Arras Coins at the ANS

by Sebastian Heath

The village of Beaurains lies just to south of the larger town of Arras in Northern France. On May 2nd, 1922, a group of Belgian laborers, working at the northern edge of the village, discovered a hoard of over four hundred coins, approximately 40 late Roman medallions, and a variety of cameos and jewelry buried in a silver vase that was itself protected by a clay pot. Unfortunately, these valuable objects were left unprotected during the first night after their discovery and many were stolen.

Known either as the Arras Hoard or Trésor de Beaurains, the surviving material from this remarkable hoard, which closed AD 315, quickly attracted the attention of the numismatic world, including some of the ANS’ best-known members and associates. By 1923, Arras hoard coins were appearing in numismatic sales, and scholarly publication followed soon after. Edward Newell, along with his wife Adra, was an active purchaser at this time, and in 1925 donated two Arras hoard coins to the Society. Newell had been ANS President since 1916 and by the 1920s had already established himself as a leading numismatic scholar. In 1926, Agnes Baldwin Brett, who had been ANS Curator from 1910 to 1913, described four medallions from the hoard in the Society’s series Numismatic Notes and Monographs. In 1930, Sir Arthur Evans, most famous for the excavations he began in 1900 at the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete, published an article in the Numismatic Chronicle in which he used Arras hoard material as evidence for the date of the introduction of the solidus, the late Roman gold coin struck at 72 to the Roman pound. Evans argued for an early date for the solidus, and his article prompted a response from Baldwin-Brett, which appeared in 1933 and included a more complete catalog of the late Roman gold coinage from the hoard. She refuted Evans’ arguments and helped confirm a Constantinian date for the solidus.

The impressive medallions from the hoard have also attracted much study, including their appearance in Jocelyn Toynbee’s Roman Medallions, published in 1944 by the ANS as the fifth volume in our series Numismatic Studies. Despite this sustained scholarly interest, it was not until 1977 that a complete and fully-illustrated catalog of the known coins from the Arras Hoard was published by Pierre Bastien. In the same volume, Catherine Metzger described the surviving jewelry, cameos, and other objects. While this selection of scholarship on the Arras hoard is hardly a complete overview, the fact that the five numismatic scholars mentioned above are all Huntington Medal honorees — Newell in 1918, Baldwin Brett in 1919, Evans in 1940, Toynbee in 1956, and Bastien in 1975 — is a further indication of the central role that the hoard has played in Roman numismatics since its discovery in 1922.

Even now, however, new material continues to come to light. For example, the Leu Numismatik Auction 91 catalog offered coins said to be from the hoard but not listed in Bastien’s catalog. It is also worth noting the superb color illustrations of Arras hoard material that appeared in the Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 24 catalog.

For its part, the ANS has held 58 Arras hoard coins in its collections — two of which were de-accessioned as duplicates — and only the municipal museum at Arras keeps a larger group. The ANS pieces are all listed by Bastien-Metzger number in table 1. The first of these, B23.8, is an aureus of Postumus, now enclosed in an openwork octagon that transformed the coin into a pendant in a splendid 3rd century necklace (fig. 1). Two 10-aurei medallions of 294 are also remarkable (figs. 2 and 3). These celebrate the institution of the Tetrarchy by the Emperor Diocletian in 293. Diocletian came to power in 284 and was instrumental in putting an end to decades of political and military turmoil in the Roman Empire. He was also a great reformer, who believed that the empire was too large to be governed by a single ruler. Accordingly, by 293, he had divided the territory of the empire into two administrative halves, and appointed the emperor Maximian to rule with the title of Augustus in the west, while he ruled as Augustus in the east. Junior emperors, or Caesars, were also appointed, and figure 2 shows portraits of the four office holders bound together on one medallion. On each side, the Augustus is on the left and is just slightly elevated in comparison to his subordinate Caesar. Figure 2 shows the Caesars Constantius and Galerius in confronted busts on the obverse and sacrificing on the reverse. Together, these two medallions promote the ideals of shared authority and partnership that lay at the heart of the tetrarchic system.


Figure 1: Aureus of Postumus in octagonal setting (AD 266). Postumus and Hercules jugate/Hercules wrestling lion (no. B23.8) (ANS 1967.153.199, A. M. Newell Bequest).

Figure 2: 10-aurei medallion (AD 294). Diocletian and Galerius Caesar/Maximian and Constantius Caesar (no. 197). (ANS 1967.153.38, A. M. Newell Bequest).

Figure 3: 10-aurei medallion (AD 294). Constantius Caesar and Galerius Caesar/Caesars sacrificing (no. 160). (ANS 1944.100.63131, E. T. Newell Bequest).

Other ANS coins also reveal distinctive features of the hoard. The aurei shown in figures 4 and 5 were struck in Rome for Diocletian and his Caesar Galerius between 294 and 299. The coins share the same reverse die, depicting a camp gate, and this pair is just one example of the many die-links within the hoard. These links, and the presence of a large number of medallions, are strong evidence that the hoard belonged to a high ranking military officer and represents his savings from the largess distributed by the emperors after military victories, or on the major anniversaries of the their rule. Like the hoard itself, most of the ANS pieces were struck in Trier so that the officer may well have served in northern campaigns.


Figure 4: Aureus of Diocletian (AD 294). Head r./Camp gate (no. 176). (ANS 1944.100.2802, E.T. Newell bequest).

Figure 5: Aureus of Galerius (AD 294). Head r./Camp gate (no 182). (ANS 1944.100.2803, E.T. Newell bequest).

Most of the Society’s Arras hoard coins are from the Newell collection, a further sign of Newell’s exceptional generosity towards the Society. Though best known as a scholar and donor of Greek coins, Newell’s gifts to the ANS touched most areas of the collection, and he is responsible for many of the great treasures in the Roman department. His 1925 donation of two Arras hoard coins, numbers 89 and 172 in table 1, has already been mentioned. Following his death in 1941, the ANS took formal possession of most of his collection in 1944. This material included 46 coins uncovered at Beaurains. By the terms of Newell’s will, however, Adra Newell kept 1000 pieces for her own enjoyment. At the division of her husband’s collection, Mrs. Newell selected seven Arras hoard coins: the pendant aureus of Postumus (B23.8), the medallion of the four tetrarchs (no. 197), an aureus of Maxentius Caesar struck in Carthage (no. 4), an aureus of the usurper Carausius (no. 194), an aureus each for Constantius and Galerius as Caesar (nos. 233 and 261), and the only coin of Licinius in the hoard (fig. 6, 464). These are all exceptional pieces and show that Mrs. Newell shared her husband’s deep interest in numismatics. In 1967, following Mrs. Newell’s death, these coins also came to the Society and were accessioned in that year. Of the three other ANS members who gave Arras Hoard coins, Mrs. H. Chalifoux, an anonymous donor of much Greek and Roman gold, and Mr. H. Miller, who bequeathed his collection in 1957, stand out as particularly generous supporters of the Society.


Figure 6: Aureus of Licinius (AD 312-313). Head r./Jupiter seated l. (ANS 1967.153.41, A.M. Newell bequest).

Sources Used

Baldwin, A. Four Medallions from the Arras Hoard. Numismatic Notes and Monographs 28 (1926).

Baldwin Brett, A. “The Aurei and Solidi of the Arras Hoard,” Numismatic Chronicle 5th Series (1933), pp. 268-234.

Bastien, P. and C. Metzger. Le Trésor de Beaurains (dit d’Arras). Numismatique Romaine 10 (1977).

Depeyrot, G. Les monnaies d’or de Diocletien à Constantin I (284-337). Moneta 1 (1995).

Evans, A. “Some Notes on the Arras Hoard,” Numismatic Chronicle 5th Series (1930), pp. 221-274.

Toynbee, J. Roman Medallions. Numismatic Studies 5 (1944).

No. ANS Acc. No. Mint Emperor Denomination Reference
B23.8 1967.153.199 Cologne Postumus Aureus Cf. RIC 274
4 1967.153.27 Carthage Maxentius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 48a
29 1944.100.3647 Thessalonica Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 3
33 1944.100.5285 Siscia Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 17a
35 1944.100.5538 Aquileia Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 7a
40 1944.100.5536 Aquileia Maximien Aureus RIC 6, 2b
42 1944.100.5539 Aquileia Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 10
89 1925.28.2 Rome Faustina Sr. Aureus RIC 3, 378
138 1944.100.38199 Rome Maximian Aureus RIC 5, 492
155 1944.100.38222 Rome Maximian Aureus Depeyrot 7/2
156 1944.100.38223 Rome Maximian Aureus Depeyrot 5/8
160 1944.100.63131 Rome Constantius Caesar and Galerius Caesar Medallion of 10 aurei Toynbee Pl. 9.4
163 1944.100.38225 Rome Maximian Aureus Cf. Depeyrot 9/5-7.
170 1944.100.38309 Rome Constantius Caesar Aureus Depeyrot 9/12
171 1944.100.38308 Rome Galerius Caesar Aureus Depeyrot 9/11
172 1925.28.1 Rome Maximian Aureus RIC 6, 5b
175 1944.100.2801 Rome Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 7a
176 1944.100.2802 Rome Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 7a
182 1944.100.2803 Rome Galerius Casesar Aureus RIC 6, 8b
183 1944.100.2982 Rome Galerius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 113
193 1944.100.38226 London Maximian Aureus Depeyrot 3/5
194 1967.153.91 London Carausius Aureus Depeyrot 3/6
197 1967.153.38 Trier Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, and Galerius Medallion of 10 aurei Toynbee Pl. 8.2
200 1944.100.5851 Trier Maximian Aureus RIC 6, 14
201 1944.100.5852 Trier Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 16
204 1952.42.1 Trier Maximian Aureus RIC 6, 9
229 1944.100.5865 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 88
230 1944.100.5866 Trier Galerius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 89
233 1967.153.39 Trier Galerius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 38
239 1944.100.5861 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 67
240 1944.100.5864 Trier Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 77
251 1944.100.5857 Trier Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 54
261 1967.153.40 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 61
265 1944.100.5858 Trier Galerius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 62
268 1944.100.5859 Trier Galerius Casesar Aureus RIC 6, 63
272 1944.100.5860 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 64
287 1944.100.5863 Trier Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 75
307 1944.100.5867 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 95
315 1944.100.5855 Trier Diocletian Aureus RIC 6, 52
317 1944.100.5856 Trier Galerius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 53
336 1944.100.5853 Trier Maximian Aureus RIC 6, 43
355 1944.100.5854 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 45
367 1957.172.329 Trier Constantius Casesar Aureus RIC 6, 45
386 1944.100.5862 Trier Constantius Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 74a
392 1955.191.6 Trier Galerius Casesar Aureus RIC 6, 78b
404 1944.100.5963 Trier Consantius Aureus RIC 6, 634a
412 1944.100.5958 Trier Constantius Aureus RIC 6, 628a
414 1944.100.5959 Trier Severus Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 628b
415 1944.100.5955 Trier Constantius Aureus RIC 6, 620a
423 1944.100.5957 Trier Galerius Aureus RIC 6, 625a
428 1944.100.5960 Trier Severus Caesar Aureus RIC 6, 630a
433 1944.100.5961 Trier Maximinus Casesar Aureus RIC 6, 631
442 1944.100.5994 Trier Constantine Argenteus RIC 6, 758
449 1944.100.6006 Trier Constantine Solidus RIC 6, 814
458 1944.100.6012 Trier Constantine Argenteus RIC 6, 828
464 1967.153.41 Trier Licinius Solidus RIC 6, 813
467 1944.100.6007 Trier Constantine Solidus RIC 6, 815
470 1944.100.6008 Trier Constantine Solidus RIC 6, 820