Alföldi on Macer Bronzes (unauthorized translation)

Type under discussion is RRC 354/2-3

I mostly did this by machine but cleaned up here and there.

Original article

-P. 117-

“The badly minted, mostly badly preserved aces that bear the name of Macer, who became famous for his history, are extremely rare. Pierre-Philippe Bourlier, Baron d’Ailly, whose 20,000-piece collection is one of the great treasures of the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris, was unable to acquire a copy. None of them was known at all before the advocate Lovatti in Rome in 1865 presented the first piece from his own collection to a monthly meeting of the Instituto per la corrispondenza archeologica. Fortunately, Baron d’Ailly mentioned this coin in his still indispensable book Recherches sur la Monnaie Romaine depuis son origine jusqu’à la mort d’Auguste (II 2, Lyon 1868, plates 93, 5; cf. ibid. 535 ff .) reproduced in a reliable drawing. So we know that that first copy is identical to the As, which later came to the British Museum (H. A. Grueber,

-P. 118-

“BMC Rep. 3, Pl. 38.9; see 1, 320f.). Then M. v. Bahrfeldt reported a worn piece from the Vienna Federal Collection in his very useful work “Supplements and Corrections” (NZ 1896, Pl. 12, 287, cf. 99f.), And E. Babelon brought another copy to the drawing (2, 133 , No. 17 ), whose legend C. LICINI LF is not written from bottom to top, but vice versa. The fact that he valued this type at only 20 francs, although he was certainly aware of its great rarity, only shows that this shabby type of coin was of no interest to amateurs who collected from an aesthetic point of view. The whereabouts of this specimen are unknown to me. But I found another such as in the rich collection of the Kestner Museum in Hanover, an informative variant (with the legend from bottom to top) – probably from the estate of Bahrfeldt – which I will come back to in a moment. Baron d’Ailly has recognized (op. Cit.) that the anonymous asses with the general standing on the prow and the legend EX S.C. are also coined by Macer.

-P. 119-

“He has precisely cataloged 17 copies. From the variant with the coin letters affixed to the ship (our Fig. 3), he recorded the A, B, C, and I. M. v. Bahrfeldt also added those with E, I, K, O, Q and X. E. Babelon (1, 412, no. 45) attributed these asses to Sulla without justification and erroneously dated them to the year 82 BC. M. v. Bahrfeldt and H. A. Grueber have already rightly rejected this.

“Babelon called the standing figure of the reverse “Un légionnaire appuyé sur la lance”. But this pose is not that of a common soldier: it belongs to the iconography of the general. In the eighties of the last century of the Roman Republic, this figure can only have been one of two generals, Sulla or Marius. Since the well-known politician of the “People’s Party”, Licinius Macer, undoubtedly would not have allowed the proponent of an oligarchic regime to be put on his coins, only Marius comes into consideration. This knowledge can be deepened by looking at the depiction of the general.

“On the well-known variant with inscriptions (Fig. 2), the general stands on a short base, indicated by a horizontal line, which, as it is, makes little sense. Apparently this was also recognized in the mint, since the unlabeled variants (Fig. 3-5) were simply placed on the prow without this base. However, these positions do not correspond to the original plan. The latter is preserved for us on the As in Hanover (Fig. 1): the general is standing in a small ship. This is Marius called back by Cinna from Africa, whence he’s fled to avoid Sulla’s execution order. This interpretation fixes the date on a very short period of time: between the end of 87 and the beginning of 86, i.e. between Marius’ arrival in Telamon and his death in Rome.

Before I present these facts in the context of a detailed investigation with rich photo evidence, I would like to ask the carers and owners of coin collections to send me photos or casts of these asses of Macer – with a legend or anonymously: there will certainly still be pieces that I have so far are not known. My argument should gain much more accuracy by increasing the material.”

So I wonder if Alföldi ever followed up on this project, and/or if amongst his papers might be photos of unknown specimens of this type?

First reactions from me:

  • Dating logic is weak
  • Must look for this allusive small boat: The bad photo of the Kestner specimen below is disappointingly little help.
  • Marius as identifier of figure on reverse is plausible but likely would make it a statue, not the man himself returning.
  • Wow, that’s a lot of control marks and far more than seem to be in Schaefer’s archive
  • Are there other bronzes with control marks ? I cannot think of any off hand… But I can check! Looks like RRC 350A/3 is the only other bronze with a control marks.

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