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 cf. RIC Valerian II 13-14 (specimen in trade)

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


Continued in a new post!

3 thoughts on “Late Unciae”

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