Sulpicius’ Uncia (312)

Now you’re thinking to yourself: why, why did she skip Herennius? Cast your mind back, dear reader, to the semunciae post. As detailed there, Herennius likely comes later in the series, so we have to treat Sulpicius first! RRC 312

Ex RBW, of course

Are you reminded of the dog (who was a very good boy, of course!)? I am reminded of that dog too (RRC 293/3)! And that goatish, horsish quadruped?! Yes! exactly! That too (RRC 292/5 new)! But wait. Those were reverses, here its an obverse. The reverse is our moneyer’s name in a wreath! We’ve seen that too in just the last post for 305/2 and also on two of the three semunciae and will see it on later unciae (links to come).

So what’s with this? It feels like no one can decide what small change SHOULD look like or at least the idea of what it should look like is in flux. As I mentioned in the semunciae post, the wreaths with inscription in it are well known on various regional coins (including those of Cossura!).

A round of the sort of coins I’m thinking of (ignoring Augustan era ones):

The Kampanoi. Mercenaries in the Aitna area. Ae (ca. 344-336). In trade.
PANORMOS, before 135 BCE. In trade.
HIMERA, c. 413-408 BCE. In trade.
Time of Pyrrhus? Note oak leaves. In trade. Also just a stunning coin. Cf. this specimen.
overstrike! In trade.
Himera, c. 400-380 BCE. In trade.
Melita, 3rd cent? In trade.
oak leaves again. Fourth Democracy, 289-287. In trade.

Pegasus is rare on the republican series, but not so rare we should make too much of it. I suppose it had some significance to the moneyer… No particular relation as far as I can make out to symbols on rest of RRC 312 series.

Coins of Cossura

In trade, late 3rd early 2nd cent BCE?
In trade, 2nd cent. BCE?
mint location

Some literature. Some types also spelt Kossura. Modern Panterellia.

I want to learn more!!!

NOTICE REG counter marker and sign of Tanit on reverse, specimen in trade another great example
Example of RRC 56/3 with same counter mark. In trade.

Alföldy, Géza. “Ein römischer Ritter aus Cossura (Pantelleria).” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 151 (2005): 193-213.

APh has about 25 more relevant records but one must search Pantelleria to find them.

Also think about in light of coins of Melita (Malta), e.g.

CHECK OUT THE SPECIMENS IN BERLIN!! Go here. Then enter Cossura as your search term. Also this twitter thread.

Late Unciae (305)

Schaefer binder image detail (image of coin)
from same but image of cast from Crawford’s plates

Crawford knew two specimens of RRC 305/2: Copenhagen illustrated above and in Crawford’s own plates and F. Capranesi in D. D. Müller, Memorie, 56. Tracking down the latter is on the to do list. Irritatingly, no weight for either specimen.

Schaefer was concerned that this Copenhagen specimen might be an altered RRC 315/1. I don’t think so but that is primarily based on the obverse. The obverse of this Copenhagen specimen has a bump on its nose, a recessed chin and and a helmet with a side feather and maybe some stars. The rendering of the Roma on the obverse of 315/1 is far more traditional and stylized.

These CRRO specimen of 305/1 show similar features. The reverse of the denarius has an oak wreath as does the uncia. There is also a passing similarity to the obverse of RRC 296/1.

This post is part of a small change series.

Unciae, post 1, post 2, post 3


More to come!

More late unciae (293/3)

So I like the sense of completion of hitting publish on a blog post, its a trivial little boost to mark a bit of work and the end of a thought unit. So I’m breaking my previous long post and starting a new one. There is no logic to my breaking spot maybe even some illogic, but it’s a rough January morning in a pandemic when my republic is in turmoil and my colleagues are catching Covid, and I need all the little morale boosts I can get to keep myself working away…

I love the Philippus series. I realize that lots of my writing on it hasn’t appeared in print and only some on the blog (collection one, collection two) as I’m ‘saving’ it for my kings project that might or might not be a monograph one day. Anyway. If you are interested in the denarius for scholarly reasons, ask me to send you my essay on it and other kings with coins, but there is also a good chunk in chapter 2 of the coin book, riffing on the work of Hölkeskamp who has revisited the Marcii in many valuable publications.

No as, semis, triens, or sextans or semuncia is known, just quadrantes and unciae. I’m inclined to think these might have been the only denominations made or at least the only ones prioritized. This is interesting as it suggests that these might the ‘in demand’ denominations. I want to think more about that and also think if there is an argument to be made about RR unofficial AE issues about which denominations were most likely to be made and then of course WHY.

Only two unicae are known and both in Paris (again).

The photos of ?-B and 1-A in the Schaefer binder are actually better lit for seeing details than the official Gallica images.

Where did these come from? Was a wishing well or other votive deposit discovered perhaps in ye olden days and the nicest unciae ended up in Paris source collections…? Could archival work here help? I should go look at Nemi find and other similar sacred water coin toss finds.

Why Saturn? maybe the logic went that if no semis was made the god of the treasury would get offended if not on the coins if bronze were made? Or could there have been a little fashion for Saturn and this marks the start of it? Saturn gets some love on the denarii shortly after this , but that love for the most part seems explained in each individual case. The Memmii love Saturn for family reasons (we can assume), Saturninus for canting pun reasons, Caepio for his quaestorship….

Update: the identification as Saturn is based on the falx behind his head. See much earlier post.

And why a dog? I’m going to go with loyalty-fides resonance; see me on Ulysses and dogs and Fides. This particular dog type is some times called a Maltese or Proto-Maltese and will be familiar to many numismatists from a wide variety of coins.

A stellar specimen included here for esthetic purposes and because the auction catalogue gives good chat about the history of the breed.

The best parallel is probably from the RRC 219 series.

specimen in trade

Some dies let you see the collar in a lovely fashion:

detail of specimen in trade, cf. another mis-identified in trade.

But there are earlier dogs on the Roman series of a similar breed cf. RRC 122. The dogs of RRC 26 have some similarity in body pose but are leaner and read more like a hound to me. This is, of course, all a little subjective.

The quadrans has a lovely bellicose rooter. I’ve written (too much perhaps) about cocks on this blog and in a forthcoming article. I’m guessing the the two types the dog and cock were chosen for their recall of manly Roman virtues: fierce and loyal, perhaps characteristics they would associate with Tremulus who is honored on the denarius.

Ex Goodman Ex RBW

Mars in a Quadriga

So I’m thinking about the uncia RRC 290/6 but that makes me of course think about other Mars-in-quadriga types and I ended up at that old puzzle about that figure next to Mars on RRC 232/1:

Detail of specimen in trade

I’ve blogged about it before.

Another specimen in trade.
specimen in trade

I need to let it go. I’ve been through Schaefer’s collection of die images and I still am not sure what I’m seeing but I’m leaning towards a female figure. We could do with some comparative iconography…

Late Unciae

Next up in our small change investigation is RRC 289/5. To understand this choice you’ll have to accept Lockyear 2018‘s methods for rearranging the relative chronology. Crawford had put this in 115-114 BCE and HBM has even nudged it down towards 112 BCE, but Lockyear tells us that 289 is in the wrong place so it needs to be earlier, we’ll ball park it at 119 BCE. The could be too early but at very least its the next uncia after those of the 130s BCE and earlier than the unciae of RRC 285, which Lockyear has also shown to be later in the relative chronology. We’ll call it 111 BCE but we must leave it fuzzy and accept we just don’t know precise dates on these YET.

These late unciae are also “weird” in the degree to which they shake up our expectations regarding design. 256/5 in 132 BCE might have kicked off this playfulness with the small change.

RRC 289/5

Schaefer’s binder page.

Normally I might say the rudder was an attribute of Fortuna and leave it at that, but the weird thing is that’s not really how it seems to be used on the republican coin series. Most instances where we can tell what its doing suggest that we should see it as a claim to dominion over the seas. Given that the same symbol appears on the reverse as a secondary symbol of the denarius of this issue, we should probably assume that the symbol has meaning to the moneyer and his family, ditto probably Hercules. The main take away is that the uncia is the place the moneyer feels comfortable breaking with tradition even as he chooses as super conservative denarius type (Roma/Victory). This is his little bit of difference.

Paris specimen of RRC 289/1

So my children have discovered that if they come into my office and look at the plates of Crawford and then ask me to show them a better picture of what ever type they are pointing to I will pretty much always play along forever. This is sneaky of them and bad for my productivity but cute as all get out. Anyway. I’m going to go do family stuff more on unciae tomorrow.


This series, or at least the bronze is much more playful. Unlike the preceding series where the moneyer only really messed with the uncia the whole of the bronze of 285 has creative alternative reverses. Issue is made by the whole college of moneyers in collaboration (How convenient! How rare!). The denarii are pretty boring, just Roma-Quadriga

Examples from trade of 285/1 and 285/2 respectively: notice Domi’s is a slow quadriga and Jupiter has a laurel branch and fulmen (thunderbolt)–this is Jupiter on ceremonial parade, like a triumphator; by contrast Sila and Curt’s Jupiter is in a fast chariot reminiscent of the quadrigatus didrachms of more than a century earlier. He hold a scepter and hurls his thunderbolt. A little lituus has snuck into the field above showing us a minor personal statement: “hey I got an augur in my lineage; my family safe guards Rome’s religious traditions and the favor of the gods (like Jupiter).”

The bronze is where the college is shown functioning as a whole college and leaving behind the extremely entrenched prow reverse and instead choosing a standard attribute from the traditional iconography of each obverse god for the reverse. Semis through uncia are well known. If an as or semuncia showed up tomorrow I wouldn’t be that surprised (but I’d love to see it!!). To get a sense of the series look at this page and the next in Schaefer’s binders. They are beautiful. I in particular admire the Minerva-Aegis on esthetic grounds.

Update: Jeremy Haag wrote me about this post, pointing out how important it is for the identification of the god of the Semis as Saturn not Jupiter. Mattingly’s “A Guide to the Exhibition of Roman Coins in the British Museum” written in 1927 describes the Roman Republican bronze semis as depicting Jupiter, not Saturn, whereas Sydenham’s “The Coinage of the Roman Republic” in 1952 is happy to call the god Saturn. 285/3 has a curved agricultural implement as the reverse attribute thus confirming that later identity is most likely the right ID on all semisses. This led me back to an old post I forgot I’d written on harpa versus falx!

But besides noting the overall pattern in the issue as a whole, I’m going to stay focused on the unciae.

Detail of same Schaefer page linked above. Do you see what I see? The flans of the two specimens I”ve drawn a blue arrow between have suspiciously similar shapes? What’s up with that?

Ok so I can only assume that these are the same coin and that some one did a hell of a a cleaning job on it and turned a fantastic profit. While removing a good .1 grams of material from the specimen. I grant you the cleaned up one is prettier… If I’m wrong, do tell me! Now what weight do I put on my spreadsheet?! grrr…. decisions. I’ll put 3.96 and call it done. Apollo shows up more and more on coins in the late republic and perhaps was taking on greater significance for the state or even being favored by those elite with a particular view of how Rome should work. (There are some earlier blog posts about this: one, another, yet another ) I’ll have to talk about this in what ever comes of this survey of the small change.

285/7a in trade: 3.91, 18 mm
285/7a in trade: 4.01g

For me this is probably the prettiest of the known specimens, from RBW coll., I do believe.

RRC 290/6

To me one of weirdest thing about the unciae of 290 is that there are three specimens all in Paris and NO OTHERS. Where are the rest of them?!

Paris no. 1

This unciae is clearly playing with the fact that it has approximately the same dimension as the denarius and thus can imitated the denarius design. Mars driving a quadriga isn’t so common on the denarius reverse and neither is a laurel wreath border. Crawford says that the obverse of this is borrowed from 289/1; I won’t argue that they are clearly carved in the same style and likely by the same hand, but it seems to me that the moneyer is thinking about 232/1 for his overall inspiration. I wonder if this connection of obverses is what influenced Crawford’s arrangement of the series which seems a little off here according to Lockyear 2018? Or if Crawford’s logic holds maybe 290 also needs to move earlier in the series… but that doesn’t seem right. Another moving piece of the puzzle… I’m not sure if this issue goes before or after the previous one.

I also really want to go hold this Paris specimen and see if it is an overstrike. The flan is so strange….

Upper right corner seems to has traces of … something? Or my eyes and the light are just playing tricks on me. Link

Oh and now I type their weights into my spreadsheet and these unciae are SO HEAVY! More on that data below. They seem however on average a good full gram more than earlier unciae.


One of Rick’s finest.

We can call this RRC 292/5 new. The RRC 292 series is most famous for its voting bridges type (a fun early post the ideas of which I regret didn’t get at least a footnote in the book, another early meaty post that I suspect didn’t quite get reflected enough in the book, a more recent post). BUT more mysterious and interesting are the little augmentations to the bronze series in which might lay a clue to understanding this odd quadruped on the uncia.

I just wasted a bunch of time trying to find a post about these from earlier I was sure I wrote one but I cannot find it if I did.

As – unknown

Semis – female dancer?

detail of a Schaefer page

Triens – no mark

Note: RBW thought that his specimen might be unique and that that from the Fénelon-Farez collection might be a forgery BUT that specimen is shown by Schaefer to die link with a Verona specimen.

Quadrans – quadruped or biped

Specimen from the Goodman collection

Schaefer has long noted the wide variety of renderings of the quadruped on these quadrans and has identified at least 11 different reverse dies, 12 if we count the strange ‘bird’ from the Capitoline museum. BUT I think we probably shouldn’t. It seems more likely that 292/4b is in fact a mint error and a 293/2 Philippus triens reverse was combined with a Nerva triens obverse, and we should take this as evidence that the two moneyers likely belong to the same college. The struck out idea is made more complicated now that Manfred Fischer has kindly drawn my attention to a second specimen of 292/4b.

From Schaefer binders.
Link to previous sale. Notice traces of bird foot on reverse. Die linked with Capitoline specimen.

Sextans – unknown

Uncia – quadruped, same creature as on the quadrans.

What is it? Part of me thinks a horse many look like a horse and engraving can be sloppy. Part of me is leaning toward goat. The goat part of me is thinking about the funny looking goat on RRC 288/1 and more generally about dionysiac imagery and that maybe that dancer could be called a Maenad and we could have a connecting theme?

Paris Specimen

But am I convinced by my Dionysiac hypothesis? No, not really…


Continued in a new post!