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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; $100.00 SALE |PRICE| $90.00


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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; $95.00 SALE |PRICE| $85.50


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At the beginning of Marcian's reign, the Eastern Roman treasury was almost bankrupt, due to the huge tributes paid to Attila by Theodosius. Marcian reversed this near bankruptcy not by levying new taxes, but rather by cutting expenditures. Upon his accession, he declared a remission of all debts owed to the state. Marcian attempted to improve the efficiency of the state in multiple ways, such as mandating that the praetorship must be given to senators residing in Constantinople, attempted to curb the practice of selling administrative offices, and decreed that consuls would be responsible for the maintenance of Constantinople's aqueducts. He repealed the Follis, a tax on senators' property which amounted to seven pounds of gold per year. Marcian removed the financial responsibilities of the consuls and praetors, who had since the time of the Roman Republic been responsible for funding the public sports games or giving wealth to the citizens of Constantinople, respectively; additionally, he made it such that only the Vir illustris could hold either office. By the time of his death, Marcian's shrewd cutting of expenditures and avoidance of large-scale wars left the Eastern Roman treasury with a surplus of 100,000 pounds (45,000 kg) of gold.
RL87909. Bronze half centenionalis, RIC X Marcian 561 (R), LRBC II 2609, SRCV V 21398, Hahn MIB 33, DOCLR -, Hunter V -, VF, tight flan, obverse off center, edge crack, small pit on obverse, weight 1.354 g, maximum diameter 10.8 mm, die axis 0o, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 453 - 457 A.D.; obverse D N MARCINIANVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse Marcian's monogram (RIC monogram 1) , in wreath, CVZ in exergue; ex Beast Coins; rare; $95.00 SALE |PRICE| $85.50


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Marcian laid out many legal reforms in his five novels, or codes of law, many of which were targeted at reducing the corruption and abuses of office that existed during the reign of Theodosius. Marcian decreed that anyone who performed pagan rites would lose their property and be condemned to death, and that no pagan temples, which had previously been closed, could be re-opened. He repealed a marriage law enacted by Constantine I, which decreed that a man of senatorial status could not marry a slave, freedwoman, actress, or woman of no social status (humilis), in an attempt to preserve the purity of the senatorial class. Marcian adjusted this law by declaring that the law should not exclude a woman of good character, regardless of her social status or wealth. He banned the export of weapons, and tools used to manufacture them, to barbarian tribes. In order to ensure his laws were implemented, he set a penalty of 50 pounds (23 kg) of gold for any judge, governor, or official who did not enforce the law.
RL87911. Bronze half centenionalis, RIC X Marcian 561 (R), LRBC II 2609, SRCV V 21398, Hahn MIB 33, DOCLR -, Hunter V -, VF, typical tight flan, earthen deposits, light marks, weight 1.192 g, maximum diameter 11.0 mm, die axis 0o, Cyzicus (Kapu Dagh, Turkey) mint, 453 - 457 A.D.; obverse D N MARCINIANVS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse Marcian's monogram (RIC monogram 1) , in wreath, CVZ in exergue; better in hand than the photos suggest, ex Beast Coins; rare; $95.00 SALE |PRICE| $85.50







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REFERENCES|

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Vagi, D. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. (Sidney, 1999).

Catalog current as of Saturday, August 24, 2019.
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Roman Coins of Marcian