Author Topic: Divus Constantine the Great, AE4, 337-340 AD, Antioch mint, RIC VIII 39  (Read 58 times)

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Offline Overlord

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Divus Constantine the Great, AE4, 337-340 AD, Antioch mint, RIC VIII 39 (1.2 g, 15 mm)

Obverse: DV CONSTANTI-NVS PT AVGG, Veiled head, right
Reverse: Constantine driving quadriga right, Manus Dei (hand of God) reaching down to him to receive him in Heaven, SMAN∈ in exergue

Offline Figleaf

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Fascinating coin for a fascinating man. In the Christian world, Constantine became the first Christian emperor of the Roman empire after the battle of the Milvian bridge. The story is bogus, church propaganda and the coins bear that out.

First, the myth of the cross in the sky is likely made up by highly partial Christian historians. More important, the coins of Constantine do not favour Christian symbolism. In fact, inasmuch as they favour any god, it is Sol invictus.

Rather, Constantine seems to have been an opponent of the veneration of deceased emperors as gods. On that, he agreed with the Christians and since Constantine was smart enough to become "the great", it must have been an obvious alliance for him and a welcome reprieve of persecutions for the Christians.

Your coin does indeed show the manus dei, a popular Christian symbol on illustrations like the 16th century counters of the Low countries. However, it is accompanied by a quadriga. Is that the emperor, rising to the Christian heaven? Most unlikely. In Christian symbolism, the dead do not need transport to go to heaven. That phase is simply skipped. So what is it? Look at the Trojan wall decoration below, excavated by Heinrich Schliemann. It is Helios, riding the sky as the sun. And Helios is of course the same as Sol invictus. The hand is an important part of the design, but not the central part. Sol is. Do I smell a good compromise in the air?

The same thing for the potrait. Constantine is shown veiled. You can talk that into a Christian symbol, but it's far more likely that it's just part of a dead man's shroud. Its message is: this guy is dead. Note: no symbolism of divinity.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Finn235

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Excellent coin! I have two that I like, each with their own faults. I like how yours shows the entire reverse die... a feature both of mine lack!

@Peter, I have to disagree on a few points:

1) Constantine I issued deification issues for Claudius II (whom he purported to be a great-uncle), Maximian, and Constantius I. He certainly wasn't against deification issues, at least not early in his reign.

2) Constantine issued one unambiguously Christian coin:
http://www.tesorillo.com/aes/116/116i.htm
The legend "SPES PVBLIC" coupled with a Chi-Rho topped labarum stabbing a snake. It either symbolizes the victory of Christianity over the biblical serpent (being false pagan beliefs, the literal devil, etc), or a symbolism of the victory at Milvian Bridge due to divine favor.

3) There are coins bearing reference to the legend of the chi Rho in the sky as early as 350 AD - HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERIS:
http://www.tesorillo.com/aes/050/050i.htm

4) The legend of the two most common Constantine posthumous coins start with DV CONSTAN... in context, only "Divus" fits. Bear in mind that in 337 Christianity was only tolerated while the state paganism was probably still the most common religion. We aren't entirely certain to what extent the Constantine boys subscribed to the faith, as at least Constantine Jr. was raised as a pagan. Now, the symbolism certainly falls short of explicitly proclaiming "Constantine is a God now! Worship him!" But the connotation is there.

5) The figure in the chariot can't be Sol Invictus - He isn't radiate, and is covered head to feet in funeral garbs!

Offline Overlord

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Cool little coins. Here is another I have. I recently missed one showing two hands, placed one in front of the other.