Constantine II- A Question of Seniority

It was definitely a bad idea for the older brother to pick on his younger siblings in the case of Constantine II. But before we discuss the hapless case of the eldest son of Constantine the Great and his second wife, Fausta, let’s turn our attention to the coin.

This particular follis was struck in 332 A.D. at the Lugdunum mint, known today as Lyons, France. The portrait shows a young Constantine II facing right in military cuirass and crowned with a laurel wreath denoting his rank as Caesar. His name surrounds, followed by his rank in abbreviate form. On the reverse, two soldiers face each other holding shields and spears with two military standards between. The Latin inscription around translates to the “Glory of the Army” with the mint and symbol for the fifth officina appearing below.

Constantine II was embarking on his illustrious military career at the ripe age of 16 when this coin was manufactured. Having been allotted the territories of Gaul, Britain, and Spain, Constantine II was installed at Trevirorum (Trier) in 328 to guard the Rhine frontier. In 332 the Sarmatians appealed to his father, Constantine I the Great, for assistance against the invading Visigoths, led by Alaric I. Constantine II was victorious in the ensuing engagements that continued into 334, earning himself the title “Germanicus”.

His younger brother Constans had been declared Caesar in 333, assuming control of the territories of Italy, Pannonia, and North Africa. However, Constantine II was named regent over Constans due to Constans’ minority (he was only 12 or 13 at the time of his ascension). Upon their father’s death in 337, a looming rivalry for the imperial throne began to make itself evident.

338 saw the three surviving sons of Constantine I the Great, now co-Emperors of the Roman empire,¬†at the center of a growing territorial dispute. A meeting was held to finalize their respective borders resulting in additional territory coming under Constans’ control, while Constantine II’s holdings remained the same. It is said that Constans ceded Constantinople to his brother Constantius II in return for his support against Constantine II. Whatever the case, in 340 Constantine II took advantage of the absence of Constans from Italy and decided to invade. He was defeated¬†by the combined forces of Constantius II and Constans at Aquileia, losing his life in an ambush by a group of Constans’ Illyrian troops.

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