RIC VIII Constantinople 93


RIC VIII Constantinople 93


348 - 351 CE


An AE3 of the emperor Constantius II


Coin, phoenix, Constantius II


Bethel University


Angie Pedersen


POINT(3226375.4630522 5013968.0840108)


Render Unto Caesar Coin Project










Constantinopolis (Istanbul)




Constantius II (337- 361 A.D.)




Constantius II





Obverse Legend


Obverse Type

Bust of Constantius II, pearl-diademed, draped, cuirassed, right

Reverse Legend


Reverse Type

Phoenix, radiate, standing right on globe

Obverse Analysis

Born into the family of Constantine I and Fausta, Flavius Julius Constantius was the youngest of the Constantine’s three children. He was often referred to as being a person of morals, but also a person who can be easily fooled by others. After the death of his father, Constantius II became emperor along with his brothers, Constans and Constantine II. With this shared power, Constantius II took the eastern provinces of Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, and the Asiatic provinces as his regions to rule over. Relatively quickly, conflict arose between the brothers Constantine II and Constans over the western provinces, resulting in the death of Constantine I. Following this occurrence, Constans was overthrown and killed by Magnentius. Constantius II ultimately feuded with usurper Magnentius and after several bloody battles, Constantius was able to emerge victorious. Consequently, Magnentius committed suicide in 353 CE. With both brothers having died, Constantius was the left the sole emperor for the remains of his rule (353-361 CE). Constantius’ Christian roots from his childhood showed through with decrees against paganism and ones in favor of Arian-Christian values once he became sole ruler.
Going back to before Constantine I died, Constantius II was sent into the eastern region as commander. Beginning in the year 337 CE, the Roman Empire and the Neo-Persian Sassanid Empire began their almost twenty-four year long war. The war was full of Roman defeats, but the worst came in the year of 348 CE.

The Persian army held back a large portion of their men in order to later drive the Romans into the northern parts of Mesopotamia after they had thought they were ahead. In retaliation to this defeat, Constantius II brutally killed the Persian crown prince. During the year of 355, Constantius II promotes his cousin Julian to the rank of Caesar. Previously, Julian’s half brother Gallus had named Caesar before Constantius II executed him. With Julian being Constantius’ Caesar now, all seemed well for the next few years, including Constantius successfully driving away a couple attacks. Additionally, the wars against the Persians continued. While Constanius was dealing with the Persians, Julian had won battles against Roman enemies, leading to legions that supported Julian to name him Augustus, despite his title as Caesar. The usurpation of Julian caused distraught for Constantius and when Julian did not rid himself of the Augustus title, Constantius was left with no other choice but to face him. Subsequently, on his trip to meet Julian, Constantius fell ill and could not continue his journey. Before he died, Constantius II made it a point to get baptised and to name Julian as his successor, thus the usurpation of Julian became a reality. The exact date of Constantius II’s death has been analyzed and moved from the previous interpretation of October 5, 361 to November 3, 361.

Reverse Analysis

The obverse of the coin RIC VIII Constantinople 93 is pretty straightforward. First of all, the emperor Constantius II is the portrait being depicted. This logically makes sense as he is the emperor from the years 337-361 CE and this particular coin has the mint date between 348-351 CE. On the portrait itself, Constantius II is pearl-diademed, signifying his royal status. Being born into the family of previous emperor, Constantine I, the inscription of D N CONSTAN-TIVS P F AVG, translates into “our lord, Constantius II, pious and happy, emperor”. This portrays the ideal of the time, despite the wars and usurpers that Constantius II had been facing such as Julien and the Persian wars. Additionally, the bust of Constantius II is portrayed as cuirassed, or in other words, wearing an armored breastplate. This alone, signifies Constantius II wanting to be portrayed as a soldier or commander who has succeeded.

When looking at the reverse, there is an interesting message being portrayed. Constantius II chose to depict a phoenix standing on a globe while wearing a radiate. The radiate placed on the phoenix’s head does not necessarily correlate with the bird itself, but rather the emperor himself. The radiate is a crown, decorated like rays, that is worn by emperors and is representative of the sun-god Sol. Additionally, the phoenix is a dominant symbol for both the Christian and Pagan religions as it stands for life being eternally renewed. During his reign, Constantius II made decrees against paganism, however it was never proven that he was indeed against it himself. Through depicting the phoenix on the reverse of this coin is one way he could have been indirectly showing support for both ways of religion. Furthermore, the inscription on the reverse translates into “happy times are restored”. This could possibly be signifying the continued merging of Christianity into the Roman Empire. However, it could also simply be that the darker times from when Constantine I died have moved into the past and that the Empire was moving forward.








“RIC VIII Constantinople 93,” Render Unto Caesar, accessed April 24, 2024, https://renderuntocaesar.betheldigitalscholarship.org/items/show/33.

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