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Constans II, with Constantine IV. 641-668. AV Solidus (19mm, 4.38 g, 6h). Constantinople mint, 7th officina. Struck 654-659. Crowned and draped busts of Constans and Constantine facing; cross above / Cross potent set on three steps; (retrograde Z)//CONOB. DOC 25g; MIB 26; SB 959. Lustrous, traces of die rust on obverse, faint hairlines, minor edge shave. EF.

Ex Gasvoda Collection Duplicates.

Constans II was the son of Constantine III and grandson of the great emperor Heraclius (AD 610-641). Constantine III and his half-brother Heraclonas jointly succeeded to the throne in May of AD 641, but within three months Constantine was dead. The suspicion that Heraclonas and his mother Martina had poisoned him led to a palace uprising that deposed them and installed the 11-year-old Constans II on the throne. During his minority, actual power resided in a regency council of Senators, who proved unequal to the enormous challenges posed by the initial tsunami of Islamic conquest. By AD 650, the Arabs had occupied Syria, Judaea and Egypt, and were building a fleet to terrorize the Greek islands. In AD 655, Constans II personally led a Byzantine naval counterattack, but despite his personal bravery suffered a heavy defeat off the south coast of Asia Minor. It seemed Greco-Roman civilization was doomed to a running rearguard action leading to oblivion, but ca. AD 656 the Islamic Caliphate was riven by internal upheavals, giving the East Romans a respite. The Slavs remained a major threat, however, and Constans spent many years campaigning against them in the northern Balkans. He also strove to end religious dissension by issuing an edict forbidding any further argument about the nature of Christ; this, however, only led to further strife. At some point, Constans determined to shift the Empire's center of gravity westward to better manage the Islamic onslaught. In AD 663 he removed his court to Italy and actually pondered making Rome his capital. But the great imperial city was now a virtual ghost town ringed by the hostile Lombards, and after a brief visit he instead set up court at Syracuse in Sicily. The citizens of Sicily soon came to resent his heavy hand of taxation. In AD 668, he was murdered while in his bath. A courtier, Mezezius, was briefly hailed as emperor, but was quickly put down by troops loyal to Constans' eldest son, Constantine IV, who assumed the throne and proved a wise and capable ruler.