We are excited to announce our new Portable Antiquities Scheme podcast series! Join hosts Ben and Lucy, plus special guests, as they explore finds from across the country and get to know the Scheme better.
This series has been produced as part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported PASt Explorers project. The series was created by Ben Westwood (Finds Liaison Officer for Durham) and Lucy Shipley (Finds Liaison Officer for Devon), with many thanks for their hard work.
Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. This time Dr. Andrew Brown examines the nummi of Reece Period 19.
Reece Period 19 nummi – House of Valentinian, c.AD 364-378
In this blog post we will look at the bronze coinage of the House of Valentinian struck between AD 364-378 (Reece Period 19) that was in circulation alongside the siliquae and solidi examined in previous editions. These appear in large quantity in Britain and with the exception of the Constantinian nummi of AD 330-348 (Reece Period 17) are the most well-represented of all the 4th century coins on the PAS. At least 26,836 bronze coins from this period have been recorded to date on the PAS database, many of which can be identified to type and mint, if not ruler. Their distribution is significant and appears to provide good evidence for the exploitation of the agrarian landscape by the Roman administration – we will look at this in more detail below.
By the middle of the 4th century, nummi struck and used around the Roman world still contained small quantities of silver. Production of these adulterated1 nummi ceased with the joint reign of emperors Valentinian I (AD 364-375) and Valens (AD 364-378) in AD 364, and a law of April AD 371 recalled to the mint and outlawed any adulterated coins remaining in circulation altogether. Nummi of the House of Valentinian – initially the joint reign with Valentinian I and Valens, subsequently including Gratian (AD 367-383) and, after Valentinian I’s death, Valentinian II (AD 375-392) – are therefore essentially base metal coins struck from alloys of copper, in some mints like Arles and Lyon perhaps containing increasing quantities of lead. Although there are some larger AE1 and AE2 denominations briefly in circulation, as well as much smaller AE4 types, these are practically non-existent as PAS finds. We are essentially dealing with three key AE3 types that make up almost all of the known PAS examples: GLORIA ROMANORVM, SECVRITAS REI PVBLICAE, and GLORIA NOVI SAECVLI (see below). These were struck in relatively large volume, the GLORIA NOVI SAECVLI type solely for Gratian at the mint of Arles, but the other two types empire-wide at all mints operating during the Valentinianic period and for all issuers. It is notable that eastern mint coins are rare, with the exception of the mint of Siscia, which has an unusually high showing in this period – you are quite likely to see Siscia mint coins from Reece Period 19 within the PAS data. If you are recording or identifying Valentinianic coinage, being familiar with these three key AE3 types should allow you to identify almost every coin you are likely to see!
When dealing with coins of this period RIC IX is the standard reference, although LRBC is equally useful and perhaps more accessible. One thing to keep in mind with the mintmarks listed in LRBC is that the officina letters in the field can sometimes be transposed (usually for the GLORIA ROMANORVM type) – check the notes section at the back of LRBC if you have a coin where the mintmark doesn’t at first seem to be the correct way around!
AE 1 – RESTITVTOR REI PVBLICAE, Emperor standing facing, head right, holding standard and Victory on globe
The largest of the Valentinianic copper-alloy denominations measures about 25mm in diameter and was struck largely in the eastern half of the empire from the mints of Rome eastward. These had a short life span, probably going out of circulation by AD 371 and are rare with no examples yet recorded through the PAS.
AE 2 – GLORI-A ROMA-NORVM, Campgate with S above
An AE2 sized nummus measuring c.22mm in diameter was struck at the mints of Trier and Constantinople with campgate reverse type. This is again a rare type not to be confused with Constantinian campgate types of the AD 320s or much smaller Theodosian types of the AD 380s. The distinctive feature is the S above the campgate on the reverse. There do not appear to be any PAS examples of this coin type yet.
The PAS dataset still requires some editing but, to date, a total of 10,863 AE3 nummi have been assigned to on of the three key reverse types. I think it likely that this will be possible for the majority of Valentinianic nummi, however, particularly those with images.
While the GLORIA NOVI SAECVLI type was struck solely in the mint of Arles for Gratian, the other two reverse types were struck across the empire and for all four emperors. Those coins with mints currently identified on the PAS database demonstrate that the western mints of Lyon and Arles are by far the most common, followed by Siscia, Aquileia, Trier and Rome. However, the mints east of Aquileia are so far extremely rare.
GLORIA ROMANORVM, Emperor advancing right holding standard and dragging captive
The mints of Lyon and Arles are best represented for the GLORIA ROMANORVM (‘the Glory of the Romans’) type. A useful diagnostic tool lies in those coins with mintmarks containing the officina number in the field: those with the letters OF (for officina) to the left of the emperor are for the mint of Arles, while those where the O and F are split either side of the emperor are for the mint of Lyon. As with all coins of this period, the eastern mints are rare, with the exception of Siscia, which has quite a large showing and a wide, varied range of mintmarks – LRBC is really useful here.
Arles (Arelatum) was known by its dynastic name Constantia from AD 353 until the end of the 4th century. Coins in this period with mintmarks containing CON or CONST are therefore for Arles and not Constantinople (which uses CONS). The latter is very rare in Britain and there are very few PAS examples. If you have nummi from the Valentinian period with mintmarks containing CON, therefore, they are almost certainly going to be for Arles rather than Constantinople – the two shouldn’t be confused!
SECVRITAS REI PVBLICAE, Victory advancing left holding wreath and palm
The Securitas type with Victory reverse is the most frequently seen of the Valentinian bronze types recorded to date on the PAS – at least amongst those that have had a reverse type securely attributed to them. It should be noted here that there are other similar types with Victory reverse in the latter half of the 4th century that are much rarer and shouldn’t be confused with the Valentinian period coin. The two most commonly confused with the Securitas type are as follows:
The Reece Period 17 coin is usually c.15-16mm in diameter and is very rare on the PAS. The type is included in R. Reece and S. James Identifying Roman Coins (Spink, 1986, 1994, 2000)), p. 37, but is not at all common in Britain. There are numerous examples of this type being selected instead of the Valentinian type on the PAS, but it is far more likely that nummi depicting Victory advancing left are of the latter type.
This type, for Reece Period 21, was highlighted in a previous edition. Although the Victory type is similar, it shouldn’t be confused with the Valentinian Securitas type – the Theodosian coin is much smaller, at c.14mm or less and the distinctive feature is often the GGG of AVGGG at the end of the reverse legend.
GLORIA NOVI SAECVLI, Emperor standing facing, head left, holding standard and leaning on shield
The third standard type of Valentinianic nummi seen in Britain is that with GLORIA NOVI SAECVLI (‘the Glory of the new age’) reverse type. This is struck solely for Gratian between AD 367-375 and only in the third workshop at the mint of Arles. All coins of this issue carry mintmarks for the third officina that are either OF III or TCON. The type is unique to Gratian so should be easily identifiable.
Alongside the Securitas and two Gloria reverse types, there are a number of rarer AE3 sized types that appear during this period, some of which are also present on the PAS database. These form just a small percentage of the totals of Reece Period 19 nummi recorded, but it is worth illustrating them in case other examples turn up.
RESTITVTOR REI P, Emperor standing facing holding standard and victoriola
A smaller, AE3 version of the RESTITVTOR REIPVBLICAE reverse type, with legend abbreviated to RESTITVTOR REI P, was issued early in the reigns of Valentinian I and Valens. Struck at most mints empire-wide, the type should not be confused with either the larger AE1 coin or earlier issues of Magnentius. These are not common coins on the PAS, there are fewer than 30 PAS examples identified to date, most probably from the western mints.
GLORIA ROMANORVM, Victory advancing left holding wreath and palm
This type with Gloria Romanorvm legend but Victory reverse type is only struck at the mint of Trier. It is much rarer than the standard Gloria or Securitas types – I can find no more than about 10 examples that have been securely identified to date on the PAS. Do be careful when recording these coins, they could easily be confused with the Securitas types and it is likely there could be others that have been identified as such.
A(nother!) usurper – Procopius, c.AD 365-366
We have seen, particularly in the 3rd century but also in the mid-4th century, the relatively common incidence of usurpation, notably during the transition of power between one ruler and the next. The start of the Valentinian period was no different. With the death of Jovian in February AD 364, Procopius, the maternal cousin of Julian II (and therefore of the Constantinian dynasty) and part of his retinue in the east, was arrested in Caesarea (Kayseri, Turkey) by soldiers loyal to the new emperors, Valentinian I and Valens. However, Procopius managed to flee east with his family and, securing the support of two legions there, proclaimed himself emperor in September AD 365. Two decisive battles against the forces of Valens followed and resulted in his defeat. On the 27th May AD 366, following his capture by Valens, Procopius was executed in a rather gruesome manner – Ammianus (XXVI.9.1-10) suggests he was simply beheaded on the spot. However, other sources, like Socrates (Ecclesiastical History 4.5), recount that his legs were tied to bent trees, which when they sprung back to an upright position tore him in half!
Coins of Procopius are understandably very rare in Britain. He ruled for just a short period of time and only struck coinage at the mints of Constantinople, Cyzicus, Heraclea, and Nicomedia. The reverse legend for the bronze coinage is invariably REPARATIO FEL TEMP and a distinctive feature of Procopius’ issues are the use of a left instead of right facing bust – he is also bearded much like his cousin Julian. If you have a nummus of this period with a left facing bust, therefore, do check to see whether it is Procopius as this is highly likely! To date there appear to be only two securely identified coins of Procopius recorded through the PAS.
Valentinianic nummiin Britain
One of the most interesting things about the Reece Period 19 bronze coinage is what it potentially tells us about Roman Britain. Sam has done much work on this over several decades, most notably with regard to Roman Wiltshire. During the Valentinianic period, areas of the west country in particular appear to have become increasingly wealthy, notably areas like Wiltshire and Hampshire (and urban centres like Cirencester) have produced large quantities of nummi. This isn’t confined to the south west, though, and there is a very clear swathe of material spreading east into East Anglia and north as far as Yorkshire. In continental Europe, high concentrations of bronze coinage in this period have been linked to military activity and Roman officialdom and the situation in Britannia has been interpreted in a similar way. A combination of factors suggest that the areas with high volume of Valentinianic bronze coin losses reflect Roman military activity within the province likely also associated with agricultural production and the collection of the annona militaris – a tax levied in foodstuffs to support the legions during their campaigns. The fortification of key centres, like Cunetio (Mildenhall) in Wiltshire, might provide evidence for this, particularly at a time when Count Theodosius, sent by Valentinian himself, sought to restore order within the province and secure Roman interests. Similarly, we might see this reflected in the presence of other important groups of objects, such as zoomorphic late Roman belt buckles likely associated with Roman military activity and local officialdom, that are found in the same areas as the high concentrations of nummi.
After Julian had restored order in Gaul in the late-AD 350s with significant victories over the Alamanni and peace with the Chamavi, there are various literary sources that highlight the importance of his rebuilding projects and the restoration of the granaries here. Ammianus (XVIII.2.3) states that “He also replaced burnt out granaries with new ones, so that they could house the corn which was regularly shipped from Britain”; Libanius (Oratio 18.82-3) that “In the past, grain was shipped by sea from Britain and up the Rhine”; and Eunapius (fr. 12) that “without the acquiescence of the Chamavi it is impossible to transport the supplies of grain from the island of Britain to the Roman garrisons”. The extent to which grain appears to have been transported across the channel from Britain is highlighted by Zosimus (3.5.2), who recounts that “Julian built 800 vessels, larger than fast galleys, which he sent to Britain to bring back grain” and by Julian himself in his Letter to the Athenians where he tells us that “…a complete fleet of many ships had arrived from Britain. I had got together a fleet of 600 ships, 400 of which had been built in less than ten months, bringing them all together into the Rhine”.
What the literary sources suggest is the importance of the grain supply from Britain to Gaul and the Rhine, with potentially several hundred vessels plying across the channel carrying the all important resources needed for the Roman garrisons in Gaul. It is quite plausible that the clear growth in bronze coin use and loss, the fortification of key settlements like Cunetio, and the presence of other objects that suggest military and administrative control in the British landscape, like the zoomorphic Roman buckles, reflects this continued importance of the annona militaris and the transportation of grain from Britannia to Gaul during the Valentinianic period. There is still more work needed to clarify the precise nature of this activity in Britannia, but the PAS data is providing vital corroborating evidence to other archaeological material and the patterns that Sam has been able to identify since the 1980s.
References and further reading:
S. Moorhead ‘The Coinage of the Later Roman Empire, 364-498’ in W. Metcalf ed. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage (OUP, 2012): 615
S. Moorhead ‘Roman coin finds from Wiltshire’, in Ellis, P. (ed.) Roman Wiltshire and After (Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Devizes, 2001), 85-105; S. Moorhead and D. Stuttard The Romans Who Shaped Britain (2012): 226-227; S. Moorhead A History of Roman Coinage in Britain (2013)
J.-P. Callu ‘The distribution and the role of bronze coinage from AD 348 to 392’ in C. King (ed.) Imperial Revenue, Expenditre and Monetary Policy in the Fourth Century AD (BAR International Series 76, 1980): 105- 106
S. Moorhead, 2001; 2012; P. Walton Rethinking Roman Britain: Coinage and Archaeology (Moneta, 2012)
Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. This time Dr. Andrew Brown examines the coinage of Nerva.
Nerva, AD 81-96
The tyranny of Domitian (AD 81-96) ended on the 18th of September AD 96 in conspiracy and assassination that brought about the end of Flavian dynasty. Despite the bloody coup, the result was that the “the kind deities gave a second Augustus to the earth” (Martial Epigrams XI.3). Marcus Cocceius Nerva (AD 96-98) was something of an odd choice. He was a career politician born in Narnia (Italy) in AD 30 to a noble family and had provided counsel to Nero, Vespasian, and Domitian, for the latter two also serving as consul in AD 71 and 90 respectively. At the age of 65 and with no children Nerva wasn’t an obvious candidate for power, but he was a respected politician and for the senate at least he was respite after Domitian. Moreover, as ‘their emperor’ – the senate reportedly acclaimed his rule immediately upon Domitian’s death – the senate might have greater stability and control with him at the helm.
The situation was not straightforward, however. While the senate were relieved, even overjoyed at Domitian’s demise, the populous were indifferent, but the army were angry. While the soldiers called for Domitian to be deified and to avenge his murder, he was subject to official damnatio memoriae by the senate with his image and name destroyed or defaced. This was just the second time, after Nero, that such official condemnation of memory had occurred. For Nerva, this meant a difficult balancing act. On the one hand he had an unhappy military out for revenge and not overly supportive of him, since under Domitian they had prospered, had received pay rises, and Nerva had, after all, rather been forced on them by the senate. On the other hand, he had a senate that needed appeasing and a largely indifferent populous that had not done too badly under the previous emperor but whose support he needed to encourage. From the outset there was tension. Many contemporary sources are complimentary to the new emperor though, Tacitus remarks that “at the dawn of a most happy age Nerva Cæsar blended things once irreconcilable, sovereignty and freedom” (Tacitus Agricola 3). Later sources (e.g. Cassius Dio or Aurelius Victor) generally cast him in a good light, but also point out his age and fragility and perhaps a lack of decisive leadership. A munity by the Praetorian guards in AD 97 seeking justice against the conspirators against Domitian resulted in Nerva being imprisoned by the guards in the imperial palace until order was restored (well, until the guards had finished off two of the conspirators at least!). This may have contributed to his adoption in October of that year of Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a military commander and governor in Germany, as his imperial heir thus ensuring the succession and with some support from the legions.
Nerva’s reign is generally seen as benevolent and he is well regarded, if perhaps somewhat overshadowed by his more competent successor, Trajan. He was in power for just 16 months but instigated numerous social, fiscal, and political reforms that sought to undo many of the problems associated with Domitian and generate good will from multiple opposing factions. While this obviously did not immediately help with the military, it did win him popularity from many corners – it is notable that from the outset he was afforded the title pater patriae (Father of the Country). The short length of his reign means there is little surviving art or architecture from this period. The Forum Nervae (also known as the Forum Transitorium) in Rome was completed under Nerva, although largely a product of Domitian’s reign, and there were further public works on Rome’s aqueducts and a granary complex. Many of the few surviving portraits are recut busts of Domitian in Nerva’s likeness, and perhaps reflect the senate’s Damnatio of Domitian if not re-use of existing spolia during what was, after all, a very brief reign (Fig. 1).
On January 28th AD 68, Nerva died following a fit and short fever. He was quickly deified by the senate and was the last Roman emperor to have his ashes interred in the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome. His rule had provided a brief interlude between the tyranny of Domitian and a new high point of imperial power under Trajan – for which he had a not insignificant formative role.
Given the short period of time Nerva was emperor, his coinage is necessarily relatively limited in scope, struck in six main issues at Rome. He has a very recognisable bust type, with distinctive nose(!), not to be confused with either the coinages of Domitian (AD 81-96) before him or Trajan (AD 98-117) after him. Gold, silver, and bronze denominations were all struck and with few exceptions (see below) all of his issues carry dated types that allow us to place them quite closely within his reign (where the legends are visible, of course!). The PAS has no gold of Nerva, which is in any case very rare in Britain.
The PAS contains records of 393 coins of Nerva, including 122 IARCW Welsh records, 187 of these are for denarii, with 70 sestertii, 45 dupondii, 66 asses, and the remainder unclear smaller bronze denominations (dupondii or asses). In this post we follow the outline of Nerva’s coinage used by Mattingly and Sydenham in RIC II, but see also: BMC III; N. Elkins’ excellent recent study on Nerva, The Image of Political Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96-98 (OUP, 2017), provides a necessary update on the coinage and its interpretation.
The denarii form the largest single denominational group within the PAS dataset, the 187 coins demonstrating relatively widespread coverage within England, notably with concentrations in East Anglia, the Midlands, north to Chester, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire, but not many at all south and west of the Hampshire/Wiltshire area or indeed along the south coast generally. It is perhaps surprising that there are almost no examples close to Gloucester, since as Colonia Nervia Glevensium or Glevum, the Roman fort became a colonia for retired legionary soldiers in AD 97.
One of the most common PAS denarius types for Nerva (at least 44 PAS examples) carries a reverse with clasped hands and the legend CONCORDIA EXERCITVVM that highlights the emperor’s efforts to maintain ‘concord’ with the armies (exercitvvm). There are two varieties that appear in each year of his reign, one that simply depicts the clasped hands and another the clasped hands holding a legionary eagle that rests on a ship’s prow.
There is a second variant with Fortuna reverse type depicting her seated left holding corn ears and denoting the good fortune of the P[opulus] R[omanus] – the roman state and her citizenry – rather than the fortune that guides the emperor (AVGVST[i]). The corn ears perhaps also alluding to provision of grain to the people (see Elkins, 2017). There appear to be only two possible examples on the PAS, both from Norfolk, but lacking images. Iustitia (Justice) appears more regularly as a reverse type from Nerva’s reign onward and in this case likely publicised the emperor’s desire for proper judicial process. In this respect it likely also finds some relation to the Roman concepts of Libertas and Aequitas that both appear as reverse types under Nerva and the idea of just treatment for all, including in the senate’s need for a sense of order following Domitian’s reign, demise, and their desire for damnatio. This type is rare on the PAS, with only two identified examples, one being an IARCW coin without image.
Denarii with reverse types depicting priestly or sacrificial implements have a number of different legends, including this type that carries PATER PATRIAE in full rather than simply P P. There are about 13 PAS examples with this reverse type. There are a number of more scarce denarii types that are not represented in the PAS dataset so far, including reverses with Diana (RIC II, p. 224, no. 11) and Moneta (RIC II, p. 223, no. 8 passim – note that this should not be confused with the very similar Aequitas type!).
All of the denarii from Nerva’s last issue in AD 98 have the same reverse types already seen in AD 96 and 97 but with legends that read IMP II COS IIII P P rather than, for example, AEQVITAS AVGVST, CONCORDIA EXERCITVVM, etc. These are less common as PAS finds, with only 6 recorded examples, all with either Aequitas (4 examples) or Libertas (2 examples) reverse types.
From AD 97, after Trajan’s adoption as imperial heir in October of that year, Nerva assumes the title Germanicus along with Trajan, presumably in response to the successes of the Roman armies on the German frontier, where Trajan had been a successful military commander and, under Nerva, governor. If you have a coin of Nerva, therefore, that carries the title GERM in the obverse legend it dates to his last two issues from December AD 97 onward.
Perhaps more interesting is Nerva’s bronze coinage, which accounts for more than 50% of the total number of PAS coins. As with much of the early imperial aes coinage recovered from ploughsoil contexts, many of the examples demonstrate quite extensive corrosion, damage, and in some instances use wear that renders their types difficult or impossible to identify. However, there are some excellent examples of his bronze issues that help to illustrate their development in the brief time Nerva reigned. Many examples carry reverse types that are replicated in the silver coinage above – coins with Libertas and Fortuna are not uncommon as PAS finds, with the addition of the occasional Concordia and similar types. These are very much standard reverse types that generally relate to peace and stability within the empire, as well as the emperor’s role in good governance. In the Libertas reverse – as noted above with the Ivstitia denarius type – there is perhaps more overt comment on the senate’s (and the people’s) greater freedom from the tyranny of Domitian. The Concordia type, of course, continues the thread of Nerva’s attempts to appease the army, also reflected in a Pax reverse type that appears so far unrepresented within the PAS material.
A number of PAS coins highlight Nerva’s wider policies for stability within the empire and his own attempts to maintain peaceful engagement with the people, senate, and military following the difficult (even tyrannical) rule of Domitian. Unfortunately, some of these more interesting types lack images on the database, many of them coming from the IARCW dataset. Three sestertii are recorded (FAPJW-9DCE03; IARCW-63DAF6665; IARCW-63DAFF7F8) that are connected with grain supply to the plebeian population with PLEBEI VRBANAE FRVMENTO CONSTITVTO reverse type depicting a modius (Fig. 21; RIC II, p. 229, no. 89). Similarly linked to the grain supply are probably an issue of quadrantes with modius obverse (RIC II, p. 230, nos. 109-113) – there so far appear to be no examples of these recorded in Britain however. Interestingly, a distinctive group of die-linked irregular Trajanic sestertii incorporating the PLEBEI VRBANAE FRVMENTO CONSTITVTO modius of Nerva have been studied by B. Woytek and appear to be products of Roman Britain. Several examples are recorded on the PAS database and it is worth looking out for them so that we can further understand their production and distribution.
A total of seven coins (including two IARCW examples) carry the reverse type VEHICVLATIONE ITALIAE REMISSA, S C, depicting two mules grazing with cart and harness behind. This type represents Nerva’s remission of an Imperial tax levied on the Imperial post within Italy, again reflective of his social policies within the empire. While a single example with ROMA RENASCENS reverse type (IARCW-63DAFF7FD; not photographed) appealed perhaps more strongly to the senate with the sense of a rebirth or new age of the state after Domitian.
An interesting emission of coinage struck in both silver and bronze during Nerva’s lifetime depict the deified emperor Augustus in much the same way as Tiberius and the Flavians had done beforehand. These may have been intended to provide Nerva with an element of legitimacy (given he was not part of an imperial dynasty) to an earlier Roman power prior to the problems associated with Domitian. The similarity of the bust types to Nerva rather than Augustus may have reinforced this and communicated to both senate and people the establishment of a new imperial power in the image of the deified emperor (see Elkins, 2017).
Another “Coin of British Association”?
In 2012 a copper-alloy as of Nerva was recorded through the PAS from Mollington, Cheshire (LVPL-716282). This coin is of a type unlisted in RIC, but mentioned by Mattingly and Sydenham in a footnote referencing an example in the British Museum believed to be a fake or modified FORTVNA AVGVST coin (RIC II, p. 228). The reverse type depicts Neptune holding a ship’s prow (acrostolium) and trident, a small figure emerging from the ground to the left probably Triton (son of Neptune and Amphitrite), with the legend NEPTVNO CIRCENS(ibus) CONSTITVT(is) S C. Since the publication of RIC, this coin type has been subject to various examinations, most notably by D. Shotter in 2013, and has been placed in Nerva’s third issue of coinage in AD 97. The reverse has been interpreted as referring to Neptune’s association with horse racing in the Circus Maximus in Rome and the type likely indicates the establishment of games to Neptune here.
Shotter identified 16 known examples of this type, mostly within various museum collections around the world, including three British Museum coins. What is more interesting is that seven of the nine examples listed by Shotter have British findspots and three of the remaining coins are in British collections. In contrast, there are no recorded examples in Rome, or indeed in Italy, despite this coin type being a product of the Rome mint. Shotter suggests that these asses may well have been shipped in batches to Gaul and Britain, specifically for circulation here, perhaps particularly favoured due to the depiction of Neptune and the maritime associations that came with him which might have found affinity with the population of Britannia. Elkins (2017), on the other hand, regards this is a more doubtful interpretation, instead suggesting that the Neptune asses could have reached Britain in AD 97 as a consignment of coinage with those settling the new colonia of Glevum (Gloucester). His argument rests a little on the distribution of the aes coinage of Nerva recorded through the PAS, noting both a spike in coins of AD 97 within the assemblage and that the majority of the sestertii, dupondii, and asses are found within a 70-mile radius of Glevum. However, while it is clear that Nerva’s coins of AD 97 are the most commonly seen within the PAS data, it is equally notable that the immediate area around Gloucester does not have huge numbers of coins at all. Indeed, a 70-mile radius would account for only 81 of the bronze coins of Nerva (just under 40% of the total) and the Neptune types are for the most part found in the north and east. Of course, this is with an additional 7 years of coins recorded through the PAS, which has changed the picture somewhat since Elkins’ publication.
I have recently noted a further Neptune as from excavation in Lincolnshire published in 2013, bringing the total of known examples to 17. It is quite plausible that the spike in Nerva’s coinage around AD 97 does indeed relate to increased activity generally with the foundation of Glevum, although whether this is directly responsible for the Neptune asses appearing within the province remains to be ascertained on the basis of more provenanced examples and is perhaps not entirely supported by the spread of PAS bronze coinage from this period. It is important that we record more of these coins when they appear – I feel it likely there are others from excavation or in collections around the country that have not yet been noticed and it is likely others will appear in due course. On current evidence, we might be able to suggest these appear to be largely for circulation in Britain (and possibly Gaul), indicating that, much like the later issues of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, the Neptune as of Nerva perhaps has a specific British Association.
References and further reading:
D. Calomino Defacing the Past: Damnation and Desecration in Imperial Rome (Spink), 2016: pp. 91-95
R. Bland and X. Loriot, Roman and Early Byzantine Gold Coins found in Britain and Ireland (2010) record just two British aurei for Nerva.
D. Shotter ‘The Principate of Nerva: Some Observations on the Coin Evidence’ Historia 32.2, 1983
Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. This time Dr. Andrew Brown examines the gold and silver coinage of Claudius I.
Claudius I, AD 41-54
We have already looked at some of the coinage of Claudius I (AD 41-54) when we highlighted the contemporary copies of Claudian dupondii and asses. These are by far the most prolific coins of the Claudian period, however there are also much rarer precious metal issues in both gold and silver that play an important part of the coinage after the Roman conquest. Although these are not prolific on the PAS, they do form a bridge between the coinages of Tiberius, Caligula, and the pre-AD 64 reform issues of Nero.
Born in Lugdunum (Lyon) on 1st August 10 BC, on the day the Altar of Rome and Augustus was inaugurated, Tiberius Claudius Nero Germanicus was a member of the first imperial dynasty, the Julio-Claudians. His father was the military general and politician Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus (son of the empress Livia, stepson of Augustus, and brother to Tiberius), while his mother was Antonia Minor (daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor (sister of Augustus)). For much of his early life he was kept away from the public eye due to symptoms of illness that left him with a twitch, confused speech, a running nose, and weak knees – his family, largely embarrassed by him, felt he was unlikely to amount to anything or that he had any real intelligence at all. He was perhaps to surprise them somewhat! His father, Drusus, died on campaign in Germania in 9 BC and his care passed to his mother and grandmother (Livia). With the encouragement of the likes of Livy, Claudius developed as a skilled historian, scholar, and linguist but under first Tiberius and then Caligula was shunned from public office despite apparent popular support until appointed consul by Caligula in AD 37.
Claudius was subjected to a degree of humiliation by his nephew, Caligula, prior to the latter’s assassination in a widespread conspiracy in AD 41. During the chaos surrounding Caligula’s murder, Claudius was discovered hiding behind a curtain by the Praetorian guard, who declared him emperor and placed him under their protection within the Praetorian camp. Even if Claudius had no direct hand in Caligula’s death, and perhaps showed an element of clemency to the conspirators, he was intelligent and quick to mete out justice where he perceived a threat. As emperor, he took a close interest in elements of religious life, the judiciary, the imperial finances, and in continued attempts to appease the senate (he had after all been elevated by the military rather than the politicians, many in the senate demonstrating a clear dislike for him!) presided over an increasingly centralised empire. He was a lover of the games that included those in honour of him, his father, and in AD 47 Secular Games to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Rome. Claudius married four times. Perhaps most notorious was his third wife, Valeria Messalina, who he married in AD 37 and by whom he had two children, Claudia Octavia (later wife of Nero) and Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus. Messalina, however, was infamous for the murder of any and all of her enemies or rivals as well as blatant adultery that culminated in her marrying in a public ceremony one of her lovers while Claudius was away from Rome at Ostia! Needless to say, Messalina was executed by Claudius, who went on to marry Agrippina in AD 49, adopting her son, Nero, as imperial heir over his own son, Britannicus.
A very obvious element of Claudius’ reign were several significant building projects that included the completion of the Aqua Claudia and Anio Novus aqueducts in Rome that met at the Porta Maggiore where the Claudian gate of Travertine limestone remains visible today. Also significant for Rome was the construction of a new harbour at the mouth of the Tiber near Ostia – Portus – to help secure the grain supply to the capital. Parts of the Claudian harbour remain visible and it is also depicted on sestertii of Nero.
The empire expanded under Claudius, with perhaps the most notable (and relevant to us!) development being the annexation of the new province of Britannia. The four legions that landed in Kent in AD 43 were led by future governor of Britannia, Aulus Plautius, and included in their number the Legio II Augusta commanded by the future emperor Vespasian (AD 69-79). Invasion had supposedly been predicated on a plea from the exiled King of the Atrebates, Verica, to Rome for assistance in restoring him to power (Cassius Dio, 60.19). The foundations for this had begun, however, much earlier, first with Caesar and then in Caligula’s aborted attempt in AD 40. With the legions already close at hand in Gaul, and a clear political benefit for Claudius in invading, the annexation of the new province brought him an important military victory. The invading force met with resistance from the Catuvellauni led by the brothers Togodumnus and Caratacus, with battles on the Medway and Thames that left Togodumnus dead and Caratacus in flight. The Roman legions advanced to Camulodunum (Colchester), the regional capital of the Catuvellauni, where with much choreographed theatrics – and elephants! – Claudius eventually joined them to receive the surrender of the British kings and claim his victory on the battlefield. The campaign was an important piece of propaganda for Claudius and one that was highlighted for many years as not only a significant event for Rome but particularly for an emperor who was far from a military leader. He remained in Britain for only 16 days before returning to Rome where he received a triumph that included the senate bestowing on him the title Britannicus and the construction of triumphal arches in Boulogne and on the Aqua Virgo in Rome dedicated in AD 51. There are some disparaging voices though – Suetonius remarks that “He made but one campaign and that of little importance” (Suetonius Life of Claudius, XVII.1-2). At Camulodunum the first Roman fort then colony and capital was established, Colonia Claudia Victricensis, and a temple to Claudius and Rome was constructed on the site where Colchester Castle now stands. After Claudius’ death the temple became the Templum Divi Claudii – Temple of the Divine Claudius. It is from here that Claudius was revered although Seneca, mocking Claudius in his political satire the Apocolocyntosis Divi Claudii (‘The Pumpkinification of Claudius’!), remarks “Is it not enough that he has a temple in Britain, that savages worship him and pray to him as a god, so that they may find a fool to have mercy upon them?” (Seneca, Apocolocyntosis, 8). The temple was not to last for long, being a target for the events of the Boudiccan revolt in AD 60/61.
On the 13th of October AD 54, Claudius was murdered. He appears to have been poisoned, possibly by mushrooms, and it is likely that this represented a culmination of his wife Agrippina’s attempts to ensure power transferred to her son, Nero, over Claudius’ own son, Britannicus. He had adopted the young prince in AD 50 and Nero’s position within the imperial family was secured through is marriage to Octavia, Claudius’ daughter by Messalina. With Claudius removed, Agrippina and Nero could take power unopposed. Claudius was deified by the senate after his death and although work began on a temple dedicated to him in Rome on the Caelian Hill, this stopped with Agrippina’s death, only to be completed much later in the Flavian period.
Gold aurei and silver denarii of Claudius I are generally rare as British site finds. Gold is never common, but it is notable that, much like the silver coinage of Caligula and the earliest coinages of Nero, Claudian denarii do not have widespread distribution. It may be that they simply did not reach Britannia in any volume in the first place. Perhaps more plausibly, their scarcity might be linked to Nero’s coinage reforms in AD 64 that could have seen the removal from circulation of good quality early denarii and their replacement with Nero’s reformed denarii. Claudius’ coinage would arguably have only been in circulation for a relatively short period of time after the conquest therefore and the examples we see recorded potentially largely the result of losses prior to AD 64.
There are a total of 50 denarii of Claudius I recorded as single finds on the PAS of which 36 have images and four cannot be closely identified to type. Seven of this total are coins from the Welsh IARCW dataset. In addition, there are five aurei, all of which have images with the exception of a single IARCW coin. Examples of Claudian silver and gold do turn up in early-1st century AD hoard groups too, albeit again in comparatively limited quantity. Indeed, hoards ending with coins of Caligula, Claudius, and the early issues of Nero are far less common than, for example, those terminating with Tiberius or post-AD 64 coinages of Nero. This may again go back to the effects of Nero’s reforms and the paucity of Claudian silver in particular remaining in circulation into the later-1st century. It has been argued that the comparatively larger number of hoards closing with Tiberius might actually represent deposition of material after the Roman conquest in AD 43 given that silver coinage of Tiberius is much more abundant and would have circulated for a longer period of time than the rarer, new issues of Claudius. Early Roman gold is rare in hoards, although perhaps one of the best examples of a conquest period hoard is the 37 aurei of the Bredgar Hoard from Kent, which has been interpreted as potential evidence for the invading Claudian legions and their advance from Kent to London in AD 43 (for the hoard see IARCH-75460A).
One potentially complicating factor lies in the presence of mixed Iron Age and Roman assemblages that post-date AD 43. These have potential to reveal interesting evidence for the Roman invasion and interactions during the immediate post-conquest period. Local Iron Age coin types circulated alongside incoming new Roman coinages like those of Claudius I, only disappearing in some areas by the Neronian period. Indeed, there are multiple hoard groups that incorporate early Roman gold and silver with British Iron Age coin types and so it is important to keep this in mind when recording early Roman coinage on the PAS. Perhaps the best example of a mixed early hoard is the Malpas Hoard discovered in Cheshire in 2014 (LVPL-DFD9E1) that combines 25 early denarii with seven Iron Age gold staters, likely deposited after AD 43. Sam has suggested that the Malpas Hoard, in conjunction with other similar conquest period assemblages as well as single finds of early Roman denarii, might provide tentative evidence for resistance in Britain to the Roman invasion. In this instance potentially linked with the flight of Caratacus and his eventual capture in the north of England. Although this is a tentative association, it highlights the importance of recording these early Roman coins fully and with good quality images.
Mints and issues
In RIC I, it is assumed that production of both gold and silver occurred in Rome after the mint had been switched to the capital from Lyon under Caligula. However, this is something that has been subject to discussion both at the time C.H.V. Sutherland was compiling RIC and in more recent years. We have already touched on the complexities of the silver coinage in particular of this period when looking at Nero and the Claudian coinage is another element of this discussion. Analysis of the chemical composition of Julio-Claudian denarii by K. Butcher and M. Ponting has demonstrated that they are struck from very pure silver – up to 98-99% purity – and with trace elements that show continuity from Tiberius until the pre-reform coinage of Nero. The shift appears to be with Nero’s reforms in AD 64 when both the percentage of silver within the denarii and their composition in terms of trace elements, very clearly changes. This continuum and then sudden change in AD 64 would seem to suggest that production did not move to Rome under Caligula, but instead remained at Lyon until the Neronian reforms.
As with Nero’s coinage on the PAS, it is quite likely that we need to edit the Claudian denarii and aurei to reflect the fact that they were likely issued from Lyon rather than Rome. In this piece, I follow RIC, since this is the standard reference that is readily accessible for recording gold and silver coinages of this period, although with the acceptance that we perhaps need to adjust for the re-attribution of the mint! Claudius’ gold and silver coinage was issued in up to six officinae from the start of his reign although coins were not produced every year. We are essentially dealing with gold aurei and silver denarii that appear at fairly regular intervals and with the same limited reverse types generally repeated throughout the period. The coin issues can be broadly divided into two groups: dated coins that carry Claudius’ tribunician powers, consulships, and his titles as imperator on the obverse legends; and an issue (or issues) of undated types, probably at the end of his reign, that reference the imperial family and Julio-Claudian dynasty.
The first group, of dated coins, were issued in the following years – obverse legends all begin T CLAVD CAESAR AVG with the addition of the following titles at their end: AD 41-42 o GERM P M TR P o P M TR P o 6 reverse types: Constantia Avgvsti; de Germanis; EX S C Ob Cives Servatos; Imper Recept; Praetor Recept; Paci Avgvstae AD 43-45 o P M TR P III (AD 43-44) o P M TR P IIII (AD 44-45) o 3 reverse types: Imper Recept; Praetor Recept; Paci Avgvstae AD 46-47 o P M TR P VI IMP X o P M TR P VI IMP XI o 6 reverse types: Imper Recept; Paci Avgvstae; de Britann; Constantia Avgvsti; de Germanis; S P Q R P P Ob C S AD 49-52 o P M TR P VIIII IMP XVI (AD 49-50) o P M TR P VIIII IMP XVIII (AD 49-50) o 4 reverse types (AD 49-50): Paci Avgvstae; de Britann; Constantia Avgvsti; S P Q R P P Ob C S o P M TR P X IMP P P (AD 50-51) o P M TR P X P P IMP XVIII (AD 50-51) o 3 reverse types (AD 50-51): Paci Avgvstae; Constantia Avgvsti; S P Q R P P Ob C S o P M TR P XI IMP P P COS V (AD 51-52) o 2 reverse types (AD 51-52): Paci Avgvstae; S P Q R P P Ob C S
The assumption with the dated series is that each different reverse type represents a separate officina in the mint. Identification of the reverse type may therefore help in narrowing down the rough date range of the coin even when the legend is not visible. In addition to the dated issues, coins that typically do not carry Claudius’ official titles were struck in relatively large quantity and perhaps focused more toward the end of his reign. These commemorate the imperial family in both aurei and denarii: Antonia (c.AD 41-45?) o 2 reverse types: Constantiae Avgvsti; Sacerdos divi avgvsti Drusus (c.AD 41-54?) o 3 reverse types: de Germ; de Germanis; de Ge-r-ma-nis Agrippina (c.AD 50-54) o 1 reverse type: Nero Clavd Caes Drvsvs Germ Princ Ivvent Nero (c.AD 50-54) o 2 reverse types: Sacerd coopt in omn conl supra nvm ex s c; Eqvester Ordo Principi Ivvent Claudius with Agrippina (c.AD 50-54) o 1 reverse type: Agrippinae Avgvstae Claudius with Nero (c.AD 50-54) o 1 reverse type: Nero Clavd Caes Drvsvs Germ Princ Ivvent
CONSTANTIA AVGVSTI – ‘To the Constancy of the Augustus’ – a reverse type personal to the emperor and his endurance was issued from early in the reign. There are so far only two PAS examples, an aureus from the beginning of his reign and a denarius of unclear year.
DE GERMANIS – A rare type for aurei commemorating Drusus’ military victories in his German campaigns. There is a single PAS example of this type.
EX S C / OB CIVES / SERVATOS – the reverse legend within an oak wreath reflects the senate awarding Claudius the corona civica for saving the lives of fellow Romans (presumably in ending the reign of Caligula!) and references his acceptance as emperor. There is only a single denarius of this type on the PAS.
S P Q R / P P / OB C S – A type with variation on the EX S C type appears once Claudius achieves success in military matters and adds the title P P (Pater Patriae – ‘Father of his country’) to his coinage, probably from c.AD 46 onward. This is more common on the PAS than the earlier type, with five denarii and an aureus.
IMPER RECEPT – ‘Imperator Receptus’ (the reception of the emperor), depicting the Praetorian camp and the protection of the Praetorian guard following their nomination of Claudius as emperor. There are just two PAS examples; one appears to be an irregular plated or very base copy.
PRAETOR RECEPT – A type with similar message to the previous coin again reaffirming Claudius’ elevation, acceptance, and protection by the Praetorians. This is rare and does not appear to be represented within the PAS data.
DE BRITANN – Very similar to the DE GERMANIS type but in this instance commemorating Claudius’ own victory in his conquest of Britannia. The legend again appears on the architrave of a triumphal arch with equestrian statue (perhaps even giving an idea of how his own arch in Rome may have looked?!) with the type probably issued from AD 46. There are just two PAS examples and oddly they are both incomplete, plated contemporary copies!
PACI AVGVSTAE – This is by far the most commonly seen of Claudius’ dated coin types on the PAS. The type depicts Pax-Nemesis in the guise of Victory, again referencing Claudius’ successful elevation as emperor and clemency or restraint(?!) during the overthrow of Caligula. The database has two aurei and 13 denarii of this type from the various issues of his reign – almost a third of the total number of precious metal coins of Claudius recorded on the PAS.
For the undated issues of Claudius’ reign, perhaps likely struck towards the end of the period,7 there are a total of 22 denarii recorded on the PAS but with no aurei to date.
Antonia – Coins honouring Claudius’ mother, Antonia, were struck in two different types. These are very rare as PAS finds and there appears to be only one example, which lacks an image (HAMP786).
Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus – Claudius’ father we have already seen referenced on the dated issues, but issues in Drusus’ own name were struck by Claudius and commemorate his victories in Germany with two types represented. There are four PAS examples, two from each type (two without images, one of which is an IARCW record).
Agrippina (with Claudius) – The most frequently seen PAS type for the Imperial family are coins with an obverse of Claudius and a reverse of his wife, Agrippina. A total of eleven denarii, all of the same type (RIC 81), are recorded of this type, three of which are from the IARCW dataset.
Nero – A young Nero as the newly adopted, presumptive heir to the imperial throne and prince of the youth appears on silver and gold coinage at the end of Claudius’ reign after his adoption in c.AD 50. We have already looked at the coinage of Nero in detail in a previous edition, but it is worth reiterating that there are six denarii of Nero as caesar under Claudius recorded to date on the PAS.
Contemporary plated copies of Claudius’ denarii are not uncommon among the 50 coins recorded on the PAS database (Fig. 27). At least 13 (26%) have been identified to date, a not insubstantial percentage, so it is worth double checking if you do have Claudian denarii for recording that they aren’t contemporary copies. There does not appear to be a specific distribution for the contemporary copies that suggests different mechanisms at work outside the usual patterns of circulation – the majority fall within the areas of coin loss for the Claudian silver generally. Precisely when they were struck is a different problem though. As already noted above, the silver content of Claudian denarii was high, but this drops later in the century notably with the reforms of Nero by AD 64. It is possible that the plated copies could well have been struck during Claudius’ reign when his coinage was in circulation, but it is equally plausible that they are products from later in the 1st century after the Neronian reforms.
References and further reading:
S. Moorhead and D. Stuttard The Romans who shaped Britain (Thames and Hudson, 2016)
R. Abdy Romano-British Coin Hoards (Shire, 2002); R. Bland Coin Hoards and Hoarding in Roman Britain, AD 43-c.498 (Spink, 2018): 35
S. Moorhead ‘The Malpas Hoard and the Flight of Caratacus’ in E.J. Stewart (ed) Insights into Roman Hoards of North West England (National Museums Liverpool, 2017)
K. Butcher and M. Ponting ‘The Roman denarius under the Julio-Claudian emperors: Mints, metallurgy and technology’ Oxford Journal of Archaeology 24(2), 2005.
Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. This time Dr. Andrew Brown examines the coinage of Carus and his family.
Carus and family, AD 282-285
In a previous edition, we looked at the emperor Carinus and his links with Britain. Even though he may have campaigned in Britainnia and was afforded the title Britannicus Maximus (along with his brother, Numerian), his coinage is rare, particularly so as single finds recorded through the PAS. But this is only part of the story. He belonged to a short-lived Roman dynasty that began with his father, Carus (AD 282-283), and included his brother, Numerian (AD 283-284), and son Nigrinian (c.AD 284-285), surviving until AD 285 when the unsettled times of the 3rd century were stabilised under Diocletian who, as we shall see, may well have also had a hand in the demise of Carus and family! Coinage of Carus and his family is rare on the PAS and on British sites generally, although does appear in small quantity in hoarded assemblages. The majority comprise the reformed radiates, aureliani, struck after Aurelian’s coinage reforms in AD 274 and are generally identifiable given the slightly better quality of production, the short period of issue, and the few mints that are represented.
However, as Sam Moorhead highlighted in his discussion of Carinus, there is also an interesting spike in gold coinage during this period, with at least one PAS example (see below). There are currently just 47 coins recorded on the PAS for Carus and his family – I have excluded from this total a further 129 coins from the Welsh IARCW dataset, since these include hoard coins, notably from the Rogiet hoard, which gives a slightly misleading perspective on their distribution.
When identifying coins of this period RIC V.2 remains an important reference, although there are several hoard catalogues and mint studies that have greatly enhanced the data within the RIC volume. For British finds, the catalogues from the Gloucester and Rogiet hoards are vital, to which can be added the publication of the la Venèra hoard and P. Bastien’s study of the Lyon mint.
The numbers of coins from this group are very low and, as Sam demonstrated with Carinus, while the aureliani are generally scarcer than the debased and barbarous radiates of the AD 260s-270s, there is a definite drop in numbers on the PAS when compared to contemporary emperors like Tacitus and Probus, or against hoarded assemblages. If we consider all of the PAS coins from the central emperors of this period (c.AD 275-285) by emperor/issuer, however, it is remarkable how closely the relative percentages of each follow the patterns of the two hoards of Gloucester and Rogiet, and more recently, Frome. Removing the IARCW data (which includes the Rogiet material of course!) gives us 647 PAS coins issued for the period from Tacitus to Carinus, compared to 927 from Frome, 2,145 from Rogiet, and 11,141 from Gloucester. Certainly, a much smaller PAS total. However, the relative frequency with which each emperor/empress appears is in fact very similar, as the percentages in the table below demonstrate.
As E. Besley notes in his discussion of the Rogiet hoard (pp. 51-53), Gloucester and Rogiet are remarkably consistent in their composition and, with the exception of some mint variation, have similar makeup to other contemporary (but much smaller) hoards in Britain. It is interesting that the PAS data follows a similar trend and this may well suggest that the relative numbers of examples recorded through the PAS are fairly representative of the coins in circulation within the province at that time. A slight exception to this perhaps might be the coins of Magnia Urbica (See below), which appear much rarer on the PAS, with just one recorded example. Given the similarities between her coinage and that of Severina, for example, it is plausible that on very worn or corroded coins Magnia Urbica might be missed. I suspect these numbers in general are liable to adjust slightly with refinement of the dataset and addition of new examples, but I think the overall picture unlikely to change drastically.
For the few years of coinage issued by Carus and his family, several mints were in operation that are often identifiable based on the mintmarks on individual coin issues. Coins from the western mints are much more common, although there are a few PAS examples struck at mints from Siscia eastwards. Lyon – Striking in four officinae with mint letters in Latin o A, B, C, D (in the field) o I, II, III, IIII (in exergue) used for the posthumous issues of Carus o LVG (in exergue and also combined with letters in the field, e.g. A -//LVG) o Carus and Carinus sometimes spelt Karus and Karinus Rome – The mint of Serdica closed at the end of Probus’ or very early in Carus’ reign and it is suggested in RIC (V.2, p. 124) that the mint was moved to Rome with Carus. As a result, the Greek mark of value KA is used instead of the Latin XXI to denote the value of the reformed radiates. o Seven officinae: A, B, Γ, Δ, Ε, ς, Z o -//RA, -//RB, -//RΓ, etc. (R is only used in the earliest issues) o -//AK, -//BK, -//ΓK, etc. o -//AAK, -//BAK, -//ΓAK, etc. o -//AKA, -//BKA, -//ΓKA, etc. o -//KAA, -//KAB, -//KAΓ, etc. o Some issues use a crescent, e.g. -//KAA, -//KAA, -//KA A etc. Ticinum – Striking from six officinae, the letter T used to denote the mint o -//PXXIT, -//SXXIT, -//TXXIT etc. o -//PXXI, -//SXXI, -//VIXXI, etc. o As with Lyon occasionally Karus and Karinus Siscia – Three officinae with the Latin mintmark XXI in exergue, typically with letters or star in the fields o P -//XXI, II -//XXI, T -//XXI ; * P//XXI, * II//XXI, * T//XXI ; */P/XXI, etc. o A -//XXI, B -//XXI, Γ -//XXI o After Carus’ death also the addition of SMS (sacra moneta sisciensis) to the XXI, e.g. -//SMSXXIA, Γ//SMSXXI, etc. Cyzicus – Up to six officinae o Greek numerals A, B, Γ, Δ, E, ς in exergue o Also A//XXI to ς//XXI Antioch – Nine officinae using Greek numerals with the Latin mark of value o A//XXI, B//XXI, Γ//XXI, Δ//XXI, E//XXI, ς//XXI, Z//XXI, H//XXI, EΔ//XXI o Sometimes a star in the field Tripolis – Striking from just two officinae o TR//XXI, */TR//XXI
Gold and rarities
Gold coinage in general is rare in Britain during the 3rd century, and especially so from the period spanning c.AD 270-285. However, as Sam noted previously, there is a small spike in gold during the period that Carus and his sons were in power, with five aurei recorded nationally comprising half of the total known examples and including the wonderful piece of Carinus as augustus from Nottinghamshire. If this is associated with Carinus’ activity in Britain during this period then there is always the possibility another may turn up, but these remain extremely rare coins on the PAS, with just the single example to date.
While the coins struck for Carus and family recorded through the PAS are, with the exception of the aureus, reformed radiates (aureliani), these were not the only denomination struck. Indeed, the mints of Lyon and Siscia issues slightly larger radiates, often with less usual bust types or double radiate crowns, bearing the mark of value X ET I at Lyon or XI, X I , X I I at Siscia. S. Estiot notes that the tarrif of the aureliani marked XXI may have become untenable and that these larger examples are an attempt by the Roman authorities to introduce a double aurelianus, hence the value XI (and so 10 to 1, or c.10% silver) rather than XXI at 5%. These are rare coins and so far there appear to be no PAS examples, but they are worth noting, not least because their types carry often quite unusual legends that in some instances nicely demonstrate the creation of Carus’ dynasty. This is further replicated in issues of scarce radiates from Lyon, as well as aurei and base silver denarii with double heads, first of Carus and Carinus and subsequently, following Carus’ death in AD 283, Carinus and Numerian.
There do not appear to be any smaller module denarii recorded through the PAS at present either – as with Aurelian, these can appear with just the single bust of Carus, Carinus, or Numerian and will be laureate rather than radiate. Do look out for them, they could easily be missed in larger batches of poorly preserved coins! Alongside the aurei, double aureliani, and base silver denarii, several other smaller fractional and bronze denominations were issued during this period, but to date none appear to have been recorded through the PAS.
Carus, AD 282-283
Marcus Aurelius Carus was probably born in Narbo (Gaul) in c.AD 224 and by the late-AD 270s had attained the rank of praetorian prefect under the emperor Probus. While on the Danube in September AD 282, in advance of Probus’ intended campaign east, the legions there revolted and declared their support for Carus as emperor. Probus dispatched troops to restore order, but they too sided with Carus and shortly afterwards Probus was assassinated by his own forces outside Sirmium (Serbia).
Following his elevation to emperor, in his late-50s, and with the support of the northern legions, Carus embarked on an eastern campaign, leaving his eldest son, Carinus, in Rome to look after the western empire, but taking his younger son, Numerian, with him. Both sons had been given the rank of caesar in AD 282 shortly after Carus became emperor, but at about 33 years old, Carinus was given the honour before his 28(?)-year-old brother. Carus himself held the titles of consul in AD 282 and 283 as well as tribunician powers in both years, and after his suppression of the Quadi and Sarmatians along the Danube en route to Persia, also became Germanicus Maximus.
By AD 283, Carus and Numerian had crossed into Persian territory and both sons were elevated to the full rank of augustus by the middle of that year, again with Carinus’ seniority demonstrated by him taking the title prior to his younger brother. The Roman legions led by Carus and Numerian pushed deep into Persian territory, reaching the capital of Ctesiphon and even advancing beyond it in what was a relatively successful campaign up until this point (see Eutropius IX.18). However, Carus met with a sudden and untimely death! In his camp on the banks of the Tigris near Ctesiphon, probably around August AD 283, his tent was supposedly struck by lightning during a storm killing him. As with many things Roman, the picture isn’t entirely clear. Some sources suggest he died of illness, while in others there is the suggestion that the ‘lightning’ was a convenient cover story for his assassination perhaps by his praetorian guard, Lucius Flavius Aper, or even one of his commanders, a certain Diocletian! Of the 10 lifetime issues of Carus recorded on the PAS, six can be attributed to specific mints while three are not definitively Carus and cannot be verified due to lack of images. Of those attributable to mints, three are issues from the Lyon mint, two from Ticinum (Fig. 11), and a single example from Antioch, which may be a more recent rather than ancient loss.
Note that Carus is typically depicted remarkably realistically, slightly austere but imperial and more conservative than the huge variety of elaborate bust types seen with his predecessor Probus. Most notably, he is usually distinguishable by his balding head! Some coins, probably struck early in Carus’ reign, have reverse legends simply ending AVG that indicate he is the sole augustus at this time, but many end AVGG to denote the elevation of Carinus (and therefore two augusti), and rarely at the end of Carus’ reign AVGGG for the inclusion of Numerian.
The radiates from Antioch all have the same reverse type depicting the emperor receiving Victory on a globe. Antioch is also the only mint to issue radiates for Carus with reverse legends ending AVGGG to indicate the authority of the three male members of the Imperial family, Carus, Carinus, and Numerian – the first time this occurs really since Severus, Caracalla, and Geta. According to RIC (V.2, p. 131), Carus was likely in Antioch when the two sons were conferred with the higher rank and so this would explain why it appears here, not long prior to Carus’ death, and not elsewhere. When news of Carus’ death reached Rome and Carinus, Carus was deified and a posthumous consecration issue of coins was struck, probably between c.AD 284-285. Carus also received the titles Parthicus and Persicus for his eastern campaigns.
Although Carus appears to have generally been liked as an emperor, his establishment of Carinus as successor combined with suggestion of his involvement in ousting Probus cast a long shadow and, as we shall see, resulted in him being looked at in a less favourable light later on. Almost all of the Roman mints issued coins under Carinus for the deified Carus between c.AD 284-285. As well as demonstrating Carus’ deification, these may well have been a useful tool for Carinus in demonstrating his divine legitimacy through Carus as the new emperor, particularly so following the death of his brother Numerian in AD 284 and in the face of usurpation and challenge to his position on two fronts (see below). There are just five PAS examples of Carus’ consecration issues, all from the Lyon mint and of the same reverse type depicting an eagle. These were by no means the only type struck and in other mints we see the typical presence of an altar, for example, and variations on both obverse and reverse legends, but these appear unrepresented within the PAS dataset at present.
Numerian, AD 282-284
Eutropius (IX.18) describes Carus’ younger son, Marcus Aurelius Numerianus, as ‘a young man of very great ability’, although it is notable that when Carus rose to power it was the elder brother, Carinus, and not Numerian who was (perhaps reluctantly on Carus’ part) entrusted with ruling the western provinces (e.g. Historia Augusta, Vita Cari, 7). According to some sources, he seems to have been an accomplished poet and rhetorician. Numerian accompanied his father east in AD 282, first in a junior role as caesar and then by mid-AD 283 as augustus along with his elder brother. He was consul in AD 283 and 284, also taking his tribunician powers in both years too.
In the east, Numerian accompanied his father on the successful campaigns to Ctesiphom, but during this time developed a serious eye infection that was ultimately to contribute to his downfall. Carus’ sudden death after the Persian victory placed Numerian in charge of the legions in the east and he began the slow withdrawal back to Rome. During the course of the march west, Numerian was carried in a closed litter due to his eye problems and it is reported that his father-in-law and praetorian prefect, Aper, seized on the opportunity to assassinate the young emperor in his litter and take control himself. Literary sources suggest that “his death, though attempted craftily to be concealed until Aper could seize the throne, was made known by the odour of his dead body; for the soldiers, who attended him, being struck by the smell, and opening the curtains of his litter, discovered his death some days after it had taken place” (Eutropius IX.18). This discovery was made towards the end of AD 284 (probably in November) once the legions had reached the Bosphorus, close to Heraclea or Nicomedia. Aper’s treachery was reportedly revealed at a military assembly where he was put to death (perhaps at Diocletian’s hand) and the troops declared for the commander of the Imperial bodyguard, Diocletian. The situation is a little convenient for Diocletian(!) and it has to be wondered how manufactured this was on his part too. The not impartial Historia Augusta (Vita Cari, 14) even recounts an omen Diocletian had received from a druidess that conveniently provides his authority some legitimacy, stating “Do not jest, Diocletian, for you will become emperor when you have slain a Boar” – Diocletian supposedly remarking “at last I have killed my fated boar” following Aper’s execution, Aper meaning ‘boar’ in Latin!
Coins of Numerian are generally very rare as single finds recorded through the PAS, although do occasionally occur in small quantity within hoarded assemblages. Nine coins are present on the PAS database, two of Numerian as caesar, the remainder from his period of co-rule as augustus with Carinus (one of which is not securely identifiable to Numerian and lacks an image to check). The two coins of Numerian as Caesar are both from the mint of Rome and with PRINCIPI IVVENT (‘leader of the youth’) reverse type that is characteristically associated with the rank of caesar as heir to the imperial throne.
By late-AD 283 Numerian is augustus and following Carus’ death co-ruler with his brother Carinus. There is a notable change in reverse types for issues that are more fitting a senior emperor rather than a caesar and the obverse legends change to identify him as both imperator (IMP) and augustus (AVG). These issues were, of course, short-lived until his death the following year. The PAS has seven examples as single finds, two coins from each of the mints of Lyon, Rome, and Ticinum, five of which have photographs.
After Numerian’s death in AD 284, Carinus struck a small posthumous issue at the mint of Rome for his deified younger brother. Much like the examples of Carus, this reinforced Carinus’ position as part of a Roman dynasty with divine links and legitimacy as the proper rulers of Rome. As we shall see, this was at a time when Carinus was exposed to external threat and pressure on his position. There appear to be none of these very rare Divo Nvmeriano issues recorded through the PAS, but if you do see an example of a consecration issue it is worth double checking just in case you have a Numerian!
Carinus, AD 282-285
The coinage of Carinus has already been looked at by Sam Moorhead in a previous edition. Carinus, of course, remained in Rome while his father and younger brother campaigned in the east. As with Numerian he was first caesar and then by AD 283 augustus, holding tribunician powers and as consul each year between AD 283 and his death in AD 285. As we have seen in Sam’s piece, there are just seven PAS examples of Carinus as caesar, like Numerian the reverse types typical of coins struck for junior partners. After Carus’ death, with Carinus as augustus, there are a further 14 coins including the aureus from Nottinghamshire.
Carinus campaigned in northern Gaul and then probably in Britannia, where in AD 284 he received the title Britannicus Maximus. It was at this time that he received news of his brother’s death and subsequent revolt by the legions who had elected one of their own, Diocletian, as new emperor. Carinus set out to meet Diocletian’s forces but before he could deal with the legions returning from the east, he first had to suppress a second usurpation in northern Italy. This was led by Marcus Aurelius Julianus, who revolted in Pannonia and took control of Siscia for a short period of time issuing aurei and radiates from the mint. These are rare coins and there are no examples of Julian yet recorded on the PAS. Carinus was quick to suppress Julian’s revolt, defeating him on the battlefield near Verona early in AD 285.
Following success against Julian, Carinus marched to meet Diocletian who posed the greater and real threat to his rule. With a much larger force, Carinus engaged with Diocletian’s legions at the Battle of Margus (Moesia) in the spring of AD 285. The size of his force seems to have resulted in initial victory for Carinus, however, we are told in some sources that Carinus’ past discretions caught up with him and he was either killed by a tribune whose wife he had seduced or by his own forces following the battle. In either case, the outcome was the same and Carinus’ death brought about the end of the short-lived dynasty established by Carus and heralded the emergence of Diocletian’s authority and ultimately greater stability within the empire.
The literary sources for Carinus are far from flattering. The Historia Augusta (Vita Cari, 16) describes him as “the most polluted of men, an adulterer and a constant corrupter of youth” who “defiled himself by unwonted vices and inordinate depravity”, while Eutropius (IX.19) remarks that disgraced himself by all manner of crimes…formed illicit connexions with the wives of noblemen…Incurring the hatred of all men.”. The Historia Augusta goes on to state that by “marrying and divorcing he took nine wives in all and he put away some even while they were pregnant. He filled the Palace with actors and harlots, pantomimists, singers and pimps”! Much of the vitriol in these sources likely contains a substantial element of propaganda in support of Diocletian, designed to discredit his predecessor (albeit Carinus had successfully maintained control in the western empire for several years up until this point, so presumably also had some competency as a ruler). The eventual result, and no doubt reflected in contemporary depictions of Carinus, saw him subjected to damnatio memoriae after his death, probably along with both Carus and Numerian. The dynasty was effectively and very definitely brought to a close, “after whom the gods gave us Diocletian and Maximian to be our princes, joining to these great men Galerius and Constantius” (Historia Augusta, Vita Cari, 18).
Despite disparaging accounts of Carinus’ life and marriages, at least one of his wives was afforded recognition in the coinage of this period – Magnia Urbica. Little is known about her, and there has been some discussion regarding whether she was the wife of Carus or Carinus, but coins were struck in her name as augusta by the mints of Lyon, Rome, Ticinum, and Siscia, from c.AD 283 onward. It remains unclear whether she outlived Carinus or not, but that she was his wife is perhaps indicated by the presence of coin types bearing busts of both Carinus and Magnia Urbica.
Coins of Magnia Urbica are understandably rare. The Gloucester Hoard contained 38 examples, while there were just six in Rogiet, and to date two identified in Frome. A solitary example has been recorded through the PAS – a Lyon mint coin found in Oxfordshire and of the same type as 19 of the Gloucester coins.
One further member of the dynasty is represented in the coinage alone and is presumed to be Carinus’ son, Nigrinian. He is known from rare posthumous issues struck at the mint of Rome towards the end of Carinus’ reign, his young features suggesting a son. These are very rare as British finds, there was one each in the Gloucester and Rogiet hoards, none in Frome, and just a single example recorded to date through the PAS.
References and further reading
R. Abdy, E. Besly and F. López-Sánchez, ‘Gloucester, Gloucestershire’, in Coin Hoards from Roman Britain XIII, 2010: pp. 21-113; see also the Blackmoor Hoard: R Bland, ‘The Blackmoor Hoard’ CHRB III, 1982
E M Besly, ‘The Rogiet Hoard and the Coinage of Allectus’, BNJ 76, 2006: pp. 45-146 – available online here: https://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital%20BNJ/pdfs/2006_BNJ_76_4.pdf
D Gricourt, Ripostiglio della Venèra. Caro – Diocleziano Vol. IV. Verona, 2000.
P Bastien, Le monnayage de l’atelier de Lyon de la réouverture de l’atelier par Aurélien à la mort de Carin (274-285). Wetteren, 1976.
R. Bland and X. Loriot Roman and Early Byzantine Gold Coins found in Britain and Ireland, 2010
S. Estiot ‘The Later Third Century’ in The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage, 2012: p. 552
Many of us will once again find ourselves at home for the next four weeks. If you’ve got little ones to entertain, or you fancy getting creative yourself, we have collated all of our craft activities into one post!
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with our activities and resources. And feel free to share and tag us in your marvellous creations – we are @findsorguk on both Twitter and Instagram.
Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. This time Dr. Andrew Brown examines the coinage of Lucius Verus, adopted son of Antoninus Pius and twice-adopted grandson of Hadrian.
Lucius Verus, AD 161-169
On the 7th March AD 161 with the death of Antoninus Pius, his adopted son, Marcus Aurelius, assumed power. At the same time, Marcus “made his brother his colleague in the empire, giving him the name Lucius Aurelius Verus Commodus and bestowing on him the titles Caesar and Augustus” (Historia Augusta Life of Marcus Aurelius, 7.5). Lucius Verus, born Lucius Ceionius Commodus in December AD 130, was the eldest son of Lucius Aelius, the adopted son of Hadrian. Following Aelius’ death in AD 138, Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius as his heir on the understanding that Pius in turn adopted Lucius Verus as his son. Verus, therefore, was the (twice!) adopted grandson of Hadrian, adopted son of Antoninus Pius and Faustina I, and adoptive brother of Marcus Aurelius. Although he was initially betrothed to Faustina II, this was broken off when Pius came to power with Faustina instead engaged to Marcus Aurelius. It was not until AD 154 that Verus became consul for the first time, then again in 161 and 167, receiving the title Imperator and his tribunician powers from the senate on 7th March AD 161. For the first time, Rome had joint rulers in Marcus and Verus, albeit with Marcus clearly the senior partner. Verus in turn took the names Lucius Aurelius Verus as emperor.
Although the accession to power was a peaceful one for the two emperors and for Rome itself, this did not last long and Verus’ reign is defined as much by conflict in the east as it was by anything else. Indeed, in RIC III (p. 196), the introductory notes to the period remark that although “Verus, voluptuous, debonair and superficial, allowed his passions to get the better of him and in any serious undertaking proved himself an example of sorry incompetence” it was Verus who Marcus appointed as commander to head east and lead the Roman legions in war over Armenia with Parthia. By AD 162 Verus had reached Syria with the legions. Although he achieved notable victories against Parthia firstly in subduing Armenia by AD 164 – installing a Roman puppet king and receiving the titles Aremniacus and Imperator II – and secondly by reducing the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon to ruin in AD 165, becoming Parthicus Maximus and Imperator III as a result, it seems he was very much a figurehead who took a back seat while happy to delegate to his more capable generals. Indeed, the image portrayed of Verus is more of his debauchery and enjoyment of life in the east, notably at Daphne (Antioch), with the real work of subduing Parthia carried out by those around him. Some sources are less than flattering of Lucius’s enjoyment of life and luxurious lifestyle, some suggesting he even went so far as to add gold dust to his hair and beard to enhance its appearance!
At Smyrna (Turkey) in March AD 163, Verus married Marcus’ second daughter, Lucilla, who was not yet 15 and nearly two decades younger than Verus. They had three children, although only one survived to adulthood, Lucilla later (AD 182) conspiring to assassinate her brother, Commodus, before being sent to Capri and murdered. Returning to Rome by AD 166, Verus and the legions brought with them a healthy dose of plague – probably smallpox – that raged as a full scale epidemic in Rome with devastating outcomes around the empire. Verus remained in Rome until AD 168 when the threat of Marcomannic invasion took both emperors to the Rhine frontier, signalling the start of the Marcomannic Wars that were to last until AD 180. Early in AD 169, with Germanic forces in retreat, while travelling south from Aquileia near to Altinum (near Venice), Verus was suddenly taken ill and died a few days later, likely as a result of the smallpox that had been brought back from the east by his legions. Verus’ body was taken back to Rome, where he was deified by the senate as Divus Verus.
Coinage of Lucius Verus
The coinage of Lucius Verus is generally identifiable and typically follows the chronology of his various Imperial titles allowing for relatively close dating of most (well-preserved and legible!) examples. Verus received his first Tribunician power (TR P) on his accession in March AD 161, but took his second in December AD 161 (TR P II) to align with the coinage of Marcus Aurelius, renewed each year for the remainder of his life. To these can be added: – COS II (AD 161) and COS III (AD 167) – IMP (AD 161), IMP II (AD 164), IMP III (AD 165), IMP IIII (AD 166), IMP V (AD 168) – Armeniacus (AD 163), PARTH MAX (AD 165) The obverse legends adjust in his later issues from types that include, for example, IMP CAES L VERVS AVG, IMP L VERVS AVG, or L VERVS AVG, to those that reference his victories, L VERVS AVG ARMENIACVS (after AD 163) and L VERVS AVG ARM PARTH MAX (after AD 165).
The PAS records 239 coins of Lucius Verus (including 33 Welsh IARCW records), comprising 81 denarii, 119 sestertii, the remainder smaller bronze denominations (dupondii and asses). Many of these are standard types that are quite closely identifiable, although one of the major problems with the base metal coinage in particular is in differentiating very worn coins of Verus from Marcus Aurelius and vice versa. It is likely that there is some crossover between the two within the PAS data. The standard references for Verus’ coinage should be RIC III or BMC IV.
The initial issues of coinage for Verus at the start of the joint reign with Marcus highlight peace within the empire and between the two brothers. This is well demonstrated in coin types with reverses that depict the two emperors standing clasping hands, of which there are several PAS examples issued by both Verus and Marcus.
Aside from the Concordia reverse types, the most common types represented in Verus’ coinage are denarii with reverse legends reading PROV(identia) DEOR(vm) – the Providence/foresight of the Gods – highlighting the divine role in the accession of the emperor(s) to power and for their rule.1 These types are struck for Verus between AD 161-163 in TR P (AD 161), TR P II (AD 161-162), and TR P III (AD 162-163) and make up at least 32 of the recorded denarii (c.40% of the total) but apparently no bronze denominations on the PAS.
Alongside the Providentia types there are a handful of issues that have typical reverse types highlighting the health and prosperity of the empire and her emperors as well as a Liberalitas type depicting the largesse of the two emperors on their accession with both Marcus and Lucius seated on a platform. These types appear to be very rare on the PAS, the Liberalitas type seemingly not represented, with the exception of a handful of bronze types depicting Fortuna and Felicitas.
Eastern Campaigns, AD162-164
As Verus set out to campaign in the east against Parthia, a number of coins carry legends reading PROFECTIO – his ‘setting forth’ or ceremonial departure – that depict Verus on horseback as he departs with the legions. There are only about 6 PAS examples of these Profectio types – the sestertii can be separated from the asses by the presence of the soldiers in front and behind Verus on the larger of the two denominations.
The quick and decisive Armenian victory sees Verus adopt the title Aremaniacus – ‘conqueror of Armenia’ – on coinage struck in the second half of AD 163, mid-way through his third Tribunician power (TR P III), and he also becomes IMP II as a consequence. Distinctive types in this period focus on the Armenian victory, including a captive Armenia personified, seated and often depicted with a trophy of arms , Victory, Hercules, and Mars, leading up to an interesting issue that depicts Verus ceremonially installing the Roman puppet King Sohaemus to the Armenian throne. This last type is rare and there appears to be only one PAS example.
War with Parthia, AD 165-166
Coinage from the year following Verus’ victories in Armenia – AD 165, Verus’ TR P V – sees the addition of the title Parthicus Maximus (PARTH MAX) from the second half of the year when he also becomes IMP III. After the Roman push into Parthia culminating with the destruction of the Parthian capital, Ctesiphon, Verus’ types now depict a captive Parthia rather than Armenia, while Victory, Pax, and others, now reflect the Parthian rather than Armenian victory.
Verus’ coinage after the Parthian victories is not hugely diverse and includes a continuation of Victory types with the addition of coins depicting, for example, Moneta and Fortuna.
In the latest issues of coinage during Verus’ lifetime, a number of coin types carry reverses depicting Fortuna in the guise of FORTVNA REDVX, calling for the safe return of the emperor(s) to Rome. This relates to the departure of both Marcus and Verus north to the Danube and the start of the Marcomannic Wars in AD 168. Of course, while those struck by Marcus were successful in that he did in fact return to Rome, for Verus the opposite was true with his death in Altinum on his way back to the capital.
Divus Verus (AD 169)
A short series of posthumous coin types were struck following Verus’ death and deification. Essentially two types are represented, one depicting an eagle on a globe and depicting his consecration, the other a funeral pyre. There are fewer than 10 PAS examples, the majority are of the eagle type.
References and further reading:
M. Vojvoda ‘Concept of Providentia Deorum Within the Imperial Cult and Propaganda on Roman Imperial Coins During the Principate’ in Archaeology and Science 11, 2015: 53-62 (https://www.academia.edu/31118972/CONCEPT_OF_PROVIDENTIA_DEORUM_WITHIN_THE_IMPERIAL_CULT_AND_PROPAGANDA_ON_ROMAN_IMPERIAL_COINS_DURING_THE_PRINCIPATE_Arheologija_i_prirodne_nauke_Volume_11_Print_Vojvoda_2_pdf )
Early books and manuscripts were often made of parchment (also known as vellum), an organic material made from animal skin. To keep the pages safe, they were sandwiched between stiff wooden boards when not in use. It was necessary to keep the volume tightly closed to stop the pages curling and warping, so the covers were fastened using book clasps. This ensured the pages stayed flat and also kept everything in place should the volume fall off a desk or shelf. The clasps were attached to the cover boards and fastened with a leather strap or metal plate. These clasps were often decorated, highlighting the precious nature of the manuscripts contained inside. As well as clasps, the covers often featured other metal mounts, sometimes on the corners, sometimes elsewhere. These performed both a decorative and a protective function, preventing wear and tear to the volume.
Book clasps and other fittings are a common find when metal detecting and there are more than 2500 recorded on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. To see all examples recorded click here.
Why not have a go at making your very own book clasp strap to keep your favourite book safe? You can use one of our examples from the database or you could have a go at designing your own! Simply download our activity sheet below to get started. You can share your results with us on Instagram by tagging @findsorguk, or on our PAS Craft Activities Board on Pinterest.
As Halloween approaches, we once again delve into the database for all things spooky. But where did this link with ghosts and ghouls come from?
The word Halloween or Hallowe’en dates to about 1745, but the practice of observing All Hallow’s Eve dates back much farther, to early Christianity and beyond. In Christianity, major feasts had vigils that began the night before and All Hallow’s Eve was part of a three-day season called Allhallowtide (comprising All Hallow’s Eve, All Hallow’s Day and All Souls Day). Allhallowtide is a time for honouring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven.
The feast of All Hallow’s on its current date in the Western Church may be traced to Pope Gregory IV (827-844), who officially switched the date to the 1st November in AD 835. The choice of date is interesting and there are several suggestions as to why this date was picked, one of which is that its the same date as Samhain. Samhain was the first and most important of the four quarter days in the medieval Gaelic calendar – the four dates in each year on which servants were hired, school terms started and rents were due. They occurred close to the two solstices and two equinoxes. Samhain was celebrated on the 31st October-1st November in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. A similar festival was held at the same time of year by the Brittonic Celts, called Calan Gaeaf in Wales, Kalan Gwav in Cornwall and Kalan Goañv in Brittany; a name meaning “first day of winter”.
Samhain/Calan Gaeaf marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Like Beltane/Calan Mai (the May Day/spring equinox festival), it was seen as a liminal time (from the Latin for threshold), when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld was thinner, and the spirits or fairies were out and about. In Welsh it is an Ysbrydnos, or “spirit night”. These spirits were both feared and respected and so offerings of food and drink, or portions of the harvested crops were left out to appease them. The souls of the dead were also said to revisit their homes seeking hospitality so places were set at the dinner table and by the fire for them. The belief that the souls of the dead return home one night a year is a very ancient one and is found in cultures all over the world.
The household festivities included rituals and games that we would recognise in today’s Hallowe’en activities. Apple bobbing and nut-roasting were used to divine the future, and special bonfires were lit both for divination and protection. From at least the 16th century the festival included mumming or guising – dressing in costume and going from house to house reciting verse or song in exchange for food. If a household donated food it could expect good fortune, while not doing so would bring misfortune. By the 18th century, this had developed into playing pranks and pranksters began to use hollowed out turnips, often carved with grotesque faces, as lanterns.
In England, rather than pranking, people practiced the Christian custom of souling on Halloween: going from door to door collecting soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the dead. They too carried lanterns made from hollowed out turnips. Meanwhile, fires were used to guide returning souls to their family homes and deflect demons from haunting the living.
Later, the spirits and souls of the dead were joined in the Halloween pantheon by other monsters as works of literature popularised vampires, werewolves and the like. Think Frankenstein and Dracula. Thus the modern imagery of Hallowe’en, with its themes of death, malevolence and mythical monsters, comes from many sources – some ancient, others less so. Whichever traditions you decide to practice, we wish you a Happy Halloween!
For some more “spooky” finds, check out the blog posts below:
Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. This time Dr. Andrew Brown examines the coinage of Faustina the Elder, wife of Antoninus Pius who we discussed in the previous edition.
Faustina I, AD 138-161
Annia Galeria Faustina, better known as Faustina the Elder or Faustina I, was the daughter of prefect Marcus Annius Verus and Rupilia Faustina. Born in Rome in c.AD 100, she was well connected to the imperial families of Rome – Rupilia was the daughter of Trajan’s niece Salonina Matidia and half-sister to Hadrian’s wife Vibia Sabina. She married Antoninus Pius, later her uncle Hadrian’s adoptive son and heir to the empire, in the first decades of the 2nd century and by him had four children: Marcus Aurelius Fulvius Antoninus (died before AD 138), Marcus Galerius Aurelius Antoninus (died before AD 138), Aurelia Fadilla, and Annia Galeria Faustina (Faustina the Younger or Faustina II). Upon Antoninus becoming emperor in AD 138, the imperial couple also adopted Faustina’s nephew Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (later emperor Marcus Aurelius) and the son of Lucius Aelius and Hadrian’s adoptive grandson Lucius Ceionius Commodus (later co-emperor Lucius Verus). She was quickly accorded the title of augusta by the senate and as a well-respected and liked empress remained with Antoninus in Rome for the remainder of her life.
Faustina died early in Pius’ reign, in October or November AD 140, and was mourned and extensively commemorated, not least by Antoninus himself. By decree of the senate she was quickly deified, games were held, statues erected in her memory, and an order for destitute young girls called Faustinianae created in her honour. She became the first empress to be commemorated in the Roman Forum with the Temple to Diva Faustina (later shared with Antoninus following his death in AD 161) (see Historia Augusta VIII). She was interred in the Mausoleum of Hadrian (Castel Sant’Angelo) in Rome and, aside from the temple shared with Pius, the apotheosis of the imperial couple is commemorated on the base of the Column of Antoninus Pius, now located outside the Vatican Pinacoteca.
Coinage of Faustina I
Perhaps the clearest indication of the sense of connection of devotion felt within Roma to Faustina, and especially so on Antoninus’ part, is the extensive coinage that is struck after her death. As we shall see, a brief lifetime issue appeared at the start of Pius’ reign, but until his death in AD 161 an extensive and varied coinage was issued for Faustina as the deified empress. This is a remarkable issue of coinage in many respects, not least since the posthumous coinages of both emperors and empresses before her (and indeed after her) tended to be brief, short-lived issues in the immediate year(s) after their death or deification. Clare Rowan, in an excellent overview of Faustina’s posthumous coinages, notes that the continued presence of Faustina in the visual language of Roman culture gave Antoninus’ reign a maintained connection with the divine, concluding that “Faustina’s role after death was not, as Mattingly believed, one of a revered lady in a new sphere of eternity, but one concretely bound to the policies and problems of the Roman Empire in the second century”.
The PAS records over 1,200 coins for Faustina I with silver and bronze denominations represented but as yet no gold. This total includes 170 IARCW Welsh records lacking images that are not included in the analysis below. It is notable from the outset that the majority of these coins are from her posthumous issues and that the lifetime issues from the Rome mint are in fact quite rare as PAS finds. The best sources for identifying these coins remain RIC III and the more up to date BMC IV.
One thing to keep in mind when recording coins of Faustina is to not confuse her with the coinages of her daughter, Faustina II. Faustina I is usually depicted with hair elaborately curled on top of her head, sometimes veiled, and more often than not with titles that include DIVA to indicate her posthumous coinage. In contrast, Faustina II usually appears younger, with hair in a bun, and in her coinages during Antoninus’ reign also with the titles PII AVG FIL as daughter of the pious emperor. Although the two are similar their obverses and their reverse types do differ and it should be possible to separate them out when identifying coins for recording.
Lifetime issues, c.AD 138-140
The short issues of coinage prior to Faustina’s death in AD 140 are poorly represented on the PAS database. Indeed, there are only about eleven denarii and at least a dozen bronze coins that are likely to be from this period – the number of sestertii, dupondii, and asses may well be higher but problems of preservation and subsequent difficulties in identification mean there are many coins not closely identified within the dataset. The lifetime for the gold and silver issues have three main obverse legends:
FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG (c.AD 138-139) FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG P P (c.AD 139) FAVSTINA AVGVSTA (c.AD 139-140)
In the bronze coinages, the slightly longer FAVSTINA AVG ANTONINI AVG PII P P is used almost exclusively from AD 139-140.
Reverse types typically depict Concordia, demonstrating the unity between emperor and empress, and the various goddesses to which the empress is associated and who represent her position on earth – Juno Regina (queen of the heavens and wife of Jupiter), Vesta (worshipped by the empress), and Venus, goddess of love, beauty, and fertility holding the apple, her prize during the Judgement of Paris.
There do not appear to be any examples of this earliest issue recorded to date through the PAS and the two coins illustrated above are two of just three types noted by BMC. The same holds true for the second, slightly larger, issue with longer legend that includes the abbreviations P P following Antoninus’ adoption of the title Pater Patriae in AD 139. The types for this second group are very similar to the first, Concordia, highlighting the harmony between emperor and empress, along with the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Vesta, that are reflections of the empress herself.
Gold from this period is rare and no examples for Faustina I are recorded on the PAS database to date as single finds. All of the denarii of Faustina’s lifetime on PAS are of the types with shorter FAVSTINA AVGVSTA obverse legends. The bronze coinage has a single obverse legend, but the types are essentially the same as those in gold and silver. The PAS examples are all sestertii with the exception of two dupondii/asses. Most are poorly preserved as is typical of bronze coinage of this period and there may well be others yet to be identified amongst the large numbers of 2nd century bronze coins on the database.
Posthumous Coinage, c.AD 141-161
The most extensive coinage struck for Faustina was the vast posthumous issue(s) struck after her death and for the remainder of Antoninus’ life. These large issues carry a range of reverse types that highlight first her deification and then her ongoing reverence as a deity, linking Antoninus’ reign to the world of the gods. The development of the Posthumous issues is not easy to define and many can only broadly be placed within the period c.AD 141-161. However, there is some internal development that helps and again this relates in part to the obverse legends. To begin with, she is DIVA AVG FAVSTINA or DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA and coins with these legends are focussed on the events immediately surrounding her death and consecration. In a second issue, Faustina is no-longer augusta, simply DIVA FAVSTINA, as the title of augusta has now passed on to her daughter Faustina II following the birth of her first son in AD 147. This large second issue of coins is defined by two groups of reverse types, one carrying the legend AETERNITAS (Eternity) referencing not just attributes that could be associated with the personification of Aeternitas but more broadly the sense of the timeless world that the gods inhabit, the other with the legend AVGVSTA in reference to Faustina as empress and goddess in the sphere of the gods. A very rare type with obverse legend DIVAE FAVSTINAE appears at the end of the issue, but is not represented in the PAS data.
DIVA AVG FAVSTINA
The first group with DIVA AVG FAVSTINA legends do appear as PAS finds, particularly for denarii, with Pietas reverse types particularly common.
DIVA AVGVSTA FAVSTINA
Coins with the slightly longer obverse legend that include the full title AVGVSTA are probably linked to the first group and carry similar reverse types although are a much smaller issue in gold and silver. This longer obverse legend is rare for the precious metal coinage recorded through the PAS, although it does appear in the base metal denominations in slightly larger volume – Pietas is again a recurring type on the PAS examples.
By far the largest group of coins from Faustina’s posthumous issues are those that simply carry the legend DIVA FAVSTINA. These likely post-date Faustina II becoming augusta in AD 147, with the consecration of Faustina II now complete and her place secured in the cult of a goddess in Rome. There are again a wide range of types, which we can’t deal with comprehensively here, with the two groups of coins with reverse legend AETERNITAS and then AVGVSTA being bar far the most frequently seen and recorded through the PAS – each reverse type has several hundred PAS coins.
References and further reading:
C. Rowan ‘Communicating a Consecratio: The Deification Coinage of Faustina I’ in N. Holmes (ed.) Proceedings of the XIV International Numismatic Congress Glasgow Vol 1 (Glasgow, 2012): pp. 991-998