Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 100   |   29 May 2017 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 670

Estimate: 125'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 100'000 CHF Price realized: 170'000 CHF
Vetranio, 350. Solidus, Siscia March-December 350, AV 4.60 g. D N VETRA – NIO P F AVG Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. SALVATOR – REI – PVBLICAE Emperor, in military attire, standing facing, head l, holding labarum inscribed with Christogram and transverse sceptre; behind him, Victory advancing l. to crown him. C 7. RIC 260. Depeyrot 17/1.
Exceedingly rare and possibly the finest solidus of Vetranio in existence.
A bold portrait struck on a full flan, good extremely fine

Ex Tkalec 28 February 2007, Bolla, 111 and NAC 62, 2011, Markoff, 2103 sales.
In January 350 the ruling family, descended from Constantine the Great, was reduced to just one emperor when Constans was murdered in southern Gaul. This put at risk both empire and dynasty, as the family had for decades relied upon two or more family members to rule the vast empire. The coup must have been a shock to the only remaining, legitimate emperor, Constantius II, who ruled the East and was embroiled in a protracted war with the Persians. In the West, power had been seized by Magnentius, the field commander of the senior palatine units of the western army. Constantius, who was preparing for a renewed campaign against the Sasanians, was powerless at that moment to oppose him. Magnentius established his regime by taking full control of the West and advancing into Italy, perhaps with the intention of marching further eastward to challenge Constantius himself. Upon arriving, however, Magnentius was unable to forge an alliance with Vetranio, the emperor’s Master of the Infantry in Pannonia. Vetranio decided to support Constantius, the only surviving son of his old commander, Constantine the Great. Vetranio’s decision was not easy, and he wavered before taking sides. Indeed, he might even have considered taking his own side, for his troops hailed him emperor at Mursa on March 1; this strategy, however, seems to have been formulated by the emperor’s sister, Constantina, who herself had refused a marriage proposal from Magnentius. The crisis was complicated further when Magnentius lost Italy for a few weeks to the counter-revolution of Nepotian, a half-cousin of Constantius. During that reversal, it does not seem that Vetranio took action. In fact, during the ten months Vetranio held the title of Augustus he seems to have had no significant conflict with Magnentius, but merely contained the rebel until Constantius could arrive late in the fall of 350. Constantius and Vetranio met at Nassius on Christmas day, when Vetranio abdicated peacefully. The ceremony must have been laden with dynastic symbolism, for it was held in the city that reputedly was the birthplace of Constantine the Great. Thereafter Constantius waged war on Magnentius, defeating him in 353. Vetranio, who already was an elderly man, retired to an estate Constantius provided for him at Prusa in Bithynia, dying perhaps five years later. Vetranio struck coins only at Siscia and Thessalonica, both cities in his realm, where he issued a variety of coin types in own name and that of Constantius II. Some issues from Siscia depict on their reverse Victory crowning an emperor holding a labarum and sceptre (or spear); the billon coins are inscribed HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERIS (‘by this sign you shall conquer’) and solidi SALVATOR REIPVBLICAE (‘saviour of the state’). It is impossible to know which emperor is being crowned by Victory – Vetranio, Constantius II or Constantine the Great. The unprecedented use of HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERIS suggests Constantine, for it is a reference to the vision he is said to have experienced prior to the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. That prospect is dampened, however, by the use of SALVATOR REIPVBLICAE with that same reverse type, for that probably refers to Vetranio or Constantius II as a saviour against the aggression of Magnentius. Alternatively, it could refer in a historical sense to Constantine as the saviour of the state by virtue of his support of Christianity, his unification of the empire and his foundation of the dynasty that still was in power at the time.

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