Abdication Coins of Roman Emperors Diocletian and Maximian, 284-305 CE. 

Diocletian, Roman emperor from 284-305, voluntarily abdicated in 305 and compelled his co-emperor Maximian (Maximianus) to retire, too. For the only time in Roman history coins were issued celebrating retirements. This page illustrates and discusses the types. Maximian came out of retirement and has "second reign" issues which are also illustrated and described. 

To the right: A large 28 mm follis of Diocletian with reverse
QVIES AVGVSTORM (rest/repose/retirement of the emperors)
and a new obverse title, "Senior Augustus" (S AVG  at the end). The obverse portrait has the retired emperor laureate right, in imperial mantle, holding olive branch and mappa.

 

Short History of Diocletian. Diocletian became the Roman emperor (with the title "Augustus") in 284, reigned over twenty years, and voluntarily retired in 305. In 286 he chose Maximian to be co-Augustus (Diocletian kept the East and gave Maximian the western half of the empire). In 293 Diocletian created the "tetrarchy"(i.e. "four rulers") by elevating Constantius and Galerius to be Caesars (Constantius in the West and Galerius in the East). It is remarkable that the new rulers were not close relatives, as had always been the case before. It was intended that the Caesars could eventually become Augusti and new Caesars would be appointed, based on merit, in their places. In 305 this system (with many other major administrative changes as well) was in place when Diocletian abdicated. Then mints struck coins with the title Augustus for the former Caesars and with the title Caesar for the two new rulers, Severus II (in the West) and Maximinus II (in the East). Remarkably, and for the only time in Roman history, it also issued coins celebrating retirements. Coins were issued at 13 mints for Diocletian and Maximian with new reverse types appropriate to retirement and with the new title "Senior Augustus" indicating their new status. 

PROVIDENTIA  = foresight/wisdom    DEORVM = of the Gods     QVIES = rest/repose/retirement     
FELICISSIMO = most blessed/happy        BAEATISSIMO = most fortunate      S AVG = SEN AVG = Senior Augustus    DN = Dominus Noster = our Lord  

Retirement Types:  All have the retired emperor laureate right, in imperial mantle holding olive branch and mappa.

   1)  Large 27 mm: PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG, Providential and Quies standing facing each other, from many mints, 
              Struck for Diocletian and for Maximian
              each with two different obverse legends, one DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISSIMO SEN AVG and
                                                                       the other DN DIOCLETIANO BAEATISSIMO SEN AVG  
    2)  Smaller-- 25mm early and 22 mm later: PROVIDENTIA DEORVM, Providential and Quies standing facing each other, only from Alexandria.
             Struck for Diocletian and for Maximian 
             each with two different, shorter, obverse legends, one DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISS (or similar) and
                                                                                     the other DN DIOCLETIANO BAEATISS (or similar). 
    3)  Large 27 mm: QVIES AVGG, for Diocletian only at London, Trier, and Lugdunum and for Maximian only at Trier.
             with obverse legend DN DIOCLETIANO PF  S AVG or (very rare, at Trier only) DIOCLETIANO SEN AVG.
    4)  Large 27 mm: QVIES AVGVSTORVM, only for Diocletian and only at Trier and Lugdunum, and 
             only with obverse legend DN DIOCLETIANO PF  S AVG



Abdication coins of Maximian and coins of the second reign of Maximian are discussed below.


Part I: Coins for Diocletian.  (Go to Part II: Coins for Maximian.)

Type 1: PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG. Diocletian, FELICISSMO


27 mm. 8.28 grams.
DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISSMO SEN AVG
Laureate bust right in imperial mantle, holding olive branch (symbolizing peace) and mappa (a cloth dropped by the emperor to start chariot races).


PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG 
Providential and Quies standing facing each other,
S  F in fields (Saeculi Felicitas?)
KS low in middle field
PTR in exergue
RIC Trier 677 "1 May 305 - early 307"

RIC attributes this coin to Trier because of the "PTR" mintmark, but Bates argues that this coin was really minted at Cyzicus. 

 

 

The essential reference:  All references to RIC are to Roman Imperial Coinage volume VI: Diocletian's Reform to the Death of Maximinus II: 294-313, by C. H. V. Sutherland, 1973. Many varieties have been discovered since this book was published, but there is no easy way know more than is in this book. Many collectors use RIC solely to provide identification numbers, but it has far more interesting information than just that, including lots of history and chronology with relevant coin evidence.
 

Type 1: PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG. Diocletian, BAEATISSIMO


27 mm. 8.94 grams.
DN DIOCLETIANO BAEATISSIMO SEN AVG

PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG 
Providential and Quies standing facing each other,

S  F  (Saeculi Felicitas?)
PTR in exergue
RIC Trier 673a "1 May 305 - early 307"

 

 
 
Type 2:  PROVIDENTIA DEORVM. Diocletian, BAEATISS


25-24 mm. 6.96 grams.
DN DIOCLETIANO BEATISS
(The same type also comes with legend DN DIOCLETIANO FELICISS, not illustrated here.)
Diocletian in imperial mantle holding olive branch and mappa


PROVIDENTIA DEORVM
   S
  X K  in middle field
ALE in exergue

RIC VI Alexandria 80 "c. later 308"
This type is only from Alexandria.

 

This reverse type comes in two sizes. This first 25-24-mm-issue is larger and only for Diocletian. The second issue has the same type for both Diocletian and Maximian, but is smaller (22 mm) and half the weight. 

 

Type 3: QVIES AVGG. Diocletian.


27 mm. 5.29 grams.

DN DIOCLETIANO PF S AVG


QVIES AVGG, Quies standing left holding branch down and vertical long scepter.
PLN

RIC VI London 98

This type was also issued for Diocletian at Trier and Lugdunum with this obverse legend and for Diocletian at London with obverse legend ending BAEATISSIMO SEN AVG. For Maximian, the QVIES AVGG type was issued at only at Trier

 


Type 4, QVIES AVGVSTORM, from Trier. Diocletian.
 
[The coin at the top of the page, repeated]
27 mm. 5.29 grams.
DN DIOCLETIANO PF  S AVG

QVIES AVGVSTORM, Quies standing left holding branch down and vertical long scepter.
S   H   in fields
PTR
RIC Trier 699 "c. spring 307"

 


 
Type 4, QVIES AVGVSTORM, from Lugdunum. Diocletian.

[Same type as above, but from Lugdunum.]
27-25 mm. 7.46 grams.
DN DIOCLETIANO PF S AVG

QVIES AVGVSTORM, Quies standing left holding branch down and vertical long scepter.
     N in right field
PLG

RIC Lyons 216 "c. spring 307"

 


 


Part II:  Coins for Maximian  (Skip down to coins of the second reign of Maximian. Return to coins for Diocletian. ) 

Maximian has three of the four retirement types of Diocletian (not including Type 4, QVIES AVGVSTORVM) and additional types issued during his second reign at western mints and Carthage.

Type 1, PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG. Maximian, FELICISSMO

27 mm. 9.46 grams.
DN MAXIMIANO FELICISSMO SEN AVG

PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG 

S   F in fields  (Saeculi Felicitas?)
PTR in exergue

RIC VI Trier 676b, "1 May 305 - early 307"

 

 



Type 1, PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG. Maximian, BAEATISSIMO


27-26 mm. 9.79 grams.
DN MAXIMIANO BAEATISSIMO SEN AVG

PROVIDENTIA DEORVM QVIES AVGG 

S F in fields  (Saeculi Felicitas?)
PTR in exergue

RIC VI Trier 673b "1 May 305-early 307"

 

 

Type 2, PROVIDENTIA DEORVM at Alexandria. Maximian, FELICISSIM.

 
22 mm. 3.06 grams.
DN MAXIMIANO FELICISSIM

PROVIDENTIA DEORVM

B in middle field
ALE in exergue
RIC VI Alexandria 87b "earlier to mid 308".

Only Diocletian has the larger and heavier coin of this type. This smaller version was issued in each of their names with both FELICISSIM and BAEATISSIM (or some minor spelling variant) as titles. 

 

 

Type 3, QVIES AVGG, was issued only at Trier. Maximian.


27-25 mm. 5.615 grams.
MAXIMIANVS PF AVG  (no retirement title)
This coin is from Trier and this same obverse legend was also used at Trier after 305 for Galerius (Galerius Maximianus) but, of course, not with this retirement type as its reverse. (Reverses for Galerius at Trier were GENIO POPVLI ROMANI and GENIO POPVLI ROM [very rare]. GENIO POPVLI ROMANI coins can easily be confused with coins of Maximian. For one example, see below). 

QVIES AVG, Quies standing left, holding olive branch and vertical scepter.
S  A
PTR in exergue.

RIC VI Trier 788, struck "autumn 307 - end of 308"

Issues from earlier in 307 from Trier with this reverse included the title Senior as "PF S AVG" or (very rare) "SEN AVG". 

 

(Type 4, QVIES AVGVSTORVM, was not issued for Maximian.)
 

 

Maximian, second reign.

Second-reign history. After Maximian retired in 305, his son, Maxentius, usurped power in Rome on Oct. 28, 306  and invited Maximian out of retirement. This begins his "second reign" which ends with the Conference at Carnuntum in late 308 when he was forced to retire again. (Skip the history and go down to the coins.)

More History of 305-310. In September 305 when Diocletian and Maximian retired, the Caesars Constantius and Galerius were promoted to Augusti and two new Caesars were chosen. Even though Maximian had an eligible son, Maxentius, and Constantius had an eligible son, Constantine, both sons were overlooked and Severus II and Maximinus II promoted instead. In July 306, when Constantius was terminally ill on campaign at York, England, he exercised his right as Augustus to award his own son, Constantine, imperium, that is, imperial power. The western army of Constantius acclaimed Constantine without the consent of the East. Constantine had been able to advance without the consent of the other rulers. If he could, why couldn't others?
         
      Maxentius did. Son of the retired Herculian Augustus Maximian, he usurped power at Rome in Severus' territory on October 28, 306, while Severus was in the north. Most soldiers near the traditional center of the empire had served under Maximian Herculius and looked favorably on his son's coup. Maxentius knew he had formidable opponents and enlisted the aid of his father Maximian, who more-than-willingly left retirement and assumed his former position of Augustus. This begins his "second reign." Even though Maxentius' only claim to fame was being the son of Maximian, Maximian was unable to convince the army to follow him instead of his son. The attempt broke their alliance and Maximian sought refuge with Constantine (Spring 308). This relocation was mutually beneficial. Maximian joined someone with military power who was willing to accord him the status of active Augustus. Constantine gained the support of a well-known elder statesman. Also, Maximian gave his daughter Fausta to Constantine in marriage. (They had three sons who later came to rule, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans.)
    In 308 the issue of who was and who was not an emperor came to a head. Galerius, the senior emperor, wanted to restore the old order. He persuaded the retired Diocletian to lend his authority to a reconciliation conference to be held at Carnuntum (on the Rhine, just east of Vienna) in late 308. Maximian also came. The results were (1) Maximian was forced to retire again, (2) a new man, Licinius, was promoted to Augustus of the West without ever having been Caesar, (3) Constantine was demoted back to Caesar (but he didn't accept demotion and continued to mint for himself as Augustus), and (4) Maxentius was declared a public enemy (but he continued as before anyway). That these decisions did not please everybody is obvious.
    Maximian did not gracefully accept his second retirement after Carnuntum and in 310 plotted against Constantine at Trier (his "third reign") and was executed by Constantine (Spring, 310). No coins of Maximian are attributed to the period after Carnuntum. He has no third-reign coins.

 


Second-reign types:  All of these types are from issues after 1 May 305 when Diocletian and Maximian retired.  All these types, except GENIO POPVLI ROMANI, were not even begun until after they retired. There are no coins of Diocletian of any of these "second reign" types except for Type 4, GENIO POPVLI ROMANI, which is very rare for Diocletian.
    Two types from Carthage. We know they are second-reign types because they are shared with Maxentius:
     S1)  Large 28 mm: CONSERVATOR AFRICA SVAE, Africa standing holding standard and elephant tusk, lion at feet. Only from Carthage.
                  with obverse legend IMP MAXIMIANVS SEN AVG
     S2)  Smaller 25-24 mm:  CONSERVATORES KART SVAE, 6-column temple, Carthago standing within holding up fruits. Only from Carthage.
                  with obverse legend IMP MAXIMIANVS SEN AVG  [There are no coins of Diocletian of this type.]
   [After these Domitius Alexander took over the Carthage mint in 308 and it closed at the end of his local reign.]
     S3)  25 mm. CONSERV VRBS SVAE, 6-column temple, Roma within, from Aquileia, Rome, and Ticinum. 
                  with obverse legend: IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG  [Identified as Maximian and not Galerius by the portrait and as second reign because the issue is shared with Maxentius]

     S4)  26 mm. GENIO POPVLI ROMANI, Genius standing, and only at Trier and Lugdunum. 
                  with obverse legend:  DN MAXIMIANO PF S AVG   
     S5)  25 mm. GENIO POP ROM, Genius standing left holding patera and cornucopia (a smaller version of the original very common
                         GENIO POVPLI ROMANI follis). 
                   with obverse legend: IMP MAXIMIANO PF S AVG (or other longer legends without the "S", possibly
                                                                   including IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG which sometimes is of Galerius)
                   also, for the retired Diocletian 
with obverse legend DN DIOCLETIANO AETER AVG only at Lugdunum (and very rare) c. autumn 307 - summer 308.
     S6)  26 mm.  Four more types from London only:  (a) HERCVLI CONSERVATORI, (b) MARS VICTOR, (c) MARTI PATRI PROPVGNATORI, 
                          and (d) ROMAE AETER with temple
                    all with obverse legend: IMP MAXIMIANO PF S AVG
     S7)  18-13 mm. Small and rare AE fractions from Trier under Constantine with vows for thirty years: VOT/XXX/AVG or VO/TIS/XXX in wreath 
                   with obverse legend IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG

For other types not attributed to the second reign, see below.

 


Type S1: CONSERVATOR AFRICA SVAE. Maximian.

29-27 mm. 9.09 grams.
IMP MAXIMIANVS SEN AVG 

CONSERVATOR AFRICA SVAE, Africa standing holding standard and elephant tusk, lion at feet.
SE   F across fields
 A in exergue


RIC VI Carthage 56, struck "c. late November 306-early 307"
That is, shortly after Maxentius took power, Oct. 28, 306. 


 

 

 


Type S2:  CONSERVATORES KART SVAE, 6-column temple. Maximian.


24 mm. 7.48 grams.
IMP MAXIMIANVS SEN AVG 

CONSERVATORES KART SVAE, 6-column temple, Carthago standing within holding up fruits.

PKA in exergue.
RIC VI Carthage 59, "summer 307"

 

 

Type S3:  CONSERV VRBS SVAE, 6-column temple. Maximian.

25 mm. 7.35 grams.
IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG
Maximian, with a legend sometimes used by Galerius. The nose makes it clear this coin is of Maximian and not Galerius, and so does the fact the type was initiated by Maxentius. 

CONSERV VRBS SVAE, 6-column temple, Roma within.

RIC VI Aquileia 121b, struck "Autumn 307- c. 309/10"


This type is shared with Maxentius, Maxentius as AVG CONS II, and Constantine as Augustus.

 

 

[Same type, but from Ticinum.]
26-25 mm. 6.04 grams.
IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG

CONSERV VRBS SVAE, 6-column temple, Roma within.

RIC VI Ticinum 92, struck "c. autumn 307-spring 308."

This type is shared with Maxentius and Constantine. as Augustus,

 

 

Type S4:  GENIO POPVLI ROMANI, genius standing. Maximian.

26 mm. 8.02 grams.
DN MAXIMIANVS PF S AVG

GENIO POPVLI ROMANI
altar at feet left, N in field right
PLC in exergue.


RIC VI Lugdunum 206, "c. spring 307."

By late summer the type had changed to the shortened legend
GENIO POP ROM [next].

In this issue Diocletian also had the title "S AVG" but not this type; his type in this issue was QVIES AVGVSTORVM (illustrated above). 


The GENIO POPVLI ROMANI reverse which initiated the coin reform of c. 294 is extremely common, but it is not common with the title "Senior Augustus" and not issued with "S AVG" for Diocletian. 
 


Type S5:  GENIO POP ROM, Genius standing. The GENIO POPVLI ROMANI type above was followed by the same design on a smaller coin with this abbreviated reverse legend.



Maximian.
25-24 mm. 6.61 grams
IMP MAXIMIANO PF S AVG

GENIO POP ROM
PLN in exergue

RIC VI London 90, "c. summer 307"

 

 

This reverse type is also very rare for the retired Diocletian with obverse legend DN DIOCLETIANO AETER AVG, only at Lugdunum c. autumn 307 - summer 308. That issue includes Maximian as (second-reign) Augustus, Galerius as "MAXIMIANVS IVN AVG," Constantine as Augustus, Maxentius as Augustus, and Maximinus II as Caesar [p.260f].
 


Types 6 (a) through (d) (four more rare types from London, only (a) illustrated):


Maximian.
26 mm. 7.03 grams.

DN MAXIMIANO PF S AVG

HERCVLI CONSERVATORI
Hercules standing, head left, resting right hand on his vertical club and holding lion skin over his left shoulder.

PLN in exergue.

RIC VI London 91, "c. summer 307"

 

 

Type S7, AE fractions with vows for thirty years. These are rare.


Maximian.
18-17 mm. 1.98 grams. "1/4 follis"
IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG

Struck summer 307 for his second reign, taking vows for 30 years.
VO/TIS/XXX
RIC VI Trier 754 page 214 "R, c. summer 307"
Zschucke 7.14, page 48. "1/4, by Constantine, for July 25, 307."

 

 




Maximian.
14-13 mm. 1.08 grams. "1/8 follis"
IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG

VOT/XXX/AVG
Note on this variety the "AVG" has only one "G". Previously emperors with a co-ruler used "GG" so he may be denying the existence of an equal co-ruler. (There is a very similar variety with GG.)
RIC VI Trier 751, page 214, "R4, c. summer 307"
Zschucke 6.7a (this coin) "by Constantine, for July 25, 307."

 

 

For emperors from Diocletian to Crispus over two hundred varieties of "fractions" are known from Trier, most very rare. Two of the varieties that mention vows of Maximian for thirty years are illustrated above and the other few are extremely similar. The vast majority of coins of these small denomiantions come from Trier. (Fractions are discussed further on this page.)
 


Attributions of second-reign issues from Carthage.

Are there second-reign coins of this type?  I chose not to list it. RIC Carthage 50 has this obverse legend and reverse type SALVIS AVGG ET CAESS FEL KART with an "H" in the left field which is dated to the second reign of Maximian, whereas this example is RIC 27b, is dated to c. 298-9 and not second-reign. 

This common type from Carthage was issued long before his second reign and there is some question about whether it continued into his second reign. RIC Carthage 50 for Maximian is given to the second reign, but is not easily distinguishable from his first-reign issues (for which there are numerous mint and control marks) or from extremely similar coins of Galerius with the same obverse legend in the previous issue (RIC Carthage 39b for Galerius). 

 I think it is likely that RIC Carthage 50 is really of Galerius. It may be that examples (which I have not seen) of that issue have the distinctive nose of Maximian, but that does not make them second-reign coins. I have chosen to not list this type as second-reign; I don't think the minor mintmark variety of RIC 50 is enough to prove any part of the common coins of Maximian of this type were second reign coins.

Telling coins of Maximian and Galerius apart can be difficult because, at different times, both sometimes used the same legend "IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG." The next coin, not in RIC, could be of either.

26 mm. 6.63 grams.
IMP MAXIMIANVS PF AVG

GENIO POP ROM
S  A across field
PTR in exergue

RIC VI -- confer page 217. Reverse of 766-769 but obverse legend of 772b. This issue is shared with Constantine and dated to "autumn 307-end of 308." Other obverse legends in this issue clearly belong to Maximian (e.g. IMP C M AVREL MAXIMIANVS PF AVG) as active augustus. So maybe this legend still belongs to Galerius. The portrait looks like Galerius rather than Maximian. I attribute it to Galerius.

 

 

ConclusionDiocletian and Maximian had retirement types that explicitly refer to retirement. After Maxentius usurped power in 306, Maximian began his "second reign" and had second-reign types shared with Maxentius (but, of course, Diocletian does not). 
 


References:

 
RIC VI, Roman Imperial Coinage, volume 6, by Sunderland and Carson, 1973.

Zschucke, Carl-Friedrich. Die Bronze-Teilstuck-Pragungen der Romischen Mumzstatte Trier. 1989. 65 pages including 16 page plates of coins.
      [A complete list of all the fractional AE from Trier (263 types, not including those from Rome or other mints) issued under the tetrarchy and later. This is the (small) book you need for these issues. However, it does not cover those minted at Rome. You will need RIC for those.] 

Bates, James R. "The Abdication Coinage of Diocletian and Maximianus I Herculius," in The Journal of the Classical & Medieval Numismatic Society, March, 2004, pages 35-42.  At page 39 he argues that Trier was the primary mint for this type (above) and sent out prototypes for other mints to copy which Cyzicus copied, erroneously including the Trier mintmark while adding their own in the field, "KS".
 


Go to a page giving an overview of coins of the First Tetrarchy.

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