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Constantine Victory Constantinopolis 330-336AD (Co67)
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This coin celebrates the naval victory of Crispus and his subsequent capture of Byzantium, soon to be re-named Constantinople.
The victory on a prow type alludes to the naval victory of Crispus and his subsequent capture of Byzantium (soon to be re-named Constantinople). Zosimus said that Constantine's fleet had 200 ships and Licinius had 350 ships. Zosimus might have exaggerated, but all sources agreed that Constantine's fleet was greatly outnumbered. What accounted for the surprise victory of Constantine's forces? Could it have been that Constantine had better trained sailors...maybe divine providence? A papyrus letter from circa A.D. 323, gives an answer. The letter is from a procurator who said that the government of Egypt had an urgent requirement of box and acanthus wood for repair of the men-at-war vessels in the arsenals of Memphis and Babylon. Egypt sent a total of 130 ships to serve in the navy of Licinius, but it seems that they were all old tubs!1 The description in RIC describes Constantinopolis as holding reversed spear . This object might actually be a scepter, rather than a reversed spear. Compare the object with the scepter that the victory on the reverse is holding. The ends are alike--they both end in small globes. On some coins, Constantinopolis is holding what might be considered a cross- scepter with a globe (often topped with a smaller globe). This may or may not have had Christian significance, but Constantine first used this symbolism in A.D. 315 on a silver medallion, which also has a chi-rho on the crest, issued in Ticinum. The cross-scepter imagery was later an imperial attribute and sign of power on some gold coins of Valentinian III. This symbolism, and other imagery, may not have been understood by many people at the time, though. In the sixth century, John of Ephesus wrote that the general public believed that the figure of Constantinopolis on gold coins of Justin II was actually Venus.2 It seems that a lot of the message of ancient coins was lost on the audience! The mints of Heraclea, Constantinople, Nicomedia and Cyzicus which surrounded the Propontis (the Sea of Marmara) dropped the S from the obverse legend. This is a regional variation and "reflects the fall of the terminal -s in the spoken language."3The obverse legend break for all the mints is always CONSTAN-TINOPOLIS except for Rome, which used the legend break CONSTANTI-NOPOLIS . Sometimes the engravers at Rome misunderstood what the reverse was supposed to depict, and engraved the prow moving towards Victory, instead of Victory standing on the prow. The tendency in the western mints was to render the prow of the ship in a very simple fashion, but some of the eastern mints occasionally engraved the prow with more style, and sometimes you can even see the oars of the galley.
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