More complicating numbers for Esty model…

I can’t tell if I’m procrastinating writing or doing do diligence but I realized I couldn’t say really what I wanted to say in this article without engaging more with Buttrey’s Crepusius data. Buttrey was ‘missing’ 171 reverse die numbers.  Schaefer’s archive is only missing 114.  A big improvement!

BUT Esty’s formula thinks that estimate is way too high:


By contrast I also ran RRC 360 (also one die per control mark and the controlmarks used are numbers).  Here Esty’s model seems nearly perfectly right on for our predicted number of missing dies:


I’m so uncertain what to make of this.





Academic Ethics, the Coin Trade, and an Unpublished Hoard


I have so many feelings about the role academics play in the trade in antiquities, some ethical and legal, some unethical but legal, some both unethical and illegal.  I want to always find myself of the right side of the ethics in this.  And, this example just shows how murky it all is.  Buttrey was one of the nicest, smartest numismatists I ever met.  A good good human being.  In this instance, his private correspondence has resulted in this coin have a very very high price.

The hoard from which it came, as far as I can tell, was never published.  Was it found in Lebanon? Israel? Palestine? Jordan?  Syria? Egypt? Turkey? Levantine is pretty broad!! What else did it contain besides some (unspecified amount of) Athenian tetradrachms (of unspecified date) and this one coin of Euesperides and the other of Barce?

I’m grateful the auction house provided so much detail in this catalogue entry (they didn’t when they sold the Barce coin two years earlier); but the details are just enough to scholars get a sense of how much more is missing and how much more historical knowledge could have been gained from the now dispersed hoard.

Buttrey acting in good faith and with only the interests of furthering numismatic study helped reward those who have deprived us of this historical information.  And that makes me sad.  I don’t want to make the same mistake.

Link to coin specimen.


Historical notes on 79 BCE

Sulla is probably no longer dictator and is a private citizen.  From DPRR:

” The date when he abdicated his dictatorship remains in dispute. There are four possibilities, all of them to some degree confused in our sources, because he was consul in 80 and became a private citizen at the earliest at the end of 80 and might have remained dictator until the election in 79 of the consuls for 78 (see MRR 2.82, note 1). The possibilities are as follows: (1) he abdicated with his legislative program largely completed upon entrance into office as consul of 80; (2) he did so at some time during his consulship, or (3) at the end of his consulship; or (4) in 79 before or after the elections for 78. Badian believes that Appian (BC 1.103-104) confused the abdication with the scene of his return to private life, and notes that he is never termed consul and dictator together and that the constitutional task (he was Dictator r. p. c.) had been largely completed in 81. Badian therefore favors the beginning of his consulship in 80 (Historia 11, 1962, 230; Athenaeum 48, 1970, 8-14), and finds support in the implications of a clause in Cicero, Rosc. Amer. 139, posteaquam magistratus creavit legesque constituit, sua cuique procuratio auctoritasque est restituta, and in the statement in Plut. Sulla 6.5-6, quoted from the Memoirs, that his colleague, Metellus Pius, Cos. 80, was # in a partnership of office. But some military resistance continued and neither the reforms nor the colonization were wholly completed. Twyman, noting Appian’s tendency to have magistrates take office immediately after election, opts for the middle of 80 after the elections for 79 (Athenaeum 54, 1976, 77-97, 271- 295). In any case a date after 80 seems quite improbable.”

Pompey likely triumphed. From DPRR:

“According to the Periochae of Livy and Eutropius, Pompey, who was born on September 29, 106, triumphed at the age of 24, but Granius Licinianus, who dates his birth in 105, has him triumph at 25, and the Auct. Vir. Ill. at 26. Sallust however, who attributes to the Consul of 80 the bill for his recall from Africa, and Frontinus, who mentions the Consuls of 79, make 79 a practically certain date for the triumph. See Degrassi 564. (Broughton MRR II)

Propraetor (Gran. Lic. 39B). Returned from Africa to celebrate a triumph pro praetore for his victory there (Cic. Leg. Man. 61, of. 28; Pis. 58; Phil. 5.43; Auct. Bell. Afr. 22.3; Liv. Per. 89; Voll. 2.40.4, and 53.3; Val. Max. 8.15.8; Lucan 6.817; 7.685; 8.24; Plin. NH 7.95; 8.4; 37.13; Plut. Pomp. 14.3-6; Crass. 7.1; 12.1; Sert. 18.2; Apophth. Pomp. 5; App. BC 1.80; Gran. Lic. 39B; Auet. Vir. Ill. 77.2; Eutrop. 5.9.1; Jerome Chr. ad ann. 78, p. 152 Helm; Zonar. 10.2, and 5; of. Frontin. Str. 4.5. 1). See Degrassi 564; and D. -G. 4.341-346. (Broughton MRR II)”

The difficulty with this seems to be the opinion of Rich 2014 who places this triumph in 81/80 BCE.  But that doesn’t seem to go into reasons for dating…  Grr.

Rich, J. (2014) ‘The Triumph in the Roman Republic: Frequency, Fluctuation and Policy’ in Carsten Hjort Lange & Frederik Juliaan Vervaet (eds.) The Roman Republican triumph : beyond the spectacle. 197-258. Rome.

[More to come…]

Esty Complicated

So I’m through all my die counting and math add now need to write some interpretation of what I’ve found.  I was hoping to replicate the black magic of the last post in my count of RRC 383/1, instead I found a complicating set of data.  So RRC 383/1 is famously 1 countermark 1 die and is numbered first 1-170 (Crawford only knew through 169) and also A1-A129.

Again using the Schaefer’s Archive I ran Esty’s statistics.Capture.JPG

What I don’t love is that Esty’s model predicts that we’re missing 25-36 dies.  Counting unattested numbers in each sequence I predict 47 dies are missing.  Not that close, not that close at all…

I might (I fear) have to talk to a statistician to try to understand what is going on.

Esty Affirmed?!

My mind is literally blown.

I’ve just run the counts and the stats of RRC 282/1b where the reverse dies have letters and numbers.  Along the way I counted dies missing in the sequences.  So where letter of the alphabet or on number in the order was not in Schaefer’s archive but would be predicted logically to exist.  I found 35 die names that I would predict to exist that I’ve not seen (yet).

Esty’s formula would estimate with 95% accuracy that we are missing 34-23 dies.


This is pretty damn close and makes me exceptionally relieved.

But those of you in the know are saying  What?! How can that be?! Crawford says that there are more than one die be controlmark?! This is true and untrue.  Leaving aside 382/1a which you’ll just have to wait to read about in this article, on 382/1b repeats (i.e. multiple dies with same symbol) are unknown for alphabetic controlmarks and are exceptionally common for dies below xxxx in numerical control marks (80% of the numbers are known to have more than one die. Most have only two dies: there are only four numbers that have 3; none have more) BUT exceptionally rare for xxxxi-ccxxvi (only 2 instances or just over 1%).

I have never been so glad I spent an incredibly boring morning counting and checking through a batch of coins.


Papius stats

This is all in the works for a peer-reviewed co-authored journal article but I wanted to blog about it to get thinking and write out my initial reactions.

I’m using Esty’s formula to estimate the original number of dies using Schaefer’s photo archive.

And the results bother me slightly.  There are very few singletons.  18 if one includes everything, 12 if one is really feisty and excludes everything that looks a little ‘off’.  Statistically for coverage it doesn’t really matter:


The thing that bothers me is the estimate of total dies and the assumption that we’re missing between 33-35 dies.  The reason this bothers me is because one of the dies has a number 246 as its symbol.  And it feels like the number should be the last die carved, but that is an assumption based on nothing but a sense that if they were going to abandon symbols and do a number, a big number that number would be the last set of dies carved.  line of the chart above is how many specimens would need to be observed without any new dies found to make the estimated total number of dies match the number on the coin.  It’s 3 times the number of observed  coins so far.

246.jpg246 2.jpg