About This Artwork

Roman, minted in Antioch, Syria

Solidus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Constantine I, late AD 324/early AD 325, issued by Constantine I

Diam. 1.9 cm; 4.48 g
Obverse: CONSTANTINVS P F AVG (Pius et Felix - dutiful and happy)
Reverse: AOVENTVS [sic] AVGVSTI N ; in exergue, SMAN* (mint mark signifying Sacra Moneta Antioch)
"The coming of our Augustus"

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson, 1922.4903

In A.D. 313, Constantine I (c. 272–337, r. 306–37) and his coruler Licinius (c. 265–325, r. 308–24) jointly issued the Edict of Milan, which aimed to end religious intolerance by granting legal rights to Christians and ordering the return of their confiscated property. This solidus, bearing a large profile portrait of Constantine wearing a laurel crown, was issued during the period in which Constantine both defeated Licinius to become sole emperor and sponsored the First Council of Nicaea (a.d. 325), whose goal was to establish the nature of Jesus and his relation to God the Father. Baptized on his deathbed, Constantine is honored as the first Christian emperor, and his reign marks the beginning of the Christianization of the empire. He transferred the capital of the Roman Empire to ancient Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople in his honor.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 76.

Constantine I (r. A.D. 306–37) reinstituted sole control over the empire; moved the imperial capital to the new city named after him, Constantinople; and not only brought an end to the persecution of Christians, but also built monumental churches in Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem.

—Permanent collection label

This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Coin Production in the Ancient Mediterranean World, August 24, 1995–November 24, 1997.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 155, April 20, 1994 - February 6, 2012.

Publication History

Theresa Gross-Diaz, “Cat. 24 Solidus Portraying Emperor Constantine I: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Rachel C. Sabino, “Cat. 24 Solidus Portraying Emperor Constantine I: Technical Report,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Elizabeth Hahn Benge, "From Aegina to Andronicus: A Survey of Coinage at the Art Institute of Chicago," in Historia Mundi n. 5 (January 2016), pp. 213, 214, (fig. 15).

Karen B. Alexander, “From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, ed. Karen Manchester (Art Institute of Chicago, 2012), pp. 29; 104–06, cat. 26B (ill.); 114.

The Art Institute of Chicago, The Essential Guide (Art Institute of Chicago, 2013), p. 76.

Theresa Gross-Diaz, “Coin Showing Emperor Constantine the Great,” in “Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” special issue, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 20, 1 (1994), p. 77, cat. 57 (ill.).

Louise Berge and Karen Alexander, "Ancient Gold Work and Jewelry from Chicago Collections," The Ancient World, vol. 11, nos. 1 and 2 (1985), p. 22.

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