Silver argenteus of Constantine the Great

Roman, AD 306-7
Minted at Trier, Germany

A symbol of security

The Roman emperor Constantine I, 'the Great' (reigned AD 306-37) had a huge influence on the development of Europe in the Middle Ages. It was Constantine who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, and who re-founded the city of Constantinople (named after himself) as its new capital. Constantinople (also known as Byzantium, modern Istanbul) survived as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire until 1453, almost a thousand years after the fall of Rome in 478.

One important legacy of Constantine's authority is his coinage. The coins of Constantine and his sons are still some of the most common to be dug up in Britain today, and they were clearly also known by the Anglo-Saxons. A number of Anglo-Saxon coin designs were copied from coins of Constantine, and some even carry versions of his name. This silver argenteus comes from the very beginning of Constantine's reign, when he was still Caesar (junior emperor). The design on the reverse shows the gate of a Roman military camp. This design was copied on coins of the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Elder (AD 899-924), where it may symbolize the establishment of fortified towns in the war against the Vikings. Touch the animation button to compare this to one issued by Edward the Elder.

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More information


C.H.V. Sutherland, The Roman Imperial coinage (London, Spink, 1967)


Diameter: 19.000 mm
Weight: 3.460 g

Museum number

CM 1852,1126.1



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