Saturday, March 15, 2008
Don't Toss This One in the Gulf, Allen!
Constantine I 'the Great', AE Reduced Follis (AE3), 18mm (3.23 gm), Struck AD 327-328, Trier mint
Laureate head right, CONSTAN-TINVS AVG / Camp gate, two turrets, no doors, star above and 6 stone layers, PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG; STRE in exergue. RIC VII 504 Trier (pg. 212).
I think of my friend Allen whenever I see this coin in my collection. Allen collects campgates and sometimes jokes about 'seeding' the Gulf of Mexico with the odd LRBC (Late Roman Bronze Coin) to confuse future archaeologists.
This coin holds a high place in my collection because it represents my only 'hoard' coin. It was part of the Killingholme hoard, which was unearthed by detectorists in 1993 near the village of Killingholme in northeast England. The find consisted of over 3,000 Constantinian bronze reduced folles.
But it's just a campgate! Just a campgate? Hmm... I used to think like that. I used to think, "Who cares about those things? They're so boring!" But I had to have one for my collection... a representative piece.
In performing a little research for this blog, I found a few very interesting articles on the web that discussed these 'boring' coins. Zach Beasley of Beast Coins has an informative article at: http://www.beastcoins.com/Topical/Architecture/Campgate.htm. One of the more helpful aspects of Zach's article is his discussion on how to decipher the exergue and field marks on ancient coins. Using the guidance in Zach's article, the exergue can be decoded as follows: STRE, where the S = Secunda, or 2nd, officina, and where TRE = the mint at Trier.
Another interesting article was that written by Doug Smith at: http://dougsmith.ancients.info/acmcampgate.html. In his article, Doug discusses how the depiction of the campgate was meant to provide a sense of security at a time when this was the prime concern of all Romans. Barbarian invasions were becoming more frequent. Relations between the co-emperors Constantine and Licinius were strained and eventually collapsed in civil war. The Roman people needed to know that everything was going to be okay and the campgate was a symbol of imperial strength and stability. The reverse legend, PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG, means "foresight of the Emperors" and served to further this message of strength and stability.
An article by Victor Failmezger, published in the Celator I believe, discussed what he believes these campgates actually were. In his article, Victor discussed how the campgates depicted on Constantinian bronzes matched the milecastles at Hadrian's Wall in England. He also noted how this type of 'gate' was used throughout the Empire. This was confirmed during a Spring 1990 visit to an Aalen, Germany museum where he was able to view drawings and photos of a "Limes gate" from a Roman outpost in Germany.
The most widely accepted theory about the turrets shown atop these campgates is that they represent beacons, or signalling posts. This fits into Victor Failmezger's proposal that the campgates were milecastles. These beacons would serve to warn other campgates... other milecastles... down the line of approaching threats. It makes sense to me!
So you see, these coins are anything but boring! This particular coin comes with the added interest-factor of being from a documented hoard. Add the impressive eye-appeal and you can see why I like this coin so much! Just don't tell Allen I talked up his beloved campgates... he wants them all to himself!