Constantin Ier le Grand (310-337)
Médaillon d’un solidus et demi - Thessalonique (327)
D’une insigne rareté et d’une qualité remarquable.
Exemplaire de la collection « de Guermantes » vente Leu 86 du 5 mai 2003, N°985 et de la vente NAC 52 du 7 octobre 2009, N°608
6.71g - Gnecchi p. 17, 23 et pl. 7, 5 Bastien, Donativa, cf. p. 80, note 2.
Pratiquement FDC - CHOICE AU *
Rather than the laurel wreath that identified emperors as commanders-in-chief, this remarkable anepigraphic portrait shows Constantine wearing a diadem – an innovation dating back to AD 324 which recalls royal Hellenistic portraits, looking upward in an attitude of prayer (his eyes turned up to the heavens) which was well noticed by Christians, as testified by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea in his Vita Constantini (IV.15): “The great strength of the divinely inspired faith fixed in his soul might be deduced by considering also the fact that he had his own portrait so depicted on the gold coinage that he appeared to look upwards in the manner of one reaching out to God in prayer. Impressions of this type were circulated throughout the entire Roman world”. After forty years of internal wars, Constantine’s defeat of Licinius I at Chrysopolis in AD 324 had reunified the empire under a single emperor. In November that year he drew the plans of a new much-enlarged city of Constantinople (former Byzantius, and future Istanbul), which would then be inaugurated as the new capital city in May AD 330, and in AD 325 he convened at Nicaea and personally oversaw an ecumenical council of Christian bishops. These, and numerous administrative reforms, gave him much to celebrate, and this medallion belongs to the monuments that mark his successes. Its reverse depicts the Emperor standing be- tween two bound captives, and it was struck at the time of his vicennalia (he was to become the longest reigning Roman emperor since Augustus), which was also the decennalia of his son Constantine II Caesar (it was customary for emperors to celebrate their accession to the throne every five years, with festivities and donatives). This medallion was struck in Thessaloniki, which was a step of the emperor’s vicennial journey. Indeed, Constantine had left Nicomedia (Isnik in Turkey) in early AD 326 and arrived in Rome (the ‘old capital’) in July, and then left Rome in September to arrive back in Nicomedia in July AD 327, having visited Thessalonica, Sirmium and Ticinum on the way: “A stop in Thessalonika [in late February 327] is recorded in Codex Theodosianus for the return journey, and […] one might postulate that Constantine travelled the same route via Thessalonika also on the outward vicennial journey [in April 326]” (L. Ramskold, “Constantine’s Vicennalia and the Death of Crispus”, Niš & Byzantium conference XI (2012), pp. 409-456).