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Description

Rare London-Mint Solidus of Magnus Maximus

Magnus Maximus, Western Roman Emperor (AD 383-388). AV solidus (21mm, 4.64 gm, 6h).  Londinium (London), ca. AD 383-384. DN MAG MA-XIMVS PF AVG, rosette-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Magnus right / VICTOR-IA AVGG, two emperors  (Magnus Maximus and Theodosius I) seated facing on throne holding globe, Victory between and above them, palm branch between, AVGOB in exergue. Cohen 9. RIC 2(B). Extremely rare, with fewer than ten specimens known. The last coin type struck in Roman Britain. Extremely Fine.

Ex S.C. Markoff Collection (NAC 62,  6 October 2011), lot 2115; ex Bonhams-Vecchi 8 (1982), lot 709; Levis Collection (Naville XI, 1925), lot 1032. 

 A capable general of Spanish birth, Flavius Magnus Clemens Maximus was appointed military commander of Britain in AD 380. Three years later, Maximus made a bid for the throne of the Western Roman Empire, then ruled by the ineffectual Gratian and his young brother Valentinian II. To secure the loyalty of the British legions, Maximus reopened the old mint of Londinium, which had been closed for more than fifty years, and began striking gold solidi acclaiming himself as Augustus. By this time, Londinium had been renamed Augusta, as reflected in the mintmark AVG. After disposing of Gratian, Maximus proposed a three-way division of the Empire, with himself ruling Britain, Gaul, Germany and Spain, Valentinian II ruling Italy and Africa, and Theodosius I, another Spaniard, holding the East. This uneasy equilibrium lasted about three years but, thereafter, Maximus began encroaching upon Valentinian II's territory. The second issue of gold from Londinium, represented by the solidus above, likely belongs to this period of "cold war" between the West Roman regimes. The mintmark is augmented by the letters OB (standing for Obryzium, or "pure gold"), and the reverse type and legend (VICTORIA AVGG) explicitly acknowledge only two Roman emperors, surely Maximus and Theodosius. Intriguingly, many of the few surviving AVG OB solidi are slightly heavier than the 4.5 gram standard for the solidus, indicating a perceived need to impress the soldiery with a particularly sound coinage, or perhaps a defective scale at the London mint. In AD 387, Maximus raised his son Flavius Victor to the rank of Augustus and launched an invasion of Italy, provoking a final showdown with Theodosius. But in a lightning campaign, Theodosius struck eastward and defeated Maximus before he could fully martial his forces. Both Maximus and Victor were summarily executed by Theodosius, who restored Valentinian II to the Western throne. 

Maximus' grab for power proved ill-advised, resulting in a destructive civil war and the downfall of his own promising regime. The AVG mint solidi and siliquae of Magnus Maximus, represented by a handful of surviving specimens, were the last coins struck in Roman Britain.



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Auction Dates
January, 2014
5th-6th
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