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Constantine vs. Licinius at Adrianople

Updated: Jul 6

When my focus shifted to the Roman republic, I sold most of my late roman bronzes. I kept a few that I particularly liked. My coins of interest today, I haven't thought about for a while. Appropriate for this weekend, the first coin is from July 3rd, AD 324. Constantine was picking a second fight with Licinius, his co-emperor and brother in law.


Diocletian had established in 293 the first tetrarchy, a system to create stability and manage the eastern and western empire with clear succession plan. This worked well until the death of Constantius I Chlorus (father of Constantine I).

Colossus of Constantine (Creative Commons License)

When Constantius died in July of 306, his son Constantine was declared Augustus in the West by his troops. This began a prolonged period of civil war. Licinius and Constantine in 312 agreed to divide the empire between them with Constantine in the West and Licinius in the East. Licinius married Constantine's half-sister Constantia in 313. By 314 , Constantine and Licinius were fighting. They settled and maintained an tenuous truce until 323 when their final competition erupted. Note: Image of Constantine Colossus by СССР, CC BY-SA 2.5 CA, via Wikimedia Commons


July 3rd, AD 324, Constatine and Licinius clashed in a significant battle at Adrianople (a.k.a. Hadrianopolis, modern Edirne in Turkey). This coin struck in 324 not far from Adrianople in Thessalonica by Constantine.

Constantine I "The Great", 307/310-337, Follis (2.95g, 18.5mm, 12h) , Thessalonica, struck AD 324

Obv: CONSTANTINVS AVG, laureate head right.

Rev: D N CONSTANTINI MAX AVG / TSEVI. VOT / XX in two lines within wreath.

Ref: RIC VII Thessalonica 123


Google maps shows the distance of a few days journey between Thessalonica and Adrianople (Edirne).

"When they had thus established their naval and military forces, Licinius encamped at Adrianople in Thrace, whilst Constantine sent for his navy from Piraeus, which was built and manned chiefly in Greece. Advancing with his infantry from Thessalonica, he encamped on the bank of the river Hebrus, which runs to the left of Adrianople."

- Zosimus, New History, Book 2.22.3


Licinius didn't fare well in this battle:

"...the rest of his [Constantine's] army crossed the river in security, and a great slaughter commenced. Nearly thirty thousand fell; and about sunset Constantine took their camp, while Licinius, with all the forces he could muster, hastened through Thrace to his ships."

- Zosimus, New History, Book 2.22.7


This coin is an AE follis from Licinius also issued in Thessolonica, much earlier in 308-310.

Roman Imperial, Licinius I (308-324), Follis (5.50g, 25.5mm) , Thessalonica, struck AD 308 - 310

Obv: VAL LICINIVS P F AVG, aureate head right.

Rev: GENIO AVGVSTI / * - Γ / •SM•TS•., Genius standing left, holding cornucopia and patera.

Ref: RIC Licinius 30b


Although The Battle of Adrianople it was a significant loss for Licinius, it wasn't the last battle between the two, after more losses, Licinius and his troops surrendered at Nicomedia September 18th. Constantine became sole emperor of the Roman Emprise September 19, 324. Constantia was successful initially in influencing Constantine to spare her husband, but in the end he had Licinius and his 11-year-old son Licinius II killed and expunged from official inscriptions by damnatio memoriae.

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