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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.

|Marcian|, |Marcian,| |24| |August| |450| |-| |31| |January| |457| |A.D.||solidus|
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.
SH37574. Gold solidus, DOCLR 481 (also 7th officina), Ratto 217, RIC X Marcian 510, Hahn MIB 5, SRCV V 21379, EF, weight 4.485 g, maximum diameter 20.9 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 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

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