home / ancient and medieval / caesar crispus

AE Follis - CAESAR CRISPUS (320-321 AD)
(RIC VII 161 E)
- Siscia Mint

Flavius Julius Crispus

Born: 299 (est)
Caesar: A.D. 317-326

Obverse: Portrait laureate head right - IVL CRISPVS NOB C



Inscriptions: IVL(ius) CRISPVS NOB(ilis) C(aesar) / VOT(ive) V (five) CAESARVM (Caesar) NOSTRORVM (Ours) ESIS* (Siscia Mint)

Julius Crispus Noble Caesar / Vows Five Years - Our Caesar - Minted in Siscia

Crispus was the eldest son of Constantine I and a woman named Minerva born before Constantine married Faustina. He began his official duties rather early being appointed Caesar by his father on March 1, 317 while still a child. He was also married at this early age to a woman named Helen who bore him a daughter also named Helen.

He held the consulship 3 times before the age of 20 and, it seems, he excelled in the military being put in control of Gaul as well as commanding an imperial fleet in his fathers civil war against Licinius earning great praise for his 'magnificent deeds' and as being equal to his father in greatness. Its was a great beginning to a promising career.

This great beginning would be cut short by great tragedy. He was ordered to be put to death by his father in 326, he was in his early 20's. Shortly afterwards his stepmother and Constantine's wife Faustina was also executed. The reasons for these drastic actions are largely unknown and gave rise to wild rumors but in the end we can only speculate what might have caused Constantine to have a son whom he seemed to favor killed as he did.

Although he was his eldest son, he was also very likely illegitimate but it seems unlikely that Constantine would murder his first born son simply to make way for his other 3 sons from his marriage to Faustina though such actions were not uncommon in Royal Households. It seems more likely in this case that Crispus either conspired against his father with his stepmother or committed some equally terrible act to bring upon himself such punishment.

Crispus never became Emperor holding only the lesser title of Caesar to Constantine's Augustus. Constantine's three other sons would all succeed him and rather quickly begin to kill each other off in a grand power struggle that would again destabilize Rome.