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Roman Empire

Ruler: Constantine I (the Great) as Augustus
Reigned: Caesar 306-310 AD: Filius Augustorum 309-310 AD: Augustus 307-337 AD
Denomination: Billon Cententionalis
Mint: Arelate (Arles, France)
Date of Issue: 328 AD
Obverse: Head right, with pearled diadem. "CONSTAN-TINVS AVG."
Reverse: Camp-gate with open doors and 4 turrets, star above. "VIRTV-S AVGG."
Mint marks:
S F
SCONST
Reference: similar RCV 3884, RIC VII 321, RCVM 16310
Weight: 3.4 gms
Nominal Weight: 3.2 gms
Diameter: 20 mm
Comment: This coin comes from a series sold in 2004 featuring this artificial green patina and may be a modern forgery.
The name Arelate was changed to Constantina in 328 A.D., in honour of Constantine II, hence this coin was issued after this date.

CONSTANTINE the Great (Flavius Valerius Constantinus)

  • Gaius Flavius Valerius Constantius was a general and administrator under the Emperor Maximian.
  • During this time he married a tavern-girl called Helena and they had a son, Constantine, who was born 27th February, 272 or 3, at Naissus, now Nis in Serbia.
  • Diocletian who ruled with Maximian as joint emperor, wanted to arrange a formal succession for them both, so on 1st March 293, Maximian adopted Constantius, as son and Caesar, while Diocletian adopted Galerius as son and Caesar.
  • On 1st May 305 Diocletian and Maximianus abdicated and Constantius and Galerius became the new senior emperors, while Maximinus Daia and Severus took their places as Caesars.
  • Constantine was serving under Diocletian as a high ranking staff officer (and hostage to the chance of his ambition getting the better of him). Annoyed at being passed over for promotion to Caesar, he escaped to Boulogne where his father was preparing to leave for Britain to campaign against the Picts in the north.
  • Constantine went with him and the campaign of 305 was a success.
  • On 25th July 306 Constantius died at Eboracum (York). The army immediately proclaimed Constantine "Augustus" and senior emperor in the west in succession to his father. When Galerius heard this, he sent back a purple robe as recognition of Constantine as Caesar, not Augustus. He promoted Severus to the rank of Augustus instead.
  • Maximian's family also had imperial ambitions, and Maximian's son, Maxentius was disappointed in being passed over. When Galerius decided to extend taxation to Italy and Rome, which had previously been exempt, Maxentius saw his chance and proclaimed himself emperor at Rome on 28th October 306.
  • Severus was instructed by Galerius to crush Maxentius, but failed and was killed.
  • Galerius himself now invaded Italy but had no success.
  • Constantine married Fausta, Maxentius's sister, forming an alliance between them.
  • Diocletian was briefly brought out of retirement in November 308 for an imperial conference at Carnuntum near Vienna. The result was a new tetrarchy. Licinius, another Illyrian army officer and friend of Galerius, was appointed Augustus in the west, in place of Severus. Constantine and Maximinus were given the title of filius Augusti, Maxentius was declared a public enemy. Under pressure from Constantine and Maximinus, Galerius promoted them to full Augustii, early in 309.
  • On 30th April 311, Galerius died.
  • Licinius was now also fighting Maximinus Daia for control of the east.
  • Constantine now turned on his erstwhile ally, and in 312 defeated Maxentius's forces at Turin and Verona.
  • In 312, on the eve of the final battle against Maxentius, Constantine is supposed to have dreamed that Christ appeared to him and told him to inscribe the first two letters of his name (XP in Greek) on the shields of his troops. The next day he is said to have seen a cross superimposed on the sun and the words "hoc signo vinces" (see coin), "by this sign you shall conquer".
  • The armies met near the Milvian Bridge, to the west of Rome, 28th October 312, and Constantine's army, carrying the Christian sign, won a decisive victory. As Maxentius's troops fled back across the Milvian Bridge into Rome, it gave way beneath them and Maxentius drowned.
  • In 313, Licinius allied himself to Constantine by marrying his half-sister Constantia. Licinius and Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which granted religious toleration.
  • On 30th April 313 Licinius finally defeated Maximinus.
  • Licinius and Constantine now shared the Empire between them.
  • In 316, Constantine proposed that his brother-in-law, Bassianus, be appointed Caesar in Italy. Licinius refused, so Constantine invaded the Balkans.
  • On 8th October 316, Constantine defeated Licinius's army at the battle of Cibalae.
  • Licinius fled to Serdica where he proclaimed one of his commanders, Valens, as his partner in power.
  • Valens's army met Constantine's at a second battle of Hadrianopolis, a place called Campus Ardiensis. The result was not decisive and Constantine was forced to come to terms.
  • A treaty was signed at Serdica on 1st March 317. The unfortunate Valens was executed. Constantine's sons Crispus and Flavius Claudius Constantinus (Constantine II) were proclaimed Caesars, as was Licinius junior.
  • Licinius, although not rabidly anti-Christian, was not a believer himself. When he suspected certain bishops of disloyalty, he had them executed. This gave Constantine all the excuse he needed.
  • The two met again at Hadrianopolis, where Constantine gained the victory - 3rd July 324.
  • Licinius fled across the Bosphorus and appointed another unfortunate, Martius Martinianus, as his co-ruler.
  • Constantine followed and again defeated Licinius at Chrysopolis on 18th September 324.
  • Licinius and Martinianus surrendered at Nicomedia on condition their lives were spared. They were, but not for long. Both were later killed, together with the 9 year old Licinius junior.
  • Constantine was now master of the entire Roman Empire.
  • Crispus, his son by his first wife Minervina was given control of the western provinces, ruling from Trier.
  • Crispus, so the story goes, was accused of adultery with Constantine's second wife, Fausta. He was executed in May 326. Constantine's mother, Helena, convinced Constantine that Fausta was the false accuser, and Fausta was persuaded to take a bath in boiling water.
  • Constantine, after his success at the Milvian Bridge, adopted Christianity as the state religion.
  • Following his battles against Licinius, he decided to built his new capital at Byzantium, which he called Constantinople.
  • He carried out several campaigns against the Goths, Alemanni, Sarmatians and Persians.
  • Constantine's plan for his succession, were for his the empire to be divided between his sons, Constantine (II) in the west, Constantius (II) in the east, Constans in Italy and upper Danube, and his nephew, Delmatius in Greece and the lower Danube. He later added another nephew, Hannibalianus as "king" of Armenia.
  • Constantine died on 22nd May 337 and was interred in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.

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