Delmatius Caesar

Nepotism, Roman Style

Late in his reign, Constantine the Great began to prepare for the transfer of his immense power to his successors. No Emperor was better supplied with candidates. Having killed his eldest son Crispus, Constantine still had three sons already holding the title Caesar. For a reason that has never been clear (to me, anyway) Constantine decided to divide up the Empire and included the sons of his half brother in the division. Flavius Julius Delmatius was given the rank of Caesar and control of Greece, Macedonia and Thrace.

Delmatius Caesar - AE3/4 reduced follis - 336-337 AD - Thessolonika officina 5 - 17mm, 1.5g
One standard between two soldiers with spears and shields

Our example shows the scarce variety spelling the Caesar's name with an 'A': DALMATIVS. These were part of the production at the mints at Nicomedia and Thessolonika. The reverse is the common type used in the last years of Constantine's reign. Probably as a compromise between pagan and Christian interests, the coin honors the army and bears no religious symbols. Later, the soldiers would guard a labarum or standard bearing the Chi-Rho. Slightly earlier versions of this type (issued before Delmatius was made Caesar) showed two standards between the soldiers. This is illustrated (below left) by a follis of Constantine II. Note the larger earlier coin demonstrates the progressive decline in the size of the follis. Single standard coins are regularly smaller than the two standard varieties. It seems that the change of type indicated a change of weight standards.

Also below are two other Delmatius folles with the standard 'E' spelling. Each of the mints that honored him vary slightly in style but used the same reverse type. Second from the left is the mint of Siscia while second from the right shows a coin of Nicomedia after the correction in spelling was made. Finally, on the right, is a single standard coin of Constantine I from Thessolonika. This was the last lifetime issue of this 'Great' ruler.

The plans of Constantine to provide efficient government of the vast empire fell prey to the lust for power by his sons. Delmatius and almost all of the extended family was killed in a series of executions and civil wars. By 350 AD only one son, Constantius II, remained. Desiring help in administering the Empire he appointed Caesars from the few members of the family that survived the bloodbath of 337 AD. The last of these, Julian II, managed to outlive Constantius II and was the last ruler from the house of Constantine. Several coins of this period are shown on my Common Constantinian page.

Footnote: Some of you are asking why I did not include Delmatius' brother on this page. Even more rare are coins honoring Hanniballianus whose share of the empire was Armenia. He was not made Caesar but was installed as 'Rex' or King of Armenia. A few coins were struck dedicated (dative case legends) to him as 'REGI' making him the only Roman to bear this numismatic title (even though he was NOT king of Rome!). I would like to have shown one of these on this page but I do not have a photograph of the coin. Hanniballianus died in the same proscription that killed Delmatius.

Back to Main page

(c) 1998 Doug Smith