“Brigantium” – Final coin in “Rome on the Danube” silver series

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June 14, 2012 – On June 13, 2012 the Austrian Mint will issue “Brigantium”, the sixth and final silver coin in the historic “Rome on the Danube” series.
The Roman Empire was certainly very powerful and influential in many regions of Europe; today’s Austria was no exception. Much of this was because of the interconnected complex of rivers and lakes found in this area of Europe. One of the most efficient and effective transportation networks for centuries.

Austria / 20 Euro / .900 silver / 20.00 g / 34 mm / Design: Herbert Wähner (obverse), Helmut Andexlinger (reverse) / Mintage: 50,000.

The obverse of the coin, designed by Mint engraver Herbert Waehner depicts a powerful portrait of the Emperor Valentinian I looking over the harbor of Brigantium. Depicted in the foreground is the golden hand of Brigantium holding a lotus flower. In the background are some of the warehouses that were used for storage and shipbuilding as well as repairs to naval ships of the Roman Empire. This side also has along the outer edge the country of issue “Republik Oesterreich,” (Republic of Austria), the name of the emperor “Valentinian I”, as well as the 20 euro face value. The name of the settlement Brigantium and the year of issue 2012, are in the left central area of the design field.

The reverse of the coin depicts a pair of Roman fast moving war ships, or navis lusoria on Lake Constance. One of these ships is being propelled forward by a troop of Roman soldiers, while two centurions look on from a protected arch along the shore. In the background of both sides of the coin can be seen part of the Alps located just south in this region. This side of the coin was designed by mint engraver Helmut Andexlinger.

Brigantium (today known as Bregenz) was built in the twilight years of the Roman Empire on the eastern shore of Lake Constance. The port of Brigantium is a fitting subject with which to conclude the historic “Rome on the Danube” series. The naval prowess of the Romans may not be the first thing one thinks of but the Romans covered all aspects of logistics and transportation to maintain the wealth and strength of their Empire for a long time.

It was not until the second half of the fourth century that the port was constructed by Emperor Valentinian I. Valentinian was born in Croatia in AD 321 and was emperor for just over a decade until his death in AD 375, Valentinian was the last Roman emperor to engage in military campaigns across the Rhine and Danube rivers.

Navis lusoria “Regina” of Regensburg University. Photo: Julian Gröger / Wikipedia.

In order to provide protection to its borders it is believed that he built the harbor at Brigantium and equipped it with navis lusoria, or “dancing ships”, the streamlined troop carrying vessels typical of the late Roman Empire. These ships were small, fast and easy to manoeuver in the waters. The ancient harbor was only discovered and excavated some 40 years ago. The dating of the harbor was found to be back to 370 AD, the time of Valentinian.

The golden hand of Brigantium or Bregenz is the left hand of a female form. It is made of gold plated bronze. Based on this fragment the statue must have been about twice the size of a human being, in other words it is one of the colossus statues that were often located in key Roman cities.

The new silver coin has a face value of 20 euros, is struck in proof quality only and a maximum mintage of 50,000 pieces. The coins are struck in 900 fine silver and contain 18 grams of pure silver. Each coin has a diameter of 34 mm, is encapsulated and comes in box with an individually numbered certificate of authenticity.
A wooden case for the whole collection of six coins, decorated on the top with a facsimile of a Roman sestertius (Germ.: Sesterz) coin with a portrait of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) is available as well.

For more information visit the site of the Austrian Mint.

If you want to see a Roman navis lusoria in action, click here.