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Roman gold found in the Netherlands
By Richard Giedroyc
July 14, 2017

A likely deliberately hidden hoard of 41 ancient Roman gold coins was recently discovered in what today is an orchard in the Netherlands.


Vrije University (Amsterdam) archaeologist Nico Roymans has suggested the coins may have been buried in the second half of the fifth century C.E. by a Frankish military leader who had been paid by the Romans for help dealing with local Germanic tribes. The region now known as the Netherlands was at that time part of the Frankish Kingdom on the north end of Gaul.


Although the denominations were not identified publicly at the time this article was being written, it is known that several of the coins depict Roman Emperor Majorian on the obverse. Since these are the “newest” coins in the find, it appears the coins were likely deposited during or immediately following Majorian’s reign.


“On that basis we think this treasure was buried in around 460 C.E., said Roymans.


He indicated that 19th century maps show a burial mound at Lienden near Veenendaal where the coins were recently discovered.


“The burial mound would have been easy to find in the late Roman era and maybe that was the reason for hiding the treasure there,” Roymans said.


The coins are currently on display at Valkhof Museum in Nijmegen, which has acquired them on a long-term loan. (Image shown here courtesy www.museumhetvalkhof.nl)


Roymans has speculated that the coins likely were meant as pay to a Frankish warlord by the Romans in exchange for assistance against local Germanic tribes, these tribes perhaps being Visigoths.


Stephan Mols is a senior lecturer in archaeology at Radboud University in Nijmegen. He noted, “This find is unusual because it dates from so late in the period,” adding that there is increasing evidence that the Romans recruited soldiers locally.


Flavius Julius Valerius Majorianus, remembered to history as Majorian, ruled the Western Roman Empire between 457 and 461 C.E. Majorian became emperor by deposing the Emperor Avitus. Majorian would become the final emperor to attempt to restore the then-fragmenting Western Roman Empire. The Western Empire would officially end in 476 C.E. The Eastern Roman Empire, remembered today as the Byzantine Empire, would continue until 1453, just 39 years before Columbus embarked on his travels where he discovered the New World.


Majorian controlled Italy, Dalmatia and territory in northern Gaul. In late 458 Majorian entered Gaul at the head of an army that included barbarian units.


The coinage of Majorian was struck at Arles on the Rhone River in southern France (then Gaul), as well as in Italy at Milan and Ravenna. It is likely that gold coins of this ruler encountered in the Netherlands would have been struck at Arles.


Majorian’s gold coins were issued as tremissis or a third of a solidus, and as solidus. Silver half siliqua and bronze composition centenionalis were also struck. While the bronze coinage was issued at Milan and Ravenna, the half siliqua have been attributed to an “uncertain Gallic mint” by David R. Sear in Roman Coins and their Values V.


Some researchers believe the half siliqua may have been issued in Majorian’s name under the authority of Aegidius, who was Majorian’s magister militum in Gaul.


Almost all solidii coins of Majorian depict the emperor facing right on the obverse in either military attire or consular robes. The common reverse of almost all Majorian’s solidii depict the emperor standing facing in military clothing, holding a cross, with Victory standing on a globe offering the emperor a wreath. The emperor’s right foot rests on the head of a human-headed serpent. The issues attributed to the mint at Arles were produced between 458 and 461 C.E. Majorian was executed in 461 by his former colleague Flavius Ricimer.


A rare solidus issued at Ravenna in 458 C.E. depicts the standing figures of both emperors Majorian and Leo I nimbate.



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