Characteristics of the Coinage

Roman Tetrarchic coin photoRoman Tetrarchic coin photoRoman Tetrarchic coin photoRoman Tetrarchic coin photo

Last updated: 28 October 2017

Inasmuch as the information on this web page mostly relates to the reformed, unreduced, folles catalogued and described in THE ROMAN IMPERIAL COINAGE (RIC), Volume VI, I employ the Imperial name forms used in the headers by Sutherland here. The following depiction includes the alternate name forms frequently used by collectors, dealers and authors of historical texts and reference documents:

DIOCLETIAN ........................ (no other names commonly used)
MAXIMIAN HERCULIUS ...... Maximianus, Herculius
CONSTANTIUS .................... Constantius I, Constantius Chlorus
GALERIUS MAXIMIAN ......... Galerius
SEVERUS ............................. Severus II,
MAXIMINUS .......................... Maximinus II, Maximinus Daia, Daza
CONSTANTINE ..................... Constantine I, Constantinus
MAXENTIUS .......................... (no other names commonly used)
LICINIUS ................................ Licinius I, Licinius Licinianus

Note: Caution should be exercised when attributing folles of Galerius Maximian (Caius Galerius Valerius Maximianus) & Maximian Herculius (Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus) due to the similarity of their titulature. Galerius Maximian was both Caesar and Augustus during this time period whereas Maximian Herculius was always only Augustus. Therefor coins bearing the titulature MAXIMIANVS plus NOBIL CAES, NOB CAES, NOBIL C, etc., can only be those of Galerius Maximian. There is a special problem with Galerius as Augustus coins: The titulature is mostly exactly the same as that of Maximian Herculius and frequently the only way to differentiate between the two is by the portraiture on the coin obverse.

Composition -- bronze with a silver wash.

Weight range -- Typically 11.0 to 8.5 gm.

Mints -- A quantity of Constantius "Invasion coinage" was produced at a Mint in Gaul (exact location unknown, although some French researchers and collectors list it as Boulogne), manned by Lugdunese workers. All other issues were produced at the London mint formerly operated by the usurper Emperors Carausius/Allectus now re-opened (most likely consisting of just one officina) by Constantius.

Obverse depictions -- Almost always (exception: Abdication coinage - see below) cuirassed (sometimes draped) right facing busts (but occasionally bare neck truncated) with a laureate head.

[Constantius coin photo][Constantius coin photo]
Cuirassed bust with laureate head .............. Bare neck truncated bust with laureate head

Obverse inscription (legend) -- Around periphery -- names and titulature reading clockwise

Following is a key for name and titulature abbreviations:

Reverse depiction -- Almost always (exception: Abdication coinage - see below) a representation of the Genius of the Roman People standing, facing left, head surmounted by a modius, naked except for a chlamys over the left shoulder, holding a patera in the right hand and cradling a cornucopia in the left arm. Very rarely, and mostly after 1 May 305, Genius is depicted with loins draped, and wearing a towered head-dress. Reference: A transitional issue from the Roman Mint at London - a PDF by Hubert J. Cloke

[Constantius coin photo]
Depiction of Genius of the Roman people

Reverse inscription (legend) -- around periphery, reading clockwise GENIO POPVLI ROMANI without a mint mark (often referred to as unmarked) except for the very early Group I coins (RIC numbers 1a through 5) that have LON in the exergue (exception: Abdication coinage - see below).

Reverse axis -- 6 or 12 o'clock

Primary reference for coin information and attribution on these pages -- THE ROMAN IMPERIAL COINAGE (RIC), Spink & Son Ltd., London, Volume VI

On 1 May 305, Diocletian and Maximian Herculius abdicated and retired.

Abdication coinage Titulature:
DN = Dominus Noster (Our Lord) .......... SEN AVG = Seniore Augustus (Senior: retired) )

RIC VI, Londinium, No. 77a, Diocletian:

[Abdication coin photo][Abdication coin photo]

RIC VI, Londinium, No. 76b, Maximian Herculius:

[Abdication coin photo][Abdication coin photo]

Chronology of Coinage events:

294 AD
* Invasion coinage produced at unknown mint in Gaul

296 AD
* The re-opened official London Mint is established by Constantius

297 AD
* Initial folles weight range is 11 to 9 grams which prevails until 306.
* Silver content is approx. 4% to 3%.
* Initial production folles are marked LON in the exergue of the coin reverse.

300 AD
* Subsequent production folles are unmarked.

305 AD
* Abdication coinage of Diocletian & Maximian Herculius as Seniores Augusti.

307 AD
* Dissolution of the Tetrarchy.
* End of unreduced Folles production.

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