Semuncia

I’m due to produce by Mar 1 a draft of something readable on the end of small change at Rome. (I blogged a little about this last May).

I started this morning by making myself a spreadsheet by dumping csv data out of CRRO and then cleaning it up and adding new info. Dump was post 146 BCE to 82 BCE and the new info was thanks to my various marginalia in my physical copy of Crawford and also also to searches of trade databases and OF COURSE Schaefer’s binders in Archer as linked from CRRO (hence earlier random posts of today).

Do you see a type I missed that’s not in Crawford? Send me a photo or citation! I’m very curious.

So I thought at first I might take a chronological approach, but I’m now thinking I might take a denominational approach to exploring what’s going with small change and the Roman mint.

The three semuncia of c. 105 BCE seem to be a strange and wonderful revival of a tiny denomination that seems not to have been regularly by the Roman mint in some fifty years, the previous issue containing this denomination being RRC 177 (PT or TP; uncia and semuncia of this issue not known to Crawford but documented by Russo 1998, 146, see Schaefer Binder 7, p. 136, bottom row of images, image second from left hand edge).

The semuncia was never that common of a denomination (or at least we can say has a very poor survival rate). There are only 22 total examples as far as I can tell. Of course, there are lots of semunciae in Italic coinage, but they don’t really come into this discussion.

Again correct me, if I’m missing some.

RRC 308/5 and RRC 315/2 both seem to harken back to RRC 160, not RRC 177 in that they have Diana as well. The vast majority of the struck semunciae of the earlier period have Mercury as their primary obverse type. The exceptions being RRC 39/5 (part of an atypical series) which may have Cybele or a turreted personification of Roma or Fortuna Romanorum, and the Dioscuri on RRC 98A/8 (but how someone decided this unique specimen in Naples belonged to this bronze series is not yet clear to me), and the Roma on RRC 177.

Crawford thought the head on RRC 316/2 was female and this seems likely given the necklace, but barring that the hairstyle and laurel crown recall Apollo and make me think of the odd uses of Apollo on bronze denominations in the late republic.

The other thing these coins make me think of are the wreathed AE coinages of Sicily under Roman rule. … I feel a book purchase coming on: I need something for reference on Sicilian coinage…

I should also mention that RRC 308, Herennius, is not likely to be 108 BCE like Crawford would have it. Here I’m not just relying on HB Mattingly’s pref for 104 BCE based on his alternate sequence of moneyers, but rather Lockyear 2018 which says that RRC 308 denarii are probably later in the overall sequence than Crawford suggested (PDF). This suggests that these semunciae are likely all made within a one to two year period.

Otherwise for dating in this 130s to 82 BCE Molinari 2016 is also critical (PDF).

Tomorrow if all goes well I’ll give you a post on unicae.

3 thoughts on “Semuncia”

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