Search

Ioviani Seniores

Category

Coinage

Late Roman Coin Collection of the Kunsthistorischesmuseum

The Coin Collection of the Kusnthistorischesmuseum in Vienna, Austria is one of the five largest and most important coin collections in the world. Its Münzkabinett owns over half a million objects which make it one of the largest collections of its kind, and it can be traced back until the 16th century. Most of the coins and medallions listed below are part of a special collection of the highest-carat gold pieces from the Vienna Coin Cabinet once-imperial collection. Many of the objects on display were honorific gifts to the emperor or were targeted acquisitions for the imperial collection.

img_3139
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Golden coin of Emperor Constantine the Great, a valiant general and the man responsible for the Edict of Toleration emanated in Milan in 313 AD.

img_3140
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin of Philip the Arab, one of the innumerable military emperors of the 3rd century AD.

 

img_3141
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin of Eastern roman Emperor Theodosius II, author of the Codex Theodosianus, a compilation of general laws and edicts.

img_3153
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Medallion depicting emperor Constantius II, middle child of Constantine I and Fausta. Constantius is often underrated as a leader despite having successfully defended the Empire’s frontiers on various occasions.

img_3154
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Medallion of emperor Valentinian the Great. Soldier emperor, cultured man, excellent strategist and good administrator, Valentinian was one of the last strong political figures of the roman West.

img_3183
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Huge gold coin depicting the brother emperors, Valentinian the Great and Valens. Valentinian died of a stroke in 375 AD, in modern day Hungary. His brother Valens died in battle in 378 AD near Adrianople, modern day Edirne.

img_9502
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Splendid gold medallion depicting Eastern roman emperor Valens. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, Valens was a good looking man of medium height and with olive skin.

img_9503
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Another beautiful medallion of Valens. The emperor sternly defended the arian christian cause. Ammianus Marcellinus tells us that he was an extremely loyal friend.

img_9504
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Yet another medallion of Valens. Valens was the son of Gratian the Elder, a prominent military commander.

img_9505
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Guess who this is? That’s right, it’s our pal Valens. I think it’s safe to say he enjoyed being portrayed.

img_9506
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Valens my friend, how many times have I told you? Don’t be too narcissistic! The guy never listened…

img_9507
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Medallion of Valens. The emperor began his career as a Protector Domesticus and was then elevated to the throne by his brother Valentinian I.

img_9509
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Amazing medallion of Constantine I, the emperor who built the city of Constantinople, modern day Instanbul.

img_9546
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin of emperor Constantine I, founder of the original Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome.

img_9547
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

 Coin of Valentinian I, a legend of the Late Roman Era.

img_9548
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

 

img_9549-001
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin of emperor Julian, also called “The Apostate”. He tried to revive the pagan cults in the mostly Christian roman empire.

img_9550
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Golden coin of Constans I, represented holding  a globe which symbolyzes power.

img_9558
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

 Coin of a byzantine emperor holding a cross.

img_9561
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Silver coin of emperor Constantine I, known as “Trachala” for his big neck.

img_9562
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Silver coin of Constantius II, wearing the imperial diadem.

img_9563
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett. 

Coin of Constantius II, the man who ordered the execution of Caesar Gallus.

img_9567
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin representing Valentinian and Valens seated on the throne. Barbarians or slaves are prostrating beneath them.

img_9574
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Golden solidus depicting Constantius II among his soldiers and officers.

img_9575
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Amazing and rare big medallion depicting emperor Valens on horseback.

img_9577
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin depicting emperors Carus and Carinus, military emperors of the 3rd century AD.

img_9578
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Golden bar which, on the left, depicts three emperors: Theodosius I, Valentinian II and Arcadius.

img_9578-001
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Golden bar issued by Theodosius I.

img_9547-001
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin of Constans I, youngest son of Constantine I.

img_9551
Wien, Kunsthistorischesmuseum, Münzkabinett.

Coin of emperor Maximian, soldier emperor and collegue of Diocletian. He is often portrayed as a violent and cruel man, especially by Christians. His real character was probably different, we will never know.

Giustina: A Late Roman Empress

Giustina was born in Picenum, Italy to Giusto, the governor of the city under the emperor Constantius II. She was famously beautiful and ambitious, marrying the usurper Magnus Magnentius, a commander of the Ioviani and HerculianiAfter his suicide in 353 AD, Giustina became the second wife of emperor Valentinian I, a man of complex personality and great military prowess. According to legend, Valentinian’s first wife, Marina Severa, was the one who, being struck by Giustina’s beauty, presented her to the emperor. She gave Valentinian a son, Valentinian II, and became the stepmother of the emperor’s first son Gratian. During Gratian’s reign, Giustina lived in Sirmium, Pannonia. As most Roman empresses, she wore elaborate jewels, sported eccentric hairstyles and long, rich earrings. When her son Valentinian II came to power at the age of four, Giustina ruled in his name, showing the full extent of her ambition and strong personality. Being a fervent Arian Christian, Giustina ferociously opposed the powerful and influential bishop of Milan, Ambrose who was a Nicean Christian. Giustina died in 387 AD while traveling. Lacking her protection, her son Valentinian II was assassinated soon after. Giustina demonstrated an impressive personality, able to control the political scene at court even when the odds were stacked against her. With her legendary beauty, she enchanted the late Roman courtiers while also dominating them with her iron personality.

The Last of The Romans

Two-Tetrarchs-embracing-ITA200403-32.jpg
Famous portrait of the Tetrarchic emperors. The first tetrarchs were Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius and Constantius Chlorus. Venice.

Emperor Majorian was born around the year 420 AD. Coming from a prominent military family, Majorian served as an officer under the Magister Militum Flavius Aetius, a very able commander. Majorian lived in a violent epoch in which most of the western Roman Empire was flooded by germanic tribes or dismembered by civil strife and economic collapse. The professional legions, the traditional core of the Roman army, were disintegrating and increasingly replaced by germanic warriors. The empire was led by Valentinian III, an ineffective emperor, mostly concerned with issues arising from the rapidly growing Christian church. Under Aetius, Majorian distinguished himself as a cavalry tribune against the Franks of King Chlodius. On June 20th 451 AD, the armies of Aetius clashed with the Huns and their allies, led by King Attila, on the plains of Chalons en Champagne in Gaul, modern day France. The Romans, aided by the Visigoths of King Torrismund, were victorious and Majorian managed to survive the bloody battle. In 454 AD, however, Majorian’s commander Aetius was brutally assassinated by emperor Valentinian III in Ravenna, Italy which had become the fortified capital of the western empire. 

vele.jpg
Coin of emperor Valentinian III depicted with spear and shield.

One year later, Valentinian himself was hacked to pieces by two gothic soldiers loyal to Aetius in the Campus Martius in Rome. The western empire was in disarray. The two most important men of the empire had been killed, and inevitably, a power vacuum soon followed, causing a calamitous situation in ancient Rome. First, a roman aristocrat by the name of Petronius Maximus was elevated to the imperial throne, though his reign lasted just sixty days. The gaul Avitus replaced him, and managed to hold onto power for fifteen months. He was ultimately deposed, however, by Majorian and by his germanic coconspirator, Ricimer. Majorian was subsequently proclaimed emperor by the troops in 457 AD. During his reign, Majorian successfully defended Italy from foreign threats, strengthened the army by recruiting german warriors, and reconquered Gaul with the use of arms and diplomacy. He failed, however, to recapture Northern Africa, which had been previously conquered by the Vandals, as his fleet was destroyed by traitors near Elche, Spain. 

Impero_d'occidente,_maggioriano,_solido_in_oro_(arles),_457-461 (1).JPG
Coin of emperor Majorian depicted with full military regalia, Arles.

Apart from being a great soldier, Majoran was also a cultured man and an admirer of philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius. Majorian was also a stern legislator as he wrote the Novellae Maiorani, a collection of general laws. The emperor minted coins in gold, silver and bronze and was often depicted with a helmet in order to show his military background. He tried to cooperate with the senatorial elites by involving them in civil administration. He also had a keen interest in safeguarding public monuments which were suffering from looting. The successful reign of Majorian ended when his germanic Magister Militum, Ricimer, betrayed him. Ricimer met the emperor  with a band of troops near Tortona and arrested him. Majorian was deposed and on August 7th 461 AD, and was beheaded near the river Iria, in the Italian province of Liguria. Majorian can be considered the last truly successful western emperor as he was a keen reformer and an able military leader, truly deserving, in my opinion, the title of Last of the Romans.

 

 

A New Era of Portraiture

In the portraits of Costantine, we see evidence of new and traditional styles when depicting the face of the emperor.

coins-of-emperor-constantine
Coins of emperor Constantine the Great. Credit to Fortunato Zampolini.
coins-emperor-constantine-the-great
Coins of emperor Constantine the Great. Credit to Fortunato Zampolini

On the one hand, Costantine is clean shaven, similar in style to the portraits of emperor Trajan but unlike portraits of 3rd century emperor Probus. He is portrayed with an imperial diadem in his hair, similar to that of an oriental King. Costantine is also portrayed with exceptionally large eyes, which perhaps symbolize divine inspiration or strenght of character.

coin-of-emperor-probus
Coin of military emperor Probus. Credit to Fortunato Zampolini

On the other hand, the way Probus is depicted provides an example of how 3rd century military emperors were usually portrayed: bearded, with short military hair and crowned. 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑