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“Carausius – A Usurper’s Coinage on the Edge of Empire”

Sam Moorhead

British Museum

This paper will summarise ten year’s research into the coinage of Carausius, the usurper in Britain (AD 286-93), for the forthcoming publication (in 2021) of a new volume of Roman Imperial Coinage (V, pt 5) for Carausius and Allectus.  The new volume will include about three times as many entries as the former RIC volume (1933), vastly expanding our general knowledge of the coinage. This paper will present a clearer structure for the coinage which does, however, remain extremely complex in the early years of Carausius’s reign. An increase from around 150 to 450 known silver denarii in 40 years means that we have a much better understanding of this significant innovation in late 3rdcentury coinage. It is also clear that, after the early years, Carausius was the first Roman ruler to introduce a systematic series of mintmarks, in many ways heralding the reformed system of the Tetrarchy. By providing frequency of coins known per entry, it is possible to evaluate the relative importance of intended ‘messages’ for those close to Carausius and the general public. His propaganda campaign was exceptional and he was very much in tune with the ‘Golden Age’ movement of the 3rd century, as discussed by Graham Barker in a forthcoming publication for Spink.  This paper will also present new evidence for the discussion of Carausius’s mints which has exercised scholars since the 18th century.  One major issue is the concept of fixed and moving mints, the latter probably being more prevalent than numismatists might acknowledge. Finally, Carausius was a usurper who apparently gained temporary recognition from the legitimate emperors on the Continent which resulted in some exceptional coin types, including one which showed Carausius as a brother ofDiocletian and Maximian!

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Usurpers Rivals and Regime Change: The Evidence of Coins

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