The Power of a (Roman) Name: Celtic Coins in the Name of Aulus Hirtius

Figure 1. Treveri in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 45 BC. Bronze, 18.5 mm., 3.56 g. Elephant advancing r., trampling on horned serpent; in exergue, A HIRTIVS. / Simpulum, sprinkler, axe, and apex. Depeyrot, NC VII, 102. De la Tour 9235. Scheers 1977 no. 162. RPC 501. Ex Naville Numismatics 28 (2017), 140.
Figure 1. Treveri in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 45 BC. Bronze, 18.5 mm., 3.56 g. Elephant advancing r., trampling on horned serpent; in exergue, A HIRTIVS. / Simpulum, sprinkler, axe, and apex. Depeyrot, NC VII, 102. De la Tour 9235. Scheers 1977 no. 162. RPC 501. Ex Naville Numismatics 28 (2017), 140.

In 45 BC Aulus Hirtius, the governor of Transalpine Gaul (modern France), issued the coin here presented in Figure 1. This coin was produced in the territory of the Treveri, a tribe dwelling in the northeast corners of modern France (Fig. 2). The mint responsible for this coinage was very likely located in the oppidum of Titelberg, in modern Luxembourg, where more than 20% of the specimens have been found (Fig. 3).

Figure 2. Gaul at the time of Julius Caesar. Courtesy of the Department of History, United States Military Academy.
Figure 2. Gaul at the time of Julius Caesar. Courtesy of the Department of History, United States Military Academy.
Figure 3. The Celtic settlement (oppidum) of Titelberg in modern Luxembourg.
Figure 3. The Celtic settlement (oppidum) of Titelberg in modern Luxembourg.

Aulus Hirtius had spent most of the previous decade in Gaul, since he had been first a legate of Julius Caesar’s starting around 54 BC and served as an envoy to Pompey in 50. A staunch Caesarian, he is said to have dined with Caesar, Sallust, Oppius, Balbus, and Sulpicius Rufus on the night after Caesar’s famous crossing over the Rubicon river into Italy on 10 January 49 BC (Fig. 4).[1]

Figure 4. Caesar crossing the Rubicon depicted in the carton for murals for the Panthéon in Paris by French academic painter Paul Chenavard (1850) on display in the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon) in Lyon, France.
Figure 4. Caesar crossing the Rubicon depicted in the carton for murals for the Panthéon in Paris by French academic painter Paul Chenavard (1850) on display in the Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon) in Lyon, France.

After the beginning of the Civil War between Caesar and Pompey he served in Spain, probably as a tribune. According to Suetonius (which should not always be trusted), he had the chance to “meet” in quite an informal way the young Octavian, who was only 16 at the time.[2] In 43 BC, he died, together with his consular colleague Pansa, in the battle of Mutina in 43 BC, fought between the consular armies loyal to the Senate, which were supported by the legions of Caesar Octavian (later Augustus), and the Caesarian legions of Mark Antony.[3] The death of the two consuls of 43 BC, whose tombs were laid side-by-side in the Campus Martius marked for most contemporaries the end of the Roman Republic (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Tombstone of the consul Aulus Hirtius from Roma, Palazzo della Cancelleria. Text: CIL 6. 40899. A(ulus) Hirtius / A(uli) f(ilius). It was found under the northwestern corner of Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome in 1938, now in Palazzo della Cancelleria (Inv. No. 39016).
Figure 5. Tombstone of the consul Aulus Hirtius from Roma, Palazzo della Cancelleria. Text: CIL 6. 40899. A(ulus) Hirtius / A(uli) f(ilius). It was found under the northwestern corner of Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome in 1938, now in Palazzo della Cancelleria (Inv. No. 39016).

While being a political figure of a certain magnitude, he also completed Caesar’s narrative on his wars in Gaul, the Commentarii De Bello Gallico. Specifically, Aulus wrote about Caesar’s Gallic campaigns in 51–50 BC, the momentous years between the final submission of the Gallic League and of its general Vercingetorix in the battle of Alesia (52 BC) and the beginning of the Civil Wars in January 49 BC (Figs. 6–7).[4]

Figure 6. Lionel Royer, Vercingetorix throwing down his weapons at the feet of Julius Caesar (1899).
Figure 6. Lionel Royer, Vercingetorix throwing down his weapons at the feet of Julius Caesar (1899).
Figure 7. R. Goscinny – A. Uderzo, Vercingetorix after the Battle of Alesia in Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield (1967). Original French title: Le bouclier arverne, "The Arvernian Shield."
Figure 7. R. Goscinny – A. Uderzo, Vercingetorix after the Battle of Alesia in Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield (1967). Original French title: Le bouclier arverne, “The Arvernian Shield.”

The coin in Figure 1 is extremely significant because it presents the same imagery of a coin issued by Julius Caesar. In 49 BC, right at the beginning of the Civil War, Caesar struck a coin series in his name showing an elephant trampling a snake on one side, and the emblems of his position as chief priest of Rome on the other (Fig. 8).

Figure 8. Mint moving with Caesar, Julius Caesar (49–48 BC). Silver denarius. 3.85 g. CAESAR - Elephant right, trampling dragon. Border of dots. / Pontifical emblems - culullus, aspergillum, axe, and apex. Border of dots. RRC 443/1. ANS 2004.14.71.
Figure 8. Mint moving with Caesar, Julius Caesar (49–48 BC). Silver denarius. 3.85 g. CAESAR – Elephant right, trampling dragon. Border of dots. / Pontifical emblems—culullus, aspergillum, axe, and apex. Border of dots. RRC 443/1. ANS 2004.14.71.

While there is no general scholarly agreement on the meaning of the elephant and snake on the obverse of Caesar’s coin, it is certain that the coin was produced in unprecedented volumes in order to finance Caesar’s war effort. The coin issued for Hirtius four years later in Transalpine Gaul, the province conquered by Caesar’s legions one decade before, shows that the Caesarian types used in RRC 443/1 were remembered and thus could be used by Hirtius to underline his personal allegiance to Caesar and the legitimacy of Roman power over the province. This coin is all the more significant because its style shows that the die-cutters were certainly Celtic. The assimilation of Caesar’s imagery four years after the original Caesarian denarius issue was such, that the types elephant/ sacerdotal emblems could be used (and recognized) on the local production of bronze coins. As perfectly exemplified by Aulus Hirtius’ coin of 45 BC, Roman coins were intended as “monuments in miniature”, a privileged means to transmit ideology, not only paying devices.

Moreover, the name of Aulus Hirtius is also present on the coinage issued by another Gallic tribe, the Remi (Figs. 9–11). While scholars still disagree on the exact date of production of these coins, they could be safely dated to the years 45–25 BC. This means that Aulus Hirtius was not propraetor of the Gallic province anymore, so these coins were not issued under his authority, but only bore his name. On these coins, the names of the local chieftains ΑΘΙΙDIAC (ATESIOS on previous coins), INIICRITVRIX and CORIARCOS are paired to the name of A.HIRTIUS IMP(erator). Tellingly, the coins bear on the obverse the names of the local chieftains and on the reverse, the name of the Roman title closest to the chieftain authority, the IMPERATOR (the commander-in-chief). Local and Roman authorities were thus at the same level, deriving their power one from the other. Or at least this is what these coins are aiming to show. Years after the end of Aulus Hirtius’s propraetorship on Gallia, his name was still used to legitimate local power.

Figure 9. Remi in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 50–30 BC. Bronze, 14.7 mm, 3.04 g. ΑΘΙΙDIAC, draped male bust right wearing torques/ A • HIR • IMP, lion standing right on ground line. De la Tour 8086. RPC I 503a. Scheers 1977, no.153, class I. ANS 2015.20.401 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 9. Remi in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 50–30 BC. Bronze, 14.7 mm, 3.04 g. ΑΘΙΙDIAC, draped male bust right wearing torques/ A • HIR • IMP, lion standing right on ground line. De la Tour 8086. RPC I 503a. Scheers 1977, no.153, class I. ANS 2015.20.401 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 10. Remi in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 50–30 BC. Bronze, 16 mm, 3.23 g. INIICRITVRIX, draped male bust right wearing torques/ A • HIR • IMP, lion standing right on ground line. De la Tour 8092. RPC I 503b. Scheers 1977 no. 153 Class II. Ex Künker 312(2018), 1865.
Figure 10. Remi in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 50–30 BC. Bronze, 16 mm, 3.23 g. INIICRITVRIX, draped male bust right wearing torques/ A • HIR • IMP, lion standing right on ground line. De la Tour 8092. RPC I 503b. Scheers 1977 no. 153 Class II. Ex Künker 312(2018), 1865.

Figure 11. Remi in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 50–30 BC. Bronze, 16.2 mm, 3.33 g. CORIΛ[RCOS], draped male bust right wearing torques / A • HIR • IMP, lion standing right on ground line. De la Tour 8094. RPC I 503c. Scheers 1977, no.153, class III. ANS 2015.20.404 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 11. Remi in the name of A. Hirtius, ca. 50–30 BC. Bronze, 16.2 mm, 3.33 g. CORIΛ[RCOS], draped male bust right wearing torques / A • HIR • IMP, lion standing right on ground line. De la Tour 8094. RPC I 503c. Scheers 1977, no.153, class III. ANS 2015.20.404 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
This is not the only instance of a name of a Roman magistrate “frozen in time” on coins issued in Roman provinces. A few years earlier (90–65 BC), the province of Macedonia (now modern Greece) had issued for almost forty years tetradrachms in the name of Aesillas, a Roman quaestor who governed the province in the 90s BC (Fig. 12). While so completely different in style and provenience, the coins issued in the name of Aulus Hirtius in Gaul and the ones issued in the name of Aesillas in Macedonia show that Roman power, even in the form of a governor’s name frozen in time, was perceived as a way to legitimize local coinage already in the mid-first century BC, well before the appearance of the effigy of the Emperors on local coinage.

Figure 12. Coinage in the name of Aesillas, ca. 70–65 BC. Silver tetradrachm. 27 mm, 16.47 g. CÆ. PR. ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ, diademed head of Alexander; Θ. / AESILLAS; below, Q . Money chest, club, and chair; all within wreath. AMNG III, p. 69, n. 214. Fisher 1985, p.82 (O3). de Callataÿ 1996, p. 136, D93. Bauslaugh 2000, p. 63, Group VII (O86/R310, this coin). HGC 1112. ANS 2015.20. 2178 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.
Figure 12. Coinage in the name of Aesillas, ca. 70–65 BC. Silver tetradrachm. 27 mm, 16.47 g.
CÆ. PR. ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ, diademed head of Alexander; Θ. / AESILLAS; below, Q . Money chest, club, and chair; all within wreath. AMNG III, p. 69, n. 214. Fisher 1985, p.82 (O3). de Callataÿ 1996, p. 136, D93. Bauslaugh 2000, p. 63, Group VII (O86/R310, this coin). HGC 1112. ANS 2015.20. 2178 ex R. B. Witschonke Collection.

[1] Dando-Collins 2002: 65–76, esp. 67 (with bibliography). Crossing of the Rubicon: Caesar, Civil War 7; Suetonius, Life of Caesar 31–32; Lucan, Pharsalia 1.185–205.

[2] Augustus, The Deeds of the Divine Augustus 5. Aulus Hirtius in Spain: Suetonius, Augustus 68 (on the alleged relationship between the young Octavian and A. Hirtius): After sacrificing his honour to Caesar, he (Octavian) gave himself to Aulus Hirtius in Spain for 300,000 sesterces. Trans. J. C. Rolfe.

[3] Res Gestae Divi Augustus 5. Velleius 2.61. Ovid, Tristia 4.10.6. Tacitus, Annals 1.10 (with the possible allegation that Hirtius and Pansa did not simply fall in battle, but were cut down (caesis), with Octavian the main beneficiary). Tacitus, Dialogus 17 (dating the death of Cicero on the basis of the year of their consulate). Suetonius, De Rhetoribus 1 (reporting the mistaken tradition that Cicero was responsible for the rhetoric instruction of Hirtius and Pansa).

[4] Suetonius, The Deified Caesar 56: He (Caesar) left memoirs too of his deeds in the Gallic war and in the civil strife with Pompey; for the author of the Alexandrian, African, and Spanish Wars is unknown; some think it was Oppius, others Hirtius, who also supplied the final book of the Gallic War, which Caesar left unwritten. Trans. J. C. Rolfe.

The Coinage of Philip II now in PELLA

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 Back in 2015, the ANS launched PELLA (numismatics.org/pella) as our first foray into creating dedicated online tools with a focus on ancient Greek numismatics, modeled on those we had already created for Roman coinage such as Online Coins of the Roman Empire. More recently, after we were awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017 for the Hellenistic Royal Coinages (HRC) project. PELLA was incorporated into HRC as one of its several components. Even as we’ve continued to build out the other components of HRC, including Seleucid Coins Online and Ptolemaic Coins Online, we’ve been working on adding new features to PELLA as well. Just this week, in fact, we finished adding to PELLA a catalogue and typology for the gold and silver coinage of Philip II.

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From the beginning our intention has been to make PELLA an innovative research tool aiming, among other things, to provide a comprehensive typology and catalog of the coinages struck by the Macedonian kings of the Argead dynasty (c. 700–310 BCE), arguably the most influential coinages of the ancient Greek world. Fueled first by indigenous precious metal mines in their native Macedonia, and later by the spoils of their conquests, including the rich treasures of the Persian Empire, the Argeads’ numismatic output was monumental. For centuries after their deaths, coins in the name of Philip II (ruled 359–336 BCE) and Alexander the Great (ruled 336–323 BCE) continued to be produced by successor kings, civic mints, and imitators from Central Asia to Central Europe. The coinage of the Argeads themselves and that produced in their names has been extensively studied, but to date no comprehensive, easily accessible catalog of all their coinages exists. We’ve designed PELLA to fill that gap. Our goal has been to catalogue the individual coin types of the Argead kings from Alexander I (ruled 498–454 BCE), the first of the Macedonian kings to strike coins, down to Philip III Arrhidaeus (ruled 323–317 BCE), the last of the titular kings to do so, including as well the numerous posthumous civic and successor coinages struck in the names of the kings.

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The updated version of PELLA we launched this week now includes the coinage (in the name of) Philip II organized using George Le Rider’s Le monnayage d’argent et d’or de Philippe II frappé en Macédoine de 359 a 294, 1977. This material joins the existing catalogue and typology of the coinage (in the name) of Alexander III and Philip III, which is organized using reference numbers from Martin Price’s The Coinage in the Name of Alexander the Great and Philip Arrhidaeus, London 1991. The updated version of PELLA now provides 4,995 individual coin type pages with links to over 20,000 examples of the coinage (in the name) of Philip II, the coinage (in the name) of Alexander the Great, and the coinage of Philip III Arrhidaeus that are present in 19 collections located in the United States and Europe.

For those interested in some of the more technical aspects of how we build out these sites, and more specifically on the addition of the Philip II material to PELLA, check out the blog of our Director of Data Science, Ethan Gruber.

 

White Gold: Studies in Early Electrum Coinage

WhiteGold

The White Gold volume is finally in-hand, all 707 pages and eight pounds (4 kg) of it. Just a little over a month ago, Ute Wartenberg, Andrew Reinhard, and I made the final corrections, took one long, last look, and sent the typeset manuscript to our printer in Canada. We celebrated a bit, but frankly were too exhausted by the final push to celebrate much more than that. The book launch at the ANS we had scheduled for April 23 has, of course, been cancelled because of the current pandemic. We hope we can reschedule it for some time later this year. And we hope when we do, we’ll see you there.

The genesis of this volume took place nearly a decade ago, in 2011, when then Numismatic Curator (now Chief Curator) of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Haim Gitler, conceived of a unique exhibition to be held there that would showcase the earliest coins in the Western tradition, those struck in electrum. Five hundred coins, all from the collections of Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, and several from the Israel Museum, were displayed in a spectacular exhibition, the first of its kind anywhere that looked at electrum coinage from the seventh to the fourth centuries BCE. Catharine Lorber soon joined Gitler in curating the exhibition, White Gold: Revealing the World’s Earliest Coins a name suggested by Lorber, which opened in June 2012, with an exhibition catalogue of the same name written by Koray Konuk, Lorber, and edited by Gitler.

Meanwhile, Gitler organized a conference on electrum coinage that was held at the Israel Museum the week the exhibit opened. Tom Kaplan and Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, both keenly interested in this area of numismatic research, actively participated in the conference. We are most grateful for their generous support, which funded not just the exhibition and conference, but also the White Gold volume with its many full-color plates, maps, and figures. Initially, Gitler, Lorber, and Konuk planned to publish the conference proceedings with the Israel Museum’s imprimatur, but as many of the conference participants felt a follow-up meeting would be beneficial to address some of the outstanding problematic aspects of early electrum raised in Jerusalem, a second White Gold conference was held in November 2013 at the American Numismatic Society’s headquarters in New York City. In 2016, it was decided that publication of the proceedings of the two conferences would be undertaken by the ANS with Ute Wartenberg and myself serving as the volume’s editors, who received considerable editorial and other assistance on several of the chapters from Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert. Since 2013, the scope of the volume grew. Other scholars, notably Kristin Kleber and Donald Jones, who had not participated in the two original conferences were invited to contribute chapters, and others who had participated offered additional contributions, such as Michael Kerschner’s monumental chapter on the archaeology and our current understanding of the successive temples of Artemis (Artemision) at Ephesus, where some of the most important concentrations of early electrum coinage have been found. While the expanded scope of the volume delayed publication, nonetheless we can now offer a fuller and more detailed picture of the evidence at hand for understanding the various contexts in which early electrum coins were produced and used.

But, even after two conferences and 707 pages of printed text, there are still many questions that perplex us about early electrum coinage. As François de Callataÿ summed it up at the end of our initial conference in Jerusalem, “We are still confused, but at a higher level.” Much of this, in fact, has to do with the two very basic questions: 1) why coinage?, and 2) why electrum? In other words, why at that particular moment (ca. 650 BCE) in that particular place (western Asia Minor) did a group of people decide to strike coins for the first time? What do coins do that other types of monetary instruments don’t? Most perplexing of all, however, is the choice to strike the first coins in electrum, which we now know was an entirely invented alloy of gold and silver. Alloying two precious metals of very different values into a single monetary object was something that later coin producers avoided since it was subsequently hard to maintain stable exchange and value rates for the alloyed coins in circulation. So, why did these same early producers opt for electrum, and continued to do so for generations until the first separate silver and gold coins (the croesids) were introduced around 550 BCE?

In coming weeks Ute Wartenberg and I will be discussing some of these issues in the ANS’s newly launched podcast, The Planchet. So, as we all hunker down, stay tuned! And should you need some light reading (!) in the meantime, have a copy of White Gold delivered to your doorstep. The volume can be ordered here.

Coin Predictions in the Balkans

Austin Goodwin Andrews is a curatorial assistant in the Ancient Greek Coins Department of the American Numismatic Society. Before joining the ANS, he taught in the Republic of Macedonia through the US Peace Corps. With a background in classical archaeology, Austin is currently supporting the NEH-funded Hellenistic Royal Coinages project. 

For two years, I lived in what’s now North Macedonia. While teaching English in a rural village, I took part in a few traditions that included coins baked in bread as a method of folk divination.

Living with a host family, I had the unique opportunity to celebrate holidays domestically. My favorite among them was Christmas Eve, observed by Orthodox Christians on January 6, with a large meatless dinner at home, the last meal of the pre-Christmas fasting period (Fig. 1). A sort of feast within a fast, the table is set with rice-packed cabbage rolls, elaborate pastries, stew, and a loaf of bread, the pogača.

Figure 1. My hosts—Baba Limonka and Dedo Stojan—on Badnik, Macedonian Christmas Eve.
Figure 1. My hosts—Baba Limonka and Dedo Stojan—on Badnik, Macedonian Christmas Eve.

The eldest man initiates the meal, breaking the bread and offering a hunk for everyone in the household, listing each member. Whoever discovers a coin in their piece is blessed with wealth, health, and happiness for the year. Comparable customs play out around the Balkans and elsewhere. A well-known tradition, analogous and related to the Christmas Eve pogača, is that of king cake in French- and Spanish-speaking regions on Catholic Epiphany—also on January 6. King cakes, however, have infant figurines baked into them instead of coins.

In a town near where I lived, another American I knew who was staying with a host family was the luckiest at their table. The retiree she lived with would always put old Yugoslav coins in their pogača. The coin she found was much like the 1988 Yugoslav Dinara in the ANS collection. My host grandma used what was on hand from general circulation, such as a Macedonian 50 denari coin with the iconic face of St. Michael or a 10 denari with the peacock mosaic from Stobi.

Originally, the coin itself was both prize and predictor of future prosperity. Now, the coin is usually a low denomination and the lucky person is gifted a more substantial present, often cash. A student of mine even received one hundred euros one year, an enormously handsome sum for a seven-year-old. A point of conversation for weeks later among friends and colleagues is “to whom the coin fell” in your given household.

In another coin-related tradition, I took a more active role. On the Thursday before a wedding, it’s common for the respective families of the bride and groom to host celebrations to begin the matrimonial festivities. While attending one such bridal celebration, I engaged in a fertility ritual.

Kneeling to a low wooden table, I poured in the wet ingredients for soda bread while two friends of the bride poured in the flour and other dry ingredients. We took turns kneading the dough—as representative male and female actors—and added a coin to the mix. The friends whitened the face of the bride with flour and then washed their hands into a basin. The bride drank three times from the starchy water and, while the bread baked, beans were served so that she might bear as many children as the beans (!).

When the circular loaf cooled after baking, I stood on one side of the doorway and the young women stood on the other, while the bride squatted between us. We broke the bread in half over her head and everyone gathered to receive a piece, noting if it came from my side or the women’s side of the doorway. After an attendee found the coin, it was announced that the bride would have a baby boy, the coin foretelling the gender of the couple’s first child. A single brass denar with a sheep dog had been on my side of the bread.

Figure 2. 1 Macedonian denar with Šarplaninac dog on the reverse.
Figure 2. 1 Macedonian denar with Šarplaninac dog on the reverse.

In these traditions, coins prophesy good luck as symbols of abundance. Similar traditions around the globe showcase points of commonality and particularity in cultures across time and place. For both the Christmas Eve and prenuptial celebrations, coins have personal and cultural significance far beyond just their political and economic implications. Although I never had a coin in my piece of the pogača, I was all the richer not only learning about the traditions, but also getting the chance to participate in them as well.

COVID-19 and the ANS

Friends of the ANS:

As you know, we are facing a challenging public health situation. On behalf of the American Numismatic Society and its staff, I am reaching out to assure you that we are committed to continuing our work, and are holding you in our thoughts. I’d like to to update you briefly on some of the measures the ANS is taking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, please know the ANS’s work is continuing uninterrupted, as we have instituted contingency plans that were worked out a few weeks ago when the potential extent of the current crisis became clear. While most of ANS’s staff will be working remotely for as long as is prudent, we expect to be available to you, as always. We have no intention of closing our facilities, but if you are planning to visit, it is important that you check with our staff regarding actual accessibility, which may change based on how the next weeks unfold. If you have questions or concerns, please let us know.

At the same time, our online presence will continue to improve and expand unabated. The ANS has been at the forefront of digital numismatics for many years now, as can be seen by MANTIS, DONUM, ARCHER, and our successful collaborative platforms, including OCRE, HRC, and CHRR. Beyond our blog, Pocket Change, we are planning to launch a new podcast, The Planchet, covering various numismatic topics. Expect some announcements soon via our e-news and usual social media posts.

Finally, we have launched our first GoFundMe campaign ever, to support a critical update of OCRE.

On behalf of everyone at the American Numismatic Society, I wish to thank you for your support of the ANS and for your membership.

We hope you are taking care of yourselves and seeking support from your partners and communities. Working together, we will get through the next few weeks and months.

Gilles Bransbourg, Executive Director

Judging the Gloucester 400 Medallion Competition

Figure 1. The winning design for the Gloucester 400 medal design competition: "Out at Sea" by Beth Swan. This will be struck in bronze and become the official Gloucester 400 medal.
Figure 1. The winning design for the Gloucester 400 medal design competition: “Out at Sea” by Beth Swan. This will be struck in bronze and become the official Gloucester 400 medal.

On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, I ventured to Gloucester, Massachusetts to participate as a judge in the Gloucester 400 project—a year-long celebration of city-wide event and festivities commemorating Gloucester’s founding in 1623. As a part of the celebrations, the Gloucester Celebrations Corporation held a two-phase competition to design a commemorative medal. Phase I of the competition allowed anyone over the age of 18 to submit an original sketch of the design that met multiple guidelines, including the inscription “Gloucester” and “400,” the dates “1623–2023,” and design elements appropriate for high-relief striking. Initial entries were due by August 31, 2019, from which three semi-finalists were picked on October 1. Semi-finalists included Alexis Chipperini, Beth Swan, and Shannon Wilkins, each of whom won a $3,000 prize.

Phase II had the three semi-finalists submit a plaster model of their design by December 1, 2019. To complete the process, medals-expert, Alexander Krapf, and I met at Cape Ann Savings Bank to judge the final phase of the competition (Fig. 2). After about 30 minutes of deliberation, Krapf and I decided on a winner: Beth Swan, a graphic/web media artist from Gloucester. Both of us decided that her design, entitled “Out at Sea,” best encapsulated the different aspects of Gloucester, met all of the guidelines outlined by the Gloucester Celebrations Corporation, and formed a completed and well-rounded design (Fig. 1). The obverse depicts the Gloucester skyline as seen from the harbor, a stylized codfish in the exergue below, and the inscriptions GLOUCESTER 400 and 1623–2023 above. The reverse shows the iconic Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, known as the “Man at the Wheel,” against a rising sun and three stylized ships.

Figure 2. Alexander Krapf and Jesse Kraft just after picking the winner for the Gloucester 400 medal design contest.
Figure 2. Alexander Krapf and Jesse Kraft just after picking the winner for the Gloucester 400 medal design contest.

At a Gloucester City Council meeting on February 25, the Gloucester Celebrations Corporation announced Swan as the winner, for which she won a $10,000 prize. Robert Gillis and Bruce Tobey gave background information about the competition before Ruth Pino had the honor to open the sealed envelope, which both Krapf and I signed the seal flap to ensure nobody opened it before the official unveiling. At this time, it was further announced that all three of the semi-finalist designs would be cast into the medallic form. The other two designs included “Call of the Storm,” by Alexis Chipperini, and “Gloucester: America’s Oldest Seaport,” by Shannon Wilkins (Fig. 3).

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Figure 3. The two semi-finalists from the Gloucester 400 design contest. Top: "Call of the Storm" by Alexis Chipperini. Bottom: "Gloucester: America's Oldest Seaport" by Shannon Wilkins. These will also be struck into medallic form.
Figure 3. The two semi-finalists from the Gloucester 400 design contest. Top: “Call of the Storm” by Alexis Chipperini. Bottom: “Gloucester: America’s Oldest Seaport” by Shannon Wilkins. These will also be struck into medallic form.

After the judging, I was given the opportunity to spend the evening at the Manship Artists Residency + Studios (MARS), known as Starfield, the former home and studio of sculptor Paul Manship, as well as artists John and Margaret Manship—located in Cape Ann just a few miles from where the judging took place (Fig. 4). This site once served as an important art colony for some of the greatest mid-century sculptors. This turned into a surreal experience for me. After a short tour of the residence, I was (quite literally) left alone in the house and was simply told to lock the door on the way out. Unfortunately, after a day of travelling and judging, there was only about an hour to explore the house before falling asleep to travel back to New York City early the next morning. I, however, look forward to when he can travel back to Gloucester and Cape Ann to better see the city and have a longer stay at MARS and highly recommends both to whomever has the opportunity to make the journey.

Figure 4. Aerial view of Manship Artists Residency + Studios (MARS).
Figure 4. Aerial view of Manship Artists Residency + Studios (MARS).

I would like to thank Robert Gillis and Ruth Pino for organizing the night of judging and Gloucester 400, as well as for hosting both Krapf and me; Bruce Tobey for further organization of the Gloucester 400 celebrations; Rebecca Reynolds, President of MARS, for graciously offering the Manship residence as accommodations after the event; and Alexander Krapf for also participating in judging the design competition.

The Centennial of the J. Sanford Saltus Award

Mashiko receives the J. Sanford Saltus Award from Donald Scarinci, chair of the Award Committee.
Mashiko receives the J. Sanford Saltus Award from Donald Scarinci, chair of the Award Committee.

The eponymous J. Sanford Saltus Award was initiated in 1913 by J. Sanford Saltus, who donated $5,000 (roughly the equivalent of $120,000 today) to the ANS to establish a permanent fund for the striking of a medal to reward and recognize sculptors “for distinguished achievement in the field of the art of the medal.” Since 1919, when the first Saltus Award was given, the Society has selected 58 outstanding medallic artists to receive what has become one of the most coveted and prestigious awards in the field. On December 12, we honored our 59th recipient, the New York City-based artist, Mashiko. Examples of the work of all of our Saltus award recipients over the last century can be viewed in an exhibit in our Member’s Lounge, which was assembled by Elena Stolyarik, Scott Miller, and Peter van Alfen.

The centennial exhibit of J. Sanford Saltus' medals is currently on display in the ANS Members' Lounge.
The  exhibit of medallic art from present and past recipients of the  J. Sanford Saltus Award is currently on display in the ANS Members’ Lounge.

Saltus, like many of his peers on the Society’s Council at the time, was a strong supporter of contemporary medallic artists, who sought as well to encourage greater appreciation for their work among the Society’s members. This same initiative continues to this day. The ANS is firmly committed to supporting the medallic arts not just through the prestigious Saltus Award, but also through our own commissions of medallic art, our teaching, and our publications, which feature a medallic art series. The latest volume in this series, in fact, just appeared last week: Michael Ross’s study of Jacques Wiener’s architectural medals.  Most significantly, the ANS purchased the archives of the Medallic Arts Company in 2018, including 50,000 individual items such as medals, dies, galvanos, plaques, and paper and digital archives, that we aim to publish and make available to the public.

Mashiko, ANS Executive Director Gilles Bransbourg, and Donald Scarinci
Mashiko, ANS Executive Director Gilles Bransbourg, and Donald Scarinci

It had been intended that the Saltus Award would be given on an annual basis, but already in the 1920s and 1930s there were years when there was no award, included the nine-year gap between 1937 and 1946 roughly coinciding with the Second World War. In more recent years, the Award has been given every 2–3 years with the delays caused in part by the cumbersome arrangement of the Saltus Award Committee itself consisting of more than a dozen voting members, and in part by a persistent lack of supporting funds. In 2017, the Society’s then-Executive Director, Ute Wartenberg, and the Committee’s secretary, Peter van Alfen, proposed to the Board of Trustees a new arrangement for the Committee, which it was hoped would help speed the selection process and allow for the Award to be given once again on an annual basis. With the Board’s approval, the Award Committee was pared down to five voting members consisting of Donald Scarinci as chair (replacing Stephen Scher, whose nearly two decades of service as chair is most appreciated), Ute Wartenberg, Peter van Alfen (secretary), Gwen Pier (Executive Director, National Sculpture Society), and until recently, Luke Syson (then Curator in Charge of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art). In addition, the Committee now has an Advisory Board, chaired by Philip Attwood (Keeper of Coins and Medals, British Museum), to help form a pool of suitable candidates from which the Committee then selects a winner. This Board is comprised of curators and other individuals particularly well versed in contemporary medallic art including: Marjan Scharloo (Director of the Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands); Maria Rosa Figueiredo (Curator, Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, Portugal); Gunnel Sievers (Past President of the Guild of the Medal in Finland); Erika Grniakova (Curator, Coin and Medal Museum, Kremnica, Slovakia); Bernhard Weisser (Director of the Münzkabinett, Berlin, Germany); Alan Stahl (Curator, Firestone Library, Princeton University); and Mashiko, who was kept unaware of her nomination for the Award. This new arrangement went into effect in the summer of 2017 and since then the ANS has again been presenting the Saltus award on an annual basis.

An Owl-ccentricity: Athenian Imitation “New Style” Owls in Saba’

Today’s post comes courtesy of Anna Accettola as part of her work conducted at the 2019 Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in Numismatics. —ed.

The Sabaean Kingdom, located in the southern Arabian Peninsula and modern-day Yemen, rose to prominence between 1200 and 800 BCE and ruled until near the end of the third century CE.  At this point, the Sabaeans were conquered by the neighboring Himyarite Kingdom for the final time.  Most famous for its connection to the biblical land of Sheba and its control over frankincense and myrrh production, the Sabaean Kingdom maintained a cultural and economic presence in the Mediterranean milieu throughout the expansion of Greek city-states, the rise and fall of the Athenian Empire, the conquests of Alexander the Great, and the coming of Rome.  While largely remaining distant from the political life of the Mediterranean, certain aspects of Mediterranean cultures influenced the Sabaeans, specifically their coinage.

Athenian “Old Style” Owls (Figure 1) were a predominant coinage in the Mediterranean for nearly 300 years and imitations of this iconography appeared in Saba’ in the mid-fourth century BCE, less than 100 years after its creation.  But these imitations beg the question: why would a kingdom so far from the Mediterranean Sea, let alone the polis of Athens, imitate a goddess and other symbols vastly different from their own cultural norms?  The answer likely lies in the caravan trade and the heavy traffic between Saba, Egypt, Gaza, and the Greek Mediterranean for the exchange of incense and other luxury goods.  Saba was the main producer of frankincense and myrrh in the ancient world and these products were always in great demand.  As such, a certain amount of Athenian coinage (and later Hellenistic Alexanders and Roman denarii) found their way into Saba along these trade routes.

Fig. 1. Sabaean imitation of Athenian "old style" owl, ANS 1944.100.69452.
Fig. 1. Sabaean imitation of Athenian “old style” owl, ANS 1944.100.69452.

But approximately 200 years later, the Sabaeans, possibly with Himyarite influence, decided to change their currency and once again follow the Athenian precedent.  Even though “New Style” Athenian coins have never been found in southern Arabia, the owl on amphora design was imitated and pushed out the older type (Figure 2).  This oddity is the focus of my summer project.  Through a die study of the Sabaean “New Style” Athenian imitations, I hope to better understand questions such as: how many of these coins may have been produced, what is the weight standard on which these new coins were struck, and, perhaps, what persuaded the Sabaeans to adopt this style of coin, incorporating new series of monograms and symbols, around the first century BCE?

Fig. 2. Sabaean Imitation of "new style" owls, ANS 1944.100.69467.
Fig. 2. Sabaean Imitation of “new style” owls, ANS 1944.100.69467.

The first step in completing this project was to collect as much information on these coins and as many photographs as possible from around the world.  Approximately 300 of these coins exist, in four (or possibly five) denominations, almost exclusively in silver.  The largest denomination is a unit or nṣf.  As can be seen in Figure 2, these coins differ as the Sabaeans added certain unusual facets to their coinage which are not evident in the Athenian originals or other imitations—such as the border of amphorae circling the reverse and a “curved symbol” which perhaps represents one of the main Sabaean deities, Almaqah (Munro-Hay 2003: 37).

Thus far, my study has revealed several points of interest.  First, these coins had a fairly large production, especially the full unit denomination of the cursive YNF monogram type (Figure 3).  The weight of the unit (averaging 5.39 grams) is approximately equal to that of the siglos, likely to ease exchange with near neighbors. However, fractional coins occur with significantly less frequency and there are only 7 examples of the smallest denominations in the world (Figure 4).  In addition, this coinage retained a regular reverse type, but went through several shifts in obverse type; first, transitioning away from the original head of Athena to a long-haired royal portrait in the earlier mintings and, then, to an “Augustan” style head with short hair and a stern expression.  Although some researchers have argued that this was a direct result of the 26/25 BCE Roman expedition into southern Arabia, the chronology of these coins is not yet well enough established to be confident in such influences (Munro-Hay 1991: 407 and Huth 2010: 241).

Fig. 3. Sabaean imitation "new style" owl, cursive YNF monogram type, ANS 1944.100.69463 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.
Fig. 3. Sabaean imitation “new style” owl, cursive YNF monogram type, ANS 1944.100.69463 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.

 

Fig. 4. 1/8th unit Sabaean imitation "new style" owl, ANS 1944.100.69477 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.
Fig. 4. 1/8th unit Sabaean imitation “new style” owl, ANS 1944.100.69477 from the Edward T. Newell Collection.

As such, these coins remain fairly elusive in providing modern researchers with clear answers about the authorities who minted them, the monograms with which they are inscribed, and even the inspiration for them.  However, I tentatively argue that these may act as a transitional coinage between an older Athenian model and the later so-called “bucranium” series (Figure 5), which features a more independent and unique Sabaean identity. These earlier imitations of Athenian coinage seem to showcase an intense interest in the Mediterranean world and its powerful economy opportunities.  But as the Sabaean and Himyarites grew through territorial conquest and became more directly involved with the Roman and eastern trade routes to India and beyond, they established their own iconographic traditions.

Fig. 5. Sabaean "Bucranium" series, ANS 1944.100.6494.
Fig. 5. Sabaean “Bucranium” series, ANS 1944.100.6494.

Anna Accettola is a PhD candidate in Ancient History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  Her dissertation is on the legal institutions and social networks which promoted long-distance trade across the Hellenistic Mediterranean between the Greek poleis and the Near East, specifically the Nabataean Kingdom.  She was inspired to apply for the American Numismatic Society summer program in order to learn more about how states implement monetary policies and negotiate these policies across political and territorial boundaries.

ANS at EAC

Earlier this month, deputy director Gilles Bransbourg and I had the honor of representing the ANS at the Early American Coppers Convention in Dayton, Ohio. The EAC, now with over 1,000 members, was formed in 1967 and currently focuses its attention on U.S. colonial and early state coins, cents and half cents (1793-1857), and Hard Times tokens.

EAC Bland from powerpoint
Del Bland (1933-2018) was honored at the EAC convention in Dayton, Ohio, at an event cohosted by the ANS.

The convention took place over the course of four days and featured a number of educational presentations, including an airing of the ANS’s 2018 Silvia Mani Hurter Memorial Lecture, by Huntington Award recipient Dr. John Kleeberg, entitled “Dr. William H. Sheldon, Ted Naftzger and the Large Cent Thefts” (video available here).

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ANS librarian David Hill.

The ANS was particularly pleased to be able to cohost an event at the convention honoring legendary large cent collector and researcher Del Bland, who passed away last year at the age of 84. Del was a meticulous researcher with a keen eye for grading, and he made a massive contribution to our knowledge of United States numismatics. He began his research about fifty years ago, and his findings were published in 2000 as the condition census in the Encyclopedia of Early American Cents, which documented over 4,000 coins and included more than 25,000 individual entries. He continued his research well into the 2010s. In 2018, thanks to the contributions of generous donors, the ANS acquired Del’s vast large-cent research archive, nearly 300 ring-binders of material now available for researchers to use at the ANS Library and Archives.

Notebooks from powerpoint
Del Bland’s large-cent research archive is now available for study at the ANS.

The event honoring Del  was a great success and featured reminiscences by Del’s long-time friend and early American copper specialist Denis Loring as well as Del’s sons, Larry and Gary (video available here).

EAC coins cropped
We didn’t come back empty handed. From ANS member Chuck Heck we got a set of these large-cent reproductions by EAC, featuring key obverses and reverses.

None of it would have been possible without the help of convention co-chairs Ray Williams and Jack Young, and Jack’s wife, Laura, who was in charge of events. We would also particularly like to thank EAC president Bill Eckberg for arranging the event.

Happy 210th Birthday, Abe!

Fig. 7 - Canceled Lincoln - 1909.45.1.obv.1385
Lincoln Centennial Medal by Jules Édouard Roiné, 1909 (ANS 1909.45.1), King 310. The dies were ceremoniously canceled, donated to the ANS, and used to strike this medal.
Fig. 7 - Canceled Lincoln - 1909.45.1.rev.1385
Lincoln Centennial Medal reverse.

Two hundred and ten years isn’t a milestone we normally celebrate in a special way, but 100 years certainly is, and Lincoln’s 100th birthday in 1909 was a big deal. Cities like New York and Chicago tried to outdo each other with tributes, and big names like Teddy Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan made appearances at his birthplace in Kentucky and at his home in Illinois. Numerous tangible and lasting tributes were issued: ribbons, badges, postcards, calendars. Numismatic items too, of course. There were tokens and medals—even a coin, Victor David Brenner’s iconic cent. Numismatic portrayals of Lincoln were nothing new. The first ones appeared with his presidential campaign of 1860, and they continued through his presidency, only to proliferate after his assassination. The first medal issued by the American Numismatic Society was, in fact, a memorial to him, issued in 1866.

Fig. 5 - Hewitt001 corrected
Robert Hewitt Jr., 1863.

The ANS played a small part in the observation of the centennial. One of the Society’s longest-serving members was Robert Hewitt Jr., who had been collecting presidential medals since at least the time Lincoln was president (his collection of Lincolnalia would go to the Smithsonian in 1918). Hewitt was the force behind a couple of Lincoln medals by the sculptor Jules Édouard Roiné, both of which were issued bound into books. Roiné, Hewitt, and two brothers, Henri and Felix Weil, were all ANS members who played a role in founding the Medallic Art Company (MACO), the private mint that struck the medals. (In 2018, the ANS acquired the medals, dies, galvanos, plaques, paper and digital archives, and other historical materials from the defunct MACO.)

1950.106.1.obv.2800
Aluminum medal announcing the planned cancelation of the Lincoln Centennial Medal dies (ANS 1950.106.1), King 347.
1950.106.1.rev.2800
The medal’s reverse indicates that the canceled dies were to be deposited at the American Numismatic Society.

The dies for one of the medals were ceremoniously canceled with a cut indicating the centennial date (February 12, 1909). One thousand aluminum medals were issued by MACO announcing the die cancelation and specifying that the dies would be deposited at the ANS on the day of the Lincoln Centennial.

For more on the Lincoln medals, see Robert King, Lincoln in Numismatics, Token and Medal Society, 1966.

For more on Roińe, see David Hill, “Jules Édouard Roiné, Medals in Books, and the Birth of the Medallic Art Company,” ANS Magazine, 2018, issue 4.

A blog of the American Numismatic Society