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A rare Roman solidus coin of the Emperor Constantine I was dug up from a farmer’s field in Somerset and will be offered at Dix Noonan Webb’s ancient coins auction on September 17 in London with an estimate of £10,000-12,000. On the reverse is a rare portrayal of Constantine riding his horse in battle holding a spear and shield with two fallen enemy soldiers below to commemorate a victory over Maxentius at Milvian bridge outside Rome on October 28, 312.

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The gold coin of the Emperor Constantine I was dug up from a farmer’s field at Wanstrow in Somerset close to a Roman road once used for transporting mined lead ore.

The detectorist gained permission from the farmer to search in the field which he saw had a “curious unnatural shape”. He focused on this area and found a Roman brooch, several pieces of lead ore, and then further down, under nearly a foot of earth, he discovered the gold coin.

He recorded the finds with The Portable Antiquities Scheme's database (run by the British Museum’s department of portable antiquities and treasure).

The local finds liaison officer from the PAS scheme said the solidus is the first one of this type to be found in Britain.

The coin was returned to the finder following investigation by the PAS team and, with the land-owner’s agreement, it will be offered at Dix Noonan Webb’s (DNW) ancient coins auction on September 17 in London with an estimate of £10,000-12,000.

“Magnificent example”

DNW’s antiquities specialist Nigel Mills said: “The coin is a magnificent example of a gold Solidus minted in 313-5 at Trier, the capital of Gaul. This was a new denomination introduced by Constantine in 310… For the first time there is a break in the legend above the emperor’s head symbolising a clear path to heaven from Constantine.”

He added: “On the reverse is an extremely rare portrayal of Constantine commemorating his great victory over Maxentius in 312.”

Flavius Valerius Constantine was born in 272AD. He accompanied his father, the western Emperor Constantius I, to Britain in a hard-fought campaign against the Picts in northern Britain.

It was after the decisive victory over the usurper Maxentius at Milvian bridge that Constantine became supportive of the Christian religion with his edict of Milan in 313. Towards the end of his reign Constantine founded the new capital of Constantinople in 330. He was baptised on his deathbed on May 21, 337.