVG / GLORIA RO-MANORVM - B SISC - Q K P
Valens - 364-378 AD - AE3 - Victory advances left - Constantinople mint 2nd workshop
DN VALEN-S PF AVG / SECVRITAS REIPVBLICAE - CONS B - dot left
Valens- AE3 - Soldier with labarum drags captive - Arelate mint 2nd workshop
DN VALEN-S PF AVG / GLORIA RO-MANORVM - CONST - OF II
Our period began with the death of Jovian and the elevation of the Praetorian Prefect Valentinian to the purple. Realizing his need for help with this new task, Valentinian immediately appointed his brother Valens as co-emperor and gave him the eastern half of the Empire. The common coins of the pair are unimaginative AE3's showing scenes of a military nature. Some show a soldier holding a standard (labarum) bearing the Christian symbol chi-rho. Larger bronze coins are more scarce. The reverse fields often show letters or symbols that identify the period of issue. Of our two Valens coins the left was produced by the Constantinople mint's second workshop (officina). The one from Arelate (then called Constantina) on the right shows the unusual field legend OF II rather than using the more usual Greek numeral 'B'. Special thanks go to the visitor of this list who pointed out my error on the mint ID of this coin. Partial legends often make separating the coins of the brothers difficult. Some help is offered by the need to use smaller letters to fit in the longer name of Valentinian.
Left to Right:
To help insure his dynasty, Valentinian also appointed his two sons to be co-emperors. Gratian was made Augustus at age 8 in 367 AD; half brother Valentinian II followed (on the death of his father) in 375 AD at age 4. Neither was first made Caesar as would have been the practice in earlier days. Actual rule was in the hands of Valens until his death in 378 AD. Both boys lived long enough to assume normal duties but they were particularly reliant on the help of advisors. Their coins are a bit more varied and interesting than those of their father and uncle. Much of their reign saw three reigning Avgusti and resulted in the interesting 'super-plural' AVGGG abbreviation shown on the middle Valentinian II example. Some (our right) coins of Valentinian II insert IVN to denote the coin is not his father's. Please remember that most coin types were issued for more than one ruler so you should not be surprised to find your Gratian having the reverse shown for my Valentinian or vice-versa. During this period, it was considered a higher honor to have the obverse legend broken in the middle rather than in a continuous arc. Coins of Gratian showing the break (right and left) were struck after the death of Valentinian I; coins of Valentinian II with a break date after the death of Gratian. The long legend on our right Valentinian II example leaves little room for a break but it is there. Someone please tell me why the broken legend was an honor????
Left to Right:
The death in 378 AD of Valens presented a problem to the then 19 year old Gratian and 7 year old Valentinian II. The answer was found in the person of Theodosius I, the greatest general of the day, who was appointed Augustus of the East. Soon Gratian was killed by the usurper Magnus Maximus. Theodosius decided to accept the fact of his new, self appointed, colleague. Maximus proved unsatisfied with his position in Gaul and took Rome from Valentinian. Only then, Theodosius moved to eliminate the usurper. Valentinian II was restored to power in Rome where he soon was murdered by his advisor, the German Arbogast. Theodosius defeated Arbogast, killed his puppet Emperor Eugenius and became ruler of the entire Empire. For the last time all Rome answered to one head. The coins of Theodosius and Magnus Maximus follow the familiar patterns of the dynasty of Valentinian. Noteworthy here is the AE2 of Maximus which bears the S CON mintmark of Arelate in Gaul not to be confused with the Constantinople mint. Most of his coins are somewhat rugged in appearance. Of the coins shown on this page, only his AE4 has any claim to rarity. Its miserable appearance still allows it to show up in junk lots. The left Theodosius was illustrated in the Numismatist magazine for October 1981. No mention was made there of the misspelled legend or the fact that a headless victory steers the boat. The political situation of the day almost makes this seem appropriate. ;)
Arcadius - 383-405 AD - AE2 - Emperor standing with globe - Nikomedia mint 1st workshop
Theodosius I prepared for the future by naming his two sons Arcadius and Honorius Augusti (respectively) of the East and the West. Neither were prepared to rule without the 'assistance' of advisors who were often German generals. Germans of the Arrian faith were prevented by public opinion from being Emperor in their own name. As a result they exercised power through Orthodox puppet emperors. More variety in coinage appears during this period but the emphasis of victory and military types remains. As before, the divided obverse legends began with the death of their father. Most interesting is the Honorius second from the right showing the three emperors then current. The small one in the center is Theodosius II, the one year old son of Arcadius. The miserable AE4 on the extreme right shows how low the standards of workmanship had dropped by this time. Things would get worse. Have you seen my Leo I page?
Coins of the dynasty of Valentinian and Theodosius make up a significant part of the small size bronzes sold as uncleaned, unpicked lots. The examples shown here do not include the rare issues of usurpers or minor family members but will include most of the coins of this period encountered by the beginner. Counting all the minor varieties and mintmarks, there are thousands of coins available to the specialist. Some minor varieties are quite rare but low demand makes most reasonably priced. The exception to this is the high price asked for almost anything from the later years of Rome in the West. While this is not a period I have studied in depth, I hope this survey proves useful to beginning collectors.
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(c) 1998 Doug Smith