Together, the coins reflect the significance of Winchester, or Venta Belgarum, as an important Roman town between the 1st – 4th centuries A.D.
We can find clues about the age of coins and date of issue in their design. The letters, or ‘legend’, and images visible on the obverse and reverse sides of a coin tell us when and from where the coin originated.
In the instance of Roman coins, the obverse generally depicts the person who has issued the coin, who will most often be the emperor or empress.
The reverse, meanwhile, typically depicts an animal, god or other significant figure.
On the obverse side of the first coin shown below, it is possible to make out the profile of Nerva, who was made emperor in 96 A.D., following the assassination of his predecessor, Domitian. Nerva was favoured by the Roman Senate, but ruled for only two years, until his death in 98 A.D.
The reverse side, now very worn, depicts Aequitas, the goddess of fairness. The coin was found in the Cathedral Close, most likely in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.
The second coin dates from the reign of Emperor Constantine I, also known as Constantine the Great, who ruled during the 4th century A.D., from 306 to 337 A.D. Here, the obverse depicts the personified city of Constantinople (meaning “city of Constantine”, now modern Istanbul), wearing a helmet and imperial cloak, and holding a spear. Around the top edge of the bust is the word “Constantinopolis”.
On the reverse, the winged figure of Victory is shown, with either a spear or sceptre in her right hand and a shield in her left, one foot on the prow of a small boat. Coins such as this were very common and struck at mints across the Empire between 330 and 337 A.D.
The coin was found in the crypt of the Cathedral in 1886.