Coin Relief 43 – VIRTVS EXERCIT nummi

Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. In this issue, Sam Moorhead looks at another group of nummi – those with the VIRTVS EXERCIT legend.

VIRTVS EXERCIT nummi of AD 319-21

We previously covered the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP issue of AD 318-20. This article considers the next issue of VIRTVS EXERCIT, which dates to AD 319-21. Two different types were used with the legend VIRTVS EXERCIT: the more common type shows two seated captives either side of a standard, inscribed VOT XX or sometimes VOT X; the rarer one (only struck at London, Trier and Lyon) shows the two captives seated either side of a trophy. Of the 450 VIRTVS EXERCIT coins on the PAS Database, over 350 are of the standard type with just under 100 displaying the trophy type; these figures could change with further editing.

The two different VIRTVS EXERCIT types. Left: Two captives seated either side of a standard, inscribed VOT XX. (Record ID WILT-4B05D7, Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum, License: CC-BY). Right: Two captives seated either side of a trophy (Record ID DOR-55779C, Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY).

VIRTVS EXERCIT coins were struck at the same mints as the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP issues, with the addition of Aquileia and Thessalonica (see Table 1). However, there are under half the number of VIRTVS EXERCIT pieces (450) than VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP coins (1,040) on the PAS Database. Of the 450 VIRTVS EXERCIT pieces on the PAS Database, at present around 264 can be attributed to a mint; the majority of these coins have been edited recently. These mints were all in the realm of Constantine I, hence the dominance of coins struck for Constantine I (100 coins; 41%), Crispus (65; 26%) and Constantine II (52; 21%), as opposed to Licinius I (12;
5%) and II (17; 7%) (see Table 1). What is interesting is that Constantine I’s share has declined from 85.4% for the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP issue and the shares of the other emperor increased significantly. Furthermore, there wereonly 4 coins out of 437 (1%) for the Licinii for the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINCE PERP group; now, in the VIRTVS EXERCIT group, they have 29 out of 246 (12%).

Table 1 shows that Trier has the lion’s share of the coins with 119 (45%), followed by London with 87 (33%). This reverses the shares for the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINCE PERP issues, where London had 54% and Trier 29%. Of the other mints, only Lyon has any significant number with 30 coins, Arles, Ticinum, Aquileia, Siscia and Thessalonica only having 28 coins between them. Each of the mints will now be considered in turn.

London (Londinium), c. AD 320

There were two major issues from London, marked PLN and PLON. In RIC VII, Patrick Bruun places PLON before PLN (RIC VII, pp. 109-10), but Adrian Marsden argues cogently, from the obverse legends used for Crispus, that the PLN issue actually comes first.

This means that the PLN and PLON ‘standard’ pieces come first, followed by a very small issue of PLON trophy pieces. There are 88 coins on the PAS Database, showing that this is smaller than the previous VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP issue which had 255 specimens. Of these coins, the PLN ‘standard’ issue has 49 pieces (58%), the PLON ‘standard’ issue 33 pieces (39%) and PLON ‘trophy’ issue only one or two pieces (2%).

Of the 79 coins on which an emperor can be identified, Constantine I has 34 pieces (43%), Crispus 19 (24%) and Constantine II 26 (33%). This shows a major change from the previous VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP issue when Constantine had 85% of the coins with Crispus and Constantine II only having 8.75% and 6.25% respectively. The two Caesars are much better represented and it is interesting to note that Constantine II outstrips Crispus. Note that no coins were struck in this issue for Licinius I or II. The coins are now catalogued according to H. Cloke and L. Toone, The London Mint (2015), the authors providing an extra 7 varieties to the 16 listed in RIC VII (1966). Cloke and Toone date these pieces to c. AD 320, rather than AD 320-1 which is given in RIC VII. I now follow the Cloke and Toone dating.

PLN, c. AD 320 – Standard
There are 49 of these pieces, making PLN the more common of the two issues. The two most common types are for Constantine I (Fig. 4) with 21 specimens and Constantine II with 13 specimens. The coins of Crispus are spread across five varieties.

Nummus of Crispus Caesar, London, c.AD 320. PLN standard type. Record ID IOW-292705 (Isle of Wight Council, License: CC-BY-SA).

PLON, c. AD 320 – Standard
There are 33 coins of this issue, making it scarcer than the PLN issue. The two most common types are still for Constantine I (Fig. 10) with up to 13 specimens and Constantine II with 13 specimens. The types of Crispus are spread across four types.

Nummus of Constantine I, London, c.AD 320. PLON standard type. Record ID BUC-28D9E6 (Buckinghamshire County Museum, License: CC-BY-SA).

PLON, c. AD 320 – Trophy
This type is apparently struck at the end of the VIRTVS EXERCIT issue and is rare with only one coin on the PAS which has an image; there is another poorly preserved piece without an image.

Nummus of Constantine II as Caesar, London, c.AD 320. PLON trophy type. Record ID SF-94FED6 (Suffolk County Council, License: CC-BY).

Trier, AD 320-1

There are 119 VIRTVS EXERCIT pieces from Trier on the PAS Database, making it the best represented mint for the type. For Britain, the significance is that Trier now surpasses London; for the previous issue, VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINCE PERP, London out-stripped Trier. RIC has three distinct issues:

AD 320: * – // ● PTR and STR – Trophy and Standard types
AD 320: – // ● PTR and STR – Trophy and Standard types
AD 320-1: T F // ● PTR and STR – Trophy and Standard types

Overall, the * in reverse field issue is quite rare; coins from the other two are much more common. Whereas at London the ‘Trophy’ variety was very rare, at Trier it makes up a significant proportion with 41 pieces (34%) and it is struck in each issue. Constantine has the lion’s share of coins with 32 pieces (29%), but Crispus (29; 27%) and Constantine II (24; 22%) are not far behind. Whereas at London there were no coins struck for the Licinii, at Trier Licinius I (9 pieces) and Licinius II (15 pieces) make up 22% of the
coins.

AD 320: * – // ● PTR and STR – Trophy and Standard types
Coins of this issue are scarce. It is possible that more are to be identified amongst poorly preserved specimens as the star can be obscured by wear and corrosion.

Nummus of Licinius I, Trier, AD 320. * – // (●) PTR
trophy type. Record ID DOR-55779C (Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY).

AD 320: – // ● PTR and STR – Trophy and Standard types
Although the type of Constantine I with helmeted bust (RIC VII, no. 266) is reasonably common, with up to 6 specimens on the PAS Database, none are well preserved. For this obverse type, below.

Nummus of Crispus Caesar, Trier, AD 320. STR standard type. Record ID HAMP-056614 (Winchester Museum Service, License: CC-BY-SA).

AD 320-1: T F // ● PTR and STR – Trophy and Standard types
The T F in the reverse field can sometimes be quite hard to read and it is always worth double-checking.

Nummus of Constantine I, Trier, AD 320-1. TF PTR type. Record ID LEIC-8BDDC6 (Leicestershire County Council, License: CC-BY).

Contemporary Copies

There are a few (at least four) contemporary copies of VIRTVS EXERCIT types on the PAS Database, but they are not as common as for the VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP issue.

Contemporary copy of a nummus of Constantine II as Caesar, AD 320. Record ID BH-091F18 (Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY-SA).

Lyon (Lugdunum)

There are 30 VIRTVS EXERCIT coins from Lyon on the PAS Database. There are two issues: A S // PLG has both ‘trophy’ and ‘standard’ types (14 specimens); C R // PLG only the ‘standard’ type (14 specimens). Adrian Marsden argues that, as at London, the ‘trophy’ type should be at the end of the series, hence A S // PLG actually comes after C R // PLG. When his latest work is published, the dating can be changed accordingly, but at the moment this work follows RIC. Across both marks, only the ‘standard’ type is represented on the PAS Database. The coins were struck for Constantine I, Crispus and Constantine II, but only Constantine I (23 specimens) and Crispus (7 specimens) are represented.

VIRTVS EXERCIT nummi from the Lyon mint. Left: AS PLG type (Record ID BH-3B8AF6, St. Alban’s District Council, License: CC-BY-SA). Right: CR PLG type (Record ID LVPL-DABFC3, National Museum Liverpool, License: CC-BY-SA).

Arles (Arelatum)

There is only one issue of VIRTVS EXERCIT at Arles, all the coins being of the ‘standard’ variety. With only two (or possibly one) specimens on the PAS Database, the issue appears to have been quite small. Interestingly, coins are only recorded in RIC for Constantine I, Constantine II and Licinius II. However, LIN-DE4631 records a piece of this type for Crispus with obverse legend IVL CRISPVS NOB C, a helmeted and cuirassed bust right and the mintmark – // PARL. Sadly, there is no image with the record for absolute confirmation. The coin illustrated has a new obverse type variety for Licinius II.

Nummus of Licinius II as Caesar, Arles, AD 320. Record ID WILT-FFB754 (Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY).

Ticinum (Pavia)

Ticinum only struck the ‘standard’ type, but in three issues: – // PT, – // P * T and – * //PT. Some coins have a ‘Chi-Rho’ type symbol in the reverse field, but none are represented on the PAS Database. Ticinum struck in the names of all five emperors, but only Constantine I, Crispus and Licinius I are represented amongst the nine regular coins on the PAS Database.

Nummus of Constantine I from the mint at Ticinum. Record ID DENO-0ADFB3 (Derby Museums Trust, License: CC-BY-SA).

Aquiliea

There are 9 coins of the VIRTVS EXERCIT type from Aquileia on the PAS Database. Only the ‘standard’ type was struck, but for all emperors; all except Constantine II are represented on the Database. There are two major issues as noted below.

Nummus of Crispus Caesar from the Aquiliea mint, S F // AQP mintmark. Record ID WREX-93B436 (National Museum Wales, License: CC-BY-SA).
Nummus of Constantine I from the Aquiliea mint, “Chi-Rho” type. Record ID NARC-CA661D (Northamptonshire County Council, License: CC-BY-SA).

Siscia (Sisak, Croatia)

Siscia only struck the VIRTVS EXERCIT ‘standard’ issue with only six pieces on the PAS Database. Coins were struck for all five emperors, of whom all are represented on the Database except Licinius II. The Caesars have VOT X on the standard, as opposed to VOT XX which is used for the two Augusti, Consantine I and Licinius I. There is a variety of mintmarks, covered in RIC VII (pp. 437-40).

Nummus of Constantine I, mint of Siscia. Record ID YORYM-68896E (York Museums Trust, License: CC-BY).

Thessalonica

Thessalonica only struck the VIRTVS EXERCIT ‘standard type’, with three issues struck all in one year (AD 320): ●TS●A●, S F // ●TS●A● and ‘Chi-Rho’ – // ●TS●A●. There are only two coins from Thessalonica and both come from the first issue. Coins were struck for all five emperors, but only Crispus and Constantine II are represented on the PAS Database.

Nummus of Crispus Caesar from the mint at Thessalonica. Record ID BM-B64882 (Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY).