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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton VII, Lot: 1100. Estimate $2000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 12 January 2004. 
Sold For $4250. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

HERACLIUS CONSTANTINE. 11 January-20 April 641 AD. AV Solidus (4.35 gm). Constantinople mint. dN CONSTAN TINUS PP AV, facing bust, wearing chlamys and helmet with tall plume and cross, holding globus cruciger /VICTORIA AVSU, cross potent on three steps; G/CONOB. DOC II 1; MIB III 1 (Constans II); Grierson 278; SB 932. EF, a few scuffs and a small area of porosity, slight edge clipping. Extremely rare. ($2000)

From the Christopher Connell Collection.

The disputed succession to the reign of Heraclius was the catalyst to almost as much chaos as Heraclius' accession in a time of civil war. Heraclius died early in 641 AD, worn out by decades of campaigning against foreign enemies: Slavs, Avars, Persians, and Arabs. The conflicts within his family were almost as serious. Upon Heraclius' death, his chosen successor was Heraclius Constantine, his eldest son by his first wife Fabia Eudocia. However, Heraclius had married again. This time it was a controversial union with his ambitious and unlikable niece, Martina; their child Heraclonas was pushed forward by his mother as co-ruler. Heraclius Constantine was seriously ill, probably with tuberculosis, and died a little more that four months after his father, amid rumors of poisoning. Martina tried to rule as de facto regent for her son, but opposition came from the imperial family, the civil administration, and the military. She was compelled to name Heraclius Constantine's son Constantine (Constans II) as co-ruler with her son, but by September 641 AD her position had become untenable. Mother and son were deposed and exiled, leaving Constans II as sole Augustus. This dynastic turmoil leaves the numismatist in a quandary. Can any coinage be assigned to the ephemeral reigns of Heraclius Constantine and Heraclonas? Are there any grounds for assuming such a coinage existed? As summarized in SB, scholarly opinion is divided; the general opinion, however, is that all the coinage should be given to Constans II. But Grierson did attribute issues to both brief rulers, and as demonstrated by the earlier joint reign coinage of Justin I and Justinian, and Justin II and Tiberius, even the shortest period of rule was marked by coinage. It was an integral part of the paraphernalia that legitimized imperial continuity. Moreover, if all the varieties of solidi that have been attributed to Constans II are correct, it would represent a very rapid evolution of portrait types, something that was generally avoided for the important solidus, as it was the linchpin of Byzantine imperial administration and control. The rare varieties of portrait solidi are more easily explained as symbols of power for a brief reign.