In Great Britain, it is an altogether regular occurrence that an enterprising metal detectorist strikes it big by finding some rare artifact.
Last November, a man named Richard Patterson, a member of the Hampshire Detector Club, found an exceptionally rare silver coin that tells an incredible story in the history of Roman Britain.
The Curious Case of Carausius
The coin that Patterson found depicted the “Emperor” Carausius. His claim to fame was defying rule by the Roman Empire as the sole leader (at least briefly) of the British Isles.
Carausius ruled for seven years at the end of the third century C.E., from 286 to 293.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Carausius was born in mainland Europe near modern-day Belgium and had previously been a commander in the Roman navy.
He was tasked with stamping out a group of pirates in the English Channel, which separates Britain from France. His superiors suspected that he had taken some of the stolen booty for himself, so Carausius was condemned to death.
At this point, the charismatic commander decided to initiate a revolt, and succeeded in taking control of the entire island and a portion of Gaul (modern-day France).
Carausius appears to have been willing to seek a peaceful settlement with Rome so long as he was allowed to remain in control of Britain. His skill as a military leader was widely acknowledged.
Unfortunately, his reign was cut short when he was assassinated by his own lieutenant, Allectus. This was followed shortly by a return to Roman occupation.
Coins Are a Great Way to Leave a Legacy
The re-imposition of rule by Rome led to the general erasure of the memory of Carausius from British and European history.
Fortunately for present-day observers, he sought to legitimize his reign by issuing silver coins and gold aureus coins bearing his portrait, like the one shown above.
The discovery of one of these ancient silver coins with a metal detector was reported by the Hampshire Chronicle. It is only the second coin of its kind that has ever been found.
The coin was minted sometime between the years 286 and 293, and was estimated to realize between £7,000 to £9,000 (roughly $9,700 to $12,400). Details from the sale about a week ago have not been released.
The small window of time when it was minted, along with the coin’s extreme age and novelty, make it considerably rare.
This compelling story of Carausius (which was heavily aggrandized and mythologized during medieval times) is yet another one of the reasons that makes coins such great historical artifacts. They can sometimes enlighten us to forgotten histories.
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