Thursday, 1 October 2009


I recently came across this coin that was languishing in a junk box of sorts. I realised straight away that it was a coin of the “rebel” Poemenius, struck in the name of Constantius II. Poemenius, you ask, who’s that?

References are scant and the only extant literary reference for Poemenius is Ammianus 15.6.4: “...Poemenius was condemned as a malefactor, hailed to execution and perished; he was the man (as we have told above) who was chosen to protect his fellow-citizens when Trier closed its gates against Decentius Caesar”. Sadly the writings of Ammianus prior to 353 are lost and we can only wonder what else could be learned if that part of the text remained.

At the time of the civil war between Constantius II and the western usurper Magnentius, the imperial administration was based at Trier. However, the real centre of military power was on the frontier at Cologne and Mainz, leaving the former relatively undefended in the case of attack. By spring, 352 the Trier region was suffering attacks from Germans who had been prompted by Constantius to attack his rival’s centre of power. Poemenius, for whatever reason the most important man left inside the walls of the city, during the resistance to the barbarians had seemingly declared for Constantius – prompting Magnentius’ brother, Decentius, to besiege the town. The rare series of hybrid coins honouring Constantius on the obverse and using the chi-rho type of Magnentius on the reverse were all struck in Trier and are therefore presumed to be a product of Poemenius’ counter-rebellion. The fate of Poemenius is known and Ammianus notes that he was executed after his stand against Magnentius. The period of the revolt was brief, probably lasting a little over one month in the middle of 353.

My example of this scarce issue has been cut down, removing most of the obverse and reverse legends. It has been done in such a way as to preserve the religious symbol, the chi-rho, on the reverse and may have been to mount the coin as a religious pendant.

Although the legends have been largely removed it is possible to identify the portrait as being that of Constantius, rather than Magnentius or Decentius as there is a diadem, only present on the coins of Constantius.