The story of the Roman Constantine dynasty is a familiar one to most students of history. Constantine the Great and his 3 sons, Constantine II, Constans, and Constantius II, born by his second wife, Fausta, ruled the Roman Empire from 307 to 363 AD. What is less known is that Constantine had a 4th son, Crispus, who vanished from the official historical record. Much of what is known about him lies in the history recorded by the few coins that were minted in Crispus' name.
The beloved son- Flavius Julius Crispus was born ca. 300 AD to Constantine and Minervina, his first wife. In 307 Constantine divorced Minervina and entered into a political marriage to Fausta, the daughter of the Emperor Maximianus. Crispus was raised by his father, made Caesar in 317 AD, and proved an able leader in military campaigns during the early 320's. After distinguished victories in battles against his father's nemesis, Licinius, Crispus' position as heir apparent was virtually certain. All accounts describe a warm and loving relationship between father and son.
The scandal - By 326, Fausta viewed Crispus' rising popularity and his brilliant military successes as a clear threat to her power and the future of her 3 young sons, so she hatched a plan to eliminate the unsuspecting Caesar. According to historians of the time, Fausta fabricated a plot implicating Crispus, accusing him of trying to seduce her. Constantine, in a fit of rage, had him tried and executed. When the plot was uncovered, the furious Constantine had his scheming wife executed by being thrown into boiling water.
Constantine's initial response to Crispus' alleged actions suggests that he suspected his son of a crime so terrible that death was not enough. Crispus also suffered damnatio memoriae, meaning his name was never to be mentioned again and was to be deleted from all official documents and monuments. Even though Crispus' innocence was revealed, Constantine's position and pride did not allow him to admit his error and his lingering feelings of guilt about the murders until he was on his deathbed, where he received absolution for his sins.
Coins minted in the name of Crispus were struck from 317 to 326 AD at several Roman Imperial mints with a variety of portrait types and reverse designs. Although a few gold coins were issued, the majority were bronze alloyed with a small quantity of silver, usually 5% or less—the result of decades of steady debasement. During the period this coin was made, Roman craftsmen applied a thin wash of silver on the coins by a secret process that has been the object of speculation for centuries. In normal use, the silvery appearance would have faded rapidly after they were newly minted. Occasionally we can see today the remains of these original surfaces on rare, perfectly preserved coins. However, typical surviving coins show only the underlying bronze surface, as seen on this coin.
DATA: Obverse: Portrait coins of Roman Emperor Crispus Reverse: Variations on allegorical figures or personifications Weight: 2.5-3.5 grams; Diameter: 18-20mm
Album open measures: 10 13/16” x 7 6/16”
Album folded measures: 5 6/16” x 7 6/16”