Welcome to the latest edition of Coin Relief. In this issue Dr. Andrew Brown at the coinage of the brothers Claudius II and Quintillus.
Claudius II, AD 268-270
One of the conspirators in the assassination of Gallienus at Milan in AD 268 may have been a highranking military official in Gallienus’ army – Marcus Aurelius Valerius Claudius. Upon Gallienus’ death, Claudius was declared emperor by the legions and swiftly dealt with the attempted usurpation of Roman authority by Gallienus’ former commander of the cavalry, Aureolus. At the same time, he halted attempts by the senate to murder supporters of Gallienus in Rome, persuading them to deify his predecessor.
Claudius was a soldier with a distinguished military career that saw him advance through the ranks to the position of Gallienus’ commander of cavalry before assuming the highest office as emperor. As emperor he was very much liked by the senate and the people, and history has painted him in a good light. This may have as much to do with the dislike in some quarters of Gallienus by the end of his life combined with Claudius’ successes against Rome’s enemies during his brief two-year reign.
The first threat faced by Claudius at the start of his reign, once order had been restored at Milan, was from the north. Aureolus’ retreat to Milan had left the northern Italian frontier vulnerable and subject to incursion from the Alemanni. He secured an important victory against the Alemanni at Lake Garda in late AD 268, earning the title Germanicus Maximus as a result, before heading to Rome to celebrate the triumph and his elevation as
emperor. He took the consulship in Rome in January AD 269 before turning to face a second threat that in many respects defined his period as emperor. Gallienus was already engaged in conflict along the Danube and in the Balkans and had managed to stall the Herulian invasion prior to his assassination. In autumn AD 269 Claudius face the threat of renewed incursion from the east, with a huge Gothic fleet and army working its way west through Greece. He met the Gothic forces at the Battle of Naissus (Niš, Serbia), perhaps with Aurelian leading the Dalmatian cavalry, and inflicted a heavy defeat (with large numbers of casualties on both sides), which earnt him the title Gothicus Maximus by which he is often known (Claudius Gothicus).
Although Claudius’ legions succeeded in pushing the Goths back out of Roman territory, Claudius himself did not have time to focus on attempts to reunify other parts of the empire – the breakaway Gallic states in the west and the Palmyrene empire in the east. In August AD 270, while at Sirmium dealing with a new threat to Pannonia by the Vandals, he contracted the plague and died.
Although Claudius was only emperor for two years, coinage was struck at a number of mints around the empire with gold (Fig. 1) and base metal coinages known. There are to date no
gold coins of Claudius II on the PAS and there do not appear to be any examples of the very base denarii of this period that are easily missed amongst the mass of radiates. During this period the radiate coinages struck at Rome reach their low point in terms of quality and the very base nature of the alloys used. This may have prompted an early closure of the mint, perhaps in AD 270, although this certainly did happen later with Aurelian who brought about extensive monetary reforms.
Milan and Siscia produced quite extensive issues for Claudius, as did the eastern mints, notably Cyzicus and Antioch. Although examples of Milan and Siscia do appear on the PAS database, they are generally scarcer than the Roman mint coins that form the bulk of the assemblage, the eastern mint coins remaining very rare. It is worth pointing out, too, that Claudius’ coinage was subject to quite extensive copying, particularly in Britain, so it is not unusual to see contemporary copies of Rome mint coins, particularly of his posthumous issues. Of course, deciding what constitutes a contemporary copy or just a very poorly engraved and struck coin from the official mint in Rome is not always straightforward!
In total, the PAS records over 6,200 coins of Claudius II (including 1,458 IARCW Welsh records), the vast majority of which are attributed to Rome. There is much work still to do on his coinage within the database, but I don’t imagine this will have a significant impact on the volume of the individual mints represented – Rome is always going to be more common than the others. In this blog I follow the outline of Claudius’ coinage given in the Normanby volume. This updates the evidence presented in Cunetio and as one of the largest groups of Claudius’ coins is far more complete and should be your standard reference at present. It should be noted though that work is ongoing to provide an updated revision of RIC V.1 for Claudius II –
there is an excellent digital version of this online here: http://www.ric.mom.fr/en/home.
Mint of Rome
Claudius’ coinage at Rome was struck in 12 officinae and over four issues that cover his reign. Each officina in the main issues struck a different reverse type, often with the workshop identified by a mintmark or officina letter in the field.1 It is therefore usually possible to identify relatively closely Claudius’ radiates from Rome based on the few standard types that appear for each issue. I follow here the outline in Normanby, since it is
much more comprehensive than Cunetio and afforded an updated interpretation of Claudius’ coinage through the addition of an earlier first issue.
Mint of Milan
We have already seen that at the end of Gallienus’ reign his commander of cavalry, Aureolus, attempted to usurp power or at least defect to Postumus and struck coinage from his base in Milan in Postumus’ name. Although Gallienus had been successful on the battlefield against Aurelous and had pushed him back into Milan, during the siege that followed his own forces conspired to assassinate him. Those involved may well have included amongst their number Claudius II and Aurelian (e.g. Zosimus I.40), who were both officers under Gallienus. Claudius was declared emperor by the military at Milan and coinage appears very quickly from the mint in his name, including gold issues that served as donatives to appease the legions now occupying the city. Under Claudius, the Milan mint struck three issues of coinage with three officinae in operation. Coins from these series are generally marked in exergue with the officina letters P, S, or T to denote the workshop. This is a useful diagnostic tool in identifying a coin as potentially from the mint of Milan rather then one of the other mints. The bust type for Claudius is also different from that of Rome or Siscia – his head appears slightly rounder with bust types that are mostly (but not always, of course!) radiate, draped, and cuirassed.
The obverse legend also differs from most coins struck at Rome, reading IMP CLAVDIVS P F AVG. If you have a coin of Claudius therefore that has P F in the obverse legend it may well belong to the Milan series (although double check that it is not one of the
rare early issues from Rome or Siscia too!). It is also worth noting that coins from Milan tend to be of slightly better quality than those of their counterparts at Rome, which can be very base and often quite crude. Coins from the Milan mint do appear on the PAS database – there are currently at least 235 records attributed to the mint, although I suspect this number may be slightly higher and that there are other coins yet to be fully identified.
The coinage from Siscia is perhaps more complex than that of Milan. Again, the coins are generally better quality than those from the Rome mint and the bust types have distinctive portraits that separate them from the other mints. Four issues of coinage are apparent at Siscia with up to four workshops striking in the latest issues of his reign. These do turn up as PAS finds, although there are fewer than 70 examples recorded to date, so they are generally scarcer than those of Milan and especially Rome.
Eastern Mints: Cyzicus and Antioch
Coins were also issued from the eastern mints of Cyzicus and Antioch for Claudius, of course the Antioch coins struck while Zenobia and Vabalathus controlled the mint here. These are generally very rare as British finds – Normanby has just 5 coins from Cyzicus and one from Antioch – and this is also true for the PAS database, for which there are so far only three verifiable examples, one from Cyzicus and two from Antioch. Coins from both of these mints generally look quite different in style to the coins of Rome, Milan, and Siscia, often silvery in appearance, and with types and legends that should separate them out from the bulk of Claudius’ coinage. The standard reference for these should be to Cunetio or Normanby, but if you are recording and unsure if you have an unusual, eastern coin please photograph it and send the details through to us!
Posthumous coinage – Divus Claudius, c.AD 270
After succumbing to plague in Sirmium in AD 270, Claudius was defied by the senate and his younger brother, Quintillus, briefly assumed control of the empire. At this point quite an extensive issue of posthumous coinage appears to commemorate the deified Claudius, probably struck during the reign of Quintillus, but perhaps extending into that of urelian. Characteristically, these issues have an obverse legend reading DIVO CLAVDIO for the deified emperor, with a reverse legend simply reading CONSECRATIO. Two basic reverse types are issued: one depicting an eagle with head left or right; the other an altar decorated
either with a swag or divided into four with a dot in each quadrant. The majority of these seen in Britain are from the mint of Rome, however there were examples struck at the other mints too (occasionally, as is the case with Milan, with slightly modified obverse legend or with officina mark in the exergue), so do double check if the example you have looks a little unusual.
The Divus Claudius types are commonly seen for recording through the PAS – a quick search of the database produces over 2,000 examples. They were also copied extensively during the Roman period and the majority of PAS examples are probably irregular copies. Do remember that if you are recording Divus Claudius types on the PAS there is a separate dropdown option on the numismatic page for irregular copies!
Quintillus, AD 270
Marcus Aurelius Claudius Quintillus succeeded his brother Claudius II as emperor for a brief period of time in AD 270. He was born in Sirmium and during his brother’s reign perhaps held senior office but was certainly entrusted with responsibility and the security of the norther Italian frontier from Milan. It was at Milan, on Claudius’ death, that Quintillus assumed the purple with the legions in Milan declaring him emperor (see for example Eutropius IX.12). There is a suggestion that he was not originally Claudius’ first choice for emperor, with some sources (e.g. Zonaras) suggesting Claudius on his death bed had nominated
Aurelian as successor. However, the senate seems to have quickly ratified Quintillus’ nomination, even if the military with Aurelian (probably on the Danube still dealing with the Goths) were unaware and ultimately preferred their own leader.
In the end, Quintillus never saw Rome as emperor. His reign was brief – sources like Eutropius (IX.12) and the Historia Augusta (Life of Claudius 12.5) suggest it lasted just 17 days, although the volume of coinage and other sources like Zosimus (I.47) indicate it was probably as long as a few months, even if Zosimus also notes that Quintillus “performed nothing worthy of notice, before Aurelian was raised to the imperial throne”! He likely assumed power in August of AD 270, but by September the military had put their support behind Aurelian, who was proclaimed emperor by them at Sirmium. Quintillus probably died by November of AD 270, precisely how is unclear – either murdered by his own forces or by suicide depending on which source you believe – but he was at Aquileia at the time of his death. Whether he was fully recognised by Aurelian is another matter. Quintillus appears to have been favoured by the senate rather than the military, and the latter were clearly behind Aurelian as their emperor. We will look at Aurelian in a later edition.
Coinage of Quintillus
Although Quintillus only ruled for a very brief period of time in AD 270, coinage was initially struck empire-wide and included rare early gold issues at Milan, which served as donatives for the army and which are understandably absent from the PAS dataset. It is likely that many of the (regular) Divus Claudius types noted above were struck under Quintillus (although we will look at these with Aurelian too) even if the mint at Rome may well have closed at the start of AD 270 for a short period of time.
Quintillus’ coinage is not hugely extensive and the individual types seen for recording through the PAS should be readily identifiable (see all PAS examples here). As will become apparent below, there are some issues in terms of separating Quintillus from his brother, and there are a large number of PAS coins that need closer attention to resolve this problem. The main references for his coinage should be the Normanby hoard in the first instance, which is a more comprehensive reference than Cunetio (although Cunetio is also fine if you do not have access to Normanby). The original RIC V.1 volume is now outdated for Quintillus (and indeed Claudius) and work is ongoing by S. Estiot and J. Mairat to produce a revised version. An evolving digital version of this can be accessed here: http://www.ric.mom.fr/en/home and is an invaluable reference for Quintillus too. The coins from the Frome hoard are yet to be fully organised, but will add to this in the near future. In this post, I follow Normanby since this is the most comprehensive outline to date and should be accessible to all FLOs recording Roman coins through the PAS.
Quintillus’ radiate coinage is much rarer on the PAS than that of either his brother Claudius II or his successor Aurelian – there are currently 289 examples recorded, which includes 89 IARCW records, 140 of which have images. I suspect the actual number to be slightly higher. The main reason for this is that Quintillus can easily be confused with Claudius II (and indeed sometimes Aurelian), which means there are likely other examples on the database misidentified as Claudius II. There are, however, two useful diagnostic elements that help to separate the two out:
• Perhaps the most useful, particularly on worn coins, is Quintillus’ hair – unlike Claudius II he is depicted with very curly hair that is noticeably different to Claudius even though their facial features (as brothers) are almost identical
• Additionally, Quintillus has a long obverse legend that usually reads IMP C M AVR CL QVINTILLVS AVG. This means the obverse legend generally has a lot of small letters that often look quite crammed together, unlike the larger, spaced out letters for Claudius I.
Although several mints struck radiates for Quintillus, we are essentially dealing with coins from Rome and Milan on the PAS. Siscia did issue radiates but I can find no examples so far on the database. These are rare in the larger hoards too – there were only 9 Siscia mint coins amongst the 382 examples of Quintillus in the Normanby hoard.
Mint of Rome
Quintillus’ coins at Rome largely follow the same format as Claudius II – twelve officinae, each striking a different reverse type and with officina letters (where present) in the fields or exergue: A, B, Γ, Δ, ε, ς, Z, H, N, X, XI, and XII. Rome only struck one issue of coins for Quintillus. This means if you have a coin of Quintillus and can only make out parts of the reverse type, or more importantly can see an officina letter, the coin should be identifiable to an individual type. Bust types are usually either radiate and cuirassed, or radiate, draped, and cuirassed.
Mint of Milan
Aside from the rare gold coins noted above, Milan struck two issues of radiates. This makes some sense, since Quintillus was based at Milan and so the mint would have been in operation from the outset. Milan coins are, however, far less common as finds in Britain. Cunetio has just 4 examples, Normanby has 45, and there are only 25 PAS examples.
Issue I : The first issue is short-lived and has the longer obverse legend IMP C M AVR CL QVINTILLVS AVG. There are no PAS examples from this first issue and the few examples in the BM collection do not have images available.
Issue II: The majority of Quintillus’ Milan coinage comes from his second issue. These coins have a contracted obverse legend, simply reading IMP QVINTILLVS AVG, and are struck in three officinae with officina letters P, S, and T that, when used, are found in the exergue. Bust types are usually radiate, draped, and cuirassed for Milan.
These three Milan types are the only ones represented on the PAS other than a single Providentia type within the IARCW Welsh data that lacks an image to confirm. By far the most common are the Mars types (14 coins), with the Fides and Concordia both having similar numbers (5 each). Note that the reverse legends do have some variation (e.g. MARTI PAC or MARTI PACI; CONCORD EXER or CONCO EXER), but the types stay the same.
Mint of Siscia
The coin issues from Siscia were short-lived for Quintillus, but the types are quite varied and with two different obverse legends: IMP C M AVR CL QVINTILLVS AVG and IMP C M AVR QVINTILLVS AVG. In the Normanby volume, seven reverse types are noted with officina letters P, S, T, and Q indicating four workshops. There do not appear to be any Siscia coins on the PAS as single site finds, which might not be overly surprising as there was just one coin in Cunetio and 9 in Normanby. These are rare coins in Britain but their appearance in hoards means that the odd example may well appear in general circulation too.
Mint of Cyzicus
In the eastern empire, Zenobia controlled the mint at Antioch having produced the latest issues here in Claudius’ name and there are no coins of Quintillus in AD 270 here. Coins were struck for him at Cyzicus, though, but these comprise a short issue of radiates that are rare in the western empire – there were none in either of the Cunetio or Normanby hoards and those in the British Museum collection lack images. There appear to be no PAS examples to date.
References and further reading:
R. Bland and A. Burnett The Normanby Hoard and other Roman Coin Hoards (CHRB VIII, 1988);
R. Bland, E. Besley, A.Burnett The Cunetio and Normanby
Hoards (Spink 2018)