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Knowing the Roman imperial mints: VIII- Lugdunum.

The ancient city of Lugdunum corresponds to the present Lyon, the great city of the French southeast. Founded in 43 BC by the Julius Caesar´s legate, Lucius Munatius Plancus, will reach great importance, prosperity and wealth during the high-imperial period as described in contemporary texts, to the point of rising to the status of first city --capital-- of Gaul. This splendor would begin to weaken at the end of 2nd century AD when Lugdunum aligns itself in the faction of Clodius Albinus, being severely punished by its rival, Septimius Severus, after defeating to Albinus in the battle of Lugdunum (AD 197), happened precisely in the environs of the city. Nonetheless, in spite of this punishment, Lugdunum would still be for a century more the most important city of Gaul and its principal administrative center. During the Late Empire it will become less important than Treveri, where the capital of the prefecture was relocated, although still retaining a great social and economic dynamism, which is why Diocletian decides to endow it with an imperial mint (AD 297) in which to issue the new coinage that had to circulate in place of the old one.

Photo 1.- The great Roman theater of Lugdunum. It was built in the second century AD: the most splendid time of the city.


Lugdunum's coinage usually presents a very careful style as well as original (there are several designs of bust own of this mint that are not found in the others) that make it quite appreciated by collectors. At first the imperial mint only struck follis (with silver alloy and without it), later, in 340, also embarks on the coinage of gold and silver, especially the latter one and not precisely in small quantities: reason why the silver siliquas, especially the types with laurea on the reverse, are not rare nowadays. The following coins (photos 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6) will serve to briefly illustrate the coinage issued by this mint during the period AD 313-363.

Photos 2 and 3.- Here we can contemplate two superb specimens of tetrarchian follis minted in the first office of Lugdunum on behalf of Galerius Maximianus and Diocleciano respectively. Both have a silver percentage of about 4%, conserving the first one (photo 2) the most of the original silvering. Coins dated in the triennium AD 303-305.

Photo 4.- Reduced Follis coined in the first office of Lugdunum in the name of Constantine I. Issuance of the biennium 314-315 with silver percentage not higher than 2.5%. Its reverse shows to the god Mars represented as Protector (Conservatori) of the Empire.

Photo 5 .- Early Follis (hardly reduced by inflation) coined in the first office of Lugdunum in the name of Constantine I. These early issues of the reign of Constantine I are significantly more scarce than the later ones as well as more beautiful and with better style. Coin dated in the year that goes from the autumn of 307 to the summer of 308.

Photo 6.- Silver siliqua minted in the name of Constantius II during the period 360-363. It presents a winged victory in reverse and the legend VICTORIA DD NN AVG, in which the military success of the emperor Constantius is praised.


The mint of Lugdunum will continue its coinage during much of the Late Roman Empire, ceasing in 395, under the sovereignty of Honorio, although it return to issue coin in the periods 407-411 and 411-413 in order to supply money to the usurpers Constantine III and Jovinus respectively. From that moment on nothing is known of the gallic mint what evidences the loss of control of the Lugdunense Gaul by the western Empire.


There are few roman remains in the city of Lyon, which is not at all strange given the large size of the present city and the, in direct proportion, very high urban pressure that has had to suffer its site in the last hundred and fifty years. However the curious can visit the not badly preserved roman theater of the city (photo 1), located on the hill of the Fourviere, and also the remains of an odeon in good condition.

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