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CNG Feature Auction 126

Lot nuber 915

Procopius. Usurper, AD 365-366. AV Solidus (21mm, 4.40 g, 6h). Constantinople mint. Struck September–end of AD 365. Near EF.

CNG Feature Auction 126
Lot: 915.
 Estimated: $ 20 000

The Family of Constantine Collection, Coin-in-Hand Video, Gold

Sold For $ 16 000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

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Procopius. Usurper, AD 365-366. AV Solidus (21mm, 4.40 g, 6h). Constantinople mint. Struck September–end of AD 365. Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Procopius standing facing, head right, holding labarum with cross on banner and resting hand on shield set on ground to right; CONS. RIC IX 2b; Depeyrot 14/3; Biaggi 2272. Toned, minor marks, some scratches, deposits. Near EF. Very rare.

From the Family of Constantine Collection, assembled with guidance by Roland Michel, Geneva. Ex Numismatica Ars Classica 24 (4 December 2002), lot 317.

A maternal cousin of Julian II, Procopius had a successful career as a civil servant and was made a comes, or count, after Julian won the throne in AD 361. When Julian prepared his invasion of Persia a year later, he placed Procopius in command of a 30,000-man force intended to join with the allied Armenian army and Julian’s legions in Mesopotamia. Procopius later claimed that his cousin also gave him a purple cloak, along with instructions to succeed him as emperor should Julian be killed in battle. Regardless of the validity of this claim, Procopius failed miserably in his role, contributing to the defeat of Julian’s main force and his death in battle on June 27, AD 363. When the army chose Jovian as emperor, Procopius made no protest and took Julian’s body back to Tarsus for burial. But when Jovian abruptly died a few months later and the brothers Valentinian I and Valens came to power, Procopius decided to make a bid for the throne. While Valens was away from the capital, Procopius re-emerged at Constantinople on September 28, AD 365, wrapped in Julian’s purple cloak. The garrison proclaimed him emperor, and Procopius quickly established control of western Asia Minor. But he showed little strategic sense and soon some of his best officers and soldiers began defecting back to Valens. Meanwhile, Valens built his own forces and maneuvered Procopius into a decisive battle at Nicolea, Phrygia in May of 366. Procopius suffered a crushing defeat and was summarily executed in the aftermath, ending his eight-month usurpation.

The gold coinage of Procopius carries on the Constantinian tradition of fine portraiture and crisp execution. The exceptional portrait on this issue shows him wearing a close beard, probably a symbol of sympathy and mourning for his kinsman Julian II. His beard and the lack of substantial Christian imagery on the reverse of his solidi could allude to possible Pagan sympathies. The solidi of Procopius remain very rare.

The final winners of all CNG Feature Auction 126 lots will be determined during the live online sale that will be held on 28-29 May 2024. This lot is in Session Three, which will begin 29 May at 9 AM ET.

Winning bids are subject to a 22.5% buyer's fee for bids placed on this website and 25% for all others.

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