Category Archives: Roman

Financing Sulla’s Reconquest of Italy (Pt. II)

Fig. 1. Athens. New Style tetradrachm with monogram interpreted as ΜΑΡΚΟΥ (Lucullus)/ ΤΑΜΙΟΥ. Thompson 1313. ANS 2015.20.871 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke).

The second part of this post on the means used by Sulla to finance his campaign in Italy will deal with the coinages issued in the Eastern provinces after the end of the First Mithridatic War, choosing as a case study the “trophies” Athenian New Style tetradrachms and the cistophori from the Province of Asia.

Fig. 2. Athens. New Style tetradrachm with trophies. Thompson 1343. ANS 2015.20.881 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke).

For what concerns Greece, Plutarch (Life of Lucullus 2.2) clearly states that the presence of Sulla and Lucullus during the First Mithridatic War led to a heightened production of local silver coinages.  Military needs, i.e., the need to pay the armies involved in the war against the Pontic king, caused this steep increase in the volume of local issues (Apostolou and Doyen 2017, esp. pp. 399–403). The connection is especially clear in the case of Athens, where the production of Athenian New Style tetradrachms (Thompson 1961, pp. 425–439)  was greatly heightened in the year leading up to the battles of Chaeronea and Orchomenus. While the Romans are likely to have manipulated the Athenian coinage on previous occasions, there is a general consensus that the Romans were directly responsible for 1) the so-called “Lucullan” issues with the two monograms usually read as ΜΑΡΚΟΥ (Lucullus)/ ΤΑΜΙΟΥ. 2) the so-called “trophies issues” (Figs. 1–2).

Fig. 3. Engraving of a marble bust traditionally said to be Lucullus. Hermitage Museum.

The “Lucullan” (Fig. 3) issues, characterized by a higher number of observed dies than any other year before 87–86 BCE, have as a terminus ante quem the battle of Chaeronea in 86 BCE, as these coins were likely intended to finance the military effort against Mithridates.

Fig. 4. Athenian issues struck for Rome. Callataÿ 2016, Table 4.

On the other hand (Fig. 4), the general consensus is that the issue with the two trophies should be dated after Chaeronea, because their reverse type commemorates either the two victories of Orchomenus and Chaeronea over the Pontic king or the two trophies erected by Sulla after Chaeronea, as I have already suggested on the basis of the analogous types used for RRC 359/2 in the first part of this post (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Production estimates of Athenian issues struck for Rome (86–84 BCE). Compare the Esty estimate of 29.5 tetradrachm obverse dies with the 31.9 tetradrachm obverse dies in Callataÿ 2016.

Caution is indeed needed for these estimates since the Esty coverage for these issues is quite low (37.5%). However, the figures in this slide are very close to Callataÿ’s calculations, so this could provide some support to these estimates, in spite of the caution elicited by the small sample.

While the “Lucullan” issues of Athenian-like tetradrachms were probably instrumental to the financing of Roman armies in the course of the First Mithridatic War, the later issue of the “two trophies” tetradrachms could have financed Sulla’s campaigns in Italy or even provided the bullion for Sulla’s issues of denarii.

Since one Attic-weight drachm is conventionally considered equivalent to a denarius, this issue of Athenian-like tetradrachms was produced from 118 denarius-equivalent obverse dies, roughly one-third of the number of dies estimated for RRC 359/2. The similarities in reverse types and production techniques (i.e., die orientation, cf. Part I) between the “two trophies” tetradrachms and RRC 359/2 suggest that these two issues—while differing in relative importance—represented an important source of financing for the Sullan campaigns in Italy.

Fig. 6. Ephesus, Amphitheater at Ephesus archaeological site, with harbor street in the background. Ephesus was one of the Asian cities that took part in the massacre of the Italians and Roman citizens in the wake of the Mithridatic Wars.

For what concerns the Province of Asia, Plutarch vividly describes the aftermath of the First Mithridatic War, after the hasty conclusion of the peace of Dardanus in 85 BCE. After Mithridates’ defeat, Sulla imposed on the Greek cities of Asia Minor (Fig. 6) an indemnity of 20,000 talents. The Plutarchean text also suggests that Lucullus was directly entrusted with the collection of the extraordinary tributes and fines imposed on Asia. This certainly had to do not only with the unusual nature (and amount) of the fines imposed but with extraordinary circumstances, because the societates publicanorum—not military authorities like Lucullus—were entrusted with the exaction of Asian taxes since at least the 120s BCE. The reason for the remarkable absence of the publicani from this process finds a plausible explanation with their lack of human resources after the losses suffered after the outbreak of the Mithridatic War (Appian, Mithridatic Wars 5.22).  One thinks in particular of the Asian Vespers in 88 BCE in which some 80,000 (or more!) Romans are said to have been killed

Fig. 7. A tax-collector, possibly acting on behalf of a societas publicanorum. Funerary tomb relief from Gaul, early second century AD.

The losses suffered by the societates publicanorum in Asia thus enabled Sulla, through his lieutenant Lucullus, to have direct access to the wealth gathered from Asia, with a limited opportunity for Rome to take advantage of it (Fig. 7).

Fig. 8. Lydia, Tralles. Cistophoric tetradrachm (95–90 BC). Carbone 2020 issue XXV.1. 27 mm. 12.55 g. ANS 2015.20.1784 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke).

Plutarch clearly states that Lucullus was actually ordered to strike coins in Asia. Since cistophori were the silver currency overwhelmingly produced and circulating in the province up to the 40s BCE, it can be inferred that the coinage struck by Lucullus were indeed cistophori (Fig. 8). Their production shows a clear increase in the years between the end of the First Mithridatic War and the end of Lucullus’ praetura in 81-80 BCE, as clearly shown by Figs. 9 and 10

Fig. 9. Increase in the Ephesian cistophoric output after the Peace of Dardanus (85 BCE). Callataÿ 1997, p. 178.
Fig. 10. Increase in the Trallian cistophoric output after the Peace of Dardanus (85 BCE). Carbone 2020, p. 219 figure 11.1.

Such an increase was probably caused by the necessity of paying the extraordinary tribute and there seems to be a correlation between the return of Lucullus to Italy in 80 BCE and the decrease in the production of coinage in Asia.

Fig. 11. Lydia, Tralles. Cistophoric tetradrachm (83–84 BC). Carbone 2020 issue XXXIV; 24 mm. 12.54 g. ANS 2015.20.1460 (bequest of R. B. Witschonke). This cistophorus bears the Sullan Era, which is considered to have begun right after the Peace of Dardanus (85 BC).

The presence of a Sullan Era (Year 1: 85/84 BCE, right after Dardanus, Fig. 11) on Tralles’ cistophori and the spike in their production in the years right after the Peace of Dardanus provides a further hint in the direction of a correlation between coinage and Sulla’s demands.

Fig. 12. Calculation of cistophoric production in Asia based on Carbone 2020, p. 227 table 12.2.

Based on the data presented in Hidden Power, this table (Fig. 12) presents the estimate of the cistophoric production of the whole of provincia Asia in the years 85/84–82/81, which are the years between the Peace of Dardanus and the celebration of Sulla’s triumph in 81 BCE. It shows that cistophori were issued in the enormous amount of 202.7 tetradrachm obverse dies between 85 and 81 BCE.  This amount roughly corresponds to 12,162,300 denarii, i.e., 608 denarii-equivalent obverse dies.

Building upon the data that have just been presented, it is possible to estimate that in the years between the end of the First Mithridatic War and his final triumph in 81 BCE, the mint of Athens and the province of Asia delivered in Sulla’s hands coined silver in the amount of 14,520,000 denarii.  The silver coinage issued in Athens and in Asia in the crucial years between Chaeronea and the final triumph of Sulla was thus in quantities equivalent to the Sullan Roman Republican issues, as calculated in the first part of this post.

Moreover, coined silver in Asia corresponded to 2,027.05 talents, only one-tenth of the 20,000 talents extracted by Lucullus on behalf of Sulla. The lavish description of Sulla’s triumph in 81 BCE offered by Plutarch suggests that the dictator had access to enormous resources and the quantitative analyses presented up to now confirm this scenario. Sulla’s resources, both in terms of coined silver and bullion, were thus more than adequate to finance his armies, even if the volume of Sullan issues was not comparable to the one produced by the college of moneyers of 82/83 BCE.

While only metallurgical analyses will hopefully allow to settle the question in definitive way, the quantitative analyses pursued here made the Eastern provenance of the bullion used for the Sullan issues very likely. In sum, M. H. Crawford was right when he suggested that RRC 359/2 (and possibly the other issued analyzed here) “were made with metal from the Greek world, presumably in large measure melted down booty” (p. 124).   The bullion to produce these coinages did indeed come from the East, and it was further integrated by silver coinages produced in Athens and in Asia. 

Financing Sulla’s Reconquest of Italy (Pt. I)

Fig. 1. So-called “Sulla,” a copy (probably from the time of Augustus) after a portrait of an important Roman from the second century BC. Munich, Glyptothek.

This post (in two parts) has the ambitious goal to showcase the importance of RRDP in providing new data to the question of the financing of Sulla’s army in the crucial years between 83 and 82 BCE when, after the end of the First Mithridatic War, he marched through Italy and successfully defeated his adversaries (Appian, Bellum Civile 1.84–86). This very same topic has been recently addressed in a talk sponsored by the Department of Classics and the Interdisciplinary Program in Archaeology at the University of Virginia.

Fig. 2. Poster of the talk by the author at the University of Virginia.

Appian states that Sulla had at his disposal an army of 40,000 men, including five legions of Roman infantry, 6,000 knights, plus Greek and Macedonian auxilia (Appian, Bellum Civile 1.79). According to M. Speidel’ s calculations (pp. 350–51, Tables 1–2), this would imply that Sulla needed to have at his disposal the equivalent of almost 10 million denarii. Since Sulla was barred from taking advantage of the enhanced monetary production of the Roman mint, it becomes clear that he must have taken advantage of the bullion supplied by his recent victories in the East.

Fig. 3. RRC 361/1c. P. Crepusius. ANS 1944.100.557 (bequest of E. T. Newell).
Fig. 4. RRC 362/1. C. Mamilius Limetanus. ANS 1937.158.102.
Fig. 5. RRC 363/1a. L. Marcius Censorinus. ANS 1948.19.113.

The monetary production of the collegium of triumviri monetales of 83–82 BCE, composed by P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1a,b,c), C. Mamilius Limetanus (RRC 362/1) and L. Marcius Censorinus (RRC 363/1a,b,c,d) have been the object of foundational die studies that provided a model for future ones. Back in 1976, T. Buttrey published a fundamental study of Crepusius’ issues. Schaefer’s archive provided the material for the study of the issues of L. Marcius Censorinus and C.Mamilius Limetanus.  The importance of these issues does not only reside in the historical moment they produced in, but also in their technical peculiarities. Issues like the ones produced by this collegium are defined by Richard Schaefer as ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark. As the name suggests, ODEC issues have a specific correspondence between dies and control marks. Usually, there is a univocal correspondence between obverse and reverse dies for each of these control marks. This kind of issue seems to be more common in times of unrest, as in the years addressed here.

Fig. 6. RRC issues arranged with control marks arranged by years. RRC references (* = one mark per die, ** = coordinated marks on obverse and reverse, *** = both * and **). Control Marks (L = letters, N = num- bers, S = symbol). Carbone and Yarrow 2020, Table 7.

Table 1 presents the most updated estimates for the production of these moneyers.

Table 1. Die estimates and coverage rates calculated using Esty’s formulae and RRDP data for issues with the college of moneyers traditionally dated to 82–83 BCE, as well as data from Debernardi, Campana et al. 2018. Carbone and Yarrow 2020, Table 5.

The total of estimated dies for this collegium is 2,219, with a production that could be estimated as comprised between 32 and 45 million denarii. This is a truly exceptional production, as can be seen from Table 2.

Table 2. Summary of estimates of original number of dies and coverage rates using Esty’s formulae and RRDP data for annual issues where the college of moneyers is certain. Carbone and Yarrow 2020, Table 2.

This exceptional production, clearly dictated by the advance of Sulla’s army, will provide a necessary comparandum for Sulla’s production.

Fig. 7. RRC 359/2. L.Cornelius Sulla. 3.81 g. Berlin MünzKabinett 18206086.
Fig. 8. RRC 367/3. L. Cornelius Sulla. 3.87 g. Mainz, Historisches Seminar, Arbeitsbereich Alte Geschichte, der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität 119.
Fig. 9. RRC 375/2. 3.98 g. Gerhard Hirsch Auction 260, 12 February 2009, lot 1860.

The estimates of Sulla’s production here presented integrate the data collected by R. Schaefer for three Sullan issues, RRC 359/2, RRC 367/1,3 and 5 and RRC 375/2 to revisit the scale of these issues also in light of what we know from other studies about Sullan issues at Athens and cistophoric production in Asia.

Fig. 10. Athens. New Style tetradrachm with trophies. Thompson 1343. 16.89 g. ANS 2015.20.881 (bequest of R.B.Witschonke).
Fig. 11. Tralles. Cistophorus dated to 85/84 BCE. Carbone 2020 Tralles XXXII. 12.55 g. ANS 2015.20.1459 (bequest of R. B.Witschonke).

This allows us to see historical production beyond a single mint and begin to understand better the scale of the striking necessary to fund Sulla’s march on Rome. 

Fig. 12. The lower part of the trophy from Chaeronea with the armored tree trunk. Photo by E. Kountouri, N. Petrochilos, and S. Zoumbaki.

After the battle of Chaeronea in 86 BCE, Sulla found himself master of the East. Plutarch provides a vivid description of the way in which he celebrated this victory over Mithridates. Sulla erected two trophies in the territory of the city of Chaeronea, where the troops of Mithridates’ general Archelaus first gave way, whose archaeological remains have been the object of contrasting interpretations. The two trophies probably refer to the battles of Orchomenus and Chaeronea, which resulted in game-changing losses for Mithridates. These trophies were inscribed with the names of “Ares, Nike, and Aphrodite.” These trophies were inscribed with the names of “Ares, Nike, and Aphrodite.”  The reasons for dedicating the trophies to Ares-Mars and Nike-Victory seem quite straightforward, as the former was the patron of warfare and the latter was the personification of Victory herself, but the presence of Aphrodite needs some further clarification. F. Santangelo (pp. 188–90) convincingly correlates the goddess of Love on the trophies with the epithet that Sulla used in his correspondence with the Greeks, ’Επαφρόδιτος, ‘a favorite of Venus’, to stress his strong connection to the goddess.  Indeed, Plutarch explicitly states that the dedication to Aphrodite on the trophies referred to Sulla’s epithet. Not surprisingly, the types of Venus and the two trophies erected after the battle of Chaeronea are also present on the aurei and the denarii issued by Sulla on his way back to Italy, very likely in 84/83 BCE.

Fig. 13. RRC 359/1. L. Cornelius Sulla. ANS 1944.100.64169 (bequest of E.T.Newell).

In F. Santangelo’s words, these issues “look like a perfect epitome of Sulla’s ideological agenda,” as they have a head of Venus and the name of Sulla on the obverse and on the reverse the legend IMPER(ATOR) ITERV(M), accompanied by a jug and a lituus, two symbols that are related to the augurate and to the concept of imperium, and surrounded by two trophies, quite certainly to be recognized as the ones from Chaeronea and Orchomenus (Assenmaker 2014, pp. 216–28).  We also know from Cassius Dio (18.42) that these two trophies were also used by Sulla on his personal signet ring.

As already mentioned, the same trophies are to be found on the reverse of the New Style Athenian tetradrachms presumably issued in the years 86–84 BCE (Thompson 1961 no. 1341–1345, Fig.10). The presence of the distinctive Sullan trophies on the reverses both of the New Style Athenian tetradrachms and of the aurei and denarii of series RRC 359 has long led scholars, and M. Crawford in particular, to hypothesize that the latter issues ‘were made with metal from the Greek world, presumably in large measure melted down booty’ (p. 124). In the same direction goes the orientation of the dies for this issue, uniquely adjusted at 12:00, an orientation very common in Greek coinage, but in sharp contrast with Roman Republican practices.  While no certainty is possible, these coinages might have been struck at the time of the end of Sulla’s sojourn in the East (and then sent to Italy with the army) or—more likely—in Italy, right after Sulla’s army landed in Italy, as the presence of the coins in Southern Italian hoards leads one to think.

RRC 359 issues would then have been struck at the moment of the Sulla’s arrival in Italy and their types were meant to remind everybody of Sulla’s victory over Mithridates and his privileged relationship with Venus.

These tables present here the latest estimates according to RRDP:

Table 3. Production estimates of RRC 359/2 according to RRDP (Esty 2011).

RRC 367, a Sullan issue composed of three denarii and two aurei, is usually dated to 83/82 BCE.  The triumphator on the reverse of the coins of RRC 367 leads in the same direction as the trophies on the reverse of RRC 359, namely the depiction of Sulla as an imperator beloved by the Godswho succeeded in liberating the Roman East from one of Rome’ s arch-enemies. Notice that the triumphator holds a caduceus, not a laurel branch. The caduceus was a herald’s staff, sometimes carrying the connotations we might associate with an olive branch or a white flag, but was more generally, a symbol of peace, concord, and reconciliation (Cornwell 2017, pp. 36–41). Concordia (“harmony between the social orders”) has even been suggested as a key rhetorical component in Sulla’s own civic self-presentation (Yarrow 2021, pp. 163–65). We can read the caduceus as a statement that Sulla has brought peace and order with his return.

Here are the most updated estimates for these issues according to RRDP.

Table 4. Production estimates of RRC 367 according to RRDP (Esty 2011).

Another issue attributed to Sulla on the basis of iconographic and technical choices is the denarius RRC 375/2, which has been thoroughly studied by Alberto Campana in a very recent article (A. Campana, L’emissione con “Q” di Silla (RRC 375/1–2, 82 a.C.), Monete Antiche 118 —Luglio/Agosto 2021). A. Campana based his die study on RRDP, while further enhancing the sample.

Campana based his die study on RRDP, while further enhancing the sample.

Table 5. Production estimates of RRC 375/2 according to RRDP (Esty 2011).

These three Sullan issues were thus almost contemporary, very likely produced between 84 and 82 BCE. The relative chronology of these issues is still under discussion, but for the aims of this post, the relevant element is that they were all issued as a means to support Sulla’s reconquest of Italy.

The aggregate volume of these emissions is remarkable, with 976 estimated dies and a probable output of 13.39–20.69 million denarii. As a comparandum, the calculations in the previous part of this talk show that the estimated combined production for the moneyers of 82 BCE is 32–45 million denarii. The issues financing Sulla’s reconquest of Italy were thus roughly one-half of the issues of the Roman mint in the year 82 BCE.

While roughly half the size of the extraordinary issues of the Roman mint in 82 BCE, the scale of Sulla’s production is still extraordinary. This begs even more urgently the question of the provenience of the bullion used, which will be addressed in the second part of this post.

Money, Pain, and Human Sentiment

As one of the leading international centers of numismatic research, it’s no surprise that the stories coins tell about the people who came before us are daily topics of conversation at the offices of American Numismatic Society, where its staff, trustees, fellows, members, and visitors come together in a shared passion for the study of coinage and history. A weekly ritual I enjoy at the ANS is the informal social hour on late Friday afternoons, during which casual conversation often turns to numismatic topics and ideas. Some weeks ago, Chief Curator Peter van Alfen mused about how much cumulative pain the approximately 800,000 objects in the vault have caused through the centuries, a revelation on which I have ruminated since. People made, used, earned, spent, sought after, and often suffered for the objects we study and it’s important to keep the human element in numismatics at the fore of our considerations.

While “money does not buy happiness,” having it certainly makes life easier; it is essential for shelter, food, clothing, health care, transportation—basic subsistence. Financial security gives us agency and control over our lives. Conversely, the lack of it, or an insufficient amount, traps us in compounding anxieties and limits our choices and ability to direct our own destinies. Money’s ability to offer security and to provide a life of comfort, free from concern of destitution, can cause us to go to great lengths to get it, with extreme examples including corruption, theft, murder, coercion, and the exploitation of other human beings.

Our very economic system is open to criticism, as it asserts the primacy of money in our culture, making it a prerequisite for living without hardship and destitution. The growing wealth gap occupies daily news segments that discuss the inability of families across the country to live on minimum wages. Squid Game, the 2021 sensational Netflix series, presently enjoys international popularity because of its biting allegorical critique of the brutal inhumanities and abject cruelties inflicted by late-stage capitalism and the callous hierarchies it creates, a message that transcends cultural and national boundaries and that resonates with a swathe of global audiences facing increasing financial insecurity and inequities. Beyond the constructs of our economic system, countless psychological studies are devoted to the effects money has on our behaviors and the range of emotions it stokes in us. Money programs us in so many ways.

Figure 1. Allegory of Avarice, oil on canvas, by Jacopo Ligozzi, 1590. Avarice holds a money bag as her attribute. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Eric Seiler and Darcy Bradbury, and Edward A. and Karen S. W. Friedman, 1991.443.

Avarice (Fig. 1)—the emotion most associated with money—is not new, for history is rife with examples and stories of the depths to which we fall to acquire money, and the inhuman things we do to each other for it. The raw materials for a great many of the historical coins we study and collect were procured centuries ago through forced labor and slavery; examples include the Roman mines and the Spanish exploitation of the resources in the New World. Damnatio ad metallum, condemnation to the mines, was a Roman capital punishment worse than an immediate death sentence, because of the abject conditions and prolonged suffering that ultimately would lead to death under hard labor.After metal was struck into coined money and put into circulation, the pursuit of it could cause further pain and suffering.

During the reign of Trajan (98–117 CE), the satirist Juvenal wrote a fictional tale about a miserly Roman patron reluctantly doling out a pittance of 100 quadrantes to undeserving clients at the expense of those who actually needed it (1.95–146). In that anecdote, he invokes several gods with temples and altars, but tells us it is money that is worshipped supreme; greed motivates even wealthy citizens with high office to wait for the paltry payment in his story, displacing those who need it to subsist. Juvenal writes: “Of all gods it’s Wealth that compels our deepest reverence – though as yet, pernicious Cash, you lack your own temple, though we’ve raised no altars to Coins (as already to Honor and Peace, to Victory, Virtue and Concord – where storks’ wings rattle as you salute their nest)” (1.112–116). Elsewhere, I have argued that Juvenal makes subtle allusions to contemporary coin designs to heighten his satire, as people associated his theme of corruption and greed with the designs on coins in their pockets, which actually depicted Honor, Peace, Victory, Virtue, and Concord, especially as he also deploys wordplay with numen (deity) and nummus (coin). The episode concludes with the miserly patron turning away spurned clients to gorge himself on a boar, which also features on Trajan’s quadrantes, further reinforcing his theme of avarice (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Quadrans of Trajan, struck at Rome, ca. 114–117 CE. At the end of Juvenal’s sketch about the dole of 100 quadrantes, needy clients who did not get a payment wait around for a dinner invitation that never comes; the patron, instead, goes home and dines on a whole roast boar, which I argue is a satirical allusion to the design on some Trajanic quadrantes. Obverse: Head of Hercules wearing the lion’s skin, IMP CAES TRAIAN AVG GERM. Reverse: A boar, S C. ANS 1921.100.6.

Perhaps the most famous tale in the ancient world of the suffering money can cause is Judas’s betrayal of Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15; Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Judas Being Paid the 30 Pieces of Silver, etching by Augustin Hirschvogel, 1547. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1961.544.1.

This was the immediate catalyst that led to Jesus’s brutal execution, and the savage and humiliating events of its prelude, which typified non-citizen executions in the Roman Empire. So great was Judas’s remorse that he attempted to return the blood money and hanged himself (Matthew 27:3–5). While highly improbable that the Tyrian shekels (Fig. 4) in the ANS cabinets were among those paid to Judas, we might wonder what they were witness to centuries ago, what they were used for, and what people did to get them (or any of the objects in collections across the globe for that matter), whether it be theft, assault, betrayal, murder, hard labor, prostitution, self-degradation, and so on.

Figure 4. Shekel of Tyre, 18-19 CE. As the primary silver coin circulating in Palestine in the early first century CE, this is the type of coin that scholars generally agree would have been used to pay Judas to betray Jesus. Obverse: Head of Melqart. Reverse: Eagle standing on prow of ship with club to its left, ΤΥΡΟΥ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ, date mark in the right field. ANS 1944.100.72863. Bequest of E. T. Newell.

In addition to the acts people commit to attain wealth, we can also discern emotional residue that people attached to coins when material contexts are preserved. Looking to developments in the field of archaeology, and specifically what is called Cognitive Archaeology, Prof. Frank Holt, an ANS member, advocates for a Cognitive Numismatics in his new book: “Numismatics therefore seems a study of elite self-absorption. For that reason, it has generally been viewed as a top-down discipline more about sovereigns than the societies they ruled . . . Cognitive numismatics firmly rejects that premise. Without abandoning all that coins can teach us as state-sponsored media, cognitive numismatics . . . seeks also in coins the lower strata of society as the next step in advancing our knowledge deeper into history’s darkest chasms” (Holt, When Money Talks: A History of Coins and Numismatics [Oxford University Press, 2021], p. 164).

Indeed, there has been a growing body of scholarship that explores the reception and use of coins by people who are anonymous in the grand narrative arc of history. By interrogating the reception and use of coins, we uncover vestiges of the way nameless people attached meaning and emotion to coins, especially in funerary contexts. For instance, late-third and fourth-century CE coins in infant burials in Roman Britain were placed consistently with the reverse side up, with images suggesting the protective roles of the parents. The grieving parents evidently chose such designs to help guide their children safely on their journeys to the afterlife.

Figure 5. Coin of Maxentius for Divus Romulus, struck at Ostia, ca. 309–312 CE. This is not the specific coin from the catacombs, but it illustrates the sort of coin used. Obverse: Head of the boy Romulus, DIVO ROMVLO N V BIS CONS. Reverse: Tomb surmounted by an eagle, AETERNAE MEMORIAE. ANS 1962.82.3.

From Rome, there is the example of a burial of a fourth-century CE Christian child from the Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, about which Maria R.-Alföldi wrote in 1996. Around the loculus in which the child’s body was laid to rest, the family pressed ten coins of Maxentius bearing the portrait of his deceased child, Romulus, into the plaster seal (Fig. 5). One coin remains in situ, while the others have since fallen out (Figs. 6–7).

Figure 6. Coin impressions and coin embedded in the plaster around the loculus of the Christian child’s tomb in the Catacombs of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, Rome. Image from Maria R.-Alföldi, “Münze im Grab, Münze am Grab – Ein ausgefallenes Beispiel aus Rom,” Pages 33–39 in C. E. King and D. G. Wigg (eds.), Coin Finds and Coin Use in the Roman World (Berlin, 1996).

The use of the coins is witness to the parents’ sentimental adornment of their child’s grave with the likeness of a child who was about the same age when he died. That they were Christians and Maxentius was a pagan, who deified his dead son, as indicated on the coin with the phrase divo, seems to have mattered little in their choice to mark their child’s passing this way.

Figure 7. Detail of Figure 6, showing the coin with portrait of Divus Romulus embedded in the plaster. Photo credit same as Fig. 6.

Numismatists have, indeed, begun to use coins in ways that help illuminate the lives, experiences, and emotions of everyday people. To examine such questions, and to complete the potential breadth of information that can be obtained from the study of coins, numismatics needs more than just the objects themselves; the deployment of literature, texts, historical context, and the physical associations archaeology provides enrich numismatics and illuminate the people who used coins. In this way, we can help to tell a more complete story of the human experience and give voice to those that the grand political narrative overlooks.

New Data Release from the RRDP Project

by Alice Sharpless and Lucia Carbone

This blog post accompanies the second release of data for the RRDP Project. You can read more about the project and the first release in Carbone and Yarrow’s July 13, 2021 blog post.

Figure 1. RRC 357/2, Münzkabinett Wien RÖ 2384.

With our second data release we are continuing with our focus on the period of 92–75 BCE (RRC types 336–392). The new release includes the following RRC types:

Some of the issues released, i.e., 357/1a, 357/1b, and 385/4 are ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. RRC 357/1b, ANS 1941.131.162.

As the name suggests, ODEC issues have a specific correspondence between dies and control marks. Usually there is a univocal correspondence between obverse and reverse dies for each of these control marks. Early on, Schaefer realized the value of these types for understanding the coin production processes used at the Roman mint and also for testing and improving statistical models for estimating the original number of dies used to strike an issue. The current release has allowed us to add a total of 3,515 specimens to CRRO, including 2,541 ODEC specimens, thus further enhancing our knowledge of ODEC issues.

Figure 3. Schaefer RRC 344/3 Reverse 67 featuring new control symbol.

344/3 was minted under L. Titurius Sabinus in 89 BCE (Fig. 3). Crawford counted 200 reverse dies, but with Schaefer’s materials this number has been raised to 224. Schaefer’s materials also reveal six new control symbols of Titurius Sabinus:

Schaefer’s materials also include a second example of a variant reverse die where Victory holds a whip rather than wreath, with no control mark. Crawford had already noted the example in the collection of the University of Oslo. Before this data release there were 283 specimens represented in CRRO. There are now 770 specimens in CRRO.

Figure 4. RRC 385/4, Peacock control mark.

357/1a and 357/1b both date to 83 BCE, minted under G. Norbanus. 357/1a seems to be a small issue. Schaefer’s materials provide examples of 26 obverse dies. Crawford gave a range of numbered control marks from I to XXVI. Schaefer’s materials also include specimens with the control marks CXXXXVII and CXV (one die for each). These higher control marks might indicate that the issue was much larger than previously known, or these may be imitations. Before this data release there were 49 specimens represented in CRRO. There are now 217. 357/1b is a much larger issue. Crawford noted 156 obverse dies, but we can now raise that number to 210,with an additional 5 imitation dies. These materials do not add any new control marks to the range of I to CCXXVIIII provided by Crawford. Schaefer’s materials also show that this particular issue has a high number of brockages. This data release has added an additional 1,796 specimens to CRRO.

Figure 5. RRC 385/4 Bird r. (pea-hen?) control mark.

385/4 is another large issue minted under M. Voltei M. F. in 78 BCE which has both obverse and reverse control marks. This moneyer created a series wherein each of the five coins celebrates a different major religious festival: the ludi Romani (or plebeii, represented in RRC 385/1), Cereales (RRC 385/3), Megalenses (RRC 385/4), Apollinares (RRC 385/5), and, as it is suggested by the types on RRC 385/2,  the short-lived ludi Herculani (for a criticism to this chronology, see Keaveney 2005).The issue included in this data release thus celebrated the ludi Megalenses, which were established in 204 BCE to honor the Magna Mater, Cybele, as suggested by the reverse. Schaefer’s materials reveal 78 obverse dies (an increase from 71 noted by Crawford), although one is likely an imitation. There are 79 reverse dies (an increase from 71 noted by Crawford), three of which are probably imitations. This RRDP release has increased the specimens on CRRO from 182 to 759. Most notably, Schaefer’s materials also contribute six new obverse control marks that were not included by Crawford. They also allow for four corrections to Crawfords list (see table). Schaefer has shown that two of the reverse control marks (ΛΕ and ΜΘ) actually have two associated dies though there is no corresponding change in obverse die. This may suggest the original reverse dies broke or were damaged earlier than expected. The following table shows the updated list of control marks. New or corrected control marks are in bold. Schaefer also includes one specimen which appears to be an imitation of the Thyrsus/Θ pair. We are indebted to our volunteer David van Dyke for his work on this issue.

Winged caduceusB
Star (Obverse 1002)Δ
Lizard (Obverse 1010)ΙΕ
Heron walkingΙΗ
Peacock (Fig. 4; Obverse 1012)ΙΘ
Plane (Obverse 1013)Κ
Bird r. (pea-hen?) (Obverse 1015) [Crawford identifies as Peacock, but new control mark (above) show this cannot be a peacock; perhaps is a pea-hen, see Fig. 5]ΚΒ        
Piercer (Crawford, Pl. LXX 50)ΛΑ
Stilus (Obverse 1025)ΛΕ (2 dies, Fig. 6-7)
Pileus with starΛΖ
Boot r. (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 51)ΛΗ
Perfume-jar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 52)Μ  
Staff with double hookΜΑ
Macedonian shieldΜΓ
Pear-shaped shieldΜΔ
Oval shieldΜΕ
Oblong shield with rounded cornersΜΣ
Oblong shield with square cornersΜΖ
Small round shieldΜΗ
Large round shieldΜΘ (2 dies)
Lighted altar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 53)ΝΓ  
Altar (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 53)ΝΔ
Axe/Hatchet (Crawford,Pl. LXX, 54)ΝΕ  
Duck’s headΝΣ (not ΝΕ)
Stove (Pl. LXX, 55)Ξ
Short boot (Pl. LXX, 56)ΞΣ
Foot r.ΞΖ
Gourd? (Obverse 1059) [Crawford identifies as Knife-blade but this seems to be a mistake]ΞΗ    
Bow and quiverΟ
Crawford, Pl. LXX, 58ΟΓ
Small plumb bob? (Obverse 1065)ΟΔ
Bunch of grapesΟΕ
Shovel (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 59)ΟΘ
Small broom (Crawford, Pl. LXX, 60; Obverse 1071) [Crawford identifies as “comb” but probably associated with previous as tools for clearing fire ash]Π        
Mask of Silenus (Obverse 1072) [Crawford identifies as Mask of Pan]ΠΑ  
Mask of Pan (Obverse 1073)ΠΒ
Crested helmetΠΓ
Figure 6. Schaefer RRC 385/4 Reverse ΛΕ1, Obverse 1025 (stylus).
Figure 7. Schaefer RRC 385/4 Reverse ΛΕ2, Obverse 1025 (stylus).

A second group of issues included in this release is instrumental in illustrating the financing of Sulla’s campaign in Italy in 84-82 BCE. 359/1 (aureus) and 359/2 (denarius) are issues of L. Cornelius Sulla. For 359/1, Schaefer’s materials add five new specimens to CRRO, with the result that CRRO now includes all ten known specimens. Crawford recorded 6 obverse and 6 reverse dies for 359/1. Schaefer’s materials reveal another two for each, for a total of 8 reverse and 8 obverse dies. For 359/2, Schaefer’s materials provide 187 reverse dies—a significant increase from the 36 reverse dies Crawford recorded—and add 277 specimens to CRRO. There is a high number of singleton reverse dies, an element that could hint at an Eastern mint for these issues. An Eastern production is also suggested by the die-axis, which present a strong tendency toward 12:00, a common practice for Greek coinage, but almost unattested in Roman Republican coinage The Eastern minting techniques, together with the iconographical similarities between the reverse of these RRC issues and the so-called Athenian ‘trophies’ tetradrachms, strongly connect  RRC 359 issues to the early phases of Sulla’s reconquest of Italy (Figs. 8–9). 

Figure 8. Reverse of RRC 359/2, Berlin MünzKabinett 18206086.

The anonymous issues 375/1 (aureus) and 375/2 (denarius, Fig. 1) were recently published by Alberto Campana (“L’Emissione con “Q” di Silla (RRC 375/1–2, 82 a.C.)” Monete Antiche 118 (2021): 3–30). The aureus 357/1 is known from only a single specimen in the BnF (REP-21376). For 357/2, Campana includes more specimens than Schaefer and identifies 40 obverse and 111 reverse dies plus two plated obverse and reverse dies. Schaefer’s materials include 98 reverse dies and add 205 specimens to CRRO. On the basis of hoard evidence, Campana convincingly argues that these issues should also be included among the ones financing Sulla’s campaigns and possibly dated to the same years as RRC 359 issues. The contribution of RRDP to our knowledge of Sullan campaign financing strategies will be presented by Lucia Carbone on November 10 at the University of Virginia.

Figure 9. Reverse of New Style Silver tetradrachm, Athens, 86–84 BCE, ANS 2015.20.881.

The next RRDP release, tentatively scheduled for January 2022, will include all of the RRC 367 types, also related to the Sullan campaigns of 84–82 BCE. Crawford identifies five types (three denarii, two aurei) of this joint issue of Sulla and L. Manlius Torquatus. But it seems this issue can actually be broken down into more than five types, some of which were marked with control symbols. By focusing on 367 we aim to disentangle and revise Crawford’s typologies.

Guises of the Tribute Penny

This last summer an email message to the ANS Curatorial Department requested that an attempt be made to use the Society’s online resources, like Pocket Change, to offer some education regarding the famous “Tribute Penny” mentioned in the King James Version of Mark 12:13–17 (thought by many New Testament source critics to have been followed by Matthew 22:16–21 and Luke 20:20–26). The sender expressed concern that coins regularly sold on the numismatic market as the “Tribute Penny” type might be wrongly described as such. This is in fact a very old concern, and one that extends almost back to the birth of modern coin collecting in the Renaissance.

Figure 1. Title page of Marquard Freher’s De Numismate census, a Pharisaeis in quaestionem vocato (Heidelberg, 1599).

Already in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the question of the coin’s identity had been discussed in print by several scholars (Fig. 1). These treatises generally preferred a silver coin of Tiberius (AD 14–37) featuring the portrait and name of the emperor on the obverse and an enthroned female figure on the reverse often thought to represent his mother Livia in the guise of Pax (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Silver denarius of Tiberius. Lugdunum mint, AD 14–37. RIC I2, 30. ANS 1948.19.1043.

This identification seemed to tick all of the appropriate boxes: 1) The coin was struck by Tiberius who was known to have been the reigning emperor during Jesus’ ministry; 2) it featured the emperor’s “image and superscription,” both of which are explicitly mentioned in the parallel accounts of the three Synoptic Gospels; and 3) it was a denarius (Greek δηνάριον), the denomination specified by the Synoptic Gospels. This identification seemed to have it all, and thus it has tended to be the favorite down to the present, to the point that if the “Tribute Penny” is mentioned to any numismatist today, this is the type that invariably leaps to mind first. However, the identification with Tiberius’ denarius has one important difficulty that was unknown from the time that the numismatists of the early modern period first identified the “Tribute Penny” down to the last quarter of the twentieth century: There is no find evidence to suggest that the Roman denarius circulated in Judaea in any kind of quantity before AD 70.

Figure 3. Silver tetradrachm of Tiberius. Antioch mint, AD 14-37. RPC I, 4161.1. ANS 1944.100.65559.

As a possible solution to this problem it has sometimes been suggested that the “Tribute Penny” was actually a rare silver tetradrachm type (Fig. 3) struck in the name of Tiberius at Antioch on the Orontes, the capital of the Roman province of Syria. Due to the close proximity of Syria to Judaea it is assumed that such coins were more likely to have circulated in the environs of Judaea in the time of Jesus than the denarius. Unfortunately, the Syrian tetradrachm theory is bedeviled by its own complications that have tended to prevent it from gaining wide acceptance. For one thing, the tetradrachm (roughly equivalent to four denarii) was a much larger denomination than Mark’s denarius and its design featuring the heads and names of both Tiberius and the deified Augustus makes for uncomfortable ambiguity when Jesus asks his interlocutors whose “image and superscription” are on it. Also problematic is the fact that none of the few known Syrian tetradrachms of Tiberius were found in Israel. Indeed, find and hoard evidence suggests that Syrian tetradrachms really only began to circulate in Judaea under Nero, perhaps in response to the closure of the provincial silver mint at Tyre in AD 56 and/or the movement of troops at the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt (AD 66–73).     

Although proponents of the differing identities of the “Tribute Penny” have occasionally come close to blows in the past, it may be worth considering the possibility that the specific denomination was mentioned by Mark and the other Synoptic Gospels not so much with the intention of providing a precise historical detail but as a means of adding concreteness to the message of proper respect for divine and worldly authority. If the many New Testament source critics who consider the Gospel of Mark to have been written for a Christian community in Rome shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 are correct, it seems not unreasonable to wonder whether the coin is identified as a denarius not as a literal description of a coin actually handed to Jesus at the time of his questioning, but because this denomination was comprehensible in the Roman context of Mark’s primary audience. It was a coin that anyone in Rome, Italy or the western provinces would have been familiar with in the first century. This is the very same mechanism that turned Mark’s denarius into a penny (Fig. 4) in the English of the King James Version as a means of retaining intelligibility for English readers of the early seventeenth century.

Figure 4. Silver penny of James I. London Tower mint, 1603–1625. North 2106. ANS 1972.197.1.

Although the precise identity of the coin is important to those of us with a numismatic bent, it is not so clear that this was particularly important to early Christian communities. In the Gnostic-leaning Gospel of Thomas (100:1–4), an extra-canonical Coptic codex of sayings of Jesus discovered in Egypt near Nag Hammadi in 1945, the “Tribute Penny” is described as a gold coin (Coptic anoub). A Roman gold aureus (worth 25 denarii) (Fig. 5) would have been ridiculously high for the head tax (caput) in the first century—particularly considering that the punitive tax imposed on adult male Jews after the fall of Jerusalem was only two denarii (roughly equivalent to the half shekel previously paid to the Jerusalem Temple).

Figure 5. Gold aureus of Tiberius. Lugdunum mint, AD 14–37. RIC I2, 29. ANS 1957.172.1514.

However, in response to the runaway inflation and the debasement of Roman silver coinage over the course of the third century, in the 290s Diocletian instituted reforms that required the payment of the head tax in gold (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Gold aureus of Diocletian. Antioch mint, AD 296-297. RIC VI, 13. ANS 1960.175.2.

Since the Nag Hammadi version of the Gospel of Thomas is believed to have been written down in the mid-fourth century on the basis of paleography (although it seems to include earlier material), it is tempting to suggest that here too the coin in Jesus’ hand reflects the contemporary reality of the community for which the gospel was written rather than any historical reality. In the fourth century, the head tax was regularly assessed in gold solidi (Fig. 7) and therefore Mark’s silver denarius was transformed into gold for the Late Antique audience of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas.   

Figure 7. Gold solidus of Constantius II. Antioch mint, AD 347–355. RIC VIII, 83. ANS 1956.184.9.

The apparent irrelevance of the precise identity of the coin is further implied by the extra-canonical Egerton Gospel and Tertullian’s treatise against idolatry. The Egerton Gospel is a fragmentary Greek codex obtained by the British Museum in 1934 and probably dateable to about AD 200. The recto side of Egerton Fragment 2 recounts the familiar controversy over payment of the head tax but there no coin is ever proffered to Jesus, nor is a coin even mentioned. Tertullian’s De Idolatria (15.3), probably written in the early third century, on the other hand, also retells this story, but refers to the denarius of the Synoptic Gospels only by the nondescript Latin term nummus (“coin”).

Coin identification (and argument about differing coin identifications) is the basic lifeblood of any numismatist. There is a special thrill to looking at a 2,000-year-old piece of metal and being able to say to oneself, “Aha! I know what that is.” However, in attempting to precisely identify the “Tribute Penny” as a specific coin, it may be that we are really chasing a chimera.

Were Eraviscan imitative denarii a prestige coinage?

The Latin legend RAVIS which occurs on the reverse of this imitative denarius (Fig. 1) has long been associated with the Latin name of a Germanic tribe, the Eravisci or Aravisci. Other legends that appear on imitative denarii that have been associated with this tribe are RAVIZ, RAVISCI, or IRAVISCI (Fig. 2). These coins present several similarities to the Geto-Dacian imitations of Roman currencies, which I have already addressed here.  

Figure 1. ANS 2015.20.2362. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 2. Pannonia, Eravisci. Silver Denarius, after 76 BC. Imitating 393/1. Davis B.II. Freeman 1/A, pl. 29, 1 (same dies). 17 mm. 3.30 g. Nomos AG obolos 17, 20 December 2020, lot 14.

The Eravisci were a Celtic tribe living in the northeastern part of Transdanubia, i.e., the part of Hungary lying west of the Danube (Pliny, Natural History 3.148) (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Ruins of Gellért Hill, one of the most important Eraviscan fortifications.

In the last decade of Augustus’s reign, this region became part of the Roman province of Pannonia with the name of Pannonia Inferior (Fig. 4).

Figure 4. The Roman province of Pannonia Inferior.

There are only guesses as to when and from where the Eravisci arrived in that region, but their presence in the area was known to the Roman historian Tacitus (Germania 28). He writes that the Eravisci moved to the right banks of the Danube from the territory of the Germanic tribe of the Osi, in the area of the Rába River (Tacitus, Germania 43) (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. The Rába River in Hungary (ancient Pannonia), a tributary of the Danube. The region encircled by this river represented the first settlement area of the Eravisci.

Their move to the area of Transdanubia was probably related to the collapse of the hegemony of the Boii in the region. According to the Greek historian Strabo (Geography 7.3.11), this happened as a result of a great defeat of the confederation of the Boii and the Taurisci tribes at the hands of the Dacian king Burebista, whose quasi-legendary rule has been connected to the existence of a pre-Roman Dacian state (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Map of the Dacian Kingdom at around the height of Burebista’s reign, in the second half of the first century BC.

This event might be dated to around 45–44 BC and might represent a terminus post quem for the beginning of the coinage issued in the name of the Eravisci.

Eraviscan coins are all imitations of Roman coinage, mostly Republican denarii struck in the 80s and 70s BC, but also some Augustan denarii. For what concerns Roman Republican denarii, the four main reverse types imitated the issues of L. Papius (RRC 384/1, 79 BC), Cn.Cornelius Lentulus (RRC 393/1a, 76-75 BC), C. Postumius (RRC 394/1a, 74 BC), and L. Roscius Fabatus (RRC 412/1, 64 BC) (Figs. 7–10).

Figure 7. Eraviscan denarius imitating the types of L. Papius (RRC 384/1). ANS 2015.20.2520. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 8. Eraviscan denarius imitating the types of Cn. Cornelius Lentulus (RRC 393/1). ANS 2015.20.2293. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 9. Eraviscan denarius imitating the types of C. Postumius (RRC 394/1a). ANS 2015.20.2524. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 10. Eraviscan denarius imitating the types of L. Roscius Fabatus (RRC 412/1). ANS 2015.20.2375. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.

Also, the denarii issued by P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1a, 82 BC) and by L. Manlius Torquatus (RRC 295/1, 113–112 BC) were used as prototypes to the so‑called DOMISA, DVTETI and ANSALI issues, possibly featuring the names of local chieftains (Figs. 11–13).

Figure 11. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1) with the name of the chieftain DOMISA. ANS 2015.20.2361. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 12. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1) with the name of the chieftain DVTETI. Freeman 8 (5/B). 17 mm. 3.26 g. Rauch Summer Auction 2012, 20 September 2012, lot 75.
Figure 13. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of L. Manlius Torquatus (RRC 295/1) with the name of the chieftain ANSALI. ANS 2015.20.2532. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.

As a consequence of this wide range of prototypes, the chronology of these issues has until recently been determined very broadly from c. 80 BC to the end of the first century BC.  However, fairly recent studies based on hoard circulation suggests that they were issued from about 40/30 BC to 12/9 BC, with production ending in correspondence with the Augustan conquest of Pannonia or shortly thereafter.

The largest number of finds was recorded within the primary settlement zone of the Eravisci, which according to written and archaeological evidence may be placed within the modern counties of Pest, Fejér and Tolna in modern Hungary (Fig. 14).  

Figure 14. Finds of Eraviscan coins. A: hoard; B: stray find. Dulęba and Wysocki 2017, p. 57, fig. 4.

However, the recent discovery of a hoard of 14 Eraviscan imitative denarii in the Polish village of Czechy, in the region of Cracow, might suggest that the circulation radius of these coins could have been much wider than previously thought (Fig. 15).

Figure 15. Location of the site of Czechy and the cultural situation at the end of the pre-Roman period on a map of modern Poland. A: Przeworsk culture; B: Oksywie culture; C: Baltic circle; D: Púchov culture; E: Tyniec group. Dulęba and Wysocki 2017, p. 52, fig. 1.

As in the case of Geto-Dacian imitations, the function of this coinage has been hugely debated, with foremost scholars in the field arguing for a very limited use, restricted to prestige-related contexts, as suggested by the very limited finds in situ. This might find comparanda in the other coinages issued in the so-called barbaricum, especially in the early production stages of Celtic coinages in northern Gaul.

However, die-links between different issues (most notably the ones bearing the names of DOMISA, DVTETII and ANSALI ) were noted for the first time by Robert Freeman. This element hints at a very coordinated production for these imitative coinages. Moreover, the different degree of wear evident in die-linked specimens suggests an effective circulation (Figs. 16–17).

Figure 16. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1) with the name of the chieftain DVTETI. Same reverse die as the following specimen, but with different level of wear. ANS 2015.20.2517. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 17. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of P. Crepusius (RRC 361/1) with the name of the chieftain DVTETI. Same reverse die as the previous specimen, but with different level of wear. ANS 2015.20.2519. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.

The R. B. Witschonke Collection at ANS provides further examples of die-linked specimens, which which also show different degrees of wear (Figs. 18–20).

Figure 18. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of Cn.Cornelius Lentulus (RRC 393/1). This specimen shares an obverse die with the specimen in Fig. 19 and a reverse die with the specimen in Fig. 20. ANS 2015.20.2514. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 19. Eraviscan denarius imitating the reverse type of Cn.Cornelius Lentulus (RRC 393/1). This specimen shares an obverse die with the specimen in Fig. 18. ANS 2015.20.2512. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 20. Eraviscan denarius imitating the obverse type of L. Papius (RRC 384/1) and the reverse type of Cn. Lentulus (RRC 393/1). Same reverse die as Fig. 18. ANS 2015.20.2363. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.

Finally, an element that seems to be common to all the known Eraviscan specimens is the fact of being consistently lightweight compared to official Roman denominations. For example, the Eraviscan denarii included in the R. B. Witschonke collection have an average weight of 3.27 g. This is a differentiating element in comparison to the Daco-Getan imitations, where several specimens are overweight.  

In sum, it seems very likely that the Eraviscan imitative coinage was a) produced in a somewhat coordinated fashion, as suggested by the numerous die-links; b) a relatively limited phenomenon in terms of chronology and volume of issues, since so many die-links are discovered in a limited sample; c) not (only) a prestige coinage since several specimen appear considerably worn.

The production and circulation of imitations of Roman Republican denarii among the Eravisci thus suggest the existence of an (at least partly) monetized economy, which probably came into existence in the decades leading to the creation of the Pannonian province in the late Augustan Age. Eraviscan imitative denarii are therefore part of a tale of partial cultural and economic convergence toward the Roman world that took place in the course of the second and first century BC in the Mediterranean world at large as a consequence of the Roman expansion. This very topic has been addressed in a three-day international conference held in March 2021 and the coins just presented add further nuances to this fascinating process.

Developments and Preliminary Data Release for the Roman Republican Die Project

Lucia Carbone and Liv M. Yarrow

The following post is a precursor to a Long Table discussion scheduled for Friday, July 16, 1 pm. Please join us then for an open Q&A following the presentation. If you are unable to do so, please feel free to send along any questions or comments to Lucia Carbone and Liv Mariah Yarrow. 

Nearly three decades ago Richard Schaefer began collecting images of Roman Republican coins and organizing these images by one die, either obverse or reverse based on which was most distinctive for each type (Figs. 1 and 2).

Figure 1. An image of some of the drawers in Schaefer’s office, containing pre-processed clippings of specimen images.
Figure 2. Digitized pre-processed clippings on Archer (this specimen RRC 348/5).

In Summer 2020 the ANS released all the digitized images through its online archives (Archer) and connected relevant pages to the types in Coinage of the Roman Republic Online (CRRO).  You can read about the process of digitization and the background to the project in our September 2019 ANS Magazine article, “Opening Access to Roman Republican Dies”. To learn more about the materials on Archer and how to navigate them, see these earlier blog posts. For those interested in the possible research applications of RRDP, especially concerning quantification of coin production, we published an article in RBN 2020, where the data from RRDP were put in the context of the aftermath of the First Mithridatic War (89–85 BCE), in order to show the correlation between monetary production in the provinces of the Roman Empire and the Roman Republican one.

In November 2020 the ANS received a grant for a two-year pilot project to build a database capable of reflecting Schaefer’s die analyses and enabling that work to be expanded in future by both Schaefer and the RRDP team.  The present phase is focusing on the die transcription of Crawford types 336–392 (92–75 BCE).

The reason for prioritizing these decades lies in the fact that in these years Rome found herself battling at the same time with her Italian allies (socii)—the backbone of her fighting force for her conquest and control of the Mediterranean—and with the formidable king of Pontus, Mithridates VI. While Rome’s war with the socii threatened Rome’s own existence in the Italian peninsula, the war against Mithridates promised to annihilate the Roman conquests in the East. These are also the years when historical figures of the caliber of Marius, Sulla, and Pompey rose to prominence. In spite of the crucial importance of this historical period, no contemporary, continuous narrative of this period survives as a whole. Being able to quantify the coinage for this period would provide new historical insights into the funding of different military and domestic projects and allow for a comparison of relative expenditure based on threat or need.

Within this period, we are prioritizing the transcription of a part of Schaefer’s Archive known as ODEC: One Die for Each Control Mark (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. An example of ODEC issue: RRC 378/1c. (ANS 1941.131.177)

As the name suggests, ODEC issues have a specific correspondence between dies and control marks. Usually there is a univocal correspondence between obverse and reverse dies for each of these control marks. Early on, Schaefer realized the value of these types for understanding the coin production processes used at the Roman mint and also for testing and improving statistical models for estimating the original number of dies used to strike an issue.

The funding first enabled Ethan Gruber, the ANS Director of Data Science, to adapt Numishare software to create both a die database and specimen database for coins known only from images, rather than those in collections already connected to and thus represented in CRRO. He then connected the die database (RRDP) and the specimen database (SITNAM) to CRRO.  For most users these new developments are best seen as extensions of CRRO itself: under each type you will see a total of 5,000 more specimens and also information about known dies. How CRRO displays this still being developed (Figs. 4–6).

Figure 4. SITNAM specimens enhancing the number of specimens already in CRRO (these specimens RRC 378/1b).
Figure 5. One specimen of RRC 378/1b as displayed on SITNAM.
Figure 6. Die analysis integrated in CRRO (this specimen RRC 378/1b).

Gruber also adapted an existing, open-source tool, SimpleAnnotationServer, for the RRDP team to work simultaneously on transcribing different parts of Schaefer’s archive and annotating images in Archer (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. A page of Schaefer’s clippings as seen in Mirador, the annotation tool that connect the images on Archer, SITNAM, RRDP, and CRRO.

Thanks to Gruber’s innovation, the RRDP team is gradually understanding the challenges of the material and how to make the transcription process as smooth and as accurate as possible.  What we are sharing now is the results of this early learning process. 

These preliminary technical tools have enabled us to begin the laborious transcription process. This release includes the following Crawford types:












While we aimed to accurately reflect Schaefer’s analyses for all these issues, we also know that the very process of making them available is likely to generate feedback for improvement.  Throughout the transcription process we have regularly consulted Schaefer on his notations and where we had questions regarding his analyses, but mistakes are inevitable and regular updates are a key goal of the RRDP project.  In this we take our lead from Schaefer himself who always welcomes new observations to revise and improve the quality of the die analyses.

Many individuals have been involved thus far on the transcription project, but perhaps the most important team member is Alice Sharpless. Sharpless is currently employed part-time on RRDP, but will work full time from October onwards following the defense of her PhD thesis, “The Value of Luxury: Precious Metal Tableware in the Roman Empire.”  Sharpless brings to the team a wealth of experience digitizing the finds from the excavations at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, as well as her on-going work cataloguing the imperial coins in Columbia Library’s Olcott Collection in advance of the collection’s digital publication.

We are also indebted to a number of volunteers including Miriam Bernstein, a class of 2021 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Brooklyn College (dual major in Classics and Religion). Bernstein’s work on RRDP was initially funded by a Kurz Undergraduate Research Assistantship, but even after completing this initial commitment, Bernstein has continued to work in a voluntary capacity.  She’ll be leaving the project in autumn to begin a year in the AmeriCorps’ Literacy Program in Palm Beach, Florida.  However, we hope to welcome her back to the ANS and RRDP in future.

This release has also benefited from the keen eye and interest of Jeremy Haag.  He and Liv Yarrow discovered they were both working on RRC 378 and decided to team up.  Haag has a PhD in Plant Biology and works for Bayer Crop Science as a research scientist, but in his spare time is an avid numismatist with a deep interest in the Roman Republican series.   He will co-present at the Long Table on how RRDP has been forwarding his research. Similar updates on other volunteers and collaborators will be included in each new release.

Our biggest goals are to continue to transcribe ODEC issues, but we also want to refine the transcription process to make it more user friendly and thus enable more and faster transcription. We’ll also be reviewing community feedback and adjusting and refining the display of information. 

If this pilot project is successful, we hope to develop a means by which new materials can be directly incorporated into RRDP through a web interface, so that it can be a living die study that is constantly improving in accuracy rather than a static archive.  We also hope to collaborate with other die study initiatives to ensure the RRDP data is fully integrated into those projects. 

At the upcoming Long Table on Friday, July 16th, titled Digitized die-studies: an update on RRDP and SILVER, this possibility will be discussed in detail by Caroline Carrier. Caroline is the lead post-doctoral researcher on the SILVER project, which is building a database of all known ancient world silver die studies.

The Aedes of Vesta on Cistophori of C. Fannius

Anyone who has been paying attention to the ANS Pocket Change blog or to the ANS Magazine over the last while will be aware that over the course of this year a lot of work has been going on with respect to the large body of numismatic material left to the American Numismatic Society by Rick W. Witschonke in 2015. This includes 524 (14% of the collection) cistophoric tetradrachms and fractions struck for use in the Hellenistic Attalid kingdom and the Roman province of Asia that it became after 133 BC (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Silver cistophorus (Pergamum, ca. 166–160 BC). ANS 2015.20.1210 (Witschonke collection).

Of the cistophori, named for the cista mystica that serves as the standard obverse type, 146 (27% of the cistophori in the collection) belong to a special class known as Later Republican cistophori. These were struck in the relatively brief period from 58 to 49 BC and are distinguished by their inclusion of the names of Roman governors written in Latin. Issues naming T. Ampius Balbus (58–57 BC) and C. Fannius (49 BC) are also notable for their modifications to the traditional cistophoric reverse type. On coins of Balbus the traditional bowcase of Heracles on the reverse is replaced by a tripod (Fig. 2) while on those of Fannius it is replaced by a tholos temple surmounted by a female figure holding a patera and a scepter (Fig. 3).

Figure 2. Silver cistophorus of T. Ampius Balbus (Tralles, 58–57 BC). ANS 2015.20.36 (Witschonke collection).
Figure 3. Silver cistophorus of C. Fannius (Ephesus, 49/8 BC). ANS 2015.20.90 (Witschonke collection).

Curiously, the depiction of this temple, which seems very similar to the aedes of Vesta in Rome (Fig. 4), has excited relatively little interest in the major numismatic studies of the coins.

Figure 4. The remains of the aedes of Vesta in the Forum Romanum.

In the January 1973 issue of the American Journal of Archaeology, Jane Cody argued that Fannius’ temple should indeed be identified with the aedes of Vesta on the basis of Roman Republican denarii of Q. Cassius Longinus (RRC 428) struck in 55 BC. These depict a virtually identical temple that almost certainly represents the aedes of Vesta (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Silver denarius of Q. Cassius Longinus (Rome, 55 BC). ANS 1948.19.203.

The moneyer’s ancestor, L. Cassius Longinus Ravilla, served as prosecutor in the infamous second trial of the Vestal Virgins for failure to honor their vows of chastity in 113 BC. In the 2007 volume of Klio, Linda Zollschan argued that the edifice alluded to the events of 61 BC, in which Fannius and two other members of the college of pontifices (Fannius is consistently described as pontifex on his cistophori) brought the politically-motivated indictment against P. Clodius Pulcher for profaning the female-only rites of the Bona Dea—an important goddess of the Roman state who enjoyed the special patronage of the gens Fannia.  Thus, the temple on Fannius’ cistophori should be identified as the temple of the Bona Dea for Roman political reasons and because, in Zollschan’s view, its design and the appearance of the statue that surmounts it are not appropriate for the aedes of Vesta. She cites several dissimilarities:

1. The aedes of Vesta in Rome had 20 columns and only six are depicted on the temple on Fannius’ cistophori—hardly a convincing argument since the unequivocal aedes of Vesta on the denarius of Cassius is also depicted with six columns as a means of revealing the interior.

2. The denarii of Cassius depict the aedes of Vesta with Corinthian column capitals while Fannius’ temple has Ionic capitals. However, close inspection of numerous specimens of Fannius’ cistophori shows that in many cases, the capitals are actually Corinthian and that the “Ionic” capitals are really Corinthian capitals with overly prominent volutes.    

3. The aedes of Vesta in Rome was mounted on a podium, but the temple on Fannius’ coins has no podium—and yet the aedes of Vesta on Cassius’ coinage also lacks a podium.

4. The statue atop Fannius’ temple is not appropriate for a representation of Vesta. This is a rather more serious argument since specimens exist in which it is very clear that the female image is not veiled—the primary attribute of Vesta (an especially impressive and clear example appears in a recent update to a blog post on Fannius’ temple by Liv Yarrow). This being said, I have not yet been able to find an example of Cassius’ denarius in print or in CRRO or Coin Archives where it is possible to determine whether the statue on the aedes of Vesta is veiled or not.

Zollschan attempted to identify the statue on Fannius’ temple as the Bona Dea on the basis of her scepter and patera—both rather generic attributes—and a supposed serpent at the top of the scepter that she described as visible on one specimen. However, a close examination of the coin image suggests that what she was seeing as a serpent is really the arm of the figure holding the scepter. She also fails to note that the most prominent attribute of the Bona Dea is her cornucopia (Fig. 6)—something that is entirely lacking from the coins.

Figure 6. Inscribed marble statue of the Bona Dea.

Based on the preceding, and on the probability that the die engravers for Fannius’ temple were using a denarius of Q. Cassius Longinus as a model, Cody’s case for the aedes of Vesta still seems quite strong. The potential problem of the female statue may perhaps be mitigated by Flavian aurei that depict the aedes of Vesta in the form it took after its rebuilding under Nero (Fig. 7).

Figure 7. Gold aureus of Vespasian depicting the aedes of Vesta (Rome, AD 73). ANS 1956.184.26.

Here the shrine is shown with only four columns(!) and the cult image of Vesta standing inside. She appears to hold a patera and scepter, but again, it is very difficult to tell if she is actually veiled although we would expect it. Other female statues stand to the left and the right of the aedes, which presumably represent deities other than Vesta. Interestingly, the statue on the right also appears holding a patera and scepter in the same manner as the statue on Fannius’ temple, thus raising the possibility that it could still represent the aedes of Vesta without the image of Vesta necessarily surmounting it.

If Fannius’ temple on the cistophori is indeed the aedes of Vesta and the image was copied from the coinage of Cassius, we must then ask why this model was used. It is tempting to suggest that the denarius type may have provided a convenient image of a Roman temple and was used simply to emphasize Fannius’ status as pontifex. Alternatively (or simultaneously?) the temple may have been intended as a punning reference to Fannius’ name (fanum was a somewhat generic Latin term for a temple or shrine).

It is unclear whether there may have been any political motivation in borrowing Cassius’ type. In 49 BC, Q. Cassius Longinus had become tribune of the plebs with the support of Julius Caesar. Fannius, on the other hand, was clearly a Pompeian at the time of the Bona Dea affair in 61 BC. Subsequent events suggest that he may have changed his political alignment. Cicero implicates Fannius in an alleged plot against Pompey (Att. 2.4) in 59 BC and identifies him as a legate sent to Sextus Pompey by the triumvir M. Lepidus in 43 BC (Philipp. 3.16), all of which might imply an association of Fannius with the Caesarean faction in the 50s and much of the 40s BC. However, Fannius was a political opportunist, and in late 43 BC he switched his allegiance again and became a leading supporter of Sextus Pompey in Sicily. This lasted until 36 BC, when it became clear that the Pompeian cause was doomed and Fannius then threw in with Mark Antony. Thus, it seems not impossible that Fannius’ reuse of Cassius’ image of the aedes of Vesta in 49 BC could have served as a somewhat oblique declaration for Caesar through the person of his tribune of the plebs. It would have been very timely for Fannius to do so considering that he probably departed to take up his position as governor of Asia just as, or not long after Caesar cast his die and the Roman state began its descent into civil war.

A New-ish Cistophorus for the Rebel Aristonicus

The coin presented here (Fig. 1) is one of three known specimens of the cistophorus issued by the rebel Aristonicus in the Lydian city of Stratonicea on the Caicus in the year 129 BCE.

Figure 1. Lydia, Stratonicea. Cistophoric Tetradrachm, year E (= 5, 129 BCE). ECC Series 4 (dies 5/-). Robinson 1954, p. 14 (dies E/-). 27 mm. 12.78 g. Nomos 20, 10 July 2020, lot 236.

It is dated to the year E (=5), an element that seems to prove that the rebel ruled over part of Lydia one year longer than previously thought, i.e., 129 BCE instead of 130 BCE. The first of the three known specimens appeared in the market in 2017, but until the publication of a very recent article by P. O. Hochard on these coins, the generally accepted opinion was that Aristonicus-Eumenes III (Fig. 2) issued coins only for four years, i.e., from 133 to 130 BCE (Figs. 3–6).

Figure 2. Statue of Eumenes III (Aristonicus), King of Pergamum, Bergama, İzmir, Turkey.
Figure 3. Lydia, Thiatyra. Cistophoric tetradrachms, year A (=1, 133 BCE). Kampmann 1978, p. 39, fig. B. ECC – (cf. p.106, pl. XXXVIII, 10, same o.d.). 27.5 mm. 12.58 g. ANS 2015.20.1758. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 4. Lydia, Thiatyra. Cistophoric tetradrachm, year B (= 2, 132 BCE). ECC p.103, series 1, o.d.1. Robinson 1954, o.d. A pl. I, 1–2 (same o.d., but different reverse die). 28.8 mm. 12.56 g. ANS 2015.20.1383. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 5. ANS 2015.20.1326. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.
Figure 6. Lydia, Apollonis. Cistophoric tetradrachm, year Δ (= 4, 130 BCE). ECC p.103, series 3, o.d. 3. Robinson 1954, o.d. C pl. I, 11–12 (different reverse die). 26.7 mm. 12.56 g. ANS 2015.20.1761. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

In the late spring or early summer of 133 BCE the Attalid king Attalus III (138–133 BCE) died and bequeathed his kingdom to the Romans (Strabo, Geography 14.2, Fig. 7).

Figure 7. Attalid portrait at the Antikensammlung, Berlin. Possibly Attalus III.

A Pergamene decree dated to August 133 refers to the testament and the free status of Pergamum, while also mentioning the necessity of the Roman ratification of the document (Inscriptions of Pergamum I. 149, ll. 4–9). The status of other Asian cities and of the rest of the province is not specified in the Pergamene decree, but ancient sources (i.e., Livy, Periochae 59.3) declared that the whole province of Asia had been freed by Attalus. However, the Romans showed some uncertainties in the organization of the future province of Asia, especially since the tribune of the plebs Tiberius Gracchus (Fig. 8), famous for his proposal of an important land reform in 133 BCE, seemed eager to take advantage of this gift to fund his ambitious program (Plutarch, Tiberius Gracchus 14.1–2).

Figure 8. E. Guillaume, The Gracchi (1847).

As a result of the turmoil that stemmed from Gracchus’ attempt at securing the former Attalid kingdom as the main source of funding for his new laws, the Romans were slow in ratifying the testament. Aristonicus, who claimed to be the illegitimate son of the earlier Pergamene king, Eumenes II (197–160 BC), father of Attalus III, took advantage of the uncertainty and laid claim to the throne, taking the dynastic name, Eumenes III (Florus, 1.35.2).

Prompted by the success of the rebellion, the Roman Senate ratified Attalus III’s testament through the Senatus Consultum Popillianum, probably dated to 132 BCE. Preserved today in several epigraphic copies, this decree indeed states that the Senate ratified Attalus’ legacy in toto, but only up to the moment of Attalus’ death, i.e., before the beginning of the rebellion of Aristonicus.

The ratification of Attalus’ legacy through the SC Popillianum was good news to the Greek cities of Asia that had been declared free, and formed the basis of their support against Aristonicus.  Greek cities such as Ephesus, Pergamum, and several others were favored by the testament of Attalus and therefore favorable to the Romans, since the Senate, with the SC Popillianum, recognized their privileged status of free cities.

Pergamum, the capital of the former Attalid kingdom struggled with unrest during these years.  Epigraphic evidence clearly shows the extreme measures that the civic administration had to take in order to avoid a mass defection in favor of Aristonicus, such as massive grants of citizenship to previous colonists and the confiscation of the properties for people leaving town to follow Aristonicus (Carbone, Hidden Power, pp. 7–14).

On the other hand, numismatic evidence and literary sources show that Ephesus took a clear stance in favor of freedom and, consequently, against Aristonicus’ legitimist attempts.  It is generally acknowledged that post-134 BC Ephesian cistophori are dated according the so-called freedom era. This era, previously thought to be a provincial era, has been now recognized as peculiar to Ephesus (Fig. 9).

Figure 9. ANS 2015.20.1277. bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

The freedom celebrated on the Ephesian cistophori is the one that had been bestowed by Attalus III in his testament to the cities of Asia and ratified by the Romans through the SC Popillianum of 132 BC. In order to defend its own freedom, the city fought and defeated the rebel, who had initially succeeded in conquering several cities in the coastal region of the former Attalid kingdom. After defeat at the hands of the Ephesians, Aristonicus had to flee to the inland Lydian region: first to Thyatira, then Apollonis, finally to Stratonicea, where he was defeated by Peperna in 129 BCE (Strabo, Geography 14.1.38).  

Indeed, Aristonicus’ rebellion reflected a clear dichotomy in the province-to-be. Greek cities such as Ephesus and Pergamum (among others) were favorable to the testament of Attalus and therefore to the Romans, since the Senate, with the SC Popillianum, recognized their privileged status of free cities. On the other hand, the hinterland area, mainly composed of military colonies and royal domains, did not enjoy any of the privileges bestowed to cities.  Therefore, Aristonicus could find some support there.

The cistophori issued by Aristonicus in these momentous years offer a fundamental insight on the rebellion. The rebel was correctly identified as the issuer of these coins in a seminal article by E. S. G. Robinson back in 1954. Contrary to the Attalid (early) ones and the provincial (late) ones, his cistophori are signed by the rebel with his dynastic name BA–EY. This element, together with the regnal year and the ethnic of a civic mint secured legitimation for the rebel. In pursuit of this strategy, Aristonicus behaved as a real heir to the Attalid policy of founding colonies in the rural parts of Lydia, as he tried to seek shelter and legitimacy in these lands. Aristonicus pushed the traditional Attalid policy even further by making the Lydian cities of Thiatyra, Apollonis and Stratonicea cistophoric mints, if admittedly partly out of necessity.  At the same time, the presence of the dynastic name on his cistophori show how different he was from the previous Attalid kings, who sought the legitimation of their kingdom, not of themselves.

The cities where he resided—which had never before issued coinage—were thus given visibility throughout the area and could rival in prestige with the main cistophoric mints of Asia, in spite of the clear quantitative difference in the issues.  The cistophori in the name of King Eumenes are the only cistophoric (and silver) coinage ever issued in the cities of Thyatira, Apollonis and Stratonicea.  The cistophoric production of these mints amounts to a total of 5 tetradrachm observed obverse dies, of which two (A, B) are shared by Thyatira and Apollonis, one (C) is shared by Apollonis year 3 and Apollonis year 4 and now one (E) is shared by Stratonicea year 4 and 5 (Robinson 1954, pp. 7–8).

On the Roman side, three other cistophoric mints were certainly active in the former Attalid kingdom, i.e. Ephesus, Pergamum and Tralles. According to Kleiner and Noe, Pergamum and Ephesus had produced cistophori in the respective amounts of 89 and 59 observed tetradrachm obverse dies in the years 166–134 BC. In the years 134–128 BC, the proportions are inverted, with Pergamum producing only 18 tetradrachm obverse dies, compared to the Ephesian 44. Tralles followed the Pergamene trend, plummeting from a production of 87 tetradrachms obverse dies in 166–134 BC to 20 obverse dies during Aristonicus’ rebellion (Fig. 10).

Figure 10. Cistophoric production in the Attalid kingdom according to ECC (166–128 BCE).

Ephesus then produced cistophori in full swing in order to support the military effort against Aristonicus, while the political paralysis of Pergamum brought to a standstill in the cistophoric production as well. In the same years, the city of Tralles issued cistophori with this monogram:

Together with their stylistic similarities to the cistophori issued by Aristonicus in Apollonis and Stratonicea, could suggest that the city sided with the usurper (Fig. 11). The argument is, however, not conclusive, since the minting could have been imposed.

Figure 11. ANS 1944.100.37571. Bequest of E. T. Newell.

The production patterns of cistophori during Aristonicus’ rebellion confirm the previously mentioned dichotomy of the former Attalid kingdom. On the one side, Ephesus—through its full-swing issue of cistophori—highlighted its legitimacy as minting center and free city after the Roman ratification of Attalus’ testament. Pergamum and Tralles did the same—at least to a certain point. On the other side, Aristonicus and his host cities (possibly including Tralles) sought “royal” legitimacy through the issue of the same kind of coinage.

The manifold ideological use of the cistophorus is thus quite remarkable.  P. Thonemann (pp. 29–32) rightly noted regarding Attalid times that the ethnic of the minting cities and the name of the magistrates allowed the coinage to have a civic “aspect”, while at the same time the coinage, for mere quantitative reasons, was issued under Attalid control and—at least partly—out of royal bullion. The anomaly of Aristonicus is made evident by his use of his dynastic name on cistophori, an absolute unicum among the Attalids. However, it was precisely the “double” nature of the cistophorus that allowed its use for apparently antithetical purposes even in the years of Aristonicus’ rebellion, namely the legitimation of the claims of freedom for some cities as well as Aristonicus’ claims of regality.

Lastly, this new-ishly discovered cistophoric issue from Stratonicea offers new insight on the chronology of the rebellion. Strabo wrote that Aristonicus was defeated by Peperna. Given Aristonicus’ issues known until now, it was assumed that the rebel was defeated during Peperna’s consulate, i.e., 130 BCE. However, the new issue suggested that the rebellion was finally quenched in 129 BCE, when Peperna was proconsul. He then suddenly died in Pergamum and was urgently replaced by Manlius Aquilius, the consul of 129 BCE, who is said by the historian Florus (I.35.2.6–7) “to have pacified the region before organizing it.” In the following year (128 BCE), Manlius Aquilius, together with ten legati, “organized the province as it still is.” The newly studied cistophoric issue thus shows that the Romans—learning from their previous mistakes in the area—wasted no time after Aristonicus’ demise to organize the new Roman province of Asia.

Coinage of the Roman Provinces: Conference Highlights, Part 3

Part 1 of this 3 part post was published on April 12, 2021

Part 2 of this 3 part post was published on April 13, 2021

The third and final day of the conference, chaired by Joel Allen and Liv Yarrow, was dedicated to Roman Republican coinage and its imitations in the Roman World.

Figure 1. ANS 2015.20.2535. Bequest of R. B.Witschonke.

In the first paper of the day, given by A. McCabe, building on some of his previous publications, shared a study he jointly conducted with the late Roberto Russo. He argued that there were two parallel Roman mints or workshops using the L mintmark, one associated with the city of Luceria and the other with the separate mint or workshop responsible for the LT coinage.

Figure 2. Two different mints for the L mintmark, issued in the course of the Second Punic War. Courtesy of A. McCabe.
Figure 3. Mint at Canusium, with CA mintmark. Courtesy of A. McCabe.
Figure 4. Issue with P mintmark. Courtesy of A. McCabe.

Moreover, the P-mintmarked coins were closely related to the coinage of Canusium, whose production is usually identified by the mintmark CA. The reason for the existence of these closely related issues—yet distinguished by style and weight—issues should be found in the events connected to the Second Punic War. Especially in 215–207 BC, Apulia represented a major battlefield and for this derived the necessity of several camp mints moving with the armies.

Figure 5. Overview of the RRC bronze issues with mintmarks L, L/T and CA. Courtesy of A. McCabe.
Figure 6. Find data and museums L, L-T, P, CA in bronze or silver. Courtesy of A. McCabe.

In a fascinating paper, L. Yarrow connected the production of the uncia, a very rare denomination of which only 94 specimens are known so far, to the political agenda of the moneyers.

Figure 7. ANS 2015.20.2029. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 8. Peculiarities of Roman unciae. Courtesy of L. Yarrow.
Figure 9. Connection with populist agenda? Courtesy of L. Yarrow.

Building on a passage of Cicero (On Duties 3.80) and prosopographical and metrological considerations, she convincingly argued that the production of unciae could be explained by the moneyers’ desire to be seen as addressing popular needs.

Figure 10. Overview of unciae issued by the Roman mint. Courtesy of L. Yarrow.
Figure 11. Two well known populists issuing unciae. Courtesy of L. Yarrow.

The third paper of the session, delivered by P. P. Ripollès, focused on the unofficial imitations of Roman Republican coinage produced in Spain. The RBW Collection includes the highest number of these imitations in the world and thus its contribution to their study is invaluable. In his presentation and in a  series of articles, one of which was co-authored by Rick, Ripollès argued that the Spanish imitations were not counterfeits, but should be considered a local answer to the chronic dearth of small change, caused by Rome’s irregular production of bronze denominations.

Figure 12. Spanish imitation of Roman as, late second century BC. Ripollès- Gozalbes 2016 no. 20a, Group H O19 R16. 33.1 mm. 22.79 g. ANS 2015.20.3517. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.
Figure 13. Spanish imitation of Roman semis, late second century BC. Ripollès-Witschonke 2015 no. 2a, Group A O2 R2. 25 mm. 9.42 g. ANS 2015.20.3428. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke.

He also showed that these imitations, produced by a non-state and non-civic mint (or mints), were produced on a large scale, comparable to medium-size mints of the likes of Castulo. The scale of this phenomenon shows that the Romans were not only aware of it, but probably encouraged it.

Figure 14. Comparison between the recorded number of Spanish unofficial asses recorded and the specimens from other local mints. Courtesy of P. P. Ripollès.
Figure 15. Production of local coinages in Spain. Courtesy of P. P. Ripollès.

P. Davis delivered a paper on the Geto-Dacian imitations of Roman Republican denarii.

Figure 16. ANS 2015.47.9. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. A die-linked imitation of the Poroschia type.
Figure 17. ANS 2015.47.10. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. A die-linked imitation of the Poroschia type.

Again, the contribution of the RBW Collection to this specific field is fundamental, as it includes over 300 specimens of these coins. Davis’ contribution focused on the question of the circulation of these imitations and on the techniques used for their production. The study of these imitations could shed some light on the possibility of a coordinated minting operation in pre-provincial Dacia.

In his paper, F. Carbone discussed the monetary production of the colony of Paestum, which spanned the late third century BC to the Tiberian Age.

Figure 18. ANS 2015.20.593. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. An issue signed by Mineia, a rare female signer in Paestum.

He focused on the role played by magistrates and private citizens in the production of these coinages, showing that the Paestan issues signed by private citizens acquired a comparatively greater importance at the end of the first century BC, while in previous decades local magistrates were the main issuers.

Figure 19. Signers of local issues in Paestum. Courtesy of F. Carbone.

As already seen in Sicily and in Copia, names of Roman magistrates began to appear on Paestan coinage in the early second century BC. The peak of production of Paestan coinages is however to be placed in the first century BC, with the semis as principal coin and progressive disappearance of other lower denominations. The coinage produced by Paestum thus played the role of subsidiary currency, produced (once again) to make up for the absence of small change produced by Rome.

Figure 20. Paestan issues as subsidiary coinage. Courtesy of F. Carbone.
Figure 21. Production patterns of the Paestan mint and economic context. Courtesy of F. Carbone.

In the last paper of the session and of the conference C. Stannard discussed the non-state coinages of Central Italy, especially that of Latium and Campania and their connection to Spain through the shared types and names of the so-called Italo-Baetican assemblage.

Figure 22. ANS 2015.20.1949. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. A non-state issue dated to the second half of the second century BC, quite certainly minted in Latium.
Figure 23. ANS 2015.20.1953. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. A non-state leaden as, issued by the mint of Minturnae, 150–50 BC.
Figure 24. ANS 2015.20.1937. Bequest of R. B. Witschonke. A non-state issue featuring the furnacator, a figure connected to bath-houses, early first century BC.

In Stannard’s words, “this is a monetary history on two levels. At the more general, the non-state coinages of Latium all respond to a single historical conjuncture, namely the crisis in the availability of small change that began about in the middle of the second century BC.

Figure 25. Roman bronze coin and major elements of the non-state coinages of Latium. Courtesy of C. Stannard.

These responses were all very local and involved many players, about whom we know little. Amongst these, the most interesting is the enigmatic group responsible for the Italo-Baetican issues.

Figure 26. Southern Spain in Republican times, showing the anonymous societates exploiting the silver/lead mines of the Sierra Morena, mining equipment, coins and lead seals marked with their symbols, and finds of Italo-Baetican plomos, included in the Italo-Baetican assemblage. Courtesy of C. Stannard.
Figure 27. Coins of the Annii in the Italo-Baetican series in Latium. The Annii were one of the most important gentes involved in the Italo-Baetican trade. Courtesy of C. Stannard.

It is surprising that so widespread a phenomenon seems to have no reflection in the literature of the time. […] The picture, as I have reconstructed it, challenges a number of assumptions about Rome’s presumed policies regarding its own minor coinage and the coinages of its colonies and allies. [It] demonstrates that Republican Rome did not interest itself in or police its colonies’ and allies’ minor coinages, nor supply and them with small change. Legalistic concepts such as ‘the right to coin’ do not seem to have purchase in this area at this time, with consequences for understanding the nature and practice of Roman expansion.” Stannard’s conclusion certainly apply not only to his materials, but also to the colonial coinages of Paestum and Copia and to the Spanish imitations of Roman Republican coinage.

To summarize, as far as we can tell from the evidence presented in the course of this conference, two different phenomena are at play in the western provinces. At the beginning of the second century BC, after silver coinage became a Roman monopoly with the Second Punic War, the Roman denominational system was adopted also for bronze coinage, with very few exceptions. Names of Roman magistrates began to appear on the local bronze coinages, first in Sicily and immediately afterwards in the colonies of Southern Italy.  It seems quite certain that these magistrates were local ones, as is clearly exemplified by the Paestan duoviri and quattuorviri. In the last quarter of the second century BC, with the conquest of Spain, the need for small change became even more acute in the West and led to the creation of a series of non-state coinages ranging from the Spanish imitations of Roman Republican bronzes to the manifold varieties of non-state coinages produced in Central Italy. The enigmatic Italo-Baetican assemblage shows the strong economic and (non-state) monetary connections between Spain and Italy in the course of the first century BC. In the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, the second half of the second century BC is characterized by the beginning of several “surrogate” silver coinages. On bronze coinage, the names of Roman magistrates began to appear in Macedonia and (we now know) in Asia in the second half of the first century BC, but the local denominational systems were preserved.

More research is still needed, but the papers delivered in the course of this three-day conference were fundamental, as they provided an integrated approach to the monetary history of the Roman provinces in the second and first century BC. The proceedings of the RBW Conference, edited by L. Carbone, O. Hoover, and L. Yarrow, will be published by the ANS in the course of 2022.

I also would like to take this chance to thank again the speakers (who also generously agreed to share their slides) and the sponsors of this conference, the American Numismatic Society and the PhD Program in History at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Last but not least, my thanks (and the ones of L. Yarrow and O. Hoover, co-organizers of this conference) go to the over 300 people from more than 30 academic institutions all over the world who attended the conference.