The Roman Empire
Galeria Valeria

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Coin Details

Origin/Country: ANCIENT - ROMAN EMPIRE (1st CENT BC - 5th CENT AD) ROMAN EMPIRE Gal.Valeria,AD 293(?)-311
Design Description: Galeria Valeria Follis
Item Description: BI Nummus ROMAN EMPIRE rv Venus hldg. apple Cyzicus
Full Grade: NGC AU Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Roman Empire
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

Written in 4th century AD by the imperial advisor Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum provides a spirited account of Christians’ maltreatment at the hands of Rome’s Emperors. Necessarily biased, the work nonetheless provides insights into ancient Rome’s history. For example, it is probably the most widely-cited source of information regarding Galeria Valeria (?-315 AD), that is, aside from historical information gleaned from her surviving coinage.

Lactantius’ first mention of Valeria describes how she and her mother, Prisca, were forced by her father, Emperor Diocletian, “to be polluted by sacrificing.” For many Romans, the ritualistic killing of an animal was a non-disturbing religious rite. Presumably, Valeria’s viewpoint was different; by inference, she at least sympathized with Rome’s Christians. Sometime around 293 AD, Valeria was wedded to Galerius, whom Diocletian entrusted with the title of co-Emperor over the eastern Empire. Diocletian’s vision was establishment of a tetrarchy to stabilize and share control over the vast Roman Empire. As such, Valeria’s arranged union with Galerius intended to cement that new imperial structure. As vividly recounted by Lactantius, Galerius widely persecuted Christians. Exaggeration of malicious machinations aside, Valeria’s marriage to Galerius was probably an unhappy one.

Valeria’s bestowment of the Augusta title is confirmed from her coinage, produced mainly after the 308 AD Carnumtum Conference. That fateful meeting was held at Diocletian’s behest, an attempt to ameliorate the rising conflict within his tetrarchy. Consistent with the theme of promoting imperial harmony, coins were struck at several eastern mints in Valeria’s name; these issues served as a reminder of Galerius’ bond to his father-in-law Diocletian. This particular follis was produced at the Asia Minor mint of Cyzicus. Typical of Valeria’s bronzes, the obverse bust on this coin suggests determination and strength, the Empress’ profile reminiscent of the masculine features consistently portrayed on tetrarchal coinage. The verso features Venus, and the multi-faceted goddess holds an apple while raising a drapery over her shoulder. As confirmed by the accompanying inscription VENERI VICTRICI, this particular divine guise was referred to as Venus Victrix.

Coins similar to this one were produced up until about the time of the Galerius’ death in 311 AD. Subsequently, Valeria entered into the court of her late husband’s successor, Maximinus Daia. She probably deemed it her safest haven considering the ongoing tetrarchal turmoil. However, Valeria found herself the unwanted object of Daia’s desires. At least that was the situation according to Lactantius, who relates how the newly ascended Augustus “became instantly inflamed with a passion for her.” Again according to Lactantius, Valeria gave Daia three good grounds for refusal: (1) she still mourned (as did Daia, since Galerius was his adoptive father), (2) Daia already had a faithful wife (and Valeria objected to divorce), and (3) “it was indecent, unexampled, and unlawful for a woman of her title and dignity to engage a second time in wedlock.

Not surprisingly, Daia took the response badly, stripping Valeria of her power and wealth, and eliminating her supporters. Valeria entreated her father for succor, but the now retired Diocletian lacked the authority to sway the enraged Daia. Subsequently, Valeria lived out her remaining years essentially as a fugitive, until she was finally apprehended and slain in 315 AD. Details of Valeria’s final fate are provided, yet again, by Lactantius.

Valeria, too, who for fifteen months had wandered under a mean garb from province to province, was at length discovered in Thessalonica, was apprehended, together with her mother Prisca, and suffered capital punishment. Both the ladies were conducted to execution; a fall from grandeur which moved the pity of the multitude of beholders that the strange sight had gathered together. They were beheaded, and their bodies cast into the sea. Thus the chaste demeanor of Valeria, and the high rank of her and her mother, proved fatal to both of them.

Coin Details: ROMAN EMPIRE, Galeria Valeria (Augusta, 293-311), Follis (6.08 g, 26 mm), Cyzicus, NGC Grade: AU, Strike: 4/5, Surface: 3/5, Obverse: Draped bust right, GAL VALERIA AVG, Reverse: Venus standing left, holding apple and adjusting drapery; Δ to left, star to right, VENERI VICTRICI / MKV, Reference: RIC 46.

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