ROMAN COINS OF THE LONDON MINT: 296-325 AD
As cataloged in RIC, Volumes VI and VII

THE TETRARCHS & IMPERIAL CLAIMANTS - RIC, VOLUME VI, LONDON (296-313)

Last updated: 25 November 2016

The First Tetrarchy: Diocletian/Galerius & Maximian/Constantius

Diocletian [1] - 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: Maximian Herculius [2], 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


actual size of coin


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

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


actual size of coin


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 [3] was chosen by Diocletian to be his Caesar of the East and Flavius Valerius Constantius: Constantius [4] was chosen by Maximian 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 maintained their eastern headquarters at Nicomedia and Thessalonica respectively, while Maximian 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


actual size of coin


RIC VI, Londinium, Galerius Maximian, No. 33

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


actual size of coin


In 303 the two Augusti announced their intention to simultaneously abdicate and retire (Maximian 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 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


actual size of coin


Chronology of Events:

293 AD
* Diocletian institutes 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 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.
* Establishment of the official London Mint [5]
* Obverse legend titulature for Tetrarchic coins [6]

297 AD
* Initial follis weight range is 11 to 9 grams which prevails until mid 307 [7]
* Silver content is approx. 4% to 3% [8]
* Mint mark is LON in the exergue of the coin reverse [9]

300 AD
* (no Mint mark in exergue of coin reverse)

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

305 AD
* Joint abdication and retirement of Diocletian and Maximian (1 May).
* First issue of "Abdication" coinage.
* Obverse legend reflects retired status of Diocletian & Maximian as Seniores Augusti [10]

The Second Tetrarchy: Constantius/Severus & Galerius/Maximinus

In May of 305 Constantius succeeded Maximian as Augustus of the West and Galerius succeeded Diocletian as Augustus of the East, as planned. Flavius Valerius Severus: Severus [11] was appointed Caesar of the West and Galerius Valerius Maximinus Daia: Maximinus [12] was appointed Caesar of the East. The second Tetrarchy was thus created.

Constantius died at York in Britain during a campaign against the warlike tribes of the North in 306. Before he died, Constantius conferred Imperium on his son, Flavius Valerius Constantinus: Constantine [13]


RIC VI, Londinium, Severus, No. 59a

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


actual size of coin


RIC VI, Londinium, Maximinus, No. 63b

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


actual size of coin


Chronology of Events:

305 AD
* Elevation of Constantius and Galerius to Augustus in early May.
* Severus is selected by Constantius to be his Caesar in the West.
* Maximinus is selected by Galerius 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 York, northern Britain, 25 July.

The Third Tetrarchy - Severus/Constantine & Galerius/Maximinus

Before he died in July of 306, Constantius had conferred Imperium on his son, Constantine. Although his army wanted to proclaim Constantine Augustus, Galerius, 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 [14], son of retired Augustus Maximian, to assume Imperium. This he did, initially adopting the appellation of Princeps. The army at Rome subsequently proclaimed him Augustus and Maxentius persuaded Maximian to come out of retirement in order to serve as his "colleague Augustus". Galerius, the senior active Augustus, rejected these actions as illegal and instructed Severus (because Rome was in his sphere of authority) to engage Maxentius and depose him.

307 was a tumultuous year indeed. Early in the year Severus commanded an army that marched south into Italy to engage Maxentius as instructed by Galerius. Severus was not well served by this army that maintained loyalties to its previous commander, Maximian, 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 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 travelled to Gaul seeking an alliance with Constantine. The alliance was duly consummated and cemented when Constantine married the daughter of Maximian, Fausta [15] (Fausta Flavia Maxima). Constantine assumed the title and powers of Augustus later in the year (not recognized by Galerius) after affirmation by Maximian and the Diocletian Tetrarchic System of Government by two Augusti and two selected Caesars effectively came to an end.


The following coin was issued shortly after Maximian 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


actual size of coin


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


actual size of coin


Chronology of Events:

306 AD
* Severus is proclaimed Augustus of the West by Galerius in July.
* Constantine is designated Caesar of the West by Galerius 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) to assume Imperium.
* Maxentius adopts the title of Princeps.
* Late in the year the army at Rome proclaims Maxentius Augustus -- rejected by Galerius.
* Maximian emerges from retirement to serve as "colleague Augustus" to his son, Maxentius.
* Galerius 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 travels to Gaul seeking an alliance with Constantine.
* Constantine marries Fausta, daughter of Maximian, in April.
* Galerius marches into Italy with an army to depose Maxentius.
* Galerius is unsuccessful in subduing Maxentius and withdraws.
* Maxentius is left in control of much of Italy, Northern Africa and Spain.
* Reduced weight follis of 8.5 to 6 grams range introduced in early summer,.
* Exergue Mint mark PLN is introduced.
* Several new reverse depictions and inscriptions are introduced [16]
* The GENIO POPVLI ROMANI reverse legend becomes GENIO POP ROM [17]
* Constantine is affirmed as Augustus by Maximian.
* Constantine assumes the title and powers of Augustus sometime after 25 July.
* Galerius does not recognize Constantine's elevation to Augustus.
* Maximian 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 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 organized and convened a conference at Carnuntum consisting of himself, Diocletian and Maximian to discuss and resolve the "Augusti problem". Galerius did not recognize either Constantine or Maxentius as Augustus. Galerius subsequently proposed that his old friend and comrade, Flavius Valerius Licinianus Licinius: Licinius [18] be appointed Augustus of the West to replace the deceased Severus and he obtained the concurrence of Diocletian and Maximian in this maneuver. Maxentius was declared an enemy of the state and by agreement Maximian once more went into retirement. Galerius 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 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, 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 commited 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


actual size of coin


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


actual size of coin


RIC VI, Londinium, Licinius, No. 209c

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


actual size of coin


Chronology of Events:

308 AD
* Maximian quarrels with his son, Maxentius, early in the year.
* Maximian flees to Gaul to join his son-in-law, Constantine.
* Conference of Carnuntum consisting of Galerius, Diocletian and Maximian is convened.
* Galerius proposes his friend, Flavius Valerius Licinianus Licinius, be designated Augustus.
* Licinius is appointed Augustus of the West with concurrence of Diocletian and Maximian.
* Maximian 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 (Footnote 21).
* Maximian again emerges as a self-proclaimed Augustus.
* Maximian is defeated by Constantine in battle and deposed.

310 AD
* Maximian, accused of plotting against Constantine, commits suicide.
* Maximinus is proclaimed Augustus by the troops of his army.
* Galerius now recognizes Maximinus and Constantine as Augusti.
* Exergue Mint mark PLN is now accompanied by letters/symbols in field (Footnote 8)
* Constantine adopts the Sun God Sol as his protector on 25 July [19]
* Introduction of Constantinian coins with SOLI INVICTO COMITI reverses.
* Weight range is now 5 to 4 grams which prevails until early 313.

311 AD
* Galerius dies of disease on 5 May.

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.
* Weight range is 4.5 to 3 grams by the end of this year.
* Silver content is now approx. 2%.

Footnotes (with return links to location in text)

[1] Diocletian was born in Dalmatia c. 245 AD as Diocles. He was proclaimed Augustus by the army in 284 after the death of Carus and his son, Numerian, during a campaign against the Persians. The second son of Carus, Carinus, was killed by a faction of the army leaving Diocletian the undisputed Augustus. After their abdication, both Diocletian and Maximian were accorded the titles of Seniores Augusti -- to serve as elder statesmen when called upon. While that titulature afforded them reverence and stature, the serving Augusti wielded supreme power. RIC (Roman Imperial Coinage, Volume VI), Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use the appellation Diocletian. He was sixty-eight when he died in 313 AD. (DATT 5; IPOLRE 45-46, 204; RICVI 7-11, 24-27) Location in page [1]

[2] Maximian did not pursue a quiet retirement in the manner of Diocletian after their abdication in 305. As recorded in the text and chronology of events sections of this page, he could not relinquish power easily. He finally died by his own hand after a failed plot (which was exposed by his own daughter, Fausta) to depose Constantine. RIC uses the appellation Maximian Herculius while Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use Maximian. Often listed in coin catalogs and commercial sale lists as Maximianus. (DATT 6-7; IPOLRE 42, 203-204; RICVI 7-8, 15-16) Location in page [2]

[3] Galerius was the son-in-law of Diocletian having married his daughter, Valeria, prior to his own appontment to Caesar. Although these Tetrarchic familial alliances prevailed, Rees points out that family bonds were not a prerequisite for elevation to the Tetrarchic college (although such alliances certainly helped). Like all successor Tetrarchs, Galerius was an army field General of notable skill and ability. RIC uses the appellation Galerius Maximian while Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use Galerius. Caution should be exercised when attributing the coins of Galerius & Maximian due to the similarity of the name forms in the obverse legend. (DATT 77; RICVI 9, 14) Location in page [3]

[4] Also known as Constantius Chlorus ("the pale"). Constantius married Theodora, the step-daughter of Maximian, after divorcing his first wife, Helena who had borne him a son - Constantinus (the future "Constantine the Great") - in order to strengthen Tetrarchic bonds. In the complex hierarchal system of the time, Constantius was senior to Galerius having been invested as Caesar at an earlier date. RIC, Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use the appellation Constantius. Often listed in coin catalogs and commercial sale lists as Constantius I to distinguish him from his grandson. (DATT 77; IPOLRE 50-51; RICVI 12-13, 27-28) Location in page [4]

[5] The unofficial London Mint of the Usurper Augusti was re-opened by the Tetrarchs after the restoration of Britain to the Empire in 296 as an official mint with one officina (workshop). (RICVI 113) Location in page [5]

[6] Example coin obverse titulature for Augusti:
IMP C DIOCLETIANVS PF AVG

IMP = Imperator (army supreme commander)
{name form of Diocletian}
PF = Pius Felix (dutiful and wise leader)
AVG = Augustus (unique title of Emperors)

Example coin obverse titulature for Caesars:
FL VAL CONSTANTIVS NOB C

{name form of Constantius}
NOB C = Nobilissimus Caesar (noble prince) -- sometimes NOB CAES, NOBIL C, NC, etc. (RICVI 27, 29-40) Location in page [6]

[7] Only aes (bronze) coins -- named Follis -- composed of an alloy of copper (by far the largest constituent), tin, lead, silver (and with a silver surface wash?) were produced by the London Mint. The size and weight of these coins steadily diminished throughout this period. Coins were initially approx. 28 mm in diameter (11 grams) gradually declining to approx. 20 mm in diameter (3.5 grams and less). (RICVI 101, 115-122) Location in page [7]

[8] The silver content declined from an initial value of approx. 4% to 3% to approx. 2% by the end of this time period. (RICVI 94-99) Location in page [8]

[9] Londinium (London) Mint marks (exergue ....... left field ....... right field): Consult this Reference by Ken Elks for a chronological tabulation of Mint marks. (RICVI 113-122) Location in page [9]

[10] Coin obverse titulature for retired (Seniors) Augusti: Diocletian & Maximian:
DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISSIMO SEN AVG

DN = Dominus Noster (Our Lord)
{name form of Diocletian}
FELICISSIMO = felicity/happiness (for)
SEN = Senior (retired)
AVG = Augustus (unique title of Emperors)

(RICVI 27, 29-40) Location in page [10]

[11] The name form Severus is used by Rees, Nixon/Rodgers and Sutherland (and me). It is often listed in coin catalogs and commercial sale lists as Severus II to distinguish him from the previous Emperor Septimus Severus. (IPOLRE 180-181; RICVI 26-29) Location in page [11]

[12] Lactentius asserts that Maximinus was the nephew of Galerius. RIC uses the appellation Maximinus while Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use Maximinus Daia. Often listed in coin catalogs and commercial sale lists as Maximinus II to distinguish him from the previous Emperor Maximinus. (DATT 78, RIC 26-27) Location in page [12]

[13] Constantius was involved in a campaign against the Picts in northern Britain and had requested Galerius to send his son Constantine, who was serving under Galerius, to join him. Upon the death of Constantius, Constantine sent notice to Galerius that his father had granted him Imperium (in his capacity as senior Augustus - albeit questionably). Galerius recognized the action and accorded Constantine the rank of Caesar. RIC, Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use the appellation Constantine. Often listed in coin catalogs and commercial sale lists as Constantine I to distinguish him from his second oldest son (Constantine II) -- also sometimes listed as "Constantine the Great". (IPOLRE 179-185, 197; RICVI 12-14, 26-29) Location in page [13]

[14] Maxentius had been passed over for selection as Caesar for the second Terarchy because of unsuitable character traits according to some extant historians. Maxentius married Galerius' daughter, Valeria Maximilla, but that didn't appear to secure him any favor with Galerius or temper their mutual dislike. Because Maxentius was never recognized as a legitimate Augustus by the other Tetrarchs, no coins were struck in his name by the London Mint. (DATT 76-77, 83-84; RICVI 16-19, 27-29) Location in page [14]

[15] This marriage had many ramifications in the historical scheme of things. For Maximian it was a way to cement an alliance with the up and coming Constantine, something that he eagerly desired during his re-emergence as Augustus. For Constantine it was an important step in his goal of attaining legitimacy and approbation attending his elevation as Augustus. Constantine had previously been married to Minervina who bore him one son - the future Caesar, Crispus - very little is known of her or the circumstances of their divorce. Fausta went on to bear Constantine three sons: Constantine II, Constantius II & Constans - all of whom became Augusti. (DATT 76-77, 195, 198; RICVI 15-16, 29) Location in page [15]

[16] The new reverse inscriptions (with obverse depictions) were:

ADVENTVS AVGG -- Constantine
GENIO POP ROM -- (Genius with Modius) Maximian
GENIO POP ROM -- (Genius Towered) Constantine, Maximian, Maximinus
HERCVLI CONSERVATORI -- Maximian
MARS VICTOR -- Constantine & Maximian
MARTI PACIF -- Constantine
MARTI PATRI CONSERVATORI -- Constantine
MARTI PATRI PROPVGNATORI -- Constantine & Maximian
PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS -- Constantine
QVIES AVGG -- Diocletian
ROMAE AETER -- Constantine & Maximian

Later, COMMITI AVGG NN, MARTI PATRI PROPVG, MEMORIA FELIX, SOLI INVICTO COMITI & FELICITAS AVGG reverses were introduced. (RICVI 118-122) Location in page [16]

NOTE: This Reference by Ken Elks provides detailed information relating to obverse and reverse depictions and inscriptions.

[17] The shortening of the legend resulted from the reduced flan size attending the significant coin weight reduction during this year. (RICVI 117-188) Location in page [17]

[18] Galerius had been planning this move for some time believing that Licinius was not only eminently qualified to be Augustus, but also that he represented an ideal partner for him to work with. RIC, Rees and Nixon/Rodgers use the appellation Licinius. Often listed in catalogs and commercial sale lists as Licinius I to distinguish him from his own son. (DATT 80, RICVI 14-15, 30) Location in page [18]

[19] Constantine kept Sol as his protector until 318 at which time SOLI INVICTO COMITI reverses disappeared from London Mint coins - Sol was the last pagan god depicted on Roman coins. (RICVI 32, 120-122) Location in page [19]

[20] Imperial Personages depicted on coins produced by the London Mint during this period were:

Diocletian
Maximian Herculius
Galerius Maximian
Constantius
Maximinus
Severus
Constantine
Licinius


Of the above personages, only Constantius and Constantine were ever physically in Britain.

Maxentius was not depicted on London Mint Coins.

[21] London Mint coins of Constantine and Maximinus did not include the Filius Augustorum titulature (FIL AVGG) in their obverse legends -- that only occurred on the eastern mint coins under the control of Galerius.

References and Resources


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