Roman Coins with Fortuna
from the First Tetrarchy at the end of the third century AD
and others from earlier.

       What's new?  2021, Jan. 30:  Divvs Galerius  
                               2020, Nov. 14:  Domitian as.
                                         Oct. 22:  Claudius II (268-270) from Cyzicus
                                         June 23: A barbarous radiate of Victorinus.
                                         June 17:  Claudius II,  SPQR mint. 
                                        April 18:  Elagabal, Gordian III, and Gallienus.
                                        April 11:  Caracalla returns to Rome.

Fortuna was the Italian goddess of chance or luck in the sense of good fortune, bad fortune, and the future. She contributes to steering the course of events, hence the rudder. Good fortune brings abundance, hence the cornucopia. Our terms "fortunate" and "fortune teller" derive from Fortuna. One aspect pertained to fortune in battle. Fortuna REDVX is her aspect relating to a safe return from trips.

(This page begins with the series under the First Tetrarchy. The second half of this page illustrates FORTVNA coins from earlier.)

Fortuna folles under the tetrarchy (For earlier FORTVNA coins, see below)

   are only from Trier
•   are issued in the names of each of the four tetrarchs
•   have two types, both with Fortuna left holding rudder and cornucopia:
       Fortuna standing
       Fortuna seated

•   have three reverse legends:  
    FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN, 
    FORTVNAE REDVCI CAES NN, or 
    FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG ET CAESS NN. 

•   have reverse legends in plural, indicated by the doubled letters "G" and "S" and "N". "N" is "noster" = "of our" "AVGG NN" = "of our Augusti," which emphasizes the unity of the college of emperors. Some were away and would hopefully return safely.
 


The Four Tetrarchs


Diocletian
Diocletian, Augustus 284-305 AD
IMP DIOCLETIANVS PF AVG
28 mm. 8.88 grams. 12:00 die axis.
FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN
Fortuna seated left holding rudder and cornucopia.
B in left field, * in right field, TR in exergue.
Struck at Trier (Treveri) [Now in Germany]
c. 298-299 AD.
RIC Trier 230a.
Failmezger 2.
 



The Greek "Tyche" is a similar goddess considered the eastern Greek equivalent of Fortuna. Many Roman provincial coins from eastern Greek cities illustrate the Tyche of the city with a turretted head. However, they do not name "Tyche" the way many Roman coins name Fortuna.
  
The coins on this page are of the large "follis" denomination which succeeded the "radiate" or "antoninianus" (a.k.a. "aurelianus") denomination in Diocletian's coin reform of 294 AD.

The type was issued for the four emperors of the first tetrarchy: Diocletian and Maximian as Augusti, and Constantius and Galerius as Caesars. Unlike the common GENIO POPVLI ROMANI reverses which were issued at every mint, this issue was only at Trier. (Similar legends occurred on very rare gold of Trier and Antioch.)  There are two main types, one with Fortuna seated as above and the other with Fortuna standing, as next.

Galerius
Galerius, Caesar 293 - 305 and Augustus 305 - 311.
IMP MAXIMIANVS NOBIL CAESS
Laureate head right.
FORTVNAE REDVCI CAESS NN
Fortuna standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia, with globe at her feet.
* in field right. BTR in exergue.
30-27 mm. 9.97 grams. 6:00 die axis.
Stuck at Trier, c. 298-299.
RIC Trier 414b. Failmezer 4.

 

 

The first coin has legend with AVGG and this one with CAESS because Galerius was only Caesar at the time. The obverse legend names him "Maximianus," but, to distinguish him from the other Maximianus we call this emperor by one of his other names, Galerius (He was Caius Galerius Valerius Maximianus). The  emperor we call "Maximianus" was Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus. He was never Caesar. When Diocletian chose him for promotion in 286 he was immediately made Augustus. (This is often the easiest way to tell their coins apart. If it says MAXIMIANVS CAES you know it is not Maximianus; it must be Galerius.) Until 293 there were only two Augusti (Diocletian and Maximian) and the system was not yet the "tetrarchy." The two Caesars (Constantius and Galerius, completing the tetrarchy) were created at almost the same time as the coin reform that produced this "follis" denomination. The previous "radiate" or "antoninianus" denomination was replaced and exists for both Caesars, but is rare for them, which shows the coin reform was not long after they were promoted.

Here is a coin of Maximian:

Maximianreverse     Maximian, Augustus 286-305
     IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG
     FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN
     Fortuna seated left, holding rudder and cornucopia
     B in field left, * in field right. TR in exergue.
     27-26 mm. 11.49 grams. 12:00 die axis.
     Light surface silvering.
     Struck at Trier, 298-299.
     RIC Trier 230b.
     Failmezger 2.


  Maximian is often distinguished by a slightly, or prominently, upturned nose. The above example shows this characteristic, but only slightly.

The remaining member of the tetrarchy, the other Caesar, was Constantius, also known as Constantius I to distinguish him from Constantius II who was his grandson. The tetrarch Constantius was the father of the famous Constantine the Great who was the father of Constantius II.

Here is a coin of Constantius:

ConstantiusConstantius     Constantius I, Caesar 293-305 and Augustus 305-306
     Follis. 27 mm. 8.79 grams. 6:00 die axis.

     CONSTANTIVS NOB CAES
     FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN
     A in field left and * in field right. TR in exergue.
     Some surface silvering.
     Struck at Trier, c.298-301.
     RIC Trier 394variety. Failmezger 2.
     This pairs the obverse of a Caesar with a reverse legend
     appropriate to an Augustus (which is not uncommon)
     but the exact variety is not in RIC because it has A in the left field which is not listed with this obverse.
     In RIC the obverse is given to AD 298-299 and the control marks to 300-301.
    

Now we have seen one coin from each tetrarch.  What next?

 

Fortuna Redux was the goddess of safe returns. Where were they returning from?

According to RIC, the first issue (distinguished by mintmark TR, as opposed to BTR or ATR) refers to
"Constantius' successful Rhenish campaigns" and possibly the conclusion of his British campaign in 296-297, and
"Heraclius' [Maximian's] African campaign (followed by his visit to Rome)" which followed his return from the Rhine (on his way to Africa).

All four tetrarchs were included in the very first issue, but another "return" could be celebrated as time went on:
"Galerius returning from Persia to Illyricum."
RIC does not note that Diocletian went to or came back from anywhere, but as a tetrarch he participates in the issue.

There are a large number of obverse legend and bust varieties. Most are not illustrated here. Here is one that is different in two regards.

GaleriusGalerius, Caesar 293 - 305 and Augustus 305 - 311.
28-26 mm. 8.79 grams. 6:00 die axis.
MAXIMIANVS NOBIL CAES
Head left
FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN
Fortuna seated left on wheel, holding rudder and cornucopia,
with globe at her feet.
No field marks, BTR in exergue.
Surface silvering.
Struck at Trier c.300-301
RIC Trier 392
Failmezger 2.
    

The concept of the "wheel of fortune" still exists and this coin illustrates the Roman recognition that fortunes can turn.

Here is another Galerius from that issue, but with bust right (the examples above all had a head and not a bust,) with a regular seat and not the wheel.

GaleriusGalerius, Caesar 293 - 305 and Augustus 305 - 311.
29-26 mm. 8.84 grams. 12:00 die axis.
MAXIMIANVS NOB CAES
Bust right, seen from the front.
FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN
* in field right, BTR in exergue
Surface silvering.
Struck at Trier c. 300-301
RIC Trier unlisted. Would follow 395 (which lacks drapery)
Failmezger 2.


Here is a Diocletian from that issue:

Diocletian
Diocletian, Augustus 284-305 AD
28-27 mm. 11.22 grams. 6:00 die axis.

IMP DIOCLETIANVS PF AVG
Bust right, seen from the rear.
FORTVNAE REDVCI AVGG NN
* in field right, BTR in exergue
Surface silvering.
Struck at Trier, c.300-301.
RIC Trier 381a.
Failmezger 2.

 


Divvs Galerius, struck by Licinius, late 311.
26-23 mm. 6.18 grams.
DIVO GAL MAXIMIANO
Veiled head right
FORTI FORTVNAE
Fortuna standing left, holding rudder and cornucopia, wheel of fortune behind at feet.
SIS in exergue
RIC VI Siscia 221. 

At the Conference at Carnuntum in late 308 Galerius advocated for Licinius to be made Augustus (jumping him over the existing Caesars), so Licinius was indebted to him. When Galerius died in 311 Licinius minted this commemorative recording the deification of Galerius. Siscia was in the territory of Licinius and the only mint to issue this type.

 


The last issue. These issues under the tetrarchy were the last issues of Fortuna types. No emperors after the first tetrarchy ever used Fortuna again.


Comment for collectors:  These Fortuna types are scarcer than generally acknowledged. RIC lists 89(!) varieties, almost all "S" for "scarce" or "R" for "rare" (RIC Trier 228-263 and 378-417, some with both a and b varieties).  There are probably many more varieties; two are shown above. Failmezger considers the Fortuna type overall as "RR," very rare. I am inclined to call it rare overall. If there really were many "Scarce" varieties, Fortuna would appear on the market more often than it does. Those individual varieties are more likely "rare" or "very rare" and together they add up to "scarce." Collectors who see a list of 89 varieties imagine it is common and not worth as much as asked by dealers (who know that it should be worth more, but they can't make buyers buy). Therefore, it is not an extremely expensive type, although it is perhaps five times as expensive as a common GENIO POPVLI ROMANI in the same condition.
  I think, but am not certain, the silvered ones above all came from one hoard disbursed beginning in 2013 (or earlier, and I don't know how many FORTVNA coins were in it).


 


Fortuna before the First Tetrarchy. Almost all emperors from Augustus through Severus Alexander (222-235) issued coins with Fortuna types [Gnecchi]. After that in the third century most did, but some emperors were too short-lived to get around to it. Here are a few examples.



Domitian, 81-96
as. 28-27 mm. 9.56 grams. 
IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM COS XIII CENS PER PP
Struck 86/7
FORTVNAE AVGVSTI
Fortuna standing holding rudder and cornucopia
RIC II.I 544. Sear I 2805v. 
BMC [p. xcii] notes it refers to "The luck of the imperial family" and "may have some connection with the dedication of the temple of the gens Flavia."  "Fortina was one of the deities who, under the Early Empire, enjoyed heart-felt worship. A world that was often in doubt of the divine providence felt the need to propitatate the power that could bring about the amazing vicissituds of fate which were characgeristic of the time." [p. xxxvii]



Septimius Severus, 193-211
FORTVN R-EDVC, Fortuna seated left with rudder and cornucopia.
Struck 194 at Emesa. Denarius. 18-16 mm.  Sear II 6277. RIC 379.  Foss 194, 8a. "Departure to campaign against Niger: vows for safe return." [p. 165]
IMP CAES L SEP SEV PERT AVG COS II, his laureate head right.




Caracalla, 198-217, during his joint reign with Geta, 211-212.
When Septimius Severus died at York, Britain, in 211, his sons Caracalla (Augustus since 198) and Geta (Augustus since 209) were there and soon departed for Rome. 

Denarius. 19 mm. 3.19 grams.
ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT
FORT RED PM TRP XIIII COS III PP
Fortuna standing left holding cornucopia (unusually, in her right hand with its tip
inward toward her body, leaning her left forearm on an inverted rudder, with a wheel at her feet.

RIC 189. BMC (Joint reign with Geta) 2, "211". "For the return to Rome (late in A.D. 211)." Sear II 6802.

Caracalla took the title "BRIT" in 210, "TRP XIIII" in 211 (which dates the coin), and PP (Pater Patriae, Father of his Country) upon the death of his father. This coin announces his return to Rome. It may well record a vow to Fortuna to be fulfilled at the end of a safe trip. There is a similar type for Geta but with TRP III.




Elagabal, 218-222
20-19 mm. 2.94 grams.
IMP ANTONINVS PIVS AVG
FORTVNAE REDVCI
Fortuna standing left holding rudder on globe and cornucopia
RIC 83A
BMC 208 "Rome, undated, 220-222"
Sear II 7516.
 

Gordian III, 238-244
23-21 mm. 4.47 grams.
IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG
FORTVNA REDVX
Fortuna seated left, holding rudder and cornucopia, wheel behind seat. 
RIC 210 "243-244"
Sear III 8612. 

This coin expresses hope that he would return safely from the Persian war of 243. Instead, in late Febrary of 244 he was deposed by Philip who reported that the emperor had died of natural causes. I suppose in the middle of the third century it was "natural" to be murdered. 
 


Gallienus, 253-268
21 mm. 
FORTVNA REDVX
Fortuna seated left holding rudder and cornucopia
RIC 484, Mediolanum. Sear III 10219.




Gallienus, 253-268. 
21 mm. 3.83 grams.
FORTVNA REDVX
Fortuna standing left holding cadeuceus and cornucopia
RIC 613 "mint of Asia. Seventh and last consulate which commenced in A.D. 266." Struck 267.
Sear III 10220 

 


Gallienus, 253-268. 
19 mm. A laureate denarius
FORTVNA REDVX, Fortuna standing left holding rudder and cornucopia.
RIC 139 "quinarius". Sear 10431 "260-261"




Claudius II (268-270).
21-20 mm. 2.79 grams.
IMP C M AVR CLAVDIVS AVG


FORTVNA REDVX
SPQR in exergue
RIC V.I 233, the "SPQR" mint, usually identified as Cyzicus.



Claudius II (268-270).
20-19 mm. 3.08 grams.
IMP CLAVDIVS PF AVG
FORTVNA REDVX

RIC V.I 234, also attributed to Cyzicus in RIC
 
 

Aurelian (270-275, struck Spring - Summer 271)
FORTVNA REDVX with Fortuna seated on a wheel.
It is unusually large at 23-21 mm. RIC V.II on-line 2061. Sear III 11539.


Victorinus, barbarous radiate, c. 269-271.
17-16 mm. 3.14 grams.
Bust of Victorinus right, with his distinctive nose
and a legend compatible with his legend
Reverse type of FORTVNA REDVX
with some of those letters, especially the final "DVX", visible
Fortuna standing with rudder (more like an anchor) and cornucopia.

A remarkably fine ancient imitation. 

 
 

References:
RIC = Roman Imperial Coinage, volume VI.  (The standard reference for all post-Diocletian's-reform coins, 293-312)

Failmezger = Roman Bronze Coins from Paganism to Christianity, 294-364 AD, by Victor "Tory" Failmezger (Highly recommended for AE coins of this period.)

Foss, Clive. Roman Historical Coins. 1990. Hardcover. 335 pages.  A list of all Roman coins that reference specific events, classified by year of the event. About 250 coins illustrated. If you want to collect types that connect to history, you will be happy with this book.

A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins, by John Melville Jones. (Highly recommended for explaining all the words encountered in the study of ancient Roman coins.)

Gnecchi = Coin Types of Imperial Rome, by F. Gnecchi. (Very old and not recommended. However, it does list in a big table which emperors issued coins with which personifications.)

 


If you want, contact me at
e
Return to the Table of Contents for this whole site.