Roman Coins with the Campgate Motives

DIOCLETIAN arras hoard

It is quite easy to write about this topic today and we can only wonder how those remarkable books were made by numismatists who had a poor source of information, relying only on personal collections, accesses to some of the museums, and to collections and works of their predecessors. In this way they have succeeded in collecting almost everything about some specific topic, with the plenty of information we still find useful today. Nowadays we have access to almost everything that is revealed in numismatics and it is relatively easy to get the lots of information in addition with quality photographs of museum collections, auction houses and private collections and if you want you can be referred into almost irresolvable questions before.

The topic that we will talk about here might be uninteresting at first glance and for laity completely boring. It might be unclear why would anyone deal with it in a first place. But, let’s just say that it is just one from many pebbles of a giant Roman mosaic made of coins created by Roman republic and empire.

20aSmall coin dimensions are the first obstacles for understanding of numismatics, so you have to try really hard to perceive every coin well. When this topic is about, the fact that you collect “the same” coins can be totally unreasonable to some laic. For people who are not well informed it can be difficult to understand that the number of different coins only in this theme reaches several thousand if we omit those with errors or imitations originated from nations and tribes at the edge of the Roman Empire, made in order to achieve more successful trade with Romans. Also, we shouldn’t forget the forgeries made today and copies casted or minted in a good or bad intension.

Answer to the question how did I choose to engage in collecting this type of Roman coins, lies in my vocation, in relatively easy access to the needed material, and in the influence of my father who was a philatelist.

From only one coin you can learn a lot about one specific event in history, and how deep you will go in the story depends only on you. A great number of objects can’t be identified on Roman coins, but still there are objects that can be identified in a circle not larger than 15-30 mm and they could tell you many interesting stories.


If you look at the Constantine’s commemorative coin with the display of bridge on the road Rome-Rimini, Via Flaminia, and with the image of Constantine holding cornucopia on his shoulder, you can see the bridge next to which the battle took place in year 312 AD. In this battle Constantine had defeated Maxentius and restored complete control over Western Roman Empire. At the battle time, the bridge was made of wood a few miles from the city, and today it is reconstructed in stone and preserved for us in the 21st century as one of many on the river Tiber. It is also eternized in pictures and legends.

As a large force, Rome didn’t have the need to built fortifications and permanent military camps, but when Hadrian had stopped expanding the Empire, borders or limes were established. Over time, limes had become the lines of defense against the barbarians. The Empire becomes defensive and instead of building temporary camps and forts inhabited by legions, permanent forces 390Limitanei, or mobile forces Comitatenses were often led by the Emperor himself to a places where barbaric people should be pacified and conquered. At the beginning border has occasional properly set towers for observation and defense that later outgrow into defense towns. Limes have been preserved in Germany, also in Great Britain as Hadrian’s Wall, and even in our country we know where the line was set, because it is confirmed by the high quality of the roads made for fast military transfer.

Thus, the campgates had become favorite theme on coins in the 4th and the first half of the 5th century AD. The first coins with campgates depicted on them were made by Licinius in the Heraclea mint. Even though, we mustn’t forget that military camps were depicted on coins before, but totally outlined.

The only campgate preserved from that period is Porto Negre from Trier, Germany. Trier was one of the official capitals along with the Mediolanum, Sirmium and Nikomedia.


Not many rulers had their coins minted with the campgate motives. The typical appearance of these coins was applied by the tetrarchs Diocletian, Maximianus, Galerius and Constantius I Chlorus. Those were the coins with 6-8 turrets, at first with the poor perspective view, but then with the two-dimensional perspective that became characteristic for almost entire 4th century. Mostly it was argenteus or half-argenteus type of coins, and there were also rare cases of follis type of coins with the door that has portcullis.

We can start from Licinius, who had minted only bronze centenionalis AE3 coins of 3-3,5 g and 17-21 mm, and later of 2,5-3 g and 18-21 mm. In the second half of the 4th century numus AE4 coins were minted in dimensions of less than 17 mm and 1,3-1,7 g, and finally in the last period there were coins of 9,5-12 mm and 0,7-1 g.
The most of the coins were minted during the reign of Licinius I and II, Crispus, Constantine I and his sons, Magnus Maximus and Flavius Victor, as during the Arcadius, Theodosius II and Valentinian II and III. Less common are coins of Valens, Gratian etc.

Coins with the different number of officinae, places where these coins were minted, are:

City Present name Country Marks No. Officina
Alexandria Egypt SMAL 2
Antioch Antakya Tyrkey ANT,SMAN,SMANT 10
Aquileia Italy AQ, SMAQ 3
Arelatum, Constantina Arles France A,AR,ARL,CON,CONST, 4
Constantinople Istanbul Tyrkey CONS 7
Cyzicus Kapu Dagh Tyrkey MK,SMK 6
Heraclea Eregli Tyrkey HT,MHT,SMH 5
Londonium London England LON 1
Lugdunum Lyon France LG,LVG 1
Nicomedia Izmet Tyrkey MN,N,SMN 6
Rome Italy R,RB,RF 7
Sirmium Sremska Mitrovica Serbia SIRM 2
Siscia Sisak Croatia SIS 5
Thesalonica Solun Greece SMTS,TES 5
Ticinum Pavia Italy T 4
Treveri Trier Germany TR,TRE 2
























Coin look – obverse – typical look of obverse shows bust of a ruler with his name and title, for example CONSTANTINVS AVG, on the obverse rim always from left to right, continuously or with a gap. There is a variety of characteristics that can help us find the differences between obverses: laurel wreath, rosette or diadem, nude bust or with a cuirass (body armor) and paludamentum (large cloak worn by Roman generals), drape, longer or shorter tassels. Head can be facing to the left or right, and the glance is rarely facing upwards. The ruler is hardly ever bareheaded, or holding in his hand the goddess Victory. In military version, ruler wears helmet, shield, cuirass and lance. He can also hold a map or a globus – celestial orb in his hand. There is a whole range of “small” details that can give a specific look to a coin.


Coin look – reverse – usually depictures very simplified frontal, two-dimensional campgate with two or more turrets, several rows of stone blocks or bricks, with an entrance usually without the door, but sometimes with the door closed or opened. The doors can be paneled and with pellets. Rarely, upper third of the entrance can be depicted with the grid or portcullis. Campgate can also be showed on pedestal depicted as one extended line or more complex as stairs. Top and bottom block rows sometimes have arches and dots, and lines can be grained or angled etc. Under the campgate is the mintmark which may contain information of the specific officina, and in the left and right field, as in the door frame or above the door are the symbols of officina usually in the form of dot, Roman or Greek letter, wreath or palm, which gives us vast of varieties of these coins. The inscription is here on the rim, as well as on the obverse, circular from left to right and mostly it is PROVIDENTIAE AVGG or CAESS, or VIRTVS AVGG, SPES REIPVBLICE etc. As it is already mentioned, left and right field beside the campgate are free for different marks, so marks S – F, T – F, or R – P mean saeculi felicitas, or era of happiness and success, time of happiness and success, or people of Rome.

barb 002

We mustn’t overlook the attempts of a three-dimensional perspective campgates, even though centuries had to pass for this to become usual, but Licinius campgate with four turrets and axonometric projection is noteworthy.
All the other atypical coins of this kind can be sorted in three groups: imitations or Barbarous radiates, coins with mint errors and forgeries made in recent times. Barbarous radiates are coins made by people on the edge of the Empire. It is often shown that these are the coins with an inscription that cannot be understood, probably because it doesn’t have the meaning. Mostly these coins have pictures of a low quality, but there are also specimens that are quite well done. Coins with mint errors usually have obverse and reverse of a different rulers, picture in a mirror etc. Modern copies intended for trade have the value of the metal they are made of, or as souvenirs with intentionally made errors, but if these are well done forgeries they can even end up in someone’s collection. It is not a rare situation that damaged coins are found and processed and this is the way of making forgeries from the original sample. You have to be cautious and in addition to this there is a lot of special literature on this topic.


There are different variations of past centuries influence on the look of the coins that you might find nowadays. There are different sorts of patinas on coins: green, reddish, from the desert, there are coins corroded from the ground or dampness they were in. Of course, the best specimens are found in the pantries or treasures and they are the most similar to the original look. Surely, nice patina depictures the whole history of the coin and it is obvious that more than sixteen centuries have passed from minting.
It is estimated approximately that there are around 1400 different cataloged pieces, and there are at least 3-4 times more variations, so those who are ready to engage in collecting it should start as soon as possible. Of course, from this large number only a hundred coins are really important and only a dozen are so important that if you have them, you can say you have an extraordinary museum collection.
pc – personal catalog
cgc – campgate catalog
argc – argenteus catalog
hac – half argenteus catalog
rcc – roman camp catalog