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.
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second day of the conference, March 24, 2021, chaired by Pere Pau Ripollès, focused on “new” coinages in the Roman provinces, namely coinages that featured the names of Roman magistrates. H. Güney focused on the bronze coinages issued in the names of Roman proconsuls beginning in the late 60s BC by the Bithynian cities of Apamea, Bythinium, Nicaea and Nicomedia.
The importance of the civic coinages of these Bithynian cities is testified for a later period not only by the sheer number of obverse dies, but by the large radius of their circulation, since a relevant number of specimens of these issues was found in Moesia and other Danubian provinces.
The presence of these bronze civic issues in different provinces testifies not only to the increased movement of individuals throughout the empire, but also to the growing interconnectivity of the monetary systems in the Roman provinces beginning in the mid-first century BC. In his paper, C. Eilers, presented new evidence for the early (and exceptional) presence of Roman magistrates on bronze civic issues in the province of Asia. Through a well-documented and convincing analysis, he showed that the proconsul of Asia, C. Atinius Labeo, attested on Ephesian cistophori and staters for the year 122/1 BC, is also attested on the bronze coinage of the small Mysian town of Atarnaeus.
This paper suggest that Roman magistrates could be involved in local civic coinages as early as the 120s BC, further strengthening the idea of a very early Roman involvement in the coinages of Roman provinces. In her contribution on Macedonia and Thrace, S. Kremydi highlighted the presence of numerous and—in some cases—unique overstrikes on the Macedonian coins included in the RBW Collection, which contribute to solving the problems in the chronology of these coinages.
One bronze specimen naming L. Fulcinnius, part of the so-called “Quaestors issues” presumably issued in 148/7 BC, is overstruck on a civic issue from Amphipolis, suggesting that issues in the names of the cities were contemporary to those of the “Quaestors”.
Several specimens of another “Quaestors” issue naming L. Fulcinnius, are overstruck on issues traditionally attributed to D. Silanus and usually dated around 142 BC, and vice versa.
These mutual overstrikes seem to suggest that these issues were produced in the same years. Moreover, the RBW Collection includes a specimen of a Thasos-type tetradrachm, again a “surrogate” coinage issued by the Romans in the course of the first century BC, which has been overstruck on a Macedonian Aesillas tetradrachm, issued in the name of the quaestor Aesillas in the same years.
The presence of this overstrike (and possibly of an overstrike of Aesillas on a Thasos-type tetradrachm) at the very least suggests a concerted production between the mints responsible for these two coinages, if not their identity.
In a groundbreaking analysis of the Romano-Sicilian coinages issued in Sicily in the course of the second century BC, S. Frey-Kupper offered a new periodization for these coinages, based on the 254 specimens included in the RBW Collection and on the 459 included in M. von Bahrfeldt’ s 1904 archive.
According to her new classification, which adds and improves on Bahrfeldt’s intuition, all the issues with Latin magistrates’ names were produced in Western Sicily between 190 and 140 BC.
According to her new classification, which adds and improves on Bahrfeldt’s intuition, all the issues with Latin magistrates’ names were produced in Western Sicily between 190 and 140 BC.
Moreover, on the basis of very strong archaeological data, she identifies the mint issuing these coins with Lilybaeum, ending a century-long debate on the location of the mint for these Romano-Sicilian coins.
In the last paper of the day, E. Wall presented for the first time an extensive overview on the colonial coinage of the otherwise understudiedcoinage of Copia in Southern Lucania. According to Livy and Strabon, this colony was founded in 194 BC on the site of the ancient Sibari.
The coinage of the colony, which presents several elements in common with the Romano-Sicilian coinages and the coinages of Paestum and Vibo Valentia, followed the Roman denominational system and included the names of Roman magistrates, mostly quaestors and aediles.
Copia’s coinage was quite likely issued between 190 and 140 BC, presenting an almost perfect synchronicity with the Romano-Sicilian coinages.
The American Numismatic Society and the PhD Program in History at the Graduate Center, CUNY, had the pleasure of hosting a 3-day conference (March 23–25, 2021) focusing on the coinage produced in the Roman Provinces in the second and first centuries BC (i.e., before the conventional starting date of the Roman Provincial Coinage), as fixed by the authors of RPC in mid-first century BC. The papers, delivered by the foremost scholars in the field, offered a numismatic and historical overview of each region represented by the 4,000 coins included in the R. B. Witschonke Collection. This collection, the catalogue of which will be published in the next months, was assembled by Rick Witschonke, a beloved former ANS Curator and Co-Director of the Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar, in decades of loving and forward-looking study.
Rick was one of very few scholars who was (almost!) equally interested in the stylistic subtleties of Roman coinage imitations in the Western provinces of the Roman Empire and in the late Hellenistic coinages issued in the East. He also collected Celtic coinages, whose gradual adaptation to the Roman monetary system has been the subject of several important contributions in the last decade (e.g., the fundamental works by J. Van Heesch and S. Martin), but was hardly included in the studies of Roman coinage in the provinces—with the important exception of M. Crawford— before then.
Rick was the one who took to heart the idea of “RPC Zero” (i.e., the study of the coinage issued in the provinces of the Roman Empire in the second and first centuries BC, before the Civil Wars), and organized his collection around this.
As Andrew Burnett points out in a soon-to-be published essay, the broader context of debate about the nature of the coinage and money used throughout the Mediterranean as it fell under Roman power was set by Crawford in his 1985 Coinage and Money under the Roman Republic (CMRR) and then further developed in 1987’s The coinage of the Roman World in the late Republic (CRWLR), edited by Burnett and Crawford. These two books were thus fundamental, as they focused for the first time on the idea of a gradual convergence of local coinages to create compatible monetary systems across the Roman Empire in the second and first centuries BC.
This was precisely the subject of the keynote lecture of the conference, delivered by de Callataÿ on March 23—“Hidden power indeed: the surrogate coinages used by the Romans in Greece and Asia Minor”—which offered an updated overview of new and surrogate coinages issued for the Romans in the East.
The conference session on March 23, chaired by Andy Meadows, continued on the same vein. Lucia Carbone’s paper mostly focused on the contribution of the R. B. Witschonke Collection to the study of the late cistophoric coinage of the Province of Asia, a “surrogate” coinage issued between 133 BC and the 60s BC. In the specific, the newly studied Phrygian cistophoric mint of Laodicea allows to estimate the impact on the local monetary system of the Mithridatic Wars, fought between 88 and 63 BC in the province.
Oliver Hoover focused on other “surrogate” coinages, this time issued in Syria. The first one was very likely produced under the last Seleucid king Philip II Barypous (68/7–65 BC).
Hoover convincingly argued that this coinage could have been produced to support the Roman military effort during the Third Mithridatic War, drawing an interesting parallel to the late cistophoric coinage, that supported the Romans during the first two Mithridatic Wars. He also drew the attention to another apparent “surrogate” coinage, an anomalous Philip I Philadelphus tetradrachm, included in the R. B. Witschonke Collection.
The governor of Syria A. Gabinius (57–55 BC) is known to have struck tetradrachms in the name of Philip Philadelphus, mostly at Antiochia. Judging from metrological and hoard data, the coin in question was probably struck in the 30s BC at an otherwise unknown mint. As already mentioned, the 30s BC are a decade covered by RPC, but this specific coin seems to have followed the standards of “surrogate” coinages, mostly issued in the previous decades.
The following two papers, respectively delivered by Annalisa Polosa and David Hendin, dealt with “new” coinages. Polosa mostly discussed coins issued by the Cilician city of Soli after its re-foundation by Pompey in 67 BC (Plutarch, Pompey 28.4). These coins, bearing Pompey’s portrait, were produced starting in the 60s BC and represent one of the first examples of a Roman magistrate’s portrait on civic coinages.
Hendin’s contribution mostly focused on other coins issued in the area of Decapolis in the Pompeian period. These coins bear the otherwise unattested date “Year 1 Rome.”
The year 1 could not refer other than to the Pompeian Era, which began in 64 BC. These unusual coins should be interpreted either as a military issue or as the product of a mint in the southern part of Syria which came under Roman rule when Pompey arrived in 64 BC. Both these papers, based on coins included in the RBW Collection, highlighted the importance of Pompey’s role in Syria in the transition between “surrogate” coinages issued for the Romans to “new” coinages issued in the name of the Romans.
This is not a rule universally applicable to all the eastern provinces, as exemplified by “new” coinages issued in Macedonia and Greece in the second and early first century BC (e.g., “Quaestor” issues in Macedonia, Thasian-type tetradrachms), but certainly Pompey played a fundamental role in the transition between “surrogate” and “new” coinages for the provinces of Asia and Syria. Summarizing, the papers of the first day of the RBW Conference, mostly focused on the “surrogate” and “new” coinages (according to Thonemann’s definition) issued in the eastern provinces of the empire.
This three-day conference, co-sponsored by the ANS and the Ph.D. Program in History at the Graduate Center, CUNY, will feature contributions by the foremost scholars in the field. The papers will offer a numismatic and historical overview of each region represented by the coins in the R. B. Witschonke Collection.
It may come as a surprise to learn that as the Romans came to dominate the Mediterranean world, they ruled most of it without imposing their own coinage. Yet this was typical of the Romans’ pragmatic attitude to imperialism, and their tendency to retain any existing forms of effective organization in newly conquered territories. Indeed, it is now generally recognized that we should not talk of “the Roman economy” as a single phenomenon. Instead we should conceive of it as a group of substantially separate regional economies that were yet strongly interconnected through tribute payments and the movements of armies and goods. Although payment in kind played an important role in the Roman world, coinage was still paramount in transactions between the provinces and Rome. To understand those interactions, it is thus important to research the manifold ways in which local coinages converged, at least partly, to create compatible monetary systems across the Roman Empire.
The Roman Provincial Coinage series offers an incomparable tool for the study of the coinages issued in the Roman provinces and client kingdoms from the age of the Civil Wars onward, but does not include the local production in those regions in the preceding decades. The 4,000 coins included in the R. B. Witschonke Collection at the ANS, mainly dating from the second and the first century BCE, provide the prologue to the study of Roman Provincial coinage. Most of the specimens are of great historical and numismatic value, as they illustrate the gradual transition from distinct to compatible monetary systems in the Mediterranean basin. While exhibiting an extraordinary variety in appearance and weight, the coins of the collection tell the tale of a partial convergence toward the Roman monetary system before the inception of the so-called Roman Provincial coinage in the second half of the first century BCE. The ways in which this convergence took place are manifold, spanning from imitations of Roman Republican denarii from Romania and Gaul to the lead tokens of Spain, from Aesillas’ tetradrachms in Macedonia to the Romano-Sicilian coins in Sicily, local coinages and pseudo-mints in Central and Southern Italy. The collection thus offers a unique overview of the diverse ways in which the monetary systems of the Mediterranean basin responded to the Roman conquest in the second and early first century BCE and to the related necessity of interconnectivity.
Chair: Andrew Meadows
Coinage in the Roman Provinces before RPC: introductory remarks
8:15–8:45 am EST Welcome and opening remarks
8:45–9:30 am ESTHidden power indeed: the surrogate coinages used by the Romans in Greece and Asia Minor (François de Callataÿ)
Roman influence on late Hellenistic coinages in the East
9:45–10:30 amESTCistophoric Mysteries(Lucia F. Carbone)
10:30–11:15 amESTGhosts of the Seleucid Empire in the RBW Collection (Oliver D. Hoover)
11:30 am–12:15 pmESTSome Cilician coins from R.B. Witschonke Collection at the ANS(Annalisa Polosa)
12:45–1:30 pmESTCoins of Samaria and the Decapolis(David Hendin)
Chair: Pere Pau Ripollès
Roman Magistrates on coinages issued in the Provinces of the Roman Empire
8:15–9:00 amESTSome remarks on the Roman monetary economy in Bithynia in the light of new evidence from R. B Witschonke Collection(Hale Güney)
9:00–9:45 am EST A Proconsular Bronze and the End of Atarneus(Claude Eilers)
10:00–10:45 amESTMacedonia and Thrace from the Roman invasion to the time of Augustus: the contribution of the RBW coin collection(Sophia Kremydi)
10:45–11:30 amESTRomano-Sicilian coins and other coinages of Sicily issued under Roman rule, a mirror of the formation and transformation of Rome’s first province: RBW’s legacy(Suzanne Frey-Kupper)
11:30 am–12:15 pmESTThe Coinage of Copia in the RBW Collection (Euan Wall)
12:45–1:30 pmESTMark Antony’s ‘Fleet coinage’: a survey of research(Michel Amandry)
Chair: Michel Amandry
Coinages issued under the Romans in the Western Provinces
8:15–9:00 amESTThe Roman Struck Bronze Coinage of Luceria and Canusium(Andrew McCabe)
9:00–9:45 amESTSmall Change in Roman Republican Coinage(Liv M. Yarrow)
10:00–10:45 amESTThe impact of Roman Republican Coinage on Spanish local issues. The unofficial imitations(Pere Pau Ripollès)
10:45–11:30 amESTTwo Denarius Imitations in the the RBW Collection(Phil Davis)
11:30 am–12:15 pmESTMagistrates and citizens: the coinage of Paestum in the RBW Collection(Federico Carbone)
12:45–1:30 pmESTNon-state coinages of Republican Italy (Clive Stannard)
While perusing the ever-surprising Richard B. Witchonke Collection at the ANS for its forthcoming published catalogue, I had the great luck to study a few overstruck coins with fairly unique features. This post represents a succinct attempt at describing at least part of the importance of these specimens.
In his Overstruck Greek Coins, David MacDonald defines overstruck coins as “coins that have been ‘recoined’ by striking them with new and different dies, whether by the original minting authority or by a different one, without having the original design completely removed beforehand.” Overstriking was usually preferred to recoining when limits in time or in the size of the coinage that needed to be produced made the expenses and the labor to melt and produce new flans unfeasible. Overstriking was done for a variety of reasons, ranging from eminently economic ones to (possibly) ideological. Overstruck coins are thus a powerful to investigate the complexities of coin circulation and production in the antiquity. Their historical importance has not escaped the attention of the scientific community and the necessity of a more systematic cataloging has lead to the creation of Greek Overstrikes Database (GOD), a still ongoing project under the scientific direction of the aforementioned D. MacDonald and François de Callataÿ. Of course, overstriking was not limited to the Greek world. Roman overstrikes have been studied as early as the mid- nineteenth century by the likes of Pierre Philippe Bourlier d’Ailly, Max Bahrfeldt, Ettore Gabrici, Charles Hersch, Rudi Thomsen, and Michael Crawford. Much more recently, Clive Stannard and Suzanne Frey-Kupper used overstrikes to study the circulation and production patterns of Central Italian mints and Andrew McCabe analyzed the Roman over Roman overstrikes on bronze and silver coins of the second and first century BC.
While several factors are usually at play, the necessity of altering the area of circulation of a certain coinage could be the main factor leading to overstriking in some cases, as shown by the Y. Touratsoglou and by the same MacDonald for the bronze civic coinage of Macedonia in the course of the second century BC. The necessity of broadening the circulation area and relieving local shortages of small change could also be the explanation for Fig. 1, an apparently Roman sextans struck over a Neapolitan bronze coin. In a forthcoming paper, Stannard convincingly attributes this coin to the newly discovered Second Punic War mint of Minturnae. Through overstrikes like the one presented in Fig. 1 the mint of Minturnae was “adapting” Neapolitan coinage to a larger circulation radius by adding on it Roman types. While the weight of these pseudo-Roman issues differed from the official Roman production, the types on them made them their value immediately recognizable to users.
Another factor leading to overstriking was wear. In same cases unofficial coins could be overstruck on obsolete coins, as in the case of a Dacian imitation of a denarius struck over a drachm from Apollonia (SNG Cop. 387) (Figs. 2–3) This coin, an imitation from Dacia of a denarius issued by L. Flaminius Chilo in 109/8 BC, shows on the obverse part of the legend [API] ΣΤΩΝ of the undertype. The vestigia of the name of the magistrate allow for the dating of the overstruck Apollonian drachm, which is dated to the early second century BC. The reverse of the coin clearly shows part of the undertype ΝΟΣ. A combination of all the factors mentioned above (wear, scantiness of local coinages, and thus alteration of the original circulation area) could explain the massive presence of foreign and obsolete coins as undertypes for the bronze coins produced in the Roman world, as shown by Stannard and Frey-Kupper in a recent article.
A change in the weight standard adopted by the issuing mint was also another reason leading to overstrikes, as illustrated by Fig. 4. This coin, a triental sextans (RRC 41/9) struck over a semilibral uncia (RRC 38/6) is dated to the years 215–212 BC and shows how the sudden decreases in weight standard that took place in the course of the Second Punic War could produce overstruck coins in massive amounts. Also, silver coins were likely to be overstruck if they differed from the weight standard adopted in the area they were circulating. Coins of similar weight standards were easier to overstrike, but there also was less need to do so. On the other hand, coins of heavier weight standard were reduced to a lighter weight standard by trimming the flan and then overstruck.
This is the case of Fig. 5. This coin, a cistophorus from Ephesus dated to 140–139 BC, has been struck over a Macedonian tetradrachm of First Meris (Fig. 6), issued after 168 BC, as suggested by the thunderbolt still visible on the reverse. This specimen has been included in a 2011 AJN article by de Callataÿ. Since the introduction of the reduced standard cistophoric tetradrachm under the king Eumenes II, the Attalid kingdom became a closed currency area (on substantiated objections to this point of view see this article by Andrew Meadows). Silver coins on different standards thus needed to be trimmed and overstruck in order to circulate freely. This overstruck coin opens a window over the complex monetary and political interactions in the Mediterranean in the second half of the second century BC. In de Callataÿ’s words, “at the end of the Attalid dominion, tetradrachms coming from the Northern Aegean area were chosen intentionally to issue some specific batches of cistophoric tetradrachms. This was not a random process, since there is no reason to believe that coins from the First Macedonian Meris or Thasos were particularly common at the border of the Asian Province. […] The question is: which power organized this movement of coinage? To my mind, the answer points in the Roman direction, even with Asia Minor still technically under Attalid rule.”
The convergence of Eastern Mediterranean monetary systems under Roman dominion is also shown by other two very interesting overstrikes. In Fig. 7, a silver tetradrachm from Thasus, dated to 90–75 BC, is struck over a Macedonian tetradrachm issued under the Roman quaestor Aesillas. Conversely, in Fig. 8 a Macedonian tetradrachm of Aesillas is struck over a Thasian one. The mutual overstrikes of Thasian and Macedonian tetradrachms shows that these two coinages were roughly ontemporary, but also that in the course of the first century BC the monetary systems of the Eastern provinces of Roman Empire became increasingly integrated.
Another very interesting case of overstrike is represented by Figs. 9–10. The first of these coins, issued by the Roman quaestor Gaius Publilius either after 168 BC either after 148 BC, is clearly struck over a Silenus/ D ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ issue. Given the high number of similarly overstruck coins, D. Macdonald suggested that the Silenus/ D ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ issues, characterized by the absence of the head of Rome on the obverse were issued after 148 BC, twenty years after the ones issued under Gaius Publilius, to highlight the independence of Macedonia, a Roman province by then. However, the overstruck coins presented in Fig. 10 suggest otherwise. While the undertype is not clearly recognizable, the letters still visible on the reverse suggest that this Silenus/ D ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ coin was struck over a specimen issued by the Roman quaestors, even if it not clear whether Fulcinnius or Publilius. This overstruck coin this invalidates the chronology proposed by Macdonald and suggests that the coinages issued by the Roman quaestors and the Silenus/ D ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ one were most likely contemporary, even if it is not clear whether they should be dated to 168 or 148 BC.
Lastly, overstrikes could shed some light on the financing of armies. The ones presented here (Figs. 11–12), Roman quadrantes struck respectively over Iero II’s and Carthage bronze coins, are a clear indication of the hasted production of Roman coinage in Sicily in the course of the Second Punic War. The most probable explanation for such haste was of course the necessity of paying the armies fighting at the time in the island.
In conclusion, the overstruck coins are important heuristic tools to better understand ancient monetary systems. In the specific, the ones included in the Richard B. Witschonke Collection at the American Numismatic Society present in same cases unique characteristics which make them even more valuable to the historian and the numismatist.
The coin pictured in Figure 1 is only one of the 290 Geto-Dacian imitations of Roman Republican denarii included in the Richard B. Witschonke Collection at the American Numismatic Society (ANS 2015.20.2271–2560). No other private collection in the world could vaunt such a high number of Geto-Dacian imitations, with the only possible exception of the one once owned by Phillip Davis, which was partly sold in a Gemini Auction in 2012 (lots 583–767). The specimen presented here is a hybrid, as it reproduces the obverse type of L. Rustius (RRC 389/1, Fig. 2) and the reverse type of P. Satrienus (RRC 388/1, Fig. 3).
This specimen was part of a large hoard of Roman Republicandenarii found in Romania between 2001 and 2002, which consisted of approximately 5,000 Roman Republican denarii, a few Alexander the Great drachms (perhaps local imitations?), and nearly 100 Dacian imitations of Republican denarii (Figs. 4–5). The latest official coin was an issue of Octavian, RRC 540/2, struck in 36 BC.
The Republican imitations—including the one presented here—were removed from the hoard prior to its dispersal and were published by Phillip Davis. These imitations are usually referred to as Geto-Dacian because most hoards of imitations of Republican denarii, and all mixed hoards of imitative and official pieces, have been found in Romania or in neighboring countries also within the Dacian sphere of influence. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as the imitative coinage struck by the Pannonian tribe of the Eravisci. However, the Eraviscan style is quite distinctive, as made evident by the pictures (Figs. 6–7).
The question of the production and circulation of Republican denarii (and their imitations) in Dacia was the subject of a very heated scholarly discussion in Eastern Europe, especially Romania, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, in connection to the Romanian nationalist claims put forward by the Communist Party after the 1960s.
Very briefly, the consensus among Romanian numismatists was (and is) that most of the Republican denarii found in Romania, (roughly, ancient Dacia,) had in fact been produced there. According to this theory, Dacian mints would have produced not only imitations, but also many specimens that seem to be official Roman products. Most famously, the Romanian scholar Maria Chitescu, author of the groundbreaking Numismatic Aspects of the History of the Dacian State (originally published in Rumenian in 1981) advanced various stylistic and statistical arguments in support of this position, especially based on her study of the Poroschia Hoard (RRCH 436). Building upon the 49 coins that appear to be locally made copies of Roman prototypes, she created a distinction between faithful “copies” (Fig. 8), barely distinguishable from their Republican prototypes, and plus or minus barbarous interpretations of the Roman original, which she defines as “imitations” (Figs. 9–10).
This classification is usefully reproduced by P. Davis in his website and in subsequent publications, but has been quite recently criticized by B. Woytek, because “although clear at the extremes, this distinction becomes somewhat blurred in the middle and hence, it can be difficult to apply.”
In Chitescu’s view, faithful “copies” of Roman Republican denarii could be considered as “official” issues of the proto-Dacian state, whose uncertain historical origins were usually connected to king Burebista, a mysterious historical figure mentioned by Strabo (Geographica 7.3.5, 7.3.11, and 16.2.39), Jordanes (Getica 67) and in one inscription concerning an emissary of this king sent to Dionysopolis (modern Balcic in Bulgaria) in 48 BC, where Burebista is described as the “first and the greatest king of Thrace” (Fig. 11). In more nuanced tones, the existence of a proto-Dacian state in the first century BC connected to the king Burebista is still championed in Rumenian academia (Fig. 12).
While the hypothesis of a proto-Dacian state could seem a convincing explanation for the massive production and circulation of Roman Republican imitations, it did not provide an answer for the massive presence of Roman official denarii in the region, which were circulating together with local “copies” and “imitations.” Because of this integrated circulation, Michael Crawford rejected Chitescu’s hypothesis of local “copies” of Roman official coinage as currency of the proto-Dacian state, arguing instead that the official-appearing denarii were just that, coins struck in Rome and exported to Dacia, perhaps mostly in conjunction with the slave trade. The absence of hoards including Roman denarii—whether official or imitations—convinced Crawford that the import of Roman coinage and its subsequent imitations were related to a specific historical moment. According to him, the territory of Dacia—precisely because it was not yet incorporated in the Roman Empire—represented an alternative source of slave supply for Rome and Italy after 67 BC, when Pompey’s victory over the pirates put an end to the slave-raiding organized by them. Roman official denarii were then used as means of payment for slaves, possibly sold by local aristocrats. The high rate of wear of the Roman denarii prior to the 70s BC in Romanian hoards could thus be explained by the fact that they were imported to the Dacian region en masse between the 60s and the 50s BC.
In 2008 Kris Lockyear subjected a large sampling of Republican coin hoards to sophisticated statistical analyses that led to the conclusion that Roman Republican denarii were systematically imported to Dacia between 75 and 65 BC, possibly with a second peak in the 40s BC. He also found substantial differences in composition between the coins found in Romanian hoards and those from elsewhere in Europe, which seem to hint at a local production of the Romanian copies and imitations. To the same conclusions arrived in 2012 the team lead by Woytek, whose metallurgical analyses show that there is distinct similarity in the bullion used in the Geto-Dacian imitation of denarii. In sum, the results of the metallurgical analyses pursued in autonomous ways and with different methodologies by K. Lockyear and B. Woytek play well with the idea that Geto-Dacian imitations were produced locally, as once suggested by M. Chitescu.
However, M. Chitescu argued for a centralized production of Dacian denarii (i.e., copies of official Roman denarii), which would represent the currency in use in Burebista’s state. If this were the case, we should expect a relevant number of die-links, as for the official Roman production. However, no significant die-links have been identified in Geto-Dacian imitations up to this moment, with the partial exception (which actually proves the rule) of a short die-linked sequence published by P. Davis (Figs. 13–14).
At first sight, the absence of die-linked sequences—even for the more faithful copies—and the heterogeneity in styles suggest a high degree of decentralization in the production that seem irreconcilable with the role of these coins as official currency of Burebista’s state. However, further numismatic discoveries could radically change the picture.
In sum, the present state of studies suggest that Daco-Getan imitations of Roman Republican official coinage were indeed produced in Dacia and were related to the steady influx of official Roman Republican denarii which took place in the course of the first half of the first century BC.
This influx was probably related to slave trade and could have happened under the auspices of the Dacian proto-state, but no final conclusion could be drawn on this. However, the widespread and integrated circulation of official and non-official Roman Republican denarii in a region that was not part of the Roman Empire is yet another sign of far-fetching power of Roman coinage in the first century BC.