Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 111   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 227

Estimate: 7'500 CHF   |   Starting price: 6'000 CHF Price realized: 9'500 CHF
Constantine II caesar, 316 – 337. Solidus, Constantinople 335, AV 4.37 g. CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB CAES Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. CONSTANT – IVS CAESAR  Victory advancing l., holding wreath and palm branch; in exergue, CONS. C –. Alföldi –. RIC –. Bastien, Les émissions dynastiques de Constantin. Deux solidi inédits de Constantinople (335), in Essays Carson and Jenkins, pl. XLV, 6 (this coin illustrated). Depeyrot 5/6 (this coin).Apparently unique. An issue of tremendous historical importance and
fascination. Unobtrusive marks, otherwise about extremely fine
Privately purchased from M&M in 1988. From the Pierre Bastien collection.
This attractive gold solidus was struck as part of the dynastic series produced in celebration of the vicennalia (20-year anniversary) of the reign of Constantine the Great. Such coins and larger medallion multiples were distributed to the army and high government officials as donatives in order to maintain loyalty. Following on from the upheavals of numerous rival military emperors of the third century A.D., it still remained a wise policy to renew the support of the army at regular intervals with the distribution of gold. The present solidus is a companion piece to the Constans/Delmatius mule also in this sale, but features Constantine II, the eldest son of Constantine the Great and his second wife, Fausta. Constantine II was born in A.D. 316, and his birth probably guaranteed the ultimate doom of Crispus, an earlier son of Constantine and his first wife, Minervina. On March 1, A.D. 317, Constantine II was named Caesar (junior co-emperor) despite the fact that he had not yet reached the age of two. Nevertheless, the young Caesar seems to have been keen for the position. At the age of seven he was campaigning alongside his father against the Sarmatians and in A.D. 326, at the age of ten, Constantine II replaced the executed Crispus as his father’s commander in Gaul. Victories over the Germanic peoples of the Rhine frontier earned Constantine II the title of Alamannicus (“Conqueror of the Alamanni”) by A.D. 330. Two years later, he joined his father as field commander for the campaign against the Goths. Despite his youth, by the time of the vicennalia, Constantine II had developed a record as a military leader and he is presented as such on the coin. The rather soulful obverse portrait depicts Constantine II wearing a scale cuirass with no drapery to obscure it. The absence of drapery emphasizes Constantine II as a successful military man, a solid warrior and worthy heir capable of defending the Empire once his father died. Like his younger brothers and other relatives promoted by Constantine and advertised on the vicennalia coinage, Constantine II here is presented as the hope for the future and a symbol of stability. Much of this hope seems to have been misplaced and stability became illusory after the death of Constantine the Great in A.D. 337. After their father’s death, Constantine II joined his two younger siblings, Constantius II and Constans, in a bloody purge of their family and the division of the Empire between them. Constantine II received Gaul, Britannia, and Hispania and served as guardian over the young Constans who initially possessed Italy, Africa, and Illyricum. A dispute began between these two brothers when Constans also received Thrace and Macedonia. Open conflict was avoided when Constans agreed to give Africa to his brother, but then the two quarrelled over the details of this transfer of territory. At last, in A.D. 340, Constantine II mounted an invasion of Italy with the intention of overthrowing Constans. Unfortunately, Constantine II himself was killed in an ambush near Aquileia and Constans ended up annexing his former territories. In such an ignominious manner did the warrior Caesar die.

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