A Penny For Your Thoughts

This, I am led to believe, is a Roman coin. Not only is it Roman, it is from the time of the Emperor Valentinian somewhen between 364 and 375 AD and minted in Lyon.  In 375, Valentinian was rumoured to have brought about his own demise by shouting so loudly at a bunch of Quadi (Germans to you and me), that he burst a blood vessel in his brain and died.  Just goes to show that getting angry doesn’t get you anywhere – well, presumably into Roman Heaven.

Our coin is apparently a copper alloy nummus and it is about the size of those silver sixpences we used to put in Christmas puddings. It shows Valentinian advancing right, looking behind him (whoops, look where you are going) while dragging a captive and carrying a military standard (labarum). I do hope he doesn’t need to blow his nose or scratch that annoying itch.

220px-ValentinianI This is Valentinian.  He was born in Croatia in 321 and his dad was a military commander.  Having followed in the family trade and gone to do battle in Africa, he happened to find himself in the right place at just the right time. When the emperor Jovian died – or let’s not beat about the bush, was probably poisoned or assassinated, the time had come to choose a new emperor. The nominees were:Aquitus and Januarius. Perhaps it was his name, but Aquitus was dismissed on the grounds that he was no fun and bored the socks off you. Januarius was alright, but he happened to be a long way away.  There, standing in the wings, perhaps clutching the odd captive and waving his labarum about, was Valentinian.  He seemed a nice enough chap, interviewed well, wasn’t told how the last emperor had met his end and innocently accepted the post.


Being emperor wasn’t all about eating dormice and ravaging slaves. Conquered tribes were in the habit of rebelling.  It wasn’t easy, getting from Tunis to Verulaneam and then off to Constantinople and back to Rome.  There was always somebody somewhere causing trouble. In the last year of Valentinian’s reign, something sinister called the Great Conspiracy emerged. With little regard to political correctness is was referred to as a “barbaria conspirato.” = who are you calling a barbarian?  The affronted troops were made up of Picts, Scots and Saxons and they wanted Roman Britain back.  They didn’t get it, not then, anyway, but all the stress and worry eventually did for poor old Valentinian.  If only he had practised yoga he might have been around for a few more years.

Chichester, Fishbourne, Bosham 010

RIP Velentian!

One thought on “A Penny For Your Thoughts

  1. Loved this one, Jan, a spot of serious history in manageable doses, leavened with enough humour to help it go down. Have you got a picture of a silver sixpence? Some of your readers might not remember them, sadly I do! Great bit of Romantic Romanism.

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