By This Sign, You Shall Be Victorious

The conflict between Constantius II and the usurper Magnentius resulted in one more type of Christian interest. Constantine the Great, numismatically speaking, never properly commemorated his vision at the Milvian bridge. Neither, actually, did his son Constantius II but in 350 AD a few mints under the control of the loyal usurper Vetranio used a type showing Victory crowning a soldier surrounded by the words seen in Constantine's vision. Following the vision, Constantine had ordered the sign of Christ (Chi-Rho) painted on shields (oddly, never shown on coins) and carried on a standard called a 'Labarum'. Most of the soldiers were pagans since Christians had been eliminated from the army in 298 AD. They followed orders and won the battle against the greater forces of the rival Augustus Maxentius. Constantine credited the victory to the God of the Christians.

Constantius II 'by Vetranio' - AE2 'Centenionalis' - Sirmium Mint - c.350 AD
HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERIS - SIRM - Victory crowns soldier holding Labarum
24mm diameter - 5.5g.

Vetranio was declared Augustus in 350 AD following the death of Constans. Whether he originally intended actually to rule or whether the entire move was orchestrated to hamper Magnetius is unclear. Constantius' sister Constantina supported Vetranio who abdicated in favor of Constantius when he arrived on the scene. The selection of the type associated with the house of Constantine suggests Vetranio may have been acting on his behalf from the beginning. These coins seem to have predated the Chi-Rho type of Magnentius which could be interpreted as a 'raise' on the bid for Western Christian (Catholic) support against Constantine's Arian heretic son Constantius. Coins of Vetranio were issued with the type from the mint of Siscia while the type was used for Constantius II at both Siscia and Sirmium. Whether all the issues of Constantius were produced after the abdication or whether the two were issued together is not clear. It is certain that the types continued in use after Vetranio had stepped aside since the type was used for Constantius Gallus Caesar who was not elevated until 351 AD. The coins of Magnentius, Constantius and Vetranio are an interesting area worthy of further study.

Recent hoards have made coins of Vetranio, as well as coins of the types used by Vetranio in the name of Constantius, much more readily available. Some dealers have adopted the unfortunate practice of listing coins bearing the name of Constantius under the heading 'Vetranio'. Coins actually bearing the name of Vetranio are still much more uncommon and higher in price than the 'Vetranio' issues for Constantius. Collectors need to be certain that they know which name a coin being offered bears. The smaller photo here shows a Siscia mint coin of Vetranio. Both coins shown on this page bear an unclear letter before the mint mark which indicated the workshop (officina). Coins of this class are usually found with less than perfect strikes. Specimens with full legends, clearly struck are worth a premium.

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(c) 1997 Doug Smith