A 4th Century Bronze of Constans




Flavius Julius Constans was the youngest of four brothers to call Constantine I the Great father. Constans was born in 320 (or 323 by some accounts) in Constantinople and received his education there. However, Constans does not receive good reviews from historians such as Eutropius and Aurelius Victor, who list depravity, avarice and contempt among his less vulgar qualities.

In 333 Constans was hailed as Caesar and in 335 received Italy and the Illyrian provinces as his domains. His brother Constantine II ruled the western provinces and Constantius II, the eldest brother since the murder of Crispus, ruled Asia Minor. The three brothers became co-Augusti in 337 with the death of the senior Constantine and quickly removed their cousins Delmatius and Hanniballianus, dividing up their territories among themselves. Feeling slighted by this division of territory, Constantine II demanded that Constans relinquish Italy and North Africa to him. Constans, though technically the junior Augustus due to his youth, refused.

Constans bribed his brother Constantius II with territory inherited from the purge to gain his support. War could no longer be avoided and in the spring of 340 Constantine II invaded Italy only to be killed in an ambush outside Aquileia. Constans was away in the Balkans recruiting for Constantius II, gaining total victory without even being present for the battle.

Constans continued military operations, waging war against the Franks in 341-342 and becoming the last legitimate Roman emperor to visit Britain in 343. Unfortunately, his caustic personality and disdain for his army would soon be his downfall.

In 350 Constans was deposed by his own field commander, Magnentius. The uprising took place at a party hosted by Marcellinus, Constans’ finance minister. Magnentius declared himself emperor and was hailed as such by his troops. Word spread quickly and Constans fled for Spain. He was overtaken near the Pyrenees and put to death.


This particular bronze was struck about 347 or 348 A.D. at the mint of Treviri, now Trier in northwest Germany. Ironically, Trier was the headquarters of the defeated Constantine II. Bronzes of this size and late date are commonly called “half-Centenionalis” though this term is not contemporary.

On the obverse is the diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Constans with name and title abbreviations around. The reverse depicts two confronting victories, each holding a wreath, with “D” in the field between them. An interesting feature of the surrounding legend is “AVGG”. Not a misspelling, this indicates there were two Augusti at the time of this coin’s manufacture, which we know was Constantius II and Constans.

Bronzes of this era were used as small change. Inflation was rampant and nothing sold at a fixed price. Depending on the region and time period, the value of a handful of small bronzes such as this could fluctuate widely. As the Roman era waned, the only medium of exchange that continued to hold real value was gold.

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