Impressive London Medallion

This truly magnificent piece will be familiar to many as the Arras Medallion of Constantius I. A spectacular gold medallion valued at 10 solidi issued to commemorate the end of Constantius’s campaign, his victory over the British usurper Allectus and the recapture of London circa AD 297.

Obverse : Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Constantius I facing right.

Reverse: Constantius I on horseback, with a spear in his right hand, facing a kneeling female figure with arms outstretched in front of a fortified city. Below is a Roman galley full of soldiers, possibly in the Thames. The inscription REDDITOR LVCIS AETERNAE reads Restorer of eternal light. ‘LON’ identifies the city as Londinium and ‘PTR’ in the exergue shows that the medallion was minted in Trier, Germany.

The kneeling female figure is taken to represent Londinium. The outstretched arms do not show the submission of a defeated city but rather the deliverance and gratitude of the population at the restoration of Roman rule. The panegyric delivered by Constantius on re-entering the city in AD March 297 made reference to a call for good governance.

Constantius I was elected Caesar under Maximian and the Tetrarchy in March, AD 293 and as such was responsible for Britain and North west Gaul. At that time Britain and parts of North west Gaul were in rebellion being under the rule of the usurper Carausius. In AD 289 Maximian had unsuccessfully tried to overthrow Carausius. In AD 293 the newly appointed Caesar Constantius renewed the offensive and succeeded in retaking Boulogne. This undermined the authority of Carausius who was murdered later that year by another usurper, Allectus.

Constantius spent the next 2 years planning the reconquest of Britain. In AD 296 a dual pronged invasion was launched. His praetorian prefect Asclepiodotus beat Allectus in a battle thought to be in Hampshire. Meanwhile Constantius sailed up the Thames and took possession of Londinium.

The Arras medallion was part of the Beaurais hoard which was found just outside the city of Arras in AD 1922. Unfortunately, some of the hoard is thought to have been plundered but what was retained, including the Arras medallion, are now on display in the British Museum and also in the museum in Arras.

We sold this piece recently and wanted to share it with you. In case you are concerned, no we are not writing this from inside a prison cell, if you look carefully this is actually a 20th Century copy of the original, executed very well indeed.

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