Dream Collections

I remember someone telling me about a numismatist who only collected photos to assemble a dream collection of the absolute best coins for illustrating a type. Perhaps you can remind me. If I were to build a dream collection this photo would be a good contender to illustrate RRC 232/1 (138 BCE, date confirmed by Molinari 2016):

In trade

A denarius that never was?

I’m writing up my notes-thoughts on RRC 290/6 for the paper on small change for the RBW conference next week. I just wrote this sentence:

The unciae looks like the type was designed to be used on a denarius that was never struck.

As I stare at the two known specimens I wonder if I see traces of the uncia denomination mark having been carved out of what was meant to be an X behind the head. Or maybe its just confirmation bias…

The third known specimen is no use as this portion of the die is off flan.

Comfort Classics: Liv Mariah Yarrow

I’m honored and delighted to have been interviewed for this initiative that helps us all remember why we do what we do.

Classical Studies Support

The world is in a state of upheaval at the moment, and we’re all looking for things to make us feel less anxious. Maybe Classics can help.

Today’s interview is with Liv Mariah Yarrow

Is there a source from the ancient world that you find yourself coming back to when you want to feel better?

I really like browsing images.  I can get lost in pretty much any database that will show me objects from the ancient world just looking at the iconography.  Coins are my specialty, but for real comfort I want see something I’ve never seen before.  It is the little thrill of an image puzzle and connecting the dots in my mind between the new (to me!) object and what I already know or have seen before.  I’m always on the hunt for a new database I’ve not yet exhausted, but I keep coming back to the

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Lex Papiria – disputed date?

So all the ELP and LPDAP issues are listed as c. 91-90 BCE by Crawford. Mattingly concurs about would put them all in 90 BCE.

No numismatist I know of has had a problem with this date, It didn’t cross my mind as even a question until moments ago when I decided to try to figure out which Papirius it was who was responsible for this law. Crawford knew Broughton’s dating but doesn’t directly address the issue.

What does Broughton say? He thinks the law goes in 89 BCE and to C. Papirius (34) (Cn. f.) Carbo.

Crawford would attribute it to this guy’s brother Gnaeus, Tribune of 92 or 91. The was the same Carbo that was consul three times and thus obviously was a major Marian/Cinnan partisan: 85, 84, 82. This brother ends up proscribed by Sulla and executed by Pompey. By contrast the Tribune of 89 was a Sullan partisan likely holding the praetorship in 81 BCE under the dictatorship and in 80 his own troops mutinied against him and he died.

So was it the Marian or the Sullan brother who brought this legislation. Crawford puts weight on the fact that the reduction in the bronze was a ‘cost saving’ measure in the face of the Social War. They didn’t NEED to strike bronze at all (esp. in a lot of little denominations), so why even bother if one is trying to cut costs. The ELP sestertii now those seems like they might be useful in a crisis, I guess, kinda, no I don’t buy that all…. Too few to actually be part of any real economic strategy or plan. BUT The denarii of the series that made ELP types, Silanus and Piso, are huge, absolutely part of a war effort and Social war makes the most sense.

So the Marian soon to be Cinnan is our guy. Just as Crawford said, but maybe not precisely for the reasons he says. But I need to go pull the Numismatic Chronicle 1964 article to see the details. More after that.

Patterns in SC issues

I’m guessing I’m not the only one to flip to p. 606-607 in volume 2 and feel a little frustrated that the list of names has no RRC numbers, isn’t in RRC order, and has no dates. This stuff happens. I was looking to annotate my physical copy but it turns out I’d already at some earlier date annotated my scan a bit and that need fleshing out.

Some stray thoughts on this annotation

Cetegus is only known from two coins, Laterensis from one. They muddy the big picture.

I think given that Sergius and Torquatus are quaestors; We should probably consider whether the Q on the issue of Ti. [mouse/rat] (RRC 297) means that that too is a quaestor issue. I think the DSS must be correlated with these abbreviations esp. given its appearance on coins of C. Cassius and L. Salinator.

It is also esp. noteworthy how little SC (etc.) is used before the Cinnan regime and mostly then by quaestors. Then it seems adopted from the Cinnan regime by the Sullan allies. The function of its use in the 70s is messy and deserves better investigation. It then is correlated from 69 onwards with Aedilician issues (an other innovation of the Cinnan regime continued). There is the flurry of SC issues with Pompeian imagery (venus victrix etc) in the mid 50s. And then we slide into civil war. I find myself starting to think SC issues are more exceptional/crisis moments than I thought before. The only place its hard to see whats going on with reference to historical circumstances are the 70s but the 70s are always a little bit of a black hole because Cicero isn’t in full swing and Sallust’s histories are lost…

Hmm… I’ve strayed from my writing goals but still learned a good deal.

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.

Innovations in the late bronze

This is a stray thought before I prep a little zoom talk on the Seleucid for my students. What if at all is the connection between the small change introduction and all the ‘funny’ design variations we see on the late Roman bronze issues? Is there one? It seems there must be something underlying both forms of creativity with the coinage….

This lovely specimen was up on my screen when I opened my computer this am and thus inspired this stray thought. Its RRC 342/7f. Of this issue only the As is creative.

Wondering why I’m all in about SF and Myth which seems a little off brand? I auctioned my organizational skills for charity last Fall and now I am rendering services to the highest bidder, which is fun and educational. And organizing and being game for a good cause are certainly on brand.

Also, I’ve given up exclamation points for Lent. If I slip, I will pay forfeit to a charitable cause. Feel free to remind me if you notice one of the forbidden pieces of punctuation.