4th Century Rome ( 97th Caesar): Crispus Billon Nummus, c.316-326AD, NGC CHMS

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Crispus as Caesar (AD 317-326). Marvelous remaining silvering throughout. Exceptional quality. So far, as per the 4th quarter of 2017, this is the finest graded example by NGC out of 260 Billon Nummus examples certified.

The eldest son of Constantine I, Flavius Julius Crispus was born circa AD 295-305 while Constantine was a junior officer in the court of the Emperor Diocletian. Apparently, Crispus was the only child born of Constantine’s liaison with Minervina, probably his common-law wife. After his father became Caesar, Crispus could only watch as his mother was set aside (or perhaps she had died earlier) so Constantine could marry Fausta, daughter of Diocletian’s co-ruler Maximian. In late AD 316, Constantine raised Crispus to the rank of Caesar and began grooming him for the succession. Crispus spent the next few years at Trier on the German frontier, honing his skills as a soldier and administrator. In the early 320s he oversaw campaigns against the Franks and Alemanni and further distinguished himself as his father’s naval commander against Licinius in 324, when he won a spectacular victory against the larger Licinian fleet in the vicinity of Byzantium. Crispus was heaped with honors and seemed fully secure as Constantine’s primary heir. In  AD 326, he traveled to Italy to celebrate his father’s 20th anniversary of rule (vicennalia). There, he apparently ran afoul of a plot hatched by his stepmother Fausta, who wanted to advance her own three sons in the succession arrangements. In the summer of AD 326, Crispus was abruptly arrested in the town of Pola, charged with some unspecified treasonous offense, and beheaded. Soon thereafter, Constantine learned ordered Fausta’s execution by being smothered in her steam bath. He supposedly later ordered golden statue of Crispus be erected and dedicated “to the son I unjustly condemned,”  The events of AD 326 so embittered Constantine that he never returned to Italy, and they may have played a role in his decision to move the imperial capital to Byzantium, soon renamed Constantinople.