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    'Heroic' Crispus Solidus

    Crispus Caesar (AD 316-326). AV solidus (19mm, 4.32 gm, 12h).  Aquileia, AD 319. FL IVL CRI - SPVS NOB C, laureate nude "heroic"  bust of Crispus left, seen from back, holding spear with barbed point pointing forward and shield on left shoulder / PRINCIPI• I-VVENTVTIS, Crispus, in cuirass and paludamentum, standing right, holding globe in left hand and transverse spear in right; A Q in exergue. RIC 29 variant (obverse legend); cf. RIC VII pl. 11, 35 (same obverse die, different reverse type). Cohen 90 variant (same). Depeyrot 11/3. Extremely rare, likely one of only two known specimens. A coin of exceptional beauty, with a superb heroic portrait of this promising young Caesar. NGC AU? 5/5 - 4/5, Fine Style.

    From The Lexington Collection of Jonathan K. Kern.

    The eldest son of Constantine I, Flavius Julius Crispus inherited his father's charisma and military prowess, but fell victim to court intrigue before coming into his full inheritance. He was born circa AD 295-305 as the only child of Constantine's liaison with one Minervina, probably his common-law wife. After his father became Caesar, Crispus could only watch as his mother was set aside (or perhaps she had died earlier) so Constantine could marry Fausta, daughter of Maximian. In late AD 316, Constantine raised Crispus to the rank of Caesar and began grooming him for the succession. In the early 320s he oversaw campaigns against the Franks and Alemanni and he further distinguished himself as his father's naval commander against Licinius in 324. Crispus was heaped with honors and seemed fully secure as Constantine's primary heir. In AD 326, he traveled to Italy to celebrate his father's 20th anniversary of rule (vicennalia). There, he apparently ran afoul of a plot hatched by his stepmother Fausta, who wanted to advance her own three sons in the succession arrangements. The nature of the plot remains obscure, but in the summer of AD 326, Crispus was abruptly arrested in the town of Pola, charged with some unspecified treasonous offense, and beheaded. Soon thereafter, Constantine ordered Fausta's execution by having her smothered in her steam bath. He supposedly later ordered a golden statue of Crispus erected and dedicated "to the son I unjustly condemned."  The events of AD 326 so embittered Constantine that he never returned to Italy, and they may have played a role in his decision to move the imperial capital to Byzantium, soon renamed Constantinople.

    This beautiful gold solidus depicts Crispus as a young hero, with his nude, muscular physique shown in the act of setting off for war, shield and spear at the ready. The artistry fully reflects the return to old Hellenistic styles in coinage evident in the Constantinian era. The combination of obverse and reverse type is unrecorded in RIC (although another coin struck from the same obverse die, but a different reverse is shown on RIC VII pl. 11, 36) and is extremely rare, with only two surviving specimens. 

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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2014
    8th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 7
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