Constantine I, 307/310-337. Follis (Bronze, 19 mm, 3.24 g, 11 h), Constantinopolis, late 324-early 325. CONSTANTI-NVS MAX AVG Laureate head of Constantine I to right. Rev. SPES PVBLIC / A / CONS Labarum, with three paterae on drapery and surmounted by Christogram, piercing serpent. RIC 19. Extremely rare. An unusually attractive example of this difficult issue, very well struck and with an exceptionally detailed reverse. Light cleaning marks, otherwise, about extremely fine.
This extremely rare issue is unique in all of Constantine's coinage in that it carries a decidedly Christian iconography, which has led to much speculation about its historical background. P. Bruun, in RIC, dated it to 327 AD, but K. Ehling has recently argued for an earlier date of 324-325 (K. Ehling: Konstantin 312. Ausstellung in der Staatlichen Münzsammlung München (2012), S. 78ff), in other words, to right after Constantine's victory over Licinius I and the earliest time of the refoundation of Byzantion as the new imperial capital Constantinopolis. If this is true, the reverse image must be an allegory for the Constantinian forces of good overcoming, with the help of the Christian god, the Licinian forces of evil, thus fitting perfectly into Constantine's well attested (though unsubstantiated) attempts of delegitimizing his rival as a pagan supporter.