A unique offstrike of a gold medallion of the highest numismatic and iconographical importance
Lot 2604
Constantine I, Licinius I, and Maximinus II, November 312-spring 313. Offstrike of a Gold Medallion (Bronze, 26 mm, 3.06 g, 6 h), Siscia. [CON]STANTIN[VS AVG M]AXIMINVS AVG LICINIVS AVG Facing draped busts of Constantine I, Licinius I and Maximinus II, arranged in a cloverleaf-like pattern. Rev. AE[QVI]TAS AVGVSTORVM NOS[TR] / SIS Aequitas standing front, head to left, holding scales in her right hand and cornucopiae in her left. Cohen -. Gnecchi -. RIC -. Toynbee -. Unpublished and unique. An incredibly important numismatic discovery of the highest iconographical importance. Somewhat rough and corroded and with some edge chipping, otherwise, very fine.

From a European collection, formed before 2005.

Despite being damaged and corroded, this piece remains a discovery of immense historical, numismatic, and iconographic significance. On the obverse, it features the heads of Constantine the Great, Maximinus II, and Licinius I, while the reverse praises the 'equity of our Augusti'. The busts of the three emperors are arranged in a windmill-like pattern, facing forward and engaging the viewer directly. While frontal representations had been experimented with under earlier emperors - not only for gods but also for emperors, such as Postumus, Carausius, and Maxentius - the depiction of three frontal busts is entirely novel and previously unknown in Roman coinage. It evokes the depiction of Diocletian, Maximian, and Carausius on the renowned CARAVSIVS ET FRATRES SVI coins issued by the British usurper.

On these coins, the three busts are stacked one above the other, reminiscent of many double busts seen in Hellenistic coinage and occasionally on Roman medallions and special emissions. In the latter, this arrangement establishes a clear hierarchy, with the figure in the front denoting seniority over the one behind. In the case of Carausius and 'his brothers,' the iconography is notably more complex. Here, it is evident that the centrally depicted Diocletian holds the highest rank, while Carausius claims the place of honor to his right, deliberately relegating Maximian to the considerably less prestigious position on the left. On coins featuring busts opposing each other, commonly found on many provincial coins and some rare imperial issues, the left side of the coin is traditionally the more honorable, while the right side is subordinate.

As evident, Roman imperial iconography leaves nothing to chance, with every depiction adhering to a deliberate ceremonial order. So why are the three emperors on our piece shown in a windmill pattern with facing portraits? To answer this, we must first date the coin. Fortunately, the appearance of these three Augusti together allows for a minting only between the defeat of Maxentius at the end of October 312 and the rupture between Licinius I and Maximinus II in the spring of 313. During these few months, Constantine I, Licinius I and Maximinus II were allied and viewed themselves, unlike the Tetrarchy with its two Augusti and two Caesars, as equals. For a die-cutter tasked with iconographically representing the equality of three emperors, the constraints of Roman iconography provided little room for artistic interpretation. If he were to overlap or juxtapose the busts, a clear hierarchy would be implied. To circumvent this dilemma, he decided to depict the busts a) facing rather than in profile and b) evenly distributed in the circular space of the die. This ensured that the three rulers were portrayed as completely equal, with none claiming even a hint of seniority over the others.

Similarly, the artist handled the titulature, which simply lists the names and Augustus titles, consciously avoiding individual honorary titles. The reverse echoes this sentiment, praising the 'equity of our Augusti'. Overall, we are dealing with an incredibly significant development in Roman iconography preserved solely in this somewhat damaged piece. No other Roman coin pushes the equivalence of multiple rulers, as occasionally attempted since the Tetrarchy, to the extreme like this coin. This is due in no small part to the fact that, even in the Tetrarchy, certain emperors always claimed more seniority and auctoritas than others – indeed, these distinctions in rank formed the very foundation of the system conceived by Diocletian.

Why this iconographic experiment was abandoned so quickly cannot be determined today. Our piece was minted in Siscia, which at the time was under the rule of Licinius I. It is conceivable that the coin was struck shortly before hostilities broke out between Maximinus II and Licinius I, who had just met with Constantine in Mediolanum, thus swiftly rendering the iconography outdated and prompting the cessation of the emission. Of course, other factors unknown to us may equally have played a role.

In any case, such an unusual die was surely not made for a simple follis issue, as indicated by the absence of any officina mark on the reverse, a feature typical of gold emissions from Siscia at the time. Therefore, this extraordinary emission was likely originally intended as an issue of gold multipla, which would have been distributed as donativa to important officers. What has survived, however, is only this bronze offstrike, likely a trial piece. Whether any gold multipla were ever actually struck from this die pair and subsequently lost or melted down, or whether the emission was already discontinued beforehand, remains unclear. However, it is certain that this offstrike represents one of the most significant iconographic discoveries in Roman coinage in recent decades, and is of utmost importance for researchers of Roman imperial iconography in general and that of the Constantinian era in particular.
Starting price:
750 CHF
Hammer price:
6000 CHF
Bid increment:
Minimum bid:
Number of bids:
Time left:
Closing time: 15-Jul-24, 13:42:30 CEST
All winning bids are subject to a 20% buyer's fee.


We use cookies to enhance your online experience. By using our website, you accept our data privacy policy and the use of cookies.

Connection lost

You have lost your connection. Because we present current bids in real-time, your browser may display outdated or incorrect bidding information.

Please check your network connection and try again. We recommend refreshing the website to display the accurate bidding information again.