A 4th Century Tragedy, Part I

The fall of the Roman Empire has always held a great fascination for me. If you’ve ever read any Roman history, you know everyone has their own idea of when this began. In my opinion the empire began to rapidly decay after the death of Constantine I, the Great when his three surviving sons split the empire between them. Less than 40 years later, the decline was past the point of no return.

We as coin collectors are very fortunate that the economy of the late empire was so inflationary. The study of economics was 1,400 years in the future so the Romans’ answer to poverty was to mint more coins. Today there is an abundance of surviving coinage from the time period between 307 to 395 A.D., to the point that one can acquire a monetary record of Rome’s downfall for less than $50 per coin.

In this post I would like to set the stage for an interesting, though somewhat lengthy, series of upcoming posts that will illustrate what I feel are the true causes of the collapse of the Roman empire. The main character, Valentinian II, is possibly the most tragic figure in Roman history. In 375 A.D., at the age of 4, he became co-Augustus of the western empire. By the age of 21, he would be dead.


  1. Roy Flora says:

    I just found your website from EAC newsletter. I look forward to new postings of Ancient coins as they are my passion now. Large cents have long lost their appeal to me as the ancients have so much more appeal in style and artistry and a person can buy high grade items for little money compared to large cents. Nice site, and Thank you !! Sincerely, Roy Flora

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