RIC VII Siscia 43


RIC VII Siscia 43


317-318 CE


Either AE2 or AE3 of Claudius II Gothicus


Bethel University


Peter Erickson


POINT(1822454.57548542 5697909.84686708)


Render Unto Caesar Coin Project








Siscia (Sisak)




Claudius II Gothicus





Obverse Legend


Obverse Type

Head of Claudius II Gothicus, veiled, laureate, right

Reverse Legend


Reverse Type

Claudius II Gothicus, veiled, draped, seated left in curule chair, raising right hand and holding sceptre in left hand

Obverse Analysis

Claudius II Gothicus was born in 210 CE in the region of Illyria, found in the northwestern part of the Balkan peninsula. Claudius II ruled as emperor of Rome for only a short time (268-270 CE) after succeeding the emperor Gallienus. Prior to becoming emperor, Claudius had been a lifelong soldier and was eventually made his way up to military deputy to Gallienus. It became clear that Gallienus intended Claudius to succeed him by making him his heir apparent. It is quite possible and even likely that Claudius was responsible for the assassination of Gallienus during battle against Aureolus in Milan, a usurper of the throne. The reign of Claudius thus begun. Yet his reign was cut short after falling ill due to the plague and dying in 270 CE at the age of 56. Because of the relatively short reign of Claudius, there isn’t an abundance of military victories and economic policies that he is remembered for. He did successfully defeat the Alemanni, a Germanic tribe that had invaded the empire, earning him the title of Germanicus Maximus. He was also known for his brutality. According to Meijer, Claudius punched out the teeth of his opponent during a wrestling match in the 250’s.
However, this story is not really about Claudius II Gothicus as it is about Constantine I. He is the emperor under whom the RIC VII Siscia 43 coin was minted. Why would he put a portrait of Claudius on his own coin? The answer comes in the form of political propaganda. Constantine wanted to have a tie to an emperor from the past that he could use in order to legitimize his own reign. So, to fulfill this he used Claudius II Gothicus and claimed a familial relation to him. However, as already discussed, Claudius had a shady past and was likely at least an accomplice in the assassination of Gallienus. So, history had to be rewritten and altered to put Claudius in a more favorable light in order that Constantine could benefit. This is where Historia Augusta comes into play. Historian Richard D. Weigel says this “Although the most substantive source on Claudius is the biography in the Scriptores Historiae Augustae (SHA), this account is riddled with fabrications and slanted with fawning praise for this particular emperor, who in the fourth century was viewed as an ancestor of Constantine's father and thus of the ruling imperial family.” This account of Claudius’s life in the SHA was unreliable and sometimes blatantly false. Weigel again says “In the fourth century, attempts to link Constantine's family to Claudius resulted in the phrases of adoration and outright fabrication that dominate the SHA life and most of our other sources.”
Because of the tampering of historical accounts for political agendas it can be difficult to truly know who Claudius II Gothicus was. However, we do know that his life was sent into the realm of the mythical in order to strengthen Constantine’s political legitimacy. This agenda is now forever enshrined on the RIC VII Siscia 43 coin.

Reverse Analysis

The reverse of the coin also depicts Claudius. He is seated in a curule chair, facing to the left, and veiled. He is also raising his right hand while holding a sceptre in his left. The curule chair was a stool with curved legs that was able to be folded up. The chair was a symbol of the ‘curule’, meaning the highest, magistracies in Rome.
The inscription around the edge of the reverse reads “REQVIES OPTIMO-RVM MERITORVM”. This translates to ‘the rest/retirement of the best and most meritorious [emperors]’. Again, this coin was minted under the reign of Constantine I in memory and honor of Claudius II Gothicus so this inscription makes sense given the context. This particular coin depicting Claudius was actually one of three different coins minted in this series. The other ‘meritorious emperors’ were Maximian and Constantius.
On the obverse of the coin, Claudius II Gothicus (210-270 CE) is depicted. He is wearing a head covering that doesn’t cover his hair entirely and drapes down around his shoulder, facing right. He is also wearing what appears to be a laureate on his head. The laureate wreath derived its name from the laurel leaves that it was made out of. According to David R. Sear.com the laureate was “Originally associated with the god Apollo, and the standard head-dress of the emperors until the late Roman period.”
There is also an inscription around the edge of the obverse and it reads, “DIVO CLAVDIO OPTIMO IMP”. “DIVO”, according to A Dictionary of Roman Coins: Republican and Imperial, was a title used to indicate that an emperor was recognized as being among the gods. The term simply replaced all of the other titles that the emperor had accrued over his rule. “CLAVDIO” is the Latin spelling of Claudius. “OPTIMO” was a high compliment to an emperor, or “princeps”. It was a title given to “good” emperors, but “bad” emperors would sometimes give themselves the title as well. The inscription “IMP” or imperator eventually became the English word emperor. The one given the title of imperator was the leader of the Roman army. According to forumancientcoins.com “The award was generally taken on becoming Emperor and renewed whenever a particularly important victory was celebrated.”










“RIC VII Siscia 43,” Render Unto Caesar, accessed May 22, 2024, https://renderuntocaesar.betheldigitalscholarship.org/items/show/34.

Output Formats