RI444 An Excessively Rare and Enigmatic Roman Bronze of 18mm of "Carausius II", a Highly Controversial Issue
“Carausius II”. Circa AD 354-358. Æ (18mm, 2.18 g, 1h). DOMINO CONSIIOΛ, diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right / CONSTA[ ] Λ VST, warrior standing left, spearing fallen horseman; TREVS(?) in exergue. Casey pp. 163-7; cf. C.H.V. Southerland, “ ‘Carausius II’, ‘Censeris’, and the Barbarous Fel. Temp. Reparatio Overstrikes,” NC 1945, 4/5 (for obv./rev.) . Good VF, brown patina. Very rare, approximately 20 specimens known.
This coin is from one of the most controversial series in the later Roman coinage. Many articles have been written about the series, most recently, and comprehensively, in a chapter of Casey's book on the reign of the first Carausius (and Allectus). All of these coins were discovered in Britain, and imitate the official FEL TEMP REPARATIO coinage, primarily the later series of the “Fallen Horseman” type. Although the legends vary, there are elements of consistency, such as the appearance of Constantius II's name (or a form thereof) on the reverse, as well as the overall style of the issues. The attribution to a new Carausius rests on the fact that a few of these coins have the name (or a partial name) of Carausius on the obverse. While there is no historical evidence attesting to such a person at this time in Britain, the record during the mid-late 4th century is very incomplete, regardless of the unusual detail that Ammianus Marcellinus accords the province in his history. It is undoubted that Britain was in a period of upheaval following the fall of Magnentius, and that the Roman central authority had a tenuous grip on power there. It is thought that in the power vacuum that existed, one or more local commanders took control of the province and was responsible for this imitative coinage, and intended on placing the name of the legitimate emperor, Constantius II, on the reverse as a sign of fealty. The argument against this view is that these are simply local imitations, struck as an expediency due to the lack of official coinage in much of the western Empire. While Casey tends to side with the skeptics, he concludes that the question is not settled, especially considering the use of Carausius' name, which obviously would not have been on any of the prototype coins, and would therefore be a very unusual feature if not intended for an actual person.