SUSS-BA7F45: Roman coin: contemporary copy of a denarius conflating designs of Julius Caesar and Augustus

Rights Holder: Sussex Archaeological Society
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Unique ID: SUSS-BA7F45

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Roman contemporary (or more recent fantasy) forgery, of a silver denarius, based on obverse portraits of Julius Caesar minted during his lifetime and during the Octavianic/Augustan age and the AEGVPTO (or AEGVPT) CAPTA reverse type of Octavian minted in 28-27 BC. Must therefore post-date 28-27 BC.

It appears that this coin is loosely copied from coins of the period. The obverse conflates various elements of coins of Caesar and Octavian/Augustus. The obverse legend D[I]VO IMP has never been employed. It is most likely based on a legend found on a Caesarian coin as well as one on an Octavianic coin: the CAESAR IMP obverse type of Caesar minted in January-February 44 BC (RRC 480/3) and the DIVO IVL reverse type of Octavian minted in 36 BC (RRC 540). Obverse portraits of Julius Caesar issued during his lifetime and in the Octavianic/Augustan age invariably depict him wearing a laurel wreath (e.g. RRC 480, RIC I (rev.ed.) 337). The star in front of Caesar's head is also seen on an Octavianic coin from 38 BC (RRC 534/1). The star is also seen behind Caesar's head on coins minted during his own lifetime (RRC 480/5). The lituus is also seen behind Caesar's head on coins minted in his lifetime (e.g. RRC 480/2a, 3). Incidentally, the lituus is depicted on the obverse of the AEGVPTO CAPTA reverse type (RIC I 275). It seems like a crescent is depicted below the lituus - incidentally, there is an obverse portrait of Caesar also minted during his lifetime depicting a crescent behind his head (RRC 480/4). The reverse is based on denarii of Augustus, struck in Rome (RIC I 275a-b) and the East (RIC I 544). However, the inscription normally reads AEGVPTO or AEGVPT; AEGIPTO suggests the die-cutter is not fully literate. Furthermore, the crocodile is standing left on the copy; the originals have the crocodile right.

The British Museum has a 'fantasy coin' on photo-file which shares the same reverse and a similar obverse with the inscription DIVO IVLIO. Therefore, it does suggest that this might be a piece made in the 17th to 19th centuries, as suggested below by Marvin Tameanko.

There is no evidence on the surface that the coin is plated; however it could be a thickly plated copy where the silver has protected the copper from corrosing and becoming visible. It could also be a copy in a slightly more base silver than the original coins. Recent scientific analysis by Duncan Hook, in the Dept of Conservation and Scientific Research at the British Museum, suggests that the coin is struck from silver and that it is not a plated coin.

Interpreting the coin is difficult. Were it a plated piece, then it would be explicable as an attempt to create a coin for profit by using a smaller amount of silver. However, why would someone create a 'fantasy piece' like this in the ancient period from solid silver? The best explanation seems to be that it was made for people to buy whilst on the Grand Tour in Italy. It was subsequently lost near Brighton.


A note from the National Finds Adviser, 10.11.2010:

Since this coin appeared in the Press, it has caused some discussion. One suggestion is that it was struck by a Roman general or other leader at the time in support of Octavian. I am not convinced by this argument as Octavian was effectively sole ruler after the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and there would be no need for local issues.

Another interesting communication has come from Marvin Tameanko which I add below. The problem with this interpretation is explaining how this coin ended up in the ground in a wooded area:

I have seen many pieces like this coin before. Twenty years ago I examined a whole coin cabinet of 200 fantasy pieces created by European artists and struck in sterling silver for young noblemen doing the "Grand Tour" of Europe in the 17th to 19th centuries. This was a finishing school, educational tour undertaken by mostly Englishmen who went abroad to examine and sketch ancient ruins, swim the Hellespont, have dinner in the ruins of the Parthenon in moonlight, climb to the top of Trajan's Column, and perhaps later write about their travels. The usual souvenirs they acquired on this tour were artifacts of antiquity like stones from the Coliseum and coins, and when authentic items became scarce merchants stepped in with good copies made from the best materials. The coin artists did imaginative compositions combining elements from several genuine coins. Inscriptions were often garbled. Some families set up coin cabinets of these artistic copies and added to them for generations. These coins often come onto the auction market and are described as "educational sets of coins" but they were more than that. From its style and silver content, the coin under discussion is an orphan example from one of these sets.

Marvin Tameanko

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: ROMAN
Period from: ROMAN

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Thickness: 2.5 mm
Weight: 3.65 g
Diameter: 18.1 mm

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Monday 2nd August 2010

Personal details

Recorded by: Ms Laura Burnett
Identified by: Ms Laura Burnett
Secondary identifier: Dr Victoria Gyori

Materials and construction

Primary material: Silver
Manufacture method: Struck or hammered
Completeness: Complete

Coin data (numismatics)

Denomination: Denarius (Empire)
Denomination qualifier: Certain
Ruler/issuer: Augustus
Primary ruler qualifier: Probably
Reece period: Period 1 [Pre AD 41]
Obverse description: Laureate head of Caesar right; in front, star; behind, lituus above crescent (?).
Obverse inscription: D[I]VO IMP

Reverse description: Crocodile facing left
Reverse inscription: AEGIPTO CAPTA

Die axis measurement: 6 o'clock
Degree of wear: Slightly worn: very fine
Status: Contemporary copy
Status qualifier: Certain

Coin references

No coin references available.

Spatial metadata

Region: South East (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: The City of Brighton and Hove (Unitary Authority)
District: The City of Brighton and Hove (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Brighton

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Woodland
Specific landuse: Parkland

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Audit data

Recording Institution: SUSS
Created: 8 years ago
Updated: 6 years ago

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