Interesting Errors circa 1889


The website Forvm Ancient Coins has a Numiswiki for collaborative work.  I’m very impressed with their crowd sourcing transcription and editing of public domain books relevant to the discipline.  I stumbled upon this entry yesterday in the Dictionary of Roman Coins from 1889.   Two ‘errors’  are really intriguing.

1) The dating of the lex de limitibus.  This is the Mamilian law that proscribed the width of the strip of land dividing two properties and seems also to have governed the process by which disputes over these boundaries were adjudicated.  The date is controversial, as is the contents.   109 BC is the most common attribution, associating it with the same tribune who fought corruptions amongst the nobiles.   There are detractors though, most notably:  Morgan, L. 2007. The Moneyer C. Mamilius Limetanus. Ostraka 16.1: 195-201.  Leaving aside the modern debate, the date in this old general reference work is given as v.c. 589.  That’s A.U.C. 589 or 165 BC.  Somewhere, somehow, someone got the idea that the Lex Mamilia might have something to do with the Praetor Lentulus’ efforts to return Campanian land to ager publicus (public land) by paying off the holders.  There are two basic sources, Granius and Cicero, the former being the more substantive and narrative in quality.  This date doesn’t fit with any of the other prosopographical evidence or literary testimony.  It is most likely just flat wrong and a guess, but right now I’d give my eyeteeth to know where the idea came from.

2) An alternative obverse type.  The final sentence of the entry claims that the reverse is known with a different obverse.  Again, given the popular nature of publication there is no reference to the location or provenance of the specimen.  BUT the description is pretty clear.  It means the obverse of this type:

RRC 383/1

This error is easier to understand.  Either there was a forgery that combined the two, or some catalog entry or illustration was inadvertently created or suggested the connection, or someone looking through a collection mismembered what they saw.  [Yes, I know that’s not a real word. It should be though.]

The one problem with the otherwise fabulous quest to digitize just about everything in the public domain is that it generalizes and disseminates that information that is 70 years old, making that canonical and widely accessed knowledge.   I think this blog is slowly becoming an open access advocacy site.

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