Nummus of Diocletian

Roman, early 4th century AD
Minted in Carthage, North Africa

To commemorate the retiring emperor

Almost all Roman emperors left imperial office by dying. If they were lucky they died of natural causes (like Septimius Severus), if they were not they were murdered (like Julius Caesar).

Although all-powerful, the office of emperor was an extremely stressful position, even without the thought of assassination. Diocletian (reigned AD 284-305) was notable in finding a novel way of leaving this position of power and remaining alive. He simply retired and became a private citizen again - albeit a very rich one holding the respect of his immediate successors as a statesman. As founder of the system known as the Tetrarchy (rule by four emperors), Diocletian had previously nominated his own successor. But at a retirement ceremony in front of his soldiers, he removed his imperial robe and gave it to his successor's designated successor. Diocletian rode away in a chariot and, according to the historian Lactantius, 'like a veteran soldier finally discharged from military service, retired to his own country'. Parts of his retirement palace at Split in Croatia can still be seen today.

On this bronze nummus Diocletian is described as 'FELICISSIMO' - most fortunate and successful in his retirement. The reverse shows the personifications Providentia (foresight) and Quies (rest), two qualities associated with the event.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

R. Reece, The later Roman Empire: an arc (Tempus, 1999)

S. Corcoran, The empire of the tetrarchs: i (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2000)

S. Williams, Diocletian and the Roman recov (London, Routledge, 1985)

Dimensions

Diameter: 24.000 mm
Weight: 9.360 g

Museum number

CM 1853.1-1.132

NOT ON

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore