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XXI

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An  Essay  Arguing  For

 

REDATING  THE  VICTORIAE  DD AVGG Q NN”  BRONZE  COINS  STRUCK  BY  CONSTANTIUS II  AND  CONSTANS

 

By  Jon LaFalce

October  2007

 

 

When delving into the origins of an ancient coin, examining the distant past is an extremely difficult task at best.  The lack of records, conflicting archeological data, destruction of important sites in antiquity, and assumptions based upon previous research, all contribute to the fog of numismatic history.  One can only speculate on the important dates relating to a narrow chronology when specific and confirmable evidence is lacking.   It is the currently acknowledged dating of  “Twin Victories With Wreaths”  (VICTORIAE DD AVGG Q NN) series during the Constantinian Dynasty that is the focus of this essay.

 

The VICTORIAE DD AVGG Q NN series of AE4 coins (TVWW) has come to have an accepted production date of AD 347-48, definitively put forth by J Kent in Volume VII of Roman Imperial Coinage.  Given the sheer number of the coins that have been found in relation to other small bronze coins of the time, it seems unlikely (to this author) that production could have been limited to less than two years, ending at the monetary reformation with the Fel Temp series that began in AD 348.  Other respected authorities such as Pierre Bastien, have placed the production span from AD 342-347, at least in Lyons  Emissions containing letters in the center field,  Bastien proposes to be from AD 343-347, based upon known activity dates for the official mints.

   

Yet both lofty sources have a proverbial soft spot.  In addition to dating the issue to AD 347-8, R.I.C. makes clear that there was no bronze production at the Trier mint from Spring of AD 340 until AD 350.  This assertion can be contested by the fact that there are not less than 32 variations of Constans and 27 of Constantius II existent with the Trier mintmark.  Production of this bronze issue would not have been possible if Trier had been closed during that particular decade.  So if it can be established that the Trier bronze production date is wrong in RIC, could the overall issue dates for the coin also be wrong?

  

On the other hand, Bastien minimizes the theological and political upheaval during this time and misses an opportunity to effectively narrow down the production date.  The schism between the co-emperors concerning the Arian Controversy had grown since the death of Constantine II in AD 340.   Beginning in AD 344, Constans was issuing not-so-veiled threats against his brother to adhere to the majority findings of the Council of Sardica held in the fall of AD 343.  A theological armistice was reached by spring AD 345, a deal clearly demonstrated by acquiescence to Constans’ demand for the restoration of Athanasius (who had been exiled by Constantius II) to the See at Alexandria.  However, divisions flared again, nearly resulting in open warfare by early AD 346.  But the brothers diffused the situation by agreeing to disagree.   (The Catholic Church’s records play down these events of AD 346, falling back on their policy of minimizing all internal strife that leaked into the public view.)  With this latest reconciliation between brothers occurring not later than spring, this timeframe becomes significant when speculating  the production date of the TVWW issue, particularly when examining the coin’s reverse representation.

 

The reverse legend provides the best opportunity to attempt to determine production dates given the limited amount of other evidence.  The examination of  two possible (if not probable) interpretations might provide a clue to the emission dates of the issue.  The legend VICTORIAE  DD AVGG Q NN (Victoriae dominorum augusti que nostrorum) has different translations depending upon the grammatical tense used.  The linguistic workings of the Roman abbreviation system add a little insight, but does not present a definitive conclusion for an exact translation.  Unfortunately, no written instructions for the master celator remain in existence.

 

VICTORIAE can be translated to “Victory" or the plural “Victories”.  The specific reason why Victoriae is not heavily abbreviated (as the rest of the legend) is a matter of speculation.  It would not be unreasonable to assume that it is simply for emphasis, rather than to account for any excess of amount of available space on the die.  The next portion of the legend is DD.   The letter D, (abbreviating Dominus or Dominorum) is doubled to show that it is plural.   Next is AVGG, again plural, this time for Augustus indicating 2 Augusti. (1)   'Q',  which abbreviates 'Que', is a grammatical modifier, positioned in the inscription to show that the plural Noster (NN) modifies both DD and AVGG.   So we are left with Victoriae (Victory/ies) Dominorum (Lords) Augusti (Augusti) Que Nostrorum (Our).

 

In the present tense, the legend declares the coin to celebrate "The Victor(y)ies Of Our Lords And Augusti."  Using the dative (as a dedication), it is read as "Dedicated To The Victory(ies) Of Our Lords And Augusti".   Either interpretation is a valid supposition and both need to be examined.

 

If it is assumed that the former is the correct translation, the coin could possibly be commemorating military victories of the co-emperors.   Constans had scored major victories over the Franks in 342 (resulting in a subservient state status for Frankish territory) and had a pressing military expedition to Britain against the Scots or Picts in the winter of 343.   Constantius II had protracted campaigns against the Persians and had repelled the Sassanid Persians by AD 344 at tremendous cost in the first battle of  Singara.   This temporary peace secured a large chunk of border territory, although the conflict would continue to fester for several years.  Both emperors could lay claim to having had conducted military action worthy of numismatic commemoration in the first half of the decade.

 

            If the latter translation is the correct one, then it probably refers to a recent action that is to be seen as a co-victory or reconciliation.    The prevention of a major fratricidal conflict, (the political implications of the Arian Controversy at the core), could easily be deemed a major victory where the end result was the harmonious coexistence of the Empire’s eastern and western’s spheres.  The triumph of the ruling brothers over a serious theological rift would be impressive enough to warrant an attempt to calm the stoked tensions of the far flung troops, auxiliaries, and populace.   The newly minted compromise would have made it expedient for the emperors to issue propaganda coinage displaying fealty to each other.  Wishing word to spread quickly, the demand for the symbolic coinage would have been immediate, with production starting as soon as possible.(2)  A reverse displaying two victorious equals celebrating significant conquests or a joint victory would portray the intended message of now resolved differences.  It would not be unreasonable to expect some coin production to begin a month later at mints close to the Imperial seats, (where communication and logistical lines were shortest), and then production expanding throughout the remaining western mints.

 

Political realities could point directly at a narrow time span for production of these coins to commence.  If the repercussions of the Arian controversy had no effect on the issuance of the coin, then production could have started as early as late AD 344 commemorating military victories or as late as early AD 346 with the renewal of  Consular positions for Constantius and Constans (3).  If the Arian Controversy played a role, then the autumn of AD 345 could have been the starting date for the issue - possibly as late as mid AD 346.  Given the implications of a splintering religion and its effect upon adherent joint rulers, it is difficult to minimize the impact of this schism.

 

 Significant events in such a small snapshot of time produces a golden opportunity for the creation of the TVWW coinage.   The theological truce of AD 345, the prevention of hostilities in early AD 346 and the renewal of joint rule confirmed by Consular elections in AD 346, are all within a time frame when a commemorative coin could and would be issued.   Based upon the circumstantial evidence examined, it is this author’s belief that production began in early AD 346 and ended at the currently accepted date of AD 348, with the introduction of the Fel Temp Reparatio series of bronze coinage.   A production span of nearly three years better accounts for the sheer quantity and number of variations for this issue.  

 

 

                                          TVWW  VARIANTS   BY   MINT

 

                                                Constans             Constantius II            Total

 

Arles                             25                             13                          38

Aquileia                        23                             21                           44

Lyons                           28                             26                           54

Rome                            65                             20                           85

Siscia                            30                             27                           57

Thessalonika                 19                             14                           33

Trier                             32                              27                          59

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

(1)  Examples of quantitative value of AVG can be found during many reigns.  AVGG was used to indicate the joint rule of Diocletian and Maximianus in the PAX AVGG and SALVS AVGG series; of Constantine and Licinius I in the IOVI CONSERVATORI  AVGG series;  of Arcadius, Honorius, Theodoseus II and Valentinian II, when coins were struck with the inscription VICTORIA AVGGG and  CONCORDIA AVGGG to indicate three co-emperors.    

 

(2)   Within the House of Constantine, precedent for such celebratory coinage had been set with the Samartia series and other similar issues. 

 

(3)  Constantius II was elected to his fourth Consulship and Constans his third in AD346.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Publications

 

Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VII   J. Kent et al., (Spink and Son, reprinted 2003)

 

Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol VIII   Edward Sydenham et al., (Spink and Son, 1966)

 

Roman Bronze Coins, From Paganism to Christianity 294-364 AD, V. Failmezger,  (Ross & Perry, 2002)

 

Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins, D. Van Meter,  (Laurion Press, 1991)

 

The Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire, E. Gibbon,  (Penguin Classics, 2000)

 

Le monnayage de l’atelier de Lyon - De la mort de Constantin à la mort de Julien (337-363),  Pierre Bastien, (Wetteren, 1985)

 

The Building of Christendom  Vol 2, Warren H Carroll, (Christendom College Press, 1987)

 

Darkness Descends, The Fall Of The Western Roman Empire,  Ted Byfeld  ed., (Christian History Project,  2003)

 

 

On-Line

 

http://esty.ancients.info/imit/index.html

 

http://dougsmith.ancients.info/uncleaned.html

 

http://www.ruark.org

 

http://cgb.fr/monnaies/vso/v27/gb/monnaiesgbf56d.html

 

http://www.livius.org/cn-cs/constantius/constantius_ii.html

 

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02035a.htm

 

http://www.catbikes.ch/coinstuff/coins-ric.htm