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Arras Medallion

"And so it was fitting that, as soon as you stepped onto that shore, a long-desired avenger and liberator, a triumphal crowd poured forth to meet Your Majesty, and Britons exultant with joy came forward with their wives and children, venerating not you alone, whom they gazed at as one who had descended from heaven, but even the sails and oars of that ship which had conveyed your divinity, and prepared to feel your weight upon their prostrate bodies as you disembarked. Nor is it any wonder if they were carried away by such joy after so many years of miserable captivity; after the violation of their wives, after the shameful enslavement of their children, they were free at last, at last Romans, at last restored to life by the true light of empire."

Panegyrici Latini (VIII): Panegyric of Constantius

This panegyric, which was delivered in the presence of Constantius I in AD 297, on the anniversary of his appointment as Caesar, congratulates him for the recovery of Britain the year before.

Part of a treasure hoard found at Beaurains near Arras, France in 1922, the medallion depicts on the reverse the personification of London kneeling before the city gate, which is approached by a Roman warship. Having defeated the usurper Allectus, Constantius is portrayed mounted on horseback in the guise of a triumphant emperor, holding a spear in one hand and a globe in the other, with the inscription REDDITOR LVCIS AETERNAE ("Restorer of Eternal Light").

The medallion depicts the earliest representation of Londinium, although it is likely that the die maker had never seen the town. The city gate, for example, evokes the twin towers of the Porta Nigra in Trier, where the medallion was struck, as indicated by the mintmark PTR (prima treveri), the first officina or workshop of the Trier mint, in exergue (below the central image of the coin).


The medallion above is a facsimile of the original in the Bibliothque Nationale (Paris) and was produced in 1927 by Etienne Bourgey.

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