Titles and Images

In looking at titles and adjectives describing Constantine on his coinage, he does not use too much of his nomenclature for the most part. In general, he uses adjectives such as “pius” and “felix” to describe himself, as well as using phrases and images on the reverse to establish his greatness oftentimes as a military leader of Rome.

On Solidus/ Gold coins

The gold medallion minted in Thessalonica in 327 A.D. depicted below is a perfect example of Constantine using coins to illustrate his military success and greatness. The obverse is an ornate depiction of his head. The reverse reads “Gloria Constantini Aug” (the glory of Constantinus Augustus), and depicts Constantine holding a spear in his right hand and a trophy in his left, with captives kneeling below him. This coin was minted soon after his defeat of Licinius in 324 A.D., which established him as sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Constantine is clearly celebrating and reiterating his success with this coin, and his use of this mint on the expensive gold medallion meant that he certainly intended for high class people to be aware of his “glory”.

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Obverse: No legend.: Head rosette-diademed gazing upward r.

Reverse: GLORIA CONSTANTINI AVG: Emperor in military dress adv. r. holding spear in r. and trophy over l. shoulder; to l. and r., two seated captives

RIC. 163

 

The gold solidus minted in Treveri in 310-313 A.D. depicted below continues this theme of Constantine establishing a military presence for himself. The obverse reads “Constantinus P(ius) F(elix) Aug”, and again depicts the head of Constantine. The using of the adjectives “Pius” and “Felix” (fortunate) to describe himself are very common in the titles of Constantine on his coins. The reverse reads “SPQR Optimo Principi”. “SPQR” stands for “Senatus Populusque Romanus” (Senate and People of Rome). This was an official emblem of Rome, and it was also used on the vexilloids (flag like banners) of the Roman legions. Depicted on the coin is the legionary eagle between two vexilloids. “Optimo Principi” simply means “to the best chief”. This wording and imagery clearly is meant to associate Constantine with military power. It also is probably meant to reiterate the army’s support of Constantine, since it was the army in Britain that proclaimed him emperor after his father’s death in 306 A.D.

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Obverse: CONSTANTINVS P F AVG: Bust

Reverse: S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI: Legionary eagle to l., between two standards surmounted by hand or wreath

RIC. 815

 

Similar to the coins we just examined is this gold solidus minted towards the end of Constantine’s reign in Antioch in 335-336 A.D. The obverse depicts the head of Constantine with the title “Constantinus Max(imus) Aug”. This is consistent with his usually short nomenclature on coins, and it declares him simply as “Constantine the greatest Augustus”. The reverse reads “Victoria Constantini Aug” (the victory of Constantine Augustus), and depicts Victory holding a trophy and a palm branch. The “Vot XXX” refers to Constantine’s 30 year reign. This coin is another example of Constantine portraying himself as a great military leader, referring to “victoria”, and then depicting the deity on the coin.

Antioch Solidus AD 335-336

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Obverse: CONSTANTINVS MAX AVG: Bust with rosette diadem dr. cuir. r.

Reverse: VICTORIA CONSTANTINI AVG: Victory advancing l. with trophy and palm branch; in field VOT/XXX

RIC. 96

The titles and depictions of Constantine on his gold coins are quite consistent, and largely serve to evoke the idea of Constantine as a great man with military power. While he usually uses very little of his own nomenclature, we frequently find adjectives describing him such as “Pius” and “Felix”, as well as phrases proclaiming his “glory” and “victory”.

 

On the Nummus

The titles and depictions of Constantine on the nummus, the basic coinage during Constantine’s rule do not differ too much from the titles and depictions on his gold coins. Unfortunately as I’ve stated earlier, work is still being done to digitize the images of Constantine’s coins, and I was unable to find any nummi of Constantine on the Mantis database that didn’t refer to Sol. However, we do have all the other relevant information about the coins. The bronze nummus minted in Constantinople in 327-328 A.D. referenced below reads the previously seen title of “Constantinus Max(imus) Aug”, with a depiction of the head of Constantine. The reverse reads “Libertas publica” (free peoples), and depicts Victory holding a wreath in both hands. This coin, minted shortly after the establishment of Constantinople as the Roman capital may imply that Constantine and the city are bringing and will bring freedom to the people of Rome.

 

Obverse:CONSTANTINVS MAX AVG: Head rosette-diademed r.

Reverse: LIBERTAS PVBLICA: Victory stg. l. on galley, wreath in both hands

RIC. 25

 

The bronze nummus minted in Ticinum in 314-315 A.D. referenced below gets back to the theme of Constantine as a powerful military figure. The obverse depicts his head with the previously seen title of “Imp Constantinus P(ius) F(elix) Aug”. The reverse reads “Marti Conservatori” (to the preserver Mars), and depicts Mars holding a reversed spear, and a shield lying on the ground. This coin was minted shortly after his defeat of Maxentius in the battle at the Milvian Bridge. Constantine praises Mars with this coin, and implies that Mars is preserving his just rule, and giving him military strength

 

Obverse: IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG: Bust laureate, cuir. r.

Reverse: MARTI CONSERVATORI: Mars in military dress stg. r. holding reversed spear in r. and shield on ground in l.

RIC.23

 

This bronze nummus minted in Ticinum in 318-319 A.D. referenced below again depicts the head of Constantine on the obverse with another common title to him “Imp Constantinus Max(imus) Aug”. The reverse reads “Victoriae Laetae Princ Perp” (the perpetual leader of happy victory), and depicts two Victories holding a shield inscribed “Vot PR”. This stands for “Vota Populi Romani”, which means “vows of the Roman people”. This coin again portrays Constantine as a great victorious emperor, who also has the will of the people.

 

Obverse: IMP CONSTANTINVS MAX AVG: Bust laureate, helmeted cuir. r.

Reverse: VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP: Two Victories stg. facing one another holding shield inscribed VOT / PR on altar

RIC. 82

 

To summarize the titles and depictions that I found on Constantine’s coins during his reign, both the higher valued gold coins, and the lower valued nummi seemed to emphasize the same aspects. The titles were usually brief, though they often used adjectives to describe him such as “Pius”, “Felix”, and “Maximus”, as well as honorary phrases to him using words such as “gloria” and “victoria”. The depictions on the reverses of his coins went along with this idea in that they usually depicted a war god or military symbol to emphasize his military success.