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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Roman Coins| ▸ |The Late Empire| ▸ |Marcian||View Options:  |  |  | 

Marcian, 24 August 450 - 31 January 457 A.D.

Marcian was selected by Pulcheria to be the successor of her brother, Theodosius II. Marcian is described favorably by Eastern Roman and Byzantine sources, often compared to Emperors Constantine I and Theodosius I. His reign was seen by many later Byzantine writers, such as Theophanes the Confessor, as a golden age: Marcian secured the Eastern Empire both politically and financially, set an orthodox religious line that future emperors would follow, and stabilized the capital city politically. Some later scholars attribute his success not just to his skill, but also to a large degree of luck: not only had he been fortunate enough to have Pulcheria to legitimize his rule, for much of his rule the two greatest external threats to Rome, Persia and the Huns, were absorbed with their own internal problems; additionally, no natural disasters or plagues occurred during his reign. He was remembered fondly by the people of Constantinople, who would shout "Reign like Marcian!" at the installation of future emperors.


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Marcian indirectly saved Rome from Attila the Hun. In 452, Attila captured and ransacked Aquileia, Milan, and other cities in Northern Italy. It seemed Attila would soon attack Rome itself, whose walls were weaker than some cities Attila had already captured. Meanwhile, however, Marcian's Eastern Roman forces had taken the offensive across the Danube, attacking the breadbasket of the Hunnic Empire. The loss of food supply from Attila's own land, and a famine and plague in Italy, depleted Attila's forces, allowing the Western Roman Empire to bribe him into returning to his homeland. Back home, Attila threatened to invade the Eastern Empire and enslave the entirety of it. Marcian and Aspar ignored his threats. The Eastern Empire had already paid Attila about six tons of gold, yet he still threatened them. They reasoned that gold would be better spent building up armies. Attila's attack never came, as he died unexpectedly in 453, either from hemorrhaging or alcoholic suffocation, after celebrating a marriage to one of his many wives. Attila's tribal confederation empire fell apart within a year after his death. Marcian settled numerous tribes, formerly under Attila, within Eastern Roman lands as foederati (subject tribes which gave military service in exchange for various benefits). Map 450 A.D.
RL89178. Bronze nummus, RIC X Marcian 548 (S), LRBC II 2463, SRCV V 21396, DOCLR 507, aVF, dark green patina, typical tight flan, weight 1.363 g, maximum diameter 9.6 mm, die axis 180o, Nicomedia (Izmit, Turkey) mint, obverse D N MARCIANVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse Marcian monogram (RIC monogram 5) in wreath, NIC in exergue (off flan); scarce; $90.00 (79.20)


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The Column of Marcian was dedicated to Marcian, built by the praefectus urbi Tatianus, sometime between 450 and 452. It still stands in modern Istanbul, though the statue of Marcian which originally topped it has been lost. Marcian also had a statue in the Forum of Arcadius, which contained the statues of several of Arcadius' successors.Column of Marcian
RL87908. Bronze half centenionalis, RIC X Marcian 553 (R), LRBC II 2464, SRCV V 21396, Hunter V 12 var. (monogram variation), VF, well centered on a tight flan, green patina, earthen encrustation, small edge crack, weight 0.978 g, maximum diameter 11.1 mm, die axis 0o, Nicomedia (Izmit, Turkey) mint, c 450 - 457 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIANVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse Marcian monogram (RIC monogram 4) in undivided wreath, no cross above, NIC in exergue; ex Beast Coins; rare; $85.00 (74.80)


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Marcian indirectly saved Rome from Attila the Hun. In 452, Attila captured and ransacked Aquileia, Milan, and other cities in Northern Italy. It seemed Attila would soon attack Rome itself, whose walls were weaker than some cities Attila had already captured. Meanwhile, however, Marcian's Eastern Roman forces had taken the offensive across the Danube, attacking the breadbasket of the Hunnic Empire. The loss of food supply from Attila's own land, and a famine and plague in Italy, depleted Attila's forces, allowing the Western Roman Empire to bribe him into returning to his homeland. Back home, Attila threatened to invade the Eastern Empire and enslave the entirety of it. Marcian and Aspar ignored his threats. The Eastern Empire had already paid Attila about six tons of gold, yet he still threatened them. They reasoned that gold would be better spent building up armies. Attila's attack never came, as he died unexpectedly in 453, either from hemorrhaging or alcoholic suffocation, after celebrating a marriage to one of his many wives. Attila's tribal confederation empire fell apart within a year after his death. Marcian settled numerous tribes, formerly under Attila, within Eastern Roman lands as foederati (subject tribes which gave military service in exchange for various benefits). Map 450 A.D.
SH37574. Gold solidus, DOCLR 481 (also 7th officina), Ratto 217, RIC X Marcian 510, Hahn MIB 5, SRCV V 21379, EF, weight 4.485 g, maximum diameter 20.9 mm, die axis 180o, 7th officina, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) mint, c. 450 A.D.; obverse D N MARCIA-NVS P F AVG, diademed, helmeted and cuirassed bust facing, holding spear and shield decorated with horseman spearing a fallen enemy; reverse VICTORIA AVGGG Z (victory of the three emperors, 7th officina), Victory standing left holding a long jeweled cross, star in right field, CONOB in exergue; scarce; SOLD







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REFERENCES|

Carson, R., P. Hill & J. Kent. Late Roman Bronze Coinage. (London, 1960).
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Depeyrot, G. Les monnaies d'or de Constantin II Zenon (337-491). Moneta 5. (Wetteren, 1996).
Grierson, P. & M. Mays. Catalogue of Late Roman Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection. (Washington D.C., 1992).
Hahn, W. Moneta Imperii Romani-Byzantinii. (Vienna, 1989).
Kent, J. The Roman Imperial Coinage, Vol. X, The Divided Empire and the Fall of the Western Parts, AD 395 - 491. (London, 1994).
King, C. & D. Sear. Roman Silver Coins, Vol. V, Carausius to Romulus Augustus. (London, 1987).
Ranieri, E. La monetazione di Ravenna antica dal V all' VIII secolo: impero romano e bizantino, regno ostrogoto e langobardo. (Bologna, 2006).
Robinson, A. Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, University of Glasgow, Vol. V. Diocletian (Reform) to Zeno. (Oxford, 1982).
Sear, D. Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. V: The Christian Empire...Constantine II to Zeno, AD 337 - 491. (London, 2014).
Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).

Catalog current as of Friday, November 22, 2019.
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Roman Coins of Marcian