Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 106 Part I   |   9 - 10 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 1069





Estimate: 600'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 480'000 CHF Price realized: 750'000 CHF
Constantius II caesar, 324 – 327. Medallion of four and a half solidi, Nicomedia July 325,  AV 19.89 g. FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C  Half-length bust diademed, draped and cuirassed l., holding Victory on globe in r. hand and a sword with handle in the shape of an eagle head in l. The cuirass is adorned with medusa head.  Rev. PRICIPI – IVVE – NTVTIS  Prince standing l., holding in r. hand standard and in l. sceptre; behind, two standards. In exergue, SMN:.  C –.  Alföldi –, cf. 386 and pl. 19, 242 (Thessalonica and bust r.).  RIC –, cf. 139 (Thessalonica and bust r.).  Gnecchi –.  Toynbee –, cf. pl. XIX, 7 (Thessalonica and bust r.).  Depeyrot p. 154 (Thessalonica and bust r.).
An apparently unrecorded variety of an exceedingly rare type. One of the most impressive
gold medallion of this period in existence. A spectacular portrait and incredibly detailed
reverse composition, work of an incredibly skilled master engraver. An absolutely
unobtrusive mark on obverse field and one on edge. Virtually as struck and Fdc

Born on 7 August A.D. 317, Constantius II was the second of the three sons born to Constantine I and Fausta. At the ripe age of seven, he was appointed to the rank of Caesar at Nicomedia on 13 November A.D. 324. This outstanding multiple-solidus medallion was struck to commemorate his elevation and was probably distributed as a donative while the young Caesar was at Nicomedia with his father. After all, nothing helps to cement the loyalty of the army to a young and inexperienced leader like beautiful gold.
Despite the extreme youth of Constantius II, the stunning obverse portrait represents him as a seasoned warrior, fully prepared for battle. He wears a cuirass and cradles a parazonium in his arm while he carries a globe and Victory in his hand, all of which serve to express the imperial hopes for the young Caesar. The cuirass with small but the prominent gorgoneion on the chest together with the plain diadem that Constantius II wears connect him to Alexander the Great, who was similarly depicted and frequently imitated by Roman emperors as a means of illustrating their own greatness. Other coin portraits also represent Constantine with a plain diadem and an elevated gaze, which also play on the theme of Alexander the Great. The plain diadem on the solidus of Constantius II is a clear departure from the usual laurel wreath used to indicate the portrait of a Caesar on coins of the late third and early fourth centuries. The parazonium also seems to cast Constantius II as a living representation of Virtus, the Roman personification of manliness and martial skill who often appears as a cuirassed figure cradling this sheathed weapon. At the same time, the connection to Virtus also plays on the theme of Alexander the Great. It was a common rhetorical exercise in antiquity to debate whether the greatness of Alexander should be attributed to his fortune (Fortuna) or to his virtue (Virtus). Clearly Constantine (and no doubt all of Alexander’s other Roman imitators) preferred the side of Virtus in this question since it associated greatness with the qualities of the individual rather than uncontrollable external forces.
The reverse legend names Constantius II as “prince of the youth” – a traditional title given to imperial heirs to the throne since the time of Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14). The type depicting the Caesar with standards visually presents him as having the support of the army and illustrates his right to command it. This too is traditional, with similar types used on coins already in the second quarter of the third century

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