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    Procopius: The last Constantinian

    Procopius (AD 365-366). AV solidus (4.33 gm). Constantinople, January-May AD 366. D N PROCO - PIVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Procopius right / REPARATIO FEL TEMP, Procopius in military garb standing facing, head right, holding spear in right hand and resting left on shield, CONS in exergue. RIC 2b. Depeyrot 14/3. Extremely rare and possessing a refined portrait of this short-lived usurper. Nearly extremely fine.

    Procopius was the last member of the house of Constantine to don the diadem, though his reign lasted only a few months. A maternal kinsman of Julian II, Procopius had a successful but undistinguished career as a civil servant and was made a comes, or count, when Julian won the throne in AD 361. When Julian made ready his invasion of Persia two years later, he placed Procopius in joint command of a 30,000-man force intended to invade by a different route and eventually join Julian's main force in Mesopotamia. Procopius later claimed that Julian gave him a purple cloak along with instructions to take over as emperor should Julian be killed in battle. At any event, Procopius' task force failed miserably in its mission, perhaps contributing to the defeat of Julian's invasion and his death in battle on June 27, AD 363. When the army chose Jovian as emperor, Procopius did not contest the office and escorted Julian's body back to Tarsus for burial. He tried to resume his former low-profile life, but was forced to go underground when Jovian abruptly died a few months later and the brothers Valentinian I and Valens took over the western and eastern empires. Valens had a deeply suspicious nature and launched a pogrom of any potential rivals. The arrests and other actions made Valens deeply unpopular and provoked Procopius into making a try for the throne. While Valens was visiting Syria, Procopius re-emerged at the army camp in Constantinople on September 28, AD 365, wrapped in Julian's purple cloak. Tired of Valens' tight-fisted ways, the garrison proclaimed him emperor. Procopius quickly established control of western Asia Minor, including the important mint city of Nicomedia. He sought help from the Visigoths against Valens, but the barbarians held back and soon some of Procopius' best officers and soldiers began defecting back to Valens. Meanwhile, Valens built his own forces and maneuvered Procopius into a decisive battle at Nicolea, Phrygia in May of 366. Procopius suffered a crushing defeat and was summarily executed in the aftermath, ending his eight-month usurpation.

    The gold coinage of Procopius carries on the Constantinian tradition of fine portraiture and crisp execution. The exceptional portrait on this issue shows him wearing a close-cropped beard, probably a symbol of sympathy and mourning for his kinsman Julian II. His beard and the lack of any Christian symbolism on the reverse also hint at possible Pagan sympathies.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    January, 2012
    2nd-3rd Monday-Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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