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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.

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.

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.

Ancient Myths on Roman Coins at the ANS

Many coins at the American Numismatic Society illustrate human interpretations of the universe and religious beliefs regarding human destiny. Among these are various samples from the ANS Roman collection having mythical and mythological themes.  

Fig.1: Roman Empire Augustus (27 BC–AD 14). Spanish mint. Silver denarius. 19–18 BC. (ANS 1944.100.39033)

One of the great illustrations of astral imagery from the Early Roman Empire, strongly connected with Julius Caesar’s heritage, is found on a silver denarius of Augustus struck circa 19–18 BC. This coin has the Emperor’s image on the obverse and the famous Caesar’s Comet on the reverse (fig. 1). The comet, which appeared some four months after assassination of Julius Caesar, was interpreted by the Romans as a sign of his deification and became a powerful symbol in the political propaganda of Augustus, Caesar’s great-nephew and adoptive son.

Figure 2: Roman Empire. Augustus. Roman Empire Augustus (27 BC–AD 14). Pergamum. Gold aureus.19–18 BC. (ANS 1944.100.39177)

Another important Augustus issue is a gold aureus from the Pergamum mint with the image of Capricorn, which had a special meaning for Augustus, who was born under this sign (fig. 2).  Capricorn was associated with the planet and god Saturn. According to Roman mythology, Saturn had come to live in Italy when his son Jupiter kicked him out of heaven. The age in which Saturn ruled as king over Italy was considered a golden age of paradise on earth. Virgil took up this theme in his treatment of Augustus’s reign as a return of the Saturnian age.

Figure 3. Roman Provincial. Egypt. Antoninus Pius (AD 138–161). Alexandria. Bronze drachm. AD 144–145. (ANS 1944.100.60358)

The allegorical depictions of divinities associated with the planets and zodiac signs—such as Capricorn and Saturn (fig. 3);

Figure 4. Roman Provincial. Egypt. Antoninus Pius (AD 138–161). Alexandria. AD 144–145. Bronze drachm. (ANS 1944.100.60352)

Scorpio (scorpion) and Mars (fig. 4.);

Figure 5. Roman Provincial. Egypt. Antoninus Pius (AD 138–161). Alexandria. AD 144–145. Bronze drachm. (ANS 1944.100.60355)

Sagittarius and Jupiter (fig. 5);

Figure 6. Roman Provincial. Egypt. Antoninus Pius (AD 138–161). Alexandria. AD 144–145. Bronze drachm. (ANS 1944.100.60364)

Virgo and Mercury; Aquarius and Saturn (fig. 6.)—were shown on Antoninus Pius’s large bronze issues struck at the Alexandrian mint in Egypt around AD 144–145.  A full circle of twelve zodiac signs surround Astarta’s chariot on the bronze coin of Julia Paula of Phoenician Sidon of AD 219–220 (fig. 7).

Figure 7. Roman Provincial. Phoenicia. Julia Paula (AD 219–220). Sidon. Bronze coin. (ANS1944.100.71806)

The same ring of zodiac signs encircling Zeus on a throne, with Helios’s chariot and biga of Selene in the field, can be seen on the reverse of a Maximinus I bronze coin struck in Thracian Anchialus circa AD 235–238 (fig. 8).

Figure 8. Roman Provincial. Thrace. Maximinus I (AD 235–238). Anchialus. Bronze coin. (ANS 1999.80.1)

Among other ANS examples are a group of gemstones from the Society’s collection with the zodiacal images of Gemini (fig. 9),

Figure 9. Seal/Gem. Carnelion. Standing Gemini, each with star over head & holding inverted spears. (ANS 0000.999.33892)

Cancer, Leo, Aries and Selene riding in biga on sky (fig. 10). These small objects illustrate the popularity of astrological themes in personal adornment.

Figure 10. Seal/Gem. Carnelion. Selene riding right in biga. (ANS 0000.999.33860)

Some coins illustrate how the Romans chose to interpret the mythical past, displaying their religious beliefs through iconographic representation on objects of daily and domestic use. These include examples of the As, a bronze cast coin used in central Italy during the 3rd century BC, with the image of Janus, one of the most important gods in the Roman archaic pantheon, who was used to represent time, because he could see into the past with one face and into the future with the other. Janus was worshipped at times of planting and harvest and also at times of marriage and death (fig. 11).

Figure 11. Roman Republic. 225–217 BC. Rome. Bronze as. 275.970 g. (ANS 0000.999.556)

Roma, a female deity representing the personification of the city of Rome is depicted famously as a she-wolf with her twins Remus and Romulus, as represented on a silver Republican denarius of the 2nd century BC (fig. 12).

Figure 12. Roman Republic. 137 BC. Rome. Silver denarius. (ANS 1944.100.380)

Some of the allegorical depictions on the coins reinforce the importance of Roman beliefs, including the cult of Roman ancestors. One of the ANS’s beautiful gold aurei of Antoninus Pius (fig. 13) bears the images of a legendary defender of Troy, Aeneas, who fled with his father Anchises and his son Ascanius from the burning city after the Greeks destroyed it in the Trojan War.

Figure 13. Roman Empire. Antoninus Pius (AD 138–161). Rome. AD 140-143. Gold aureus. (ANS 1954.256.17).

He and Trojan survivors traveled to Italy, where Aeneas became a great hero and progenitor of Romans. The family of Julius Caesar and Augustus claimed descent from Aeneas, whose son Ascaniuis was also called Iulus.

Figure 14. Roman Republic. 70 BC. Rome. Silver denarius. (ANS 1937.158.150)

The design of the ANS coins not only shows the the major gods of Roman Pantheon, but also helps illustrate the patronage of the Roman deities and their guardians. It encouraged personal beliefs in all aspect of every-day material life and nature.  Among these are a personification of Honos, god of chivalry, honor and military justice and Virtus, deity of bravery and military strength (fig. 14);

Figure 15. Roman Empire. Pertinax. Rome. AD 193. Rome. Gold aureus. (ANS 1967.153.166)

Providentia, a goddess of forethought and representation of the ability to foresee (fig. 15);

Figure 16. Roman Empire. Geta (AD 209–211). Rome. AD 211. Gold aureus. (ANS 1954.256.28)

Felicitas, a goddess of good fortune and lucky happenstance (fig. 16);

Figure 17. Roman Empire. Caracalla (AD 198–217). Rome. AD 213–217. Gold aureus. (ANS 1944.100.51518)

Securitas, a goddess of security and stability (fig. 17); and Concordia, one of the oldest of the Roman deities, having been worshipped since the earliest days of Rome, a goddess of agreement and harmony—harmony of the emperor (fig. 18), the army, the provinces and marriage.

Figure 18. Roman Empire. Nero (AD 54–68). Rome. AD 64–65. Gold aureus. (ANS 1905.57.292)

These coins show not just how the Romans themselves perceived their world in terms of its mythological past, but also help us to understand how this legacy of mythology and myth-making has been received and reinterpreted within our modern and popular culture—in books, graphic novels, television, and movies—perhaps fostering an appreciation of ancient societies among a population that lacks regional access to the material culture of the ancient world.


Roman Medallions from the ANS on Exhibit at Major Museums

The American Numismatic Society is a principal lender of numismatic objects to museum exhibitions around the country and abroad. These distinctive pieces may serve to represent famous persons, major historical events, or important episodes in the development of civilizations. Among these pieces is a unique and marvelous gold medallion of the Roman Empire from the time of Diocletian, which is currently on long-term loan to the J. Paul Getty Museum as part of its permanent exhibition.

Roman Empire. Gold medallion (equivalent to 10 aurei). AD 293/294. Trier mint. ANS 1967.153.38. 43 mm.

Diocletian (AD 284–305), originally a common soldier from Dalmatia, rose to the rank of general and in AD 284 was proclaimed emperor. He became one of the most important rulers of the later Roman Empire. He secured the imperial frontiers and restored order within the Empire. His economic reforms were aimed at overcoming the Empire’s monetary chaos of previous reigns, when prices rose unchecked. Diocletian’s famous Price Edict was issued to set maximum prices for goods and services throughout the Empire and prescribed the death penalty for violators. To manage the growing civil service, Diocletian restructured the Empire’s bureaucracy. The provinces were grouped into larger dioceses, each of which was directed by a vicarius. Finally, in AD 293, to oversee this enormous establishment, Diocletian created a Tetrarchy, a system of rule by four emperors. He divided the territory of the empire into two administrative halves, and appointed Maximian to rule with the title of Augustus in the west, while Diocletian ruled as Augustus in the east. Two junior emperors, Constantius Chlorus and Galerius Maximianus, were appointed as Caesars. The ANS medallion shows these four office-holders together and reflects the ideals of shared authority and partnership that lay at the heart of the tetrarchic system. The obverse bears the bearded and laureate busts of Diocletian Augustus (on the left) and Galerius Caesar (on the right), wearing the imperial mantle. The reverse shows the busts of Maximian Augustus (on the left) and Constantius Caesar (on the right). Due to the larger size and absence of an exergual line, the artist had the opportunity to engrave the portrait busts on a much larger scale than usual, with dramatic results.

Today the images of the tetrarchs can also be seen on the corner of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. It is a porphyry sculpture group, which was removed from Constantinople by Venetians when they plundered the city in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade.

The Roman Empire. Four Tetrarchs (Diocletian second from right). A porphyry sculpture group. Circa AD 300. Sant Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy.
The Roman Empire. Four Tetrarchs (Diocletian second from right). A porphyry sculpture group. Circa AD 300. Sant Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy.

Another unique gold medallion (10 aurei) from the ANS is on long-term loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it is on display in the Roman Gallery.

Roman Empire. Gold medallion (equivalent to 10 aurei). AD 293. Rome mint. ANS 1944.100.63131. 38 mm.

On the obverse it has half-length laureate portraits of Constantius Chlorus and Galerius Maximianus, wearing the imperial mantle. Constantius (on the left) holds a globe surmounted by a Victory his right hand, and Galerius (on the right) holds a scepter surmounted by an eagle; these are both emblems of sovereignty. The reverse bears two emperors standing in military dress with cloak, bareheaded, resting their left arms on long, upright scepters. They both hold a patera, with which they are pouring a libation upon a tripod-altar placed between them; in the central background there are two military standards. The exergue has the mint mark—prom (Percussa Romae, “struck at Rome”). The medallion was issued in AD 293, to commemorate the elevation of Constantius and Galerius to the rank of Caesar.

Both of these gold medallions from the ANS collection were found in 1922, along with over 400 Roman coins, in the famous Arras hoard in France, which closed around AD 315. These remarkable medallions, as well as many other ANS objects on display at the Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are valuable ambassadors in the world’s leading art museums showing the importance of the ANS collection to a wider public for many years.


Identifying Roman Coins on Micropasts

Micropasts is a web platform that hosts crowd-sourced collaborative research projects focused on archaeology, history, and heritage. The admirable goal of Micropasts is, in their words, to “improve how people traditionally distinguished as academics, professionals and volunteers cooperate with one another.” To this end, the website hosts a variety of projects that allow for contributions from enthusiasts, scholars, and the interested public on a wide variety of different topics. It is jointly run by the UCL Institute of Archaeology and the British Museum with support by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.


A relatively straightforward example of how the website works is a project that seeks to transcribe diaries kept by the noted Egyptian archaeologist, Sir Flinders Petrie. The project page includes a tutorial on how to contribute, which can involve either transcribing material directly from the scanned document, or reviewing the work of others to ensure its accuracy. A somewhat more complicated project is one by the British Museum that involves photo-masking medieval Pilgrim badges to create 3D models of the artifacts. All of the projects use the same simple interface which makes it easy to understand how you can help out, and there is a useful ‘Statistics’ tab for each that traces how the overall project is progressing.

There are a wide variety of different and salutary projects that users can contribute to, but we mention here because of a recently-launched numismatic one called the Roman Imperial Coin concordance.

ocreThis project was formulated by Daniel Pett of the British Museum and Ethan Gruber of the ANS to facilitate the addition of Roman coins catalogued in the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) to the NEH-sponsored ANS database Online Coins of the Roman Empire (OCRE). The tutorial explains just how the process works, but the essential task is for users to try and identify more precisely what the RIC (Roman Imperial Coinage) number for a given coin drawn from the PAS database is. If and when a more precise identification of the RIC number is made and confirmed, it can then be integrated into the larger OCRE database. pasrgbsize4The PAS, which is a voluntary program that records small archaeological finds by the public in the UK, presently has over 200,000 Roman coins in its database so it is a potentially rich resource for additional coins and data for OCRE.

Denarius of Tiberius, ca. AD 36-37 Portable Antiquities Scheme
Denarius of Tiberius, AD 36-37 | NCL-294EF5
Portable Antiquities Scheme

Of course, objects like the denarius above can only be integrated into OCRE when they have been properly identified so if you have time to lend a hand, head over to the project website!

Architecture on Roman Coinage

ElkinsJacketThe American Numismatic Society is pleased to announce the publication of Monuments in Miniature: Architecture on Roman Coinage, a new book by Nathan T. Elkins that recasts the scholarship on this popular subject. Rather than focusing on the iconography, Elkins’ study seeks to contextualize these coins and understand the broader social and cultural context that informed these architectural representations. Although the emphasis is on Roman coinage, earlier Greek types are also featured for comparative analysis, including this sixth century BC silver stater of Zancle that shows harbor buildings on a sandbar encircling a dolphin.

ANS, 1957.752.592
ANS, 1957.752.592

In the Persian empire, city walls were a traditional symbol of power that were often represented on the coinage produced by the satrapies of Cilicia and Phoenicia. A particularly fine example of this tradition is this mid-fourth century BC tetradrachm of Tarsus, which depicts a lion attacking a bull above two rows of turreted walls.

ANS, 1947.81.4
ANS, 1947.81.4

The volume features over two hundred images and provides a comprehensive catalogue of Roman architectural coin types organized into Early, Late, and Provincial sections. I don’t want to step on Elkins’ detailed analyses here, but I do want to highlight one of the more spectacular coins, a cistophorus of Augustus from the mint at Pergamon that depicts the Temple of Mars Ultor on the Capitoline Hill in Rome.

ANS, 1937.158.454
ANS, 1937.158.454

As Elkins indicates, this particular representation likely bore no resemblance to the actual structure, which some historians argue was never actually built. Still, it is a lovely example of numismatic art (and architecture)!

For those looking to learn more about this fascinating topic, a PDF of the introduction is available to peruse here. To purchase, head over the ANS store.

Matthew Wittmann

Eight Antoniniani of Claudius Gothicus, 268-270 CE

Marcus Aurelius Claudius (213-270 CE) was an Illyrian of modest birth who worked his way up through the ranks of the Roman army during the tumultuous third century. According to the Scriptores Historiae Augustae, he was a fierce fighter and able commander who eventually became caught up in the imperial intrigues of the day. Claudius was commander of the the reserves of a force led by the reigning Emperor Gallienus in the summer of 268 that was besieging Milan, where the would-be usurper Aureolus had taken refuge. The supposed inefficacy of Gallienus as a ruler led to a conspiracy that ended in his assassination.

Worcester Art Museum, 1915.24
Worcester Art Museum, 1915.24

Whether or not Claudius was involved remains unclear, but he was the one chosen by the army to succeed Gallienus. In what was perhaps a related move, the Scriptores Historiae Augustae reports that the soldiers were promised twenty aurei each for their support. Claudius quickly made peace with Aueolus and then just as quickly betrayed and killed him. He then turned his attention to one of the many external threats facing the Roman Empire, namely an invasion of Pannonia by the Goths. It was in this context that Claudius earned the surname Gothicus (i.e. conqueror of the Goths) by which he is now commonly known after destroying a large Gothic army at the Battle of Naissus. Claudius thereafter quashed an incursion of Germanic tribes at the Battle of Lake Benacus and successfully campaigned to restore territories that had been lost by his predecessors to the Empire. The celebrated reign of Claudius Gothicus was ultimately brief, as he was felled by the so-called “Plague of Cyprian” (probably smallpox) in early 270.

The antoninianus was a new domination of silver coin that was introduced amidst the financial crises that gripped the Roman Empire in the early third century. Over the course of time it was debased until it was mostly bronze. As you can see by the mixed patinas of the eight antoniniani issued under the authority of Claudius at the top of this post, the metal content varied.


The common obverse features a radiate bust of the Emperor and Roman Imperial Coinage lists dozens of reverse types. The example above (RIC 168) was minted in Mediolanum (Milan) and its reverse features Spes, the personification of hope, holding a flower.

Matthew Wittmann


Bvlgari 4The ANS has a selection of rare Roman coins on display as part of an exhibition at Bulgari’s flagship store in New York City. “BVLGARI + ROME: Eternal Inspiration” reflects on the jeweler’s long association with the “Eternal City,” where the original shop was opened in 1884 by Sotirios Boulgaris. The exhibition includes a mix of contemporary jewelry and ancient Roman artifacts and coins.

Bulgari-JewelryBulgari has from time to time also used actual ancient coins in its line as with this choker embedded with a tetradrachm  of Alexander the Great.  New York magazine has a wonderful slide show of some of the items on display.

The American Numismatic Society loan comprises eighteen Roman coins, most notably a gold treveri medallion from AD 293–294. The medallion features busts of four Roman emperors; Diocletian and Galerius on the obverse and Maximian and Constantius on the reverse, each wearing the imperial mantle.

ANS 1967.153.38
ANS 1967.153.38

It was part of the so-called Beaurains Treasure, a rich hoard of Roman artifacts discovered in 1922 near the city of Arras in Northern France. The ANS holds over fifty pieces from that hoard, which you can learn more about here.

ANS 1944.100.4554
ANS 1944.100.4554

One of the other notable coins on display is a denarius of the infamous assassin Marcus Junius Brutus. The image on the reverse of a pileus, a cap given to freed slaves, between two daggers underscored the belief by Brutus and his supporters that the murderous act had liberated the Roman Republic from Julius Caesar‘s tyranny. The legend EID MAR or ‘Ides of March’ commemorates the day of the deed. The coin was minted in 42-43 BCE as Brutus and his allies were raising an army in northern Greece to march on Rome in what was ultimately a failed bid to seize power. It is rare to see an ancient coin so rich in symbolism and so directly tied to a notable event. Among the other coins featured are an aureus of Sextus Pompey and a dozen or so gold solidi, which will be display at the 730 Fifth Avenue store until November 22.