TETRARCHIC COINAGE OF THE LONDON MINT: 296-313 AD
Aes folles as cataloged in RIC, Volume VI, Londinium

THE TETRARCHS & IMPERIAL CLAIMANTS

Last updated: 19 July 2017

The First Tetrarchy

Diocletian - Caius Aurelius Verus Diocletianus - has come down in history as an astute politician, accomplished administrator and a stalwart leader. Upon assuming the Imperium as Augustus in 284 Diocletian determined to bring an end to the social and political chaos that had pervaded the Roman Empire for over fifty years by instituting several radical reforms. He was the driving force in reorganizing the Imperial Governmental System and reforming the coinage.

In 285 he appointed Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus, a close friend and a renowned General like himself, as his Caesar elevating him to co-Augustus a year later. Diocletian subsequently divided the Empire geographically with himself as Augustus of the East and Maximian as Augustus of the West (thereby instituting a Dyarchy).


RIC VI, Londinium, Diocletian, No. 6a

[Diocletian coin photo] [Diocletian coin photo]
IMP C DIOCLETIANVS PF AVG ................. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI


RIC VI, Londinium, Maximian (Herculius), No. 6b

[Maximianus coin photo] [Maximianus coin photo]
IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG ................ GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI


In 293 Diocletian finalized the Institution of a Tetrarchy -- government of the Empire by four interacting rulers -- two Augusti assisted by two subordinate Caesars, which each Augustus would personally select. Diocletian emphasized his status as Senior Augustus by adopting Jovius as his Protector-God and assigning Herculius to Maximian. The two Caesars, chosen because of their proven leadership abilities, assisted the Augusti with civil administration and command of the armies. Caius Galerius Valerius Maximianus (Galerius Maximian) was chosen by Diocletian to be his Caesar of the East and Flavius Valerius Constantius (Constantius) was chosen by Maximian Herculius to be his Caesar of the West. Inasmuch as Constantius was instituted as Caesar at an earlier date than Galerius, he was designated senior in the Imperial hierarchy. The Empire was divided into four geographical areas of governance: Diocletian and Galerius Maximian maintained their eastern headquarters at Nicomedia and Thessalonica respectively, while Maximian Herculius and Constantius maintained their western headquarters at Milan and Trier respectively.


RIC VI, Londinium, Constantius, No. 20

[Constantius coin photo] [Constantius coin photo]
FL VAL CONSTANTIVS NOB C ................. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI


RIC VI, Londinium, Galerius Maximian, No. 33

[Galerius coin photo] [Galerius coin photo]
MAXIMIANVS NOBIL C .......................... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI


In 303 the two Augusti announced their intention to simultaneously abdicate and retire (Maximian Herculius somewhat reluctently), their titles and authority to be assumed by the Caesars, who in turn would appoint new Caesars thus perpetuating the system. Diocletian and Maximian Herculius did in fact abdicate and retire in 305 to become Seniores Augusti.


Abdication coinage - Seniore Augustus (Senior=retired):

RIC VI, Londinium, Diocletian, No. 77a

[Abdication coin photo] [Abdication coin photo]
DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISSIMO SEN AVG
PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG


Chronology of Events:

293 AD
* Diocletian institutes the Tetrarchy -- two Augusti assisted by two Caesars selected by them.
* Diocletian adopts Jovius (senior) as his Protector-God.
* Maximian adopts Herculius as his Protector-God.
* Galerius Maximian is selected by Diocletian to be his Caesar of the East.
* Constantius is selected by Maximian Herculius to be his Caesar of the West.

296 AD
* Constantius, Caesar of the West, invades Britain (April)
* Constantius defeats the Usurper Augustus, Allectus - restores Britain to the Empire.
* The official London Mint is establised by Constantius

297 AD
* Initial folles weight range is 11 to 9 grams which prevails until mid 307
* 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

303 AD
* Diocletian and Maximian Herculius announce their intention to abdicate and retire.

305 AD
* Joint abdication and retirement of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius on 1 May.
* Obverse legend reflects retired status of Diocletian & Maximian Herculius as Seniores Augusti

The Second Tetrarchy

In May of 305 Constantius succeeded Maximian Herculius as Augustus of the West and Galerius Maximian succeeded Diocletian as Augustus of the East, as planned. Flavius Valerius Severus (Severus) was appointed Caesar of the West by Constantius and Galerius Valerius Maximinus Daia (Maximinus) was appointed Caesar of the East by Galerius Maximian. The second Tetrarchy was thus created.

Constantius died at Eboracum (York) in Britain during a campaign against the warlike tribes of the North on 25 July 306. Before he died, Constantius conferred Imperium on his son, Flavius Valerius Constantinus (Constantine).


RIC VI, Londinium, Severus, No. 59a

[Severus coin photo] [Severus coin photo]
SEVERVS NOBILISSIMVS CAES .............. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI


RIC VI, Londinium, Maximinus, No. 63b

[Maximinus coin photo] [Maximinus coin photo]
MAXIMINVS NOBILIS C ....................... GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI


Chronology of Events:

305 AD
* Elevation of Constantius and Galerius Maximian to Augustus on 1 May.
* Severus is selected by Constantius to be his Caesar in the West.
* Maximinus is selected by Galerius Maximian to be his Caesar in the East.
* The second Tetrarchy is thus created.

306 AD
* Constantius becomes gravely ill during campaign against war-like tribes in northern Britain.
* Constantius confers Imperium on his son, Constantine.
* Constantius dies of natural causes at Eboracum (York), northern Britain on 25 July.

The Third Tetrarchy

Before he died in July of 306, Constantius had conferred Imperium on his son, Constantine. Although the army of Constantius wanted to proclaim Constantine Augustus, Galerius Maximian, the now de-facto senior Augustus, proclaimed him Caesar of the West and elevated Severus to Augustus of the West (in accordance with the rules for succession) thereby creating the Third Tetrarchy.

On 28 October 306, the Citizens of Rome revolted against oppressive taxation and petitioned Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maxentius (Maxentius), son of retired Augustus Maximian Herculius, to assume Imperium. This he did, initially adopting the appellation of Princeps. The army at Rome subsequently proclaimed him Augustus and Maxentius persuaded Maximian Herculius to come out of retirement in order to serve as his "colleague Augustus". Galerius Maximian, the de-facto Augustus, rejected these actions as illegal and instructed Severus (because Rome was in his sphere of authority) to engage Maxentius and depose him.

Early in 307 Severus commanded an army that marched south into Italy to engage Maxentius as instructed by Galerius Maximian. Severus was not well served by this army that maintained loyalties to its previous commander, Maximian Herculius, and indeed many soldiers deserted Severus. The forces of Maxentius quickly defeated those of Severus who was captured and subsequently executed in Rome. Later Galerius Maximian himself led an army against Maxentius but he was no more successful than Severus had been and eventually withdrew leaving Maxentius in control of most of Italy, North Africa and Spain. In April Maximian Herculius travelled to Gaul seeking an alliance with Constantine. The alliance was duly consummated and cemented when Constantine married the daughter of Maximian Herculius, Fausta Flavia Maxima (Fausta). Constantine assumed the title and powers of Augustus later in the year (not recognized by Galerius Maximian) after affirmation by Maximian Herculius and the Diocletian Tetrarchic System of Government by two Augusti and two Caesars selected by them effectively came to an end.


The following coin was issued shortly after Maximian Herculius married his daughter, Fausta, to Constantine in 307, the obverse titulature reflecting his status as Senior Augustus emerged from retirement.

RIC VI, Londinium, Maximian Herculius, No. 90

[Maximian coin photo] [Maximian coin photo]
DN MAXIMIANO PFS AVG .................. GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
PLN


The following coin issue depicts Constantine as Caesar just prior to assuming the title and powers of Augustus in 307.

RIC VI, Londinium, Constantine, No. 88b

[Constantine coin photo] [Constantine coin photo]
FL VAL CONSTANTINIVS NOB C ............ GENIO POPV -- LI ROMANI
PLN


Chronology of Events:

306 AD
* Severus is proclaimed Augustus of the West by Galerius Maximian in July.
* Constantine is designated Caesar of the West by Galerius Maximian in July.
* On 25 July Constantine assumes control of the Western Mints -- Trier, Lyons & London.
* The Citizens of Rome revolt against oppressive taxation.
* The Citizens of Rome petition Maxentius (son of Maximian Herculius) to assume Imperium.
* Maxentius adopts the title of Princeps.
* Late in the year the army at Rome proclaims Maxentius Augustus -- rejected by Galerius Maximian.
* Maximian Herculius emerges from retirement to serve as "colleague Augustus" to his son, Maxentius.
* Galerius Maximian instructs Severus to depose Maxentius.

307 AD
* Early in the year, Severus marches south into Italy with an army to engage Maxentius.
* The forces of Maxentius defeat those of Severus who is captured.
* Severus is subsequently executed in Rome.
* Maximian Herculius travels to Gaul seeking an alliance with Constantine.
* Constantine marries Fausta, daughter of Maximian Herculius, in April.
* Galerius Maximian marches into Italy with an army to depose Maxentius.
* Galerius Maximian is unsuccessful in subduing Maxentius and withdraws.
* Maxentius is left in control of much of Italy, Northern Africa and Spain.
* Reduced weight folles of 8.5 to 6 gram range introduced in early summer,.
* Exergue Mint mark PLN is introduced.
* Several new reverse depictions and inscriptions are introduced
* The GENIO POPVLI ROMANI reverse legend becomes GENIO POP ROM
* Constantine is affirmed as Augustus by Maximian Herculius.
* Constantine assumes the title and powers of Augustus sometime after 25 July.
* Galerius Maximian does not recognize Constantine's elevation to Augustus.
* Maximian Herculius returns to Rome to re-join his son, Maxentius, as "colleague Augustus".
* The Diocletian Tetrarchic System of Government effectively comes to an end.

Dissolution of the Tetrarchy: Imperial claimants

In the spring of 308 Maximian Herculius had a falling out with his son, Maxentius, and left to join his now son-in-law, Constantine, in Gaul. In the autumn of 308 Galerius Maximian organized and convened a conference at Carnuntum consisting of himself, Diocletian and Maximian Hrculius to discuss and resolve the "Augusti problem". Galerius Maximian did not recognize either Constantine or Maxentius as Augustus, proposing instead that his old friend and comrade, Flavius Valerius Licinianus Licinius (Licinius) be appointed Augustus of the West to replace the deceased Severus and he obtained the concurrence of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius in this maneuver. Maxentius was declared an enemy of the state and by the conferees and Maximian Herculius once more went into retirement. Galerius Maximian proposed that Constantine be recognized as Caesar, although Constantine did not acquiesce.

Constantine was incensed at his proposed "demotion" to Caesar subservient to Licinius as was Maximinus at the elevation of Licinius to Augustus, and so Galerius Maximian designated both of them Filius Augustorum: "son of the Augustus" -- a somewhat empty title of convenience and compromise -- in an attempt to mollify them.

There now followed a struggle between the Imperial Claimants: Maximian Herculius, who had again emerged from retirement as a self-proclaimed Augustus, and evidently with intentions to usurp Constantine, was defeated in battle by Constantine in 309 and committed suicide in 310. Maximinus was proclaimed Augustus by the troops of his army in the same year. Maximinus and Maxentius formed a Military Compact early in 312 but Maxentius was defeated and killed by the forces of Constantine during a famous battle at Milvian bridge outside Rome later that year. The forces of Maximinus were defeated by those of Licinius in 313, Maximinus committing suicide later that year. Constantine and Licinius were subsquently proclaimed co-Augusti, bringing down the curtain on this Historical Period.


The following coin depicts Maximinus after assuming the title of Augustus in 310.

RIC VI, Londinium, Maximinus, No. 209b

[Maximinus coin photo] [Maximinus coin photo]
IMP MAXIMINVS PF AVG .............................. GENIO POP ROM
PLN


The following coin depicts Constantine after adopting SOL, the invincible Sun God, as his protector in 310.

RIC VI, Londinium, Constantine, No. 234

[Constantine coin photo] [Constantine coin photo]
CONSTANTINVS PF AVG .............................. SOLI INVICTO COMITI
PLN


RIC VI, Londinium, Licinius, No. 209c

[Licinius coin photo] [Licinius coin photo]
IMP LICINIVS PF AVG .............................. GENIO POP ROM
PLN


Chronology of Events:

308 AD
* Maximian Herculius quarrels with his son, Maxentius, early in the year.
* Maximian Herculius flees to Gaul to join his son-in-law, Constantine.
* Conference of Carnuntum consisting of Galerius Maximian, Diocletian and Maximian Herculius is convened.
* Galerius Maximian proposes his friend, Flavius Valerius Licinianus Licinius (Licinius), be designated Augustus.
* Licinius is appointed Augustus of the West with concurrence of Diocletian and Maximian Herculius.
* Maximian Herculius goes into retirement yet again.
* Maxentius is declared to be an enemy of the State.

309 AD
* Constantine and Maximinus are appointed Filius Augustorum by Galerius Maximian.
* Maximian Herculius again emerges as a self-proclaimed Augustus.
* Maximian Herculius is defeated by Constantine in battle and deposed.

310 AD
* Maximian Herculius, accused of plotting against Constantine, commits suicide.
* Maximinus is proclaimed Augustus by the troops of his army.
* Galerius Maximian now recognizes Maximinus and Constantine as Augusti.
* PLN Exergue Mint mark is now accompanied by letters/symbols in field
* Constantine adopts the Sun God Sol as his protector on 25 July.
* Introduction of Constantinian coins with SOLI INVICTO COMITI reverses.
* Folles weight range is now 5 to 4 grams which prevails until early 313.

311 AD
* Galerius Maximian dies on 5 May after a lengthy illness.

312 AD
* Maximinus and Maxentius enter into a Military Compact.
* Maxentius is killed in battle with Constantine at Milvian bridge outside Rome on 28 October.

313 AD
* Licinius marries Constantia, (half) sister of Constantine in January.
* Maximinus is defeated in battle with Licinius and flees east.
* Maximinus subsequently commits suicide in Tarsus.
* Conference of Milan -- Constantine (West) and Licinius (East) are proclaimed co-Augusti.
* Edict of Milan -- proclaims religious tolerance of Christianity.
* Folles weight range is 4.5 to 3 grams by the end of this year.
* Silver content is now approx. 2%.


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Link to the Roman Imperial Coinage Directory