The Maxentian Mint at Ostia


Roman mint die / British Museum, London


By Dr. Jan Theo Bakker / 05.05.2005
Professor of Archaeology
Leiden University

Introduction

The Roman Empire at the end of the Third Century was a turbulent place in which to live with dangerous enemies both to the North and to the East. In addition, there were internal rebellions and troubles to deal with and Diocletian began to realise that changes would have to be made if the empire was to survive. In the late Third Century, a revolt broke out in Gaul and the current emperor Diocletian sent Maximianus, a tough army general, to put down the rebellion.

The first change that Diocletian made was to appoint another emperor to help him to manage the empire and his choice was Maximianus. So, Diocletian then ruled the Eastern empire whilst Maximianus took control of the West.

Diocletian also wanted to improve the way that power was transferred on the death of the incumbent emperor. This period had always been accompanied by power struggles and unrest, so the plan was that each Emperor (or Augustus) would appoint a Caesar (emperor-to-be) so that the Caesars could acquaint themselves with government and eventually smooth the takeover of power. The idea was that Diocletian and Maximianus would rule for twenty years and then abdicate allowing the Caesars to take over the running of the Empire. Diocletian chose Galerius as Caesar and Maximianus chose Constantius Chlorus. These four rulers therefore made up what was known as the Tetrarchy. Diocletian was based at Nicomedia in Asia Minor whilst Maximianus governed from Milan. Galerius chose Thessalonika and Constantius Chlorus set up court in Trier.

305 AD was the time for Diocletian to abdicate and in due course the two new Augusti each chose a new Caesar. Constantius chose Severus II whilst Galerius selected Maximinus, but problems lay ahead. Diocletian had made the Tetrarchy work successfully through strong leadership but in 306 AD, Constantius Chlorus died and the British Legions elevated his son, Constantine I, to the throne. To avoid civil war, Galerius, the remaining Augustus agreed to name Constantine as Caesar and Severus II was made up to the new Augustus.

 

The Tetrarchy; A.= Augustus; C. = Caesar.
Emperor West Reign Emperor East Reign
Maximianus C. 285-286, A. 286-305, 307-310 Diocletian A. 284-305
Constantius Chlorus C. 293-305, A. 305-306 Galerius C. 293-305, A. 305-311
Constantine I C. 306-308, A. 308-337 Maximin C. 305-308, A. 308-313
Severus II A. 306-307
Maxentius A. 307-312 Licinius A. 308-324

 

At this point, Galerius, despite being ruler in the east, attempted to extend his provincial taxation policy to Rome itself. Roman citizens had been exempt from paying tax since the days of the Republic and the result was rebellion. As a result, the Senate and Praetorians duly elected Maxentius, the son of Maximianus and son-in-law of Galerius, as Caesar. Maxentius invited his father to help him rule and in 306/307 AD he defeated the army of Severus II at Ravenna, so the Roman Empire was now being ruled by four Augusti and a Caesar. Civil war looked inevitable but in 308 AD, Diocletian came out of retirement and arranged a peace conference at Carnuntum on the Danube frontier. The outcome of this was that Maximianus again abdicated, Constantine was demoted to Caesar, Licinius was made Augustus in the west and Maxentius was declared an enemy of the state.

Maxentius managed to hold onto power for a further four years, by which time Galerius had died and Constantine had formed an alliance with Licinius. Constantine made plans to invade Italy and met Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on October 28th, AD 312. The army of Maxentius was routed and Maxentius was thrown from the Milvian Bridge into the Tiber, drowning as a result of the weight of his armour.

At the places mentioned so far, the Romans minted coins at Nicomedia and Thessalonika (from 249 AD until its closure by Leo I) and Trier (from c. 291 – 430 AD). Maxentius opened the mint at Ostia in 308/309 AD where it operated until May 313 AD. These facts are known from mint marks which began to appear on coins from the middle of the 3rd Century. Maxentius, Maximianus, Galerius, Maximinus II, Licinius I and Constantine I all appear on Ostian mint-marked coins together with Romulus about whom little is known. He was the son of Maxentius, acted as Consul in 308 and 309 AD, dying in 309 AD. He appears on a number of coins minted at Ostia which have on their reverse face a domed temple surmounted by an eagle.

( In “Roman Ostia”, Meiggs makes reference to an early Republican mint at Ostia in the 3rd Century BC. Mattingley bases his evidence for the existence of this mint on a very large hoard of early asses found ‘near Ostia’. He describes the mint as having closed at the beginning of the 2nd Punic War, and that coins from this mint circulated mainly in Etruria and Cisalpine Gaul.)

Roman Mints

In the majority of instances there is very little known about the location of the Roman mints, although approximate locations are known in some cases. As far as Rome itself is concerned, two sites are known. In Republican times a mint was situated next to the Temple of Juno Moneta on the Capitoline Hill, conveniently close to the city treasury in the Temple of Saturn. At some time between the reign of Vespasian and the early second century a new location was found for the mint on the Caelian Hill near the modern church of S. Clemente.

Control of the mints changed over the years. In the latter years of the Republic, a group of mint magistrates reporting to the senate were responsible for overseeing coin production. Mint magistrates were usually three in number being elected annually. By the time of Trajan, mint magistrates were replaced by the procurator monetae and from the reign of Diocletian each mint had its own procurator.

The mint director (procurator monetae) was responsible to the central imperial finance office and he was given instructions as to what metals had to be coined, at what weight the coins had to be produced, when to coin and which issues (or types) were to be produced. (“Type of coin” refers to the mark or design that separated coinage from bullion. This mark or design acted as a stamp of authority that guaranteed the value of the coin.) Two inscriptions from the Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg (EDH) make reference to procuratores monetae who at some stage of their careers came from, or lived at Ostia – AE 1917/18, 0097 and AE 1913, 0197.

Below the procurator were several heads of technical and production staff (praepositi and officinatores). CIL xiv,01878 refers to one such praepositus of the OFFICINA PRIMA who died at the age of 34. Officinatores were below praepositi, but senior to the manual workers: the signatores, scalptores, suppostores and malleatores. (die-letterers, die-cutters, those who positioned the flans and those who struck the coins respectively).

Mints usually consisted of a number of officinae or workshops – the highest number known is fifteen at the Antioch mint under Constantius II. Officinae are easier to identify with the advent of mintmarks in the middle of the 3rd Century, but their mode of operation was extremely variable. Sometimes an officina struck specimens of all coins, but they may have also only struck coins for individual members of the imperial family. It has been suggested that certain officinae at Ostia were used for producing special issues in small numbers. In some cases, an officina was restricted to the production of a single reverse type.

The assumption is made that officinae were all under one roof and it could well be that officina marks refer to different shifts within the mint.

The Minting Process

In the early Republic coins were cast in moulds. The majority of coin types however were made from blanks called flans (or planchets) which were then struck between engraved dies.

Flans were pieces of metal that were the correct shape, size and weight for striking into a coin. They were made in several ways – being cast individually or in strips joined by narrow pieces of metal (Plate 1). From the 3rd Century they appear to have been cut with a chisel from a bar or punched with a circular punch from a sheet of metal. Old coins could also act as flans and be overstruck to form new coins.

Plate 1: Part of a mould used for the production of flans.

The obverse or anvil die was held in position on an anvil. A heated flan was then held in position over the anvil die by one member of the team (the suppostor) with a pair of tongs and the malleator then struck the reverse or punch die with the hammer to stamp the coin. The reverse of a denarius of T. Carisius dated 45 BC is purported to show an anvil, hammer, tongs and wreathed reverse die, representing the tools of the mint. (Fig. 1) It could well be, however, that the reverse image is in fact the laureate pileus of Vulcan which together with the hammer, anvil and tongs appear in both Roman and Greek art representing the “smith of the gods”.

Fig.1: Drawing of the reverse face of a denarius of T. Carisius, dated 45 BC, showing either minting tools or the accoutrements of Vulcan.

Several estimates have been made about the life of the dies and the output of the teams of suppostores and malleatores. A die could shatter on its first ‘strike’. If it survived its early strikes and hardened as a result, its life depended largely on the nature of the flans. With flans of hard metals, obverse dies would probably produce about 10,000 coins, whereas with gold the figure could rise to more than 30,000. (Reverse dies came in for heavier treatment so would presumably have a shorter life than obverse dies). A good team of coin stampers have been estimated to produce around 1,000 coins per day. The patterns of die use adopted depend on the mint in question. The simplest system would have been to use hinged dies where the obverse and reverse dies were paired for life. A painting of cupids in the House of the Vetti in Pompeii appears to suggest that hinged dies are being used in the minting process. It is difficult to know whether or not hinged dies were used at Ostia but it may not have been the method employed as only “die duplicates” would have been produced and the evidence doesn’t entirely support this.

Where dies were used separately, the teams would replace ‘failed’ dies whilst keeping the serviceable die in use. This would give rise to die use patterns such as:

Obverse 1 / Reverse 1… Obverse1 / Reverse 2…Obverse 2 / Reverse 2…..Obverse 2 / Reverse 3

and at the same time “die linkage” would occur for which there is more evidence at Ostia. Whether or not there was any pattern in die use depends on how many dies an officina had in use at any particular time. If they possessed more than one and these were handed out randomly at the start of the shift by the administrator, die use patterns would be very difficult to track. If each team were given the same pair of dies at the start of each shift, then patterns may show up. Large numbers of coins need to be studied for real evidence of these phenomena to appear.

Dies were made of either bronze or iron. Few remain, as they were probably melted down at the end of their usefulness for security reasons. Any that do survive were probably stolen from the mints or are likely to be counterfeits. All dies were individually hand cut by the escalator using a burin, punch and a drill. Diamond may also have been used as it was known to have been used by the gem engravers of the day as described in Book XXXVII of Pliny’s “Natural History”. On a number of Imperial coins from the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD, die “centration dimples” have been found. On one example of RIC 35 minted at Ostia, such a dimple can be clearly seen in the centre of the coin. On the die, this would have taken the form of a small depression. So, what is it’s function? My suggestion is that the depression is for one of the points of a pair of compasses that were used to ‘score’ the part of the die where the beading was to be engraved. So, why does the dimple appear on some coins and not on others? After the beads had been engraved, the central area of the coin would be ‘filled in’ with the rest of the image. In RIC 35, this area contains the raised legs and hooves of the two horses which were engraved over the dimple. On the coin below, that central area is not engraved so the dimple can still be seen (Plate 2).

Plate 2: Centration dimple.

There is no convincing evidence that a process called hubbing took place, where a cutter would make a preliminary impression of a coin type, leaving perhaps only the officina mark to be added prior to use. One possible hub exists in Madrid but no coins stamped from this die have been found, so once again, counterfeiting is suspected. What is known is that some mints had die cutters for each individual officina, whereas others had a pool of cutters making dies for the whole mint.

The dies for both faces of the coin result in a wide range of variation in the finished product, showing the individuality of the cutters (Fig. 2). Individual coins show variations on both faces due to the operating system used in the mint. The type of coin produced would depend on the types of dies issued at the start of the shift. If dies had been kept separate outside working hours, a great deal of variation could result – security would hardly allow pairs of dies to be kept together overnight.

Fig. 2: Diagram of the obverse face of a Maxentian coin showing differences in the alignment of the laurel wreath and
variations in the detail of the beard.

The Dioscuri on Roman Coins

The Dioscuri first appeared on Republican coins in 225 BC and were used frequently down to 46 BC. Apart from the coins minted at Ostia by Maxentius, images of the Dioscuri were rarely used during the Empire, although they do make a final appearance on the 500 lire coins minted from 1951 to 2001 AD where they can be seen in front of the Quirinal Palace.

The Dioscuri were extremely important gods for the Romans, far more so than they had been to the ancient Greeks. They represented the ever-changing cycle from dark to light and light to dark, but were also honoured as Gods of the athletes. Castor was renowned as a breaker of horses and Pollux was a master boxer. To the soldiers, and particularly the cavalry, they were the supreme models of courage and bravery. The Dioscuri were known to be special protectors of sailors and could calm the seas and still the winds, thus protecting during storms. They were especially honoured in Rome because of their appearance at Lake Regillus helping the Romans to victory against the Latins in c. 496 BC. The Games of Castor and Pollux were held on January 27th, probably taking the form of horse racing, and this tradition continued well into the Imperial period. A large temple was built in the Roman Forum to commemorate events at Lake Regillus and the Temple of Castor and Pollux in Ostia has recently been identified by Michael Heinzelmann and Archer Martin in the area west of the Imperial Palace. An inscription tells of its restoration in the 2nd Century AD by P. Lucilius Gamala and another record describes it as being situated on the “right side of the river”. Bearing all this in mind, together with the desire of Maxentius to return to the classical times, it is not surprising that the Dioscuri feature on the coins produced at the Ostia mint.

In Republican Rome, anyone with aspirations to high political status had to negotiate the cursus honorum. This meant working from the lowest of public offices up to the pinnacle, consulship. The office of Moneyer was low in the hierarchy but was often used as a stepping stone to a career in the Senate. Moneyers generally held office from their early twenties but it is not known if they were appointed or elected. In all probability they would have been selected from a pool of candidates from the equestrian order.

It is thought that there were three moneyers during each term of office but only one of them in any given year could ‘sign’ the coinage IIIVIR (Triumviri Monetales.) Not all coins were signed as such but almost all from 148 BC carried the name of the moneyer or a monogram of his name. It was against the customs of Rome to use portraits of living Romans on the coinage. ROMA appeared frequently on the obverse faces of coins throughout the Republic and at times, so did the Dioscuri on either the obverse or the reverse face.

The first silver coins to be produced in significant quantities were the didrachms of 225 to 212 BC. The janiculate heads of the Dioscuri appear on the obverse with Jupiter riding in a quadriga on the reverse. (Conjoined heads of the twins also appear on later issues.) In 211 BC the first denarii were produced with ROMA on the obverse and the Dioscuri on horseback, a star above their heads, on the reverse. The Dioscuri continued to be used on these coins for sixty years.

The silver quinarii of 187 to 175 BC show ROMA on the obverse and the twins on horseback, carrying spears, on the reverse. On the silver sestertii of 187 to 155 BC, they are shown on horseback galloping to the right.

From 148 BC, the Dioscuri appear with the name or monogram of the moneyer added: i.e. Q.Marcius Libo (148 BC), M. Junius Silanus (145 BC), C.Servilius (136 BC), Cn.Lucretius Trio (135 BC), M.Atilius Saranus (123 BC), Q.Minucius Rufus (122 BC, C.Fonteius (114 to 113 BC), C.Font (108 to 107 BC) and Manius Cordius Rufus (46 BC). On the coinage bearing the name Manius Cordius Rufus (46 BC), Venus Verticordia appears on the reverse with conjoined heads of the Dioscuri on the obverse. The Cordia family came from Tusculum where there was a strong Dioscuri cult.

Apart from the coins minted at Ostia (below) and the appearance of Castor alone on a coin of Geta, there is only one more reference to the Dioscuri on Imperial coinage. Bronze coins were minted in 360 to 363 AD during the reign of Julian II that show a bull on the reverse with two stars above, possibly representing the twins. If this is in fact the case, it is the last time that pagan images were used on Roman coinage.

Ostian Mint Marks

Mintmarks started to appear around the middle of the third century as a means of controlling mint officials, should coins for example be found to be underweight. The Roman mintmark was found on coins from 248 AD.

On coins minted at Ostia, the mintmarks are always found on the reverse of the coin in the area known as the exergue. This is not always the case however with other mints, as parts of the mark can be found in the body of the reverse image or even on the obverse face.

The mintmark is formed from three elements:
a) A letter. In the case of Ostia the letters M (moneta) or P (pecunia) on gold and silver issues.
b) Letters which signify the mint, in this case OST.
c) The officina, workshop or shift letter. On earlier Ostian coins the letters used were the Greek letters A, B, C and D (i.e. MOSTA, MOSTB, MOSTG and MOSTD). These Greek letters were then replaced by the Latin letters P(primus), S(secundus), T(tertius) and Q(quartius).

All Maxentian aurei produced up to October 312 AD had the mintmark POST, with no indication of which officina had produced them. On the silver coins produced by Maxentius in the same period, POSTD (i.e. POSTD) and MOSTA to MOSTB were used. From October 312 AD to c. May 313 AD, POST* is found on some of the half solidi of Licinius and the double solidi of Constantine whilst POST is found on the solidi of Constantine, Maximinus and Licinius, and the remaining half solidi of Licinius. (The assumption is made that the Ostia mint had four workshops operating with A corresponding to P, B to S etc).

Plates 3 to 8 show some of the mintmarks for Ostia minted coins:

 

Left: Plate 3: MOSTA
Right: Plate 4: MOSTB

 

Left: Plate 5: MOSTP
Right: Plate 6: MOSTS

 

Left: Plate 7: MOSTT
Right: Plate 8: MOSTQ

It is difficult to be certain, but it would appear that all four officinae at Ostia were in operation at the same time. The reason for suggesting this is that there does not seem to be any temporal connection between mintmarks and the dates of issue of the coins. This would seem to be borne out by the information in Maurice’s article. In addition, this in turn suggests that the mintmark letters refer to different shifts working in a single officina.

A Description of the Coin Types Minted at Ostia

Although the mint at Ostia was only in operation for approximately five years, a large number of different types of coins were produced. Coin production can be seen to have taken place in two periods namely a) from the inception of the mint in 308/9 to October 312 AD and b) from October 312 to the closure of the mint around May 313 AD. At some stage in the life of the mint gold, silver and bronze coins were all produced but today all but the bronze are exceedingly rare.

Table 1: Gold coins of the first period 308/9 to October 312 AD
Type
Date AD
Reverse
Obverse
Double
308/9
AETERNAE MEMORIAE – Eagle on domed shrine with no columns and the doors open.
a)
Aureus
308/9
VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory giving a globe to Maxentius (Plate 9)
b)
Aureus
308/9
CONSERVATOR VRBIS SVAE – Roma holding Victory on a globe.
c)
Aureus
308/9
TEMPORVM FELICITAS AVG N – the she-wolf and the twins
c)
Aureus
310-312
MARTI VICTORI COMITI AVG N – Mars with Victory, crowning Maxentius
c)
Aureus
310-312
PAX AETERNA AVG N – Maxentius with a soldier, Roma and Africa
c)
Aureus
310-312
VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N Victory inscribing either VOT/V or VOT/IS/X on a shield
c)
Aureus
310-312
VICTORIA OMNIVM GENTIVM AVG N – Maxentius receiving Victory on a globe from Mars
c)

a) Romulus and DIVO ROMVLO N V BIS CONS
b) Maxentius and MAXENTIVS P F INV AVG
c) Maxentius and MAXENTIVS P F AVG

The authenticity and the weight of the double in the above table is uncertain as the only known example was stolen in 1831. All the coins carried the mintmark POST and the average weight of the aurei was around 5.4g. This was slightly higher than the weight of the aurei produced in the other mints.

In the second period, October 312 to c. May 313 AD, Constantine introduced the gold solidus which had a reduced average weight of 4.5g. At several mints, multiples of the aureus and the solidus were produced up to multiples of 10X. At Ostia, solidus ‘doubles’ and solidus ‘halves’ were produced weighing 8.35 and 1.9g respectively.

Table 2: Gold coins of the second period October 312 to c.May 313 AD
Type
Mintmark
Reverse
Obverse
Double
POST*
PRINCIPI IVVENTIS – Prince holding spear and globe
a)
Solidus
POST
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG – Jupiter on throne holding a thunderbolt
b)
Solidus
POST
PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS – Prince holding sphere and globe
c)
Solidus
POST
SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI – Legionary eagle between two vexilli
d)
Solidus
POST
VICTORIA CONSTANTINI AVG – Victory holding a wreath
d)
Half
POST*
PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS – Prince holding sphere and globe
e)
Half
POST
PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS – Prince holding sphere and globe
f)

a) Constantine and IMP CONSTANTINVS P F AVG
b) Licinius and LICINIVS P F AUG
c) Constantine and CONSTANTINVS P F AVG
or Maximinus and MAXIMINVS P F AVG
d) Constantine and CONSTANTINVS P F
e) Licinius and IMP LICINIVS P F AVG
f) Licinius and LICINIVS AVG

Silver coins were only minted in the first period in 308/309 AD, and all bore the legend MAXENTIUS P F AVG. The weight of the coins was c.3.1g and the mintmarks known are POSTD and MOSTA to MOSTD, those carrying POSTD probably being minted first. It could well be that the mint was set up originally to produce only gold and silver coins and that bronze issues first appeared at the same time that MOSTA to MOSTD was being used on silver coins.

Three types of silver coins are known from the Ostia mint:

a) MARTI PROPAG IMP AVG N – Mars holding a sceptre and facing a female, in between them the she-wolf and the twins. The mintmarks are POSTD, MOSTB, MOSTC or MOSTD.
b) MARTI PROPAGATORI AVG N – Mars giving a Victory on a globe to Maxentius. The mintmark is POSTD.
c) TEMPORVM FELICITAS AVG N – The she-wolf and twins; the mintmarks MOSTA and MOSTB.

(Sutherland and Carson in “Roman Imperial Coinage Vol. VI” make mention of a silver coin that was probably cast from a follis carrying the inscriptions IMP C MAXENTIVS P F AVG and VICTORIA AETERNA AVGG, and the mintmark MOSTQ)

The bronze coins (folles) carrying the mintmarks MOSTA to MOSTD and the obverse inscription IMP C MAXENTIVS P F AVG, were probably produced in 308/309 AD. In 301 AD, Diocletian issued the edictum de maximis pretiis rerum venalium whereby he tried to regulate the maximum prices of a whole range of goods based on the denarius communis. An approximate ‘valuation’ would suggest that 10 folles were equivalent in value to 50 denarii communes and to 2 denarii argentii, based on the amount of silver they contained. At the turn of the 4th Century, the weight of folles produced in the eastern and central mints was within c.10% of 11g. But by 308/309 AD the weight had fallen to between 6 and 7g. At Ostia however, the weight of the folles was between 6.0 and 6.75g in the early days of the mint, falling to 5.5 to 6.75g in the period up to October 312 AD. Further reductions in weight occured at all the mints in 312/313 AD, so in the period of Constantine the coins minted at Ostia weighed 3.5 to 4.5g.

In this early period at Ostia (308/309 AD) five different types of coins were minted:

a) AETERNITAS AVG N – Castor and Pollux holding bridled horses, with the mintmarks A and C.
b) AETERNITAS AVG N – as above, with the addition of the she-wolf and twins between Castor and Pollux. Mintmarks A to D are known. (Plate 10)
c) AETERNITAS AVG N – the she-wolf and the twins with mintmark D.
d) VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory advancing left – mintmark C.
e) VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory advancing right – mintmark C.

In late 309 AD the Greek letters incorporated into the mintmarks were changed from A to D, to P to Q. One group of coins minted by Maxentius during this later period (up to October 312 AD) was a series of commemoratives to Maximianus (his father), Galerius (his father-in-law), Constantius (his uncle) and Romulus (his son).

Table 3: Commemoratives from period late 309 to October 312 AD
Type
Mintmark
Reverse
Obverse
Follis
S
AETERNA MEMORIA Eagle on domed hexastyle temple with right door open.
a)
Follis
PSTQ
As above (Plate 11)
b) c) g) h) i) k) l)
Follis
ST
As above
d)
Follis
T
As above
j)
Follis
PSTQ
AETERNAE MEMORIAE As above but no pillars on temple. (Plate 12)
l)
Half
PSTQ
AETERNAE MEMORIAE As above.
j)
Half
PSTQ
AETERNAE MEMORIAE As above.
l)

a) DIVO MAXIMIANO SEN AVG
b) DIVO MAXIMIANO PATRI MAXENTIVS AVG
c) IMP MAXENTIVS DIVO MAXIMIANO PATRI
d) DIVO CONSTANTIO COGN MAXENTIVS AVG
e) IMP MAXENTIVS DIVO CONSTANTIO COGN
f) DIVO CONSTANTIO ADFINI MAXENTIVS AVG
g) IMP MAXENTIVS DIVO CONSTANTIO ADFINI
h) DIVO MAXIMIANO SOCERO MAXENTIVS AVG
i) IMP MAXENTIVS DIVO MAXIMIANO SOCERO
j) DIVO ROMVLO N V FILIO MAXENTIVS AVG
k) IMP MAXENTIVS DIVO ROMVLO N V FILIO
l) DIV ROMVLO N V BIS CONS

All the remaining bronze coins produced in this period up to October 312 AD carry the obverse inscription IMP MAXENTIVS P F AVG. Most are folles weighing 5.5 to 6.75g but two are halves weighing 2.75 to 3.25g.

Table 4: Folles produced up to October 312 AD
Type
Mintmark
Reverse
Follis
Q
ADLOCVTIO AVG N -Maxentius addressing troops
Follis
PSTQ
AETERNITAS AVG N – Castor and Pollux
Follis
ST
AETERNITAS AVG N – wolf and twins facing right. (Plate 13)
Follis
PSTQ
AETERNITAS AVG N – wolf and twins facing left. (Plate 14)
Follis
ST
AETERNITAS AVG N – Fides with standard in each hand.
Follis
PSTQ
FIDES MILITVM AVG N – as above (Plate 15)
Follis
T
MARTI COMITI AVG N – Mars with branch, shield & spear
Follis
T
MARTI COMITI AVG N – Mars with spear and trophy.
Follis
T
MARTI COMITI AVG N – As above, also holding shield
Follis
TQ
SAECVLI FELIC AVG N – wolf and twins
Follis
PT
SAECVLI FELICITAS AVG N – wolf and twins.
Follis
PT
VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory advancing left. (See Plate 16)
Follis
PSTQ
VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory advancing right.
Follis
Q
VICTOR OMNIVM GENTIVM AVG N – Maxentius receiving Victory from Mars.
Follis
T
VIRTVS AVG N – Maxentius on horseback plunging spear over two of the enemy.
Follis
Q
VOT OPTATA ROMAE FEL – Victory inscribing on a shield.
Half
PSTQ
VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory inscribing VOT/X on shield in two lines. (Plate 17)
Half
PSTQ
VICTORIA AETERNA AVG N – Victory inscribing VOT/XX/FEL in three lines. (Plate 18)

From October 312 AD through to the closure of the mint in 313 AD, folles continued to be minted weighing between 3.5 and 4.5g. The mintmarks used were MOSTP to MOSTQ and the obverse inscriptions on the coins read either IMP C CONSTANTINVS P F AVG, IMP MAXIMINVS P F AVG or IMP LICINIUS P F AVG.

Four issues were minted carrying the obverse images of either Constantine, Maximinus or Licinius:

1) GENIO POP ROM – Genius with modius on head, holding patera and cornucopiae.
2) SOL INVICTO COMITI – Sol holding globe close to body.
3) SOL INVICTO COMITI – Sol holding globe up.
4) S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI – Legionary eagle between two vexilli.

With the reverse image, the head is always facing right. The figure can be either A) laureate and draped, B) laureate wearing a cuirass, C) laureate and draped with a cuirass or D) laureate and draped with a cuirass but seen from the rear. (See the following four tables)

Table 5: GENIO POP ROM
Obverse image
Mintmark
Obverse image
Mintmark
Constantine – A)
P
Maximinus – B)
T
Constantine – B)
PST (Plate 19)
Maximinus – C)
T
Constantine – C)
PSTQ
Licinius – B)
Q
Constantine – D)
P
Licinius – C)
Q
Table 6: SOLI INVICTO COMITI – (Globe close to body)
Obverse image
Mintmark
Obverse image
Mintmark
Constantine – B)
PSTQ (Plate 20)
Maximinus – C)
T
Constantine – C)
SQ
Maximinus – D)
T
Constantine – D)
PSTQ
Licinius – B)
PSQ
Maximinus – B)
STQ
Licinius – C)
TQ
Table 7: SOL INVICTO COMITI – (Globe held up)
Obverse image
Mintmark
Obverse image
Mintmark
Constantine – B)
PS
Maximinus – C)
ST
Constantine – C)
PT
Licinius – B)
Q
Maximinus – B)
T
Licinius – C)
Q
Table 8: SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI
Obverse image
Mintmark
Obverse image
Mintmark
Constantine – B)
PSTQ
Maximinus – C)
T
Constantine – C)
PSTQ
Maximinus – D)
T
Constantine – D)
PSQ
Licinius – B)
Q
Maximinus – B)
ST
Licinius – C)
Q

Five other types of folles were produced in this late phase of the mint bearing Constantine on the obverse. One coin type carried the image of Maximinus on the obverse.

Table 9: Other folles bearing the image of Constantine or Maximinus
Obverse
Reverse
Mintmark
Constantine – B)
HERCVLI VICTORI – Hercules holding apples and lion’s skin.
S
Constantine – C)
MARTI CONSERVATORI – Mars facing right holding spear and shield.
T
Constantine – C)
MARTI CONSERVATORI – Mars facing left holding branch and shield.
T
Constantine – C)
SOLI INVICTO COMITI – Sol facing left, holding globe & trampling on enemy.
P
Constantine – B)
VICTORIA AET AVGGG NNN – Victory inscribing VOT/X in two lines on a shield.
P
Maximinus – B)
RESTITUTOR ROMAE – Roma giving globe to emperor, leaning on a sceptre.
S

 

Left: Plate 9: Victory giving a globe to a seated Maxentius in military dress.
Right: Plate 10: Castor and Pollux holding bridled horses with the she-wolf and twins between them.

 

Left: Plate 11: An eagle with outspread wings on a domed hexastyle temple.
Right: Plate 12: An eagle with outspread wings on a temple with no columns.

 

Left: Plate 13: The twins with the right facing she-wolf.
Right: Plate 14: The twins with the left facing she-wolf.

 

Left:Plate 15: Fides holding a standard in both hands.
Right: Plate 16: Victory advancing left, holding a wreath and a palm leaf.

 

Left: Plate 17: Victory inscribing VOT/X onto a shield in two lines.
Right: Plate 18: Victory inscribing VOT/XX/FEL onto a shield on three lines.

 

Left: Plate 19: Genius with modius on head, holding patera and cornucopiae.
Right: Plate 20: Sol with right hand raised, holding a globe close to the body.

Many other reverse types were produced. A list can be found in Appendix 1 in the summary of the article written by Jules Maurice in 1908.

When one takes into account the inscriptions on the reverse faces, the picture becomes even more complicated. Twenty six inscriptions are known, but from different dies, the inscriptions can be seen to be made up of different lettering and more obviously, different ‘breaks’ in the text. Plates 21 and 22 show two such differences in breaks in the text. (AET / ERNITAS A / VGN is also known).

 

Left: Plate 21: AETE / RNITAS / AVGN
Right: Plate 22: AETE / RNITASA / VGN

On the obverse faces of the coins appear the images of Maxentius, Maximinus, Romulus, Licinius, Galerius and Constantine I. On Roman coins, portraits are most frequently shown facing to the right.(To the right of the coin). Left facing is standard in some periods, and at times, heads can be found facing in either direction. The following terms are used to describe the portrait:

Bare headed – showing nothing lower than the neck and no head gear.
Laureate – wearing a laurel wreath, tied at the back with ribbons that hang down behind.
Bust – if anything below the neck is shown, (e.g. shoulders) then the result is a bust.
Cuirassed – shows evidence of the wearing of military armour.
Veiled – usually describes the portrait of a deceased person.

 

Left: Plate 23: A typical bare-headed, right  facing portrait of the head of Maxentius.
Right: Plate 24: Laureate head with cuirassed shoulders on a half follis of Maximinus.

 

Left: Plate 25: Maxentius, helmeted, wearing a cuirass and carrying a spear and shield.
Right: Plate 26: Bare headed Romulus facing right.

 

Left: Plate 27: Maxentius, laureate, holding spear and shield.
Right: Plate 28: Maxentius wearing a veil.

 

Left: Plate 29: Maxentius, laureate, wearing a cuirass and holding a spear and shield.
Right: Plate 30: Maximinus veiled and right facing.

 

Left: Plate 31: Laureate Maxentius facing left.
Right: Plate 32: Constantine, laureate and wearing a cuirass.

Dies

No doubt great efforts were made to ensure that all dies prepared for a particular issue were the same. There are several differences which occur that make it easy to identify the different dies that were produced, where the differences are not simply due to the ravages of time. It is much more difficult however to be certain that two coins have been struck from the same die. Plates 33, 34 and 35 show that three different dies have been used for striking the obverse faces of the three Maxentian folles.(All three reverses are mintmark MOSTP and show the Dioscuri only.) Plates 21 and 22 have already been used to show differences in inscriptions. Plates 36 and 37 show that two different dies have been used in the production of folles bearing images of the Dioscuri.

   

Left: Plate 33: The top of the laurel wreath is pointing to the NT of MAXENTIVS
Center: Plate 34:. … is pointing to the N of MAXENTIVS
Right: Plate 35: … is pointing towards the T of MAXENTIVS.

 

Left: Plate 36: The heads are higher up and close to the lettering.
Right: Plate 37: … lower down and further from the lettering.

Plates 38 to 41 show four obverse different faces of the same commemorative issue for Romulus – RIC 34. As can be clearly seen, the differences in shape of the back of the head and the line of the lower jaw point to at least four different dies being produced for this coin. (As it so happens, all four coins carry the same mintmark namely MOSTS).

 

Left: Plate 38: Pronounced curve to lower jaw, back of cranium rounded.
Right: Plate 39: Much flatter lower jaw, back of cranium less rounded.

 

Left: Plate 40: Gentle curve to lower jaw, back of cranium relatively flat.
Right: Plate 41: Ear lobe rounded. Base of nose points to S / C, in the other three examples to C / O.

Die Links, Die Axis, AES Scale

Should coins be found that have been struck on the same obverse or reverse die, they are described as being “die linked”. Coins sharing identical obverse and reverse dies are said to be “die duplicates”. As described earlier, reverse dies wear out more rapidly than obverse dies, so obverse linked dies are more likely to be found than reverse linked dies.

Die Axis is a term used to describe the alignment between the two dies used to strike a coin. The die axes of thirteen Ostian minted coins are indicated below in Table 10 using the numbers on a clock face for reference. (Degrees are also used by some authors.)

The AES Scale is used to divide all bronze coins from the later issues (including those minted at Ostia) into one of four groups. The criterion used is the diameter of the coin in mm. And where coins are not perfectly round, the greatest diameter is measured.

AE1 25 mm. +
AE2 21-25 mm.
AE3 17-21 mm.
AE4 less than 17 mm.

Table 10: Die axes, reverse images, alignment of laurel wreath, mintmarks and AES types.

No.

Axis

Reverse Image

Upper part of laurel wreath pointing towards these letters in the inscription

Mintmark

AES type

1

12/6

Dioscuri

NT

MOSTP

2

2

12/12

Dioscuri

N

MOSTP

2

3

12/11

Dioscuri

T

MOSTP

1

4

12/12

Dioscuri

N

MOSTS

1

5

12/5

Dioscuri, she-wolf & twins

NT

MOSTA

2

6

12/6

Dioscuri

TI

MOSTS

1

7

12/6

Dioscuri, she-wolf & twins

NT

MOSTB

1

8

12/11

Dioscuri

NT

MOSTQ

2

9

12/11

A Genius

IN

MOSTT

2

10

12/5

Fides

NT

MOSTS

2

11

12/12

Dioscuri

T

MOSTQ

2

12

12/1

Dioscuri, she-wolf & twins

T

MOSTT

1

13

12/6

Fides

NT

MOSTQ

1

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