Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 111   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 229

Estimate: 35'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 28'000 CHF Price realized: 48'000 CHF
Constans and Delmatius caesares, 333 – 337. Solidus, Constantinople 335, AV 4.47 g. FL CONSTANS NOB CAES Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust r. Rev. DELMATI – VS CAESAR Victory advancing l., holding wreath in r. hand and palm branch in l.; in exergue, CONS. C –. RIC –. Bastien, Les émissions dynastiques de Constantin. Deux solidi inédits de Constantinople (335), in Essays Carson and Jenkins, pl. XLV, 7 (this coin illustrated). Depeyrot –.
Apparently unique. An issue of exceptional importance and historical interest.
Perfectly struck and centred on a full flan and good extremely fine
Privately purchased from M&M in 1988. From the Pierre Bastien collection.
This gold solidus was struck as part of the tricennalia donative distributed to the army in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Constantine the Great’s reign as Augustus. It belongs to a larger series of coins struck with portraits of members of the imperial family intended to advertise the emperor’s intended successors and the appearance of dynastic stability. The obverse of this extremely rare piece features the portrait of Constans, the youngest son of Constantine, who was elevated to the position of Caesar (junior co-emperor) in A.D. 330, thereby joining his elder brothers, Constantine II and Constantius II, who had become Caesares already in A.D. 317 and 324, respectively. The reverse features the Victory type commonly used for the dynastic series, but names Constans’ cousin, Delmatius, rather than Constans, indicating a mistaken muling of obverse and reverse dies at the mint of Constantinople. Other extremely rare solidi of Delmatius with this reverse (RIC VII 98) regularly depict and name Delmatius on the obverse. Thus, the erroneous pairing of a Constans obverse with a Delmatius reverse makes the present coin arguably the rarest of all Delmatius coins. Constantine raised Delmatius to the status of Caesar on 18 September, A.D. 335, in part to ease the administrative duties of Constantine’s sons as the emperor planned his great war against the Sasanian Persian Empire. Constantine I also may have elevated Delmatius and Hannibalianus as a means of checking the ambitions of his own sons: they were his heirs, but if Constantine perceived any of them as a threat he could easily put Delmatius ahead of them in the line of succession. As Caesar, Delmatius was primarily responsible for defending Illyricum, Macedonia, and Thrace against incursions by the Goths and Sarmatians. While he seems to have been relatively successful in this regard, the death of Constantine the Great on 22 May, A.D. 337 spelled disaster for him. By September of the same year, the three sons of Constantine agreed to purge their family of all potential rivals and divide the Empire among themselves. Delmatius (with his brother, Hanniballianus), who had already tasted imperial power, was high on the list of possible threats and was liquidated accordingly. It is more than a little ironic that a reverse of Delmatius is paired with an obverse of Constans on this coin. After the bloody purge of the House of Constantine, Constans argued with his brothers over possession of Delmatius’ former territories and finally received them as his own in A.D. 338. Delmatius’ Illyrian and Thracian provinces were also desired by Constantine II, leading to a bitter quarrel between the brothers that broke out in open warfare in A.D. 340. Constantine II invaded Italy, but was defeated and killed by the forces of Constans. Over the course of the decade that followed, Constans became increasingly unpopular until A.D. 350, when he was overthrown by the usurping military commander, Magnentius—a pagan sympathizer who seems to have had designs on ending the dynasty of Constantine in the West. Delmatius was at last avenged by Fate and his ghost put to rest.

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