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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: CNG 69, Lot: 1760. Estimate $200. 
Closing Date: Wednesday, 8 June 2005. 
Sold For $440. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

CONSTANTIUS II. 337-361 AD. Æ Centenionalis (6.27 gm, 6h). Trier mint. Struck 353 AD. Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / SALVS AVG NOSTRI, large Chi-Rho; A-W flanking; TRP*. RIC VIII 332. VF, brown patina, partial flat strike. Very rare. ($200)

From the Garth R. Drewry Collection.

Several numismatists have tried to associate this coin, combining an obverse of Constantius II and a reverse type of the usurpers Magnentius and Decentius, with a tantalizingly obscure passage from the fourth-century historian, Ammianus Marcellinus. There, the historian, relating the clean-up of Magnentius' revolt, mentions the killing of a Poemenius who revolted against the usurpers in Trier and handed the city over to the legitimate emperor, Constantius II. While J.P.C. Kent (NC 1959, pp. 105-108) asserted these coins, as well as a contemporary gold issue, were struck by Poemenius in anticipation of the emperor's retaking of the city, P. Bastien (QT 1983), revisited the question. Re-analyzing the gold issue, he concluded that the bronze coins were issued only after Constantius had retaken the city, and not before. More recently, W. C. Holt (AJN 15 [2004]), while arguing with slight modifications, nevertheless agrees in genere with Kent's hypothesis. Although this coin is clearly associated with the events of the revolt in Trier, any more certain conslusion at this point remains based on how one wishes to interpret the scant evidence.

One unanswered question remains: for what reason was a reverse type so closely associated with the usurpers used in combination with a legitimate obverse of Constantius? The political use of Christian symbolism became much more visible during the latter stages of Magnentius' revolt. His use of the Chi-Rho reflects a similar one of Vetranio: the emperor (either Vetranio himself, or Constantius II) holding a labarum, and the legend IN HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERIS, a statement associated with the vision of Constantine I on the night before has battle with his rival, Maxentius. In the present case, it is quite possible that the forces of Constantius II in Trier briefly coopted the symbology of the usurpers, adding the legend of the legitimate emperor to parallel the ultimate victory of Constantius II with that of his father. Certainly an interesting issue for further research.