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Fine Style Portrait

CNG 111, Lot: 799. Estimate $15000.
Sold for $14000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Constantius I. As Caesar, AD 293-305. AV Aureus (17.5mm, 4.91 g, 6h). Treveri (Trier) mint. Struck AD 303-305. CONSTAN TIVS NOB C, laureate head right / HERCVLI CONSER AVGG ET CAESS N N, Hercules standing facing, head left, nude but for lion skin draped over shoulder, resting right hand on grounded club, holding bow in left hand, and wearing quiver; TR. RIC VI 45; Depeyrot 10B/7; Calicó 4836; Biaggi 1850; DOC 20 (same dies); Hunterian –; Jameson –; Mazzini dopo 146 (same dies). Near EF, attractive deep reddish iridescent toning. High relief portrait of fine style.

From the Brexit Collection. Ex Peus 357 (28 October 1998), lot 884; Lanz 50 (27 November 1989), lot 807.

Flavius Valerius Constantius was a native of Naissus in modern Serbia, scene of a great Roman victory over the Goths in AD 268. Like many later emperors, he found escape from his low social standing in the Roman army and rose steadily through the ranks. Along the way, he took a local barmaid named Helena as his common-law wife and she bore him a son, Constantine, in AD 273 or 274. By AD 284, Constantius had risen to become military governor of Dalmatia. He supported Diocletian’s bid for power and was rewarded with a series of important posts in the new regime. In March of AD 293, Diocletian and Maximianus appointed him Caesar of the West. He chose as his capital the fortress city of Treveri, modern Trier in western Germany, where this remarkable gold aureus was struck. The local mint possessed at least one die engraver of exceptional talent, who continued to produce gold coins with high quality portraiture, typically in high relief on compact flans as seen here, well into the reign of Constantine I.

This coin gives every evidence of coming from the famous Arras-Beaurains Hoard of 1922, which contained between 200 and 300 gold coins, and at least 40 huge medallions, of the Tetrarchy and early Constantinian era. It is not published in the 1977 corpus of the hoard by Pierre Bastien, although 23 other aurei of the exact same type are recorded, many with similar distinctive toning. However, the hoard was dispersed immediately after its discovery and reconstructing it, in the words of B.A. Baldwin, “will for ever be impossible in an exact sense.”