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Head in Hand

Maximinus II is known in coin auctions as Daia, this name perhaps a misspelling from the writing of Lacantius, that is challenged by Professor Christopher Makay, University of Alberta. In his 1999 article, he questions the evidence for the name Daia and suggests Daza as a credible alternative.

"Daza is a well-attested Illyrian name. It is particularly common among the Dalmatians and Pannonians but it is attested epigraphically in the area of Dacia Ripensis [birthplace of Maximinus II]. The connection with Maximinus has hesitantly been made but the obvious conclusion not decisively drawn: Daia cannot be correct."
-C. Makay, Classical Philology, 1999 

In AD 293, Diocletian established the first tetrarchy, a system to create stability and manage the eastern and western empire with clear, orderly succession plans. This worked well until the death of Constantius I Chlorus (father of Constantine I). In AD 306 when Constantius died, his son Constantine (who would become "The Great") was acclaimed as emperor by his father's troops - breaking the succession plan.

Christian persecution was common across the Roman empire and Maximinus considered the most anti-Christian of his peers. This next coin is often described as a "persecution issue" as it promoted in Antioch the ancient gods and was from of persecution of Christians. Eusebius reports that during this time the people of Antioch, are said to have asked Maximinus to forbid Christians to live in their city.

"Then through the agency of some wicked men he [Maximinus] sent an embassy to himself against us, inciting the citizens of Antioch to ask from him as a very great favor that he would by no means permit any of the Christians to dwell in their country; and others were secretly induced to do the same thing. The author of all this in Antioch was Theotecnus, a violent and wicked man, who was an impostor, and whose character was foreign to his name. He appears to have been the curator of the city."
-Eusebius, IX.2.2 

Eusebius also documents Maximinus' response which includes :

"if they persist in their accursed folly, let them be separated and driven far away from your city and neighborhood, even as you requested; that so, in accordance with your praiseworthy zeal in this respect, your city may be separated from all pollution and impiety" ... "And that you may know how pleasing this your request has been to us, and how fully disposed to benevolence our soul is, of its own accord apart from petitions and entreaties: we permit your Devotedness to ask whatsoever bounty you wish, in return for this your godly intent." (Eusebius XI.7.12-13)

Time of Maximinus II, 310-313, AE Follis, "Persecution issue", Antioch

Obv: GENIO ANTIOCHENI Tyche of Antiochia seated facing on rocks; river-god Orontes swimming below

Rev: APOLLONI SANCTO, S in right field; Apollo standing front, head to left, holding patera in his right hand and lyre in his left; SMA below


In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan granting religious freedom to Christians. Maximinus also reversed his position and granted tolerance to Christians.

"When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I Licinius Augustus d fortunately met near Mediolanum (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule..."
-Edict of Milan, as documented by Lacantius 

This coin of Maximinus II Daza was issued in 312 AD from Antioch - the beautiful details of the reverse showing Sol, dressed and gesturing in the maner of Serapis, carrying the head of Serapis in his left hand. This coin also appears the exceptional in its weight - the average for this coin of 4.81g almost 1 gram less than this coin.

Maximinus II Daia AD 310-313. Antioch AE2, Nummus, or Follis (5.78g, 20mm, 6h), Antioch, AD 312

Obv: IMP C GAL VAL MAXIMINVS P F AVG, laureate head to right

Rev: SOLI INVICTO, radiate Sol in long robe, standing facing, head to left, with right hand raised and left holding head of Serapis; I (officina) - star across fields, ANT in exergue.

Ref: RIC VI 167b


This coin was issued the year before Maximinus II invaded Licinius' territory, seizing many cities before his army was utterly destroyed in a battle on April 30th at Tzurulum. Descriptions of his heath vary and include him fleeing the battle, disguised as a slave, to Asia Minor where he died of illness or committed suicide in the city of Tarsus.


Lacantius describes his flight and death as a justice against a tyrant.

"After great numbers had fallen, Daia perceived that everything went contrary to his hopes; and therefore he threw aside the purple, and having put on the habit of a slave, hasted across the Thracian Bosphorus. One half of his army perished in battle, and the rest either surrendered to the victor or fled; for now that the emperor himself had deserted, there seemed to be no shame in desertion."
-Lacantius, Chapter 47 

and he describes Maximinus' death as a badly managed suicide:

"While Licinius pursued with his army, the fugitive tyrant retreated, and again occupied the passes of mount Taurus; and there, by erecting parapets and towers, attempted to stop the march of Licinius. But the victorious troops, by an attack made on the right, broke through all obstacles, and Daia at length fled to Tarsus. There, being hard pressed both by sea and land, he despaired of finding any place for refuge; and in the anguish and dismay of his mind, he sought death as the only remedy of those calamities that God had heaped on him. But first he gorged himself with food, and large draughts of wine, as those are wont who believe that they eat and drink for the last time; and so he swallowed poison. However, the force of the poison, repelled by his full stomach, could not immediately operate, but it produced a grievous disease, resembling the pestilence; and his life was prolonged only that his sufferings might be more severe. And now the poison began to rage, and to burn up everything within him, so that he was driven to distraction with the intolerable pain; and during a fit of frenzy, which lasted four days, he gathered handfuls of earth, and greedily devoured it. Having undergone various and excruciating torments, he dashed his forehead against the wall, and his eyes started out of their sockets. And now, become blind, he imagined that he saw God, with His servants arrayed in white robes, sitting in judgment on him. He roared out as men on the rack are wont, and exclaimed that not he, but others, were guilty. In the end, as if he had been racked into confession, he acknowledged his own guilt, and lamentably implored Christ to have mercy upon him. Then, amidst groans, like those of one burnt alive, did he breathe out his guilty soul in the most horrible kind of death."
-Lacantius, Chapter 49 

While Eusebius describes his just death by God's hand a bit differently:

"14. But his end was not like that of military chieftains who, while fighting bravely in battle for virtue and friends, often boldly encounter a glorious death; for like an impious enemy of God, while his army was still drawn up in the field, remaining at home and concealing himself, he suffered the punishment which he deserved. For he was smitten with a sudden scourge of God in his whole body, and harassed by terrible pains and torments, he fell prostrate on the ground, wasted by hunger, while all his flesh was dissolved by an invisible and God-sent fire, so that the whole appearance of his frame was changed, and there was left only a kind of image wasted away by length of time to a skeleton of dry bones; so that those who were present could think of his body as nothing else than the tomb of his soul, which was buried in a body already dead and completely melted away.

15. And as the heat still more violently consumed him in the depths of his marrow, his eyes burst forth, and falling from their sockets left him blind. Thereupon still breathing and making free confession to the Lord, he invoked death, and at last, after acknowledging that he justly suffered these things on account of his violence against Christ, he gave up the ghost."
-Eusebius IX.10.14-15 

In a 2013 article Peter D. Papapetrou concludes that from these descriptions it seems that Maximinus may have died of a thyrotoxic crisis, a death caused by overactive thyroid hormones in someone suffering from Graves disease.

"In conclusion, from the evidence presented in the present article it is very likely that the Roman emperor Maximinus Daia had Graves’ ophthalmopathy. During his terminal illness it seems that his exophthalmos became progressive, resulting in blindness, and that he died of severe thyrotoxicosis or thyrotoxic crisis, as the descriptions of the symptoms strongly suggest."
-Peter D Papapetrou, 2013, Hormones, International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism 

In addition to the two descriptions, Papapetrou supports this diagnosis with this statue from a Portrait of an Emperor, from Athribis, Egypt, porphyry, just over life-size, late Empire period, 3rd-4th cent. A.D. (Cairo Museum). The statue shows the protruding eyes that could suggest a person with Graves disease.


This next coin, an AE brockage of the same reverse, is an unusual rarity. Brockage bronze coins seem far less common than those of silver denarii - perhaps silver has a higher risk of sticking to the die or perhaps this heavier flan (nearly about 1.5 times a denarius) was less likely to stick to the upper die or less likely to go unnoticed or maybe the production techniques had improved by Imperial times or maybe it is just what makes it to market.

What is the symbolism here? a show of supremacy - the god of the Greeks is greater than the god of the Egyptians? or perhaps Sol is taking on the attributes of Serapis? Sol wearing the dress and making the gesture commonly associated with Serapis?


These coins interest me not only for their excellent preservation and artistry, but also for the time of issue, a turbulent period for the Roman Empire and the spread of Christianity. There was a lot going when these coins were minted. Yet another civil war was being waged for control of the Roman Empire - uneasy alliances formed and battles raged.

  • 312 Maxentius and Maximinus II (Daia or Daza) join forces, driving together Licinius and Constantine.

  • Licinius marries Constantine's half-sister, Constantia to cement their partnership.

  • 28 October 312, Constantine defeats Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, after which Maxentius was found drowned. By popular assumption : before the battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine has a vision that led to his acceptance of (perhaps conversion to) Christianity, either a cross or Chi Rho with a greek version of "in hoc signo vinces" (with this symbol, conquer).

  • February 313, Constantine & Licinius issued the "Edict of Milan" granting tolerance for Christians

  • 30 April 313, Licinius defeated Maximinus (aka Daza, aka Daia) at the Battle of Tzirallum.

  • Maximinus flees and dies of illness in Tarsus.

  • from 313 on, Constantine and Licinius struggle between co-rule and battle for supremacy.

  • 18 September 324, Licinius is defeated by Constantine in the Battle of Chrysopolis (in Bithynia near Chalcedon) and initially spared at the request of Constantia

  • circa 325 Licinius is hanged for conspiring against Constantine.

A detail from The Battle at the Milvian Bridge, 1666, an etching by Gérard Audran (1640-1703) after a painting by Charles Le Brun (1619–1690). The unfinished painting by Le Brun, was meant to prove he had surpassed the famous version designed by Raphael for the Vatican in the early 16th century. In the painting, Constantine charges across a bridge (today Ponte Milvio) toward Maxentius who falls into the Tiber. (image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)


This table shows who controlled what mints over the years.


Both the next two coins were struck in Heraclea in 313-314 by Licinius. The "GG" on these coins is fun with "AVGG" (plural of AVG) a clear reference to a time with multiple AVGVSTI (emperors). In trying to attribute I am torn between two options": RIC VI Heraclea 75 and RIC VII Heraclea 5.


Attribution Problems & Clues

  • Weight: This coin seems heavier that I should expect from the two entries at RIC Online (where average weights of 3.25 and 3.55 are reported for my two candidate coins)

  • Die Axis: The average die axis doesn't seems to help differentiate: 6 and 8 vs. my coin ~12h

  • Officinae: The officinae in use for each seems to suggest: RIC VI Heraclea 75 as a Γ (3rd) officina is not recorded (at least in RIC Online) for RIC VII Heraclea 5.

  • Legend Spacing: perhaps the legend spacing on the reverse ( CONSER-VATORI ) which points to RIC VI Heraclea 75 vs. (CONS-ERVATORI) for Heraclea 5

  • Auction Examples: A search in ACSearch for "heraclea jupiter Γ" finds 50 coins most of which are for Licinius, some for Diocletian and none for Constantine. and a Search for "heraclea jupiter victory constantine" turns up 76 coins, none of which have the officina Γ. Also worth noting that Constantine is usually not bearded, but at this officina where they might have been accustomed to depicting bearded Licinius or Maxentius they give Constantine a beard too!

Constantine I the Great (307/10-337), Follis (3.65g, 22mm), Heraclea, struck 313-314

Obv: IMP C FL VAL CONSTANTINVS P F AVG, laureate head right

Rev: IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG, Jupiter standing facing, head left, holding Victory on globe and sceptre; at feet to left, eagle, Γ in right field, and SMHT in exergue.

Ref: RIC VI Heraclea 75


Constantine I the Great (307/10-337), Follis (4.27g, 22mm), Heraclea, struck 313-314

Obv: IMP C FL VAL CONSTANTINVS P F AVG, laureate head right

Rev: IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG, Jupiter, nude, chlamys draped across left shoulder, standing left, holding Victory on globe in right hand and leaning on sceptre with left hand; to left, eagle holding wreath, ∈ in right field, and SMHT in exergue.

Ref: RIC VI Heraclea 75


References, in addition to those linked inline above


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