Reverse of RRC 382/1b. ANS 1944.100.1925

There are two coins in the Roman republican coin series and one from Teanum from the time of the First Punic War that display a triga, a three horse chariot.  All have Victory (Nike) as the driver.  I’ve always found this a rather weird design as opposed to the biga or quadriga (2 and 4 horse chariots), but not worried too much about it.  For my previous thoughts on these coins and more images follow this link.

Anyway, as I settled back in Dionysius this morning (It’s Yom Kippur today.  No classes and thus a much welcome writing day from me!), I came to this passage in his description of the ludi Romani:

 In the chariot races two very ancient customs continue to be observed by the Romans down to my time in the same manner as they were first instituted. The first relates to the chariots drawn by three horses, a custom now fallen into disuse among the Greeks, though it was an ancient institution of heroic times which Homer represents the Greeks as using in battle. For running beside two horses yoked together in the same manner as in the case of a two-horse chariot was a third horse attached by a trace; this trace-horse the ancients called parêoros or “outrunner,” because he was “hitched beside” and not yoked to the others.  (Dion Hal. 7.73.2)

I think this well explains the one horse on the Roman republican coins looking back at the others as if it were loose.  This may be trying to represent the trace horse.  I might also want to investigate further a connection between the moneyers of RRC 299/1 and 382/1 and these ludi.  It also makes me revisit my earlier thoughts about trying to connect the Roman triga to the Teanum triga.  Perhaps this is a mistake as the Teanum coins do not seem to attempt to represent the third horse as on a trace.

So finally after a very long time this blog says something about coins again.  That feels good.  I’m sad I’m not in Taormina but 5.5 month old twin girls and a full teaching load are not really compatible with mid-semester international travel….

Nuceria Didrachms

The Prospero Collection of Ancient Greek Coins. ITALY. Ca mpania , Nuceria Alfaterna (c.250-225 B.C.), Silver Didrachm, 7.25g,. Oscan legend, head of Karneios facing to left, with ram’s horn, a small dolphin behind. Rev. Dioscouros standing facing, head turned to left, beside his horse, holding the reins and a thyrsos (SNG France 1102 (these dies); Sambon 1008; SNG ANS 560 (these dies); HN Italy 608).

So I’d been revising my thinking on the Cora didrachm a bit of late and that made me wonder if I needed to also think again about Nuceria issues.  Crawford lumps them together, speculating it was a means of distributing booty.   I was pleased to see Nuceria specimens next to Suessa specimens in this hoard even if they will be much earlier than its deposition date:



The original 1912 publication is much more detailed.

Update 4/16/2014:  When thinking about Nuceria and Cora and how their striking relates to that Teanum, Suessa, and Cales, don’t forget the silver didrachms of Paestum, again very rare and the jury is still out on dating (HN Italy 1180).   Image here.


296 out of 410 days: Revival Reverses?

Appius Claudius Pulcher, T Manlius Mancinus and Q. Urbinius; Denarius 111 or 110, AR 3.98 g. Helmeted head of Roma r.; behind, quadrangular device. Rev. Victory in triga r.; in exergue, T.MANL.AP·CL·Q·VR. Babelon Manlia 2 and Claudia 3. Sydenham 570a. Crawford 299/1b.
T. Quinctius. Denarius 112 or 111, AR 3.92 g. Bust of Hercules seem from behind, head l., club above r. shoulder. Rev. Desultor to l.; behind, B. Below horses, TI – Q on sides of rat l.; in exergue, D·S·S incuse on tablet. Babelon Quinctia 6. Sydenham 563. Crawford 297/1a

So this is a pretty left field thought.  But as I’m thinking about the coins of Teanum I can’t help but think how weird it is to have a triga, a three-horse chariot.  It’s not really a well known or convenient hitching configuration.   One could speculate that it comes from copying a quadriga type like that found at Selinus or other Sicilian mints where the front horse rather obscures the next one so that it almost looks like a three horse configuration.

And then it occurred to me that we do get a few trigae on the republican series.  The first (above) is within a year or so of the first desultor type as well. You’ll remember we discussed desultores in relation to Suessa’s didrachms that parallel Teanum.  And those two coins above are also with in a year of the type of Torquatus that looks so much like the bronzes of Larinum.   Is there a Cales parallel? Cales just used the victory in a biga, a type all over the republican series so calling one specific issue an echo of Cales would be non-sense.  Or just more non-sense than my other non-sense in this post!

Could there have been a little fad for drawing inspiration from old allied coins of the Punic Wars at the end of the second century?  Probably not.  Let’s call it a fun coincidence.

Update 4/18/14: I came back to this post briefly when I read this passage in Woytek’s chapter in Metcalf’s Handbook (p. 326):


Ritter, H. W. (1982). Zur römischen Münzprägung im 3. Jh. v. Chr. Marburg.

Update 4/30/14:  On die engravers making errors in the number of horses they carve when copying a prototype, see:

Hollstein, Wilhelm. – Ein kurioser Quadrigatus im Kestner-Museum Hannover. NNB 1996 45 (9) : 8. AP Abstract: Among the Quadrigati the museum (=> 60-10031) is a specimen (No. 107), in which the Quadriga has five horses with ten front, but eight hind legs.


Two Hints about Mint Output at Roman Allied Communities during the First Punic War

Looking again at the coins of Suessa, Cales, and Teanum, especially specimens which have been on the market, it occurred to me how heavily used the obverse dies seem to be, especially at Teanum:

Even after the obverse die break in ways to mar the face of the god portrayed they keep on being used.  Such intensity is not consistent with a ‘vanity project’ but instead with a more rushed economically driven agenda.  Not a bad die study opportunity here.  [The last two are the same obverse die as this Fitzwilliam Specimen; interesting specimen with a prow mint symbol at CNG site].

The other curiosity that might hint at wide circulation (and by extension striking in some significant volume) is the fact that the Boii of the Po river valley (aka Cisalpine/Transpadine Gaul)  borrowed the type of Cales’ bronzes for an obol silver issue:

The specimen above is called a ‘drachm’ and the catalogue notes the assignment to the Boii is provisional.  (We need a few good hoards or excavation finds…)

This last one is listed as possibly from the Danube region.


294 out 410 days: Obverse Legend Variants on Mercury Type at Suessa

Historia Numorum Italy no. 448 is listed with just one legend PROBOM. (P is actually closer to a Π with a short right leg. Note open form of R. These features consistent throughout).  A specimen with clearly this legend is illustrated in the plates. Most of the specimens in trade are from different dies with variant readings:




The meaning of the legend is unclear.  HN Italy suggests it comes from probus, meaning valid.  Although the basic meaning ‘honest, good’ seems fine to me too.

It is connected to a similar legend at Beneventum on a type, the imagery of which is a mirror image of RRC 15/1 (HN Italy 440):

SAMNIUM, Beneventum . 265-240 BC. Æ 20mm (7.03 gm). BENVEN-TOD, laureate head of Apollo left / PR-O-P-OM, horse prancing right; pentagram above. SNG ANS -; BMC Italy pg. 68, 1; Sambon 193; SNG Morcom -; Laffaille -. Image from CNG.

The correct resolution of the legend may be aided by consideration of the variant spellings observed.

Beneventum became a Latin colony in 268 and Suessa in 313.  These coins are associated with the First Punic War.  Hercules wrestling the Nemean Lion is a common enough artistic theme, known especially at the mint of Heraclea Lucaniae and occasionally at Tarentum.

Addendum.  I wasn’t really happy with the probum meaning ‘approved’ as it seemed a strange thing to me to write on a coin.  Out of keeping with typical legends (ethnics, magistrates, mint marks, the very occasional labeling of the image).  I even tried to convince myself Probus could be an epithet or title for Mercury or something.  I didn’t manage.  Just a red herring.  But … then I remembered the inscriptions on the Egadi rams of a roughly contemporary date.

Egadi 1: C(aios) Sestio(s) P(ublii) f(ilios) / Q(uintos) Salonio(s) Q(uinti) [f(ilios)] / SEX VIROEN[-?–] / probave[re].


Egadi 4& 6 have identical texts: M(arcos) Populicio(s) L(ucii) f(ilios) / C(aios) Paperio(s) Ti(berii) f(ilios) / Q(uaestores) p(robavere)

We’ll known more once the inscriptions are published on there own, but for now the use of the probo, probare, probavi on the rams is enough to let me think probum on the coin is more plausible than I first thought.

[Disturbingly, if you google image search, ‘Beneventum Apollo Coin’, the first image that returns of the coin is hosted on some satanic-esque website obsessed with pentagrams.  Reminded me of a time a student of mine unwittingly submitted a project full of images from some awful white power website. Appropriation of the past to support modern ideologies is a dangerous thing, especially on the intertubes.]

Cora didrachm

AR didrachm of Cora. c. 275-250 BC. head of Apollo l., laureate; horseman r., wearing conical helmet and spearing downwards; below, KORANO (see below). HN Italy 247. Drawing after Paris specimen. from Millingen’s 1831 publication.

I was surprised to have so much trouble finding an image of this type.  Thus I thought I’d throw up this bad screen shot and link just to help the next numismatist so struggling.  HN Italy obviously knows more specimens than the Paris one as a weight range is given (6.1-6.4 g); I’ve not tracked down their locations.  Millingen, although wrong to re attribute the coin to Sora, was correct to see it paralleling issues of Cales, Teanum, and Suessa. See my earlier post.

Update 10 April 2014:  I’ve revised my thinking on this issue.  I”m not sure it really parallels the issue of  Cales, Teanum, and Suessa that well.  Key differences in my mind are the lack of any additional symbols on the obverse and the placement of the legend on reverse in the field not in an exergue.   It is also missing from the San Martino in Pentilis hoard which has decent number of all three of the others.  I am thus skeptical we can really associate this coin with the others and by extension with the 1st Punic War.

Update 7 January 2015: A specimen from Naples was published in the same piece that gives us our first look at RRC 2/1.  Isn’t that fun!?  Images link to original publication.  Based on this photograph I’m inclined to say that the HN Italy reading of the legend is in error.  It should be CORANO not KORANO.  Also HN Italy does not mention the palm branch (?) behind Apollo’s head.  The hat shape of the rider seems distinctive.



284 out of 410 days: Rostra

Egadi Ram 1. Click for link to RPM Nautical Foundation information page.

I was re-reading Tusa and Royal’s ‘landscape of the naval battle at the Egadi Islands (241BC)’ JRA 2012 and it struck me how right Eric Kondratieff was to draw a parallel between the iconography of this currency bar and rostra:

He made the argument for two rostra instead of two tridents on the basis of the Athlit Ram, a much more distant iconographic parallel, but that was before the Egadi Rams all came to light!  All of the Egadi Rams found thus far have a similar design on their driving center (see Tusa and Royal link above for the anatomy of the rams), but 1 provides the best visual parallel.  Given Egadi 1 has no specific provenience, it is harder to contextualize.  Tusa and Royal cautiously say:

“The clear differences in iconography, inscriptions and overall shape, combined with its unknown provenience, make an association of the Egadi 1 ram with the events of the First Punic War somewhat problematic.” (p. 45 n. 92)

And earlier they noted:

“Egadi 1 has the shortest driving center of the Egadi rams, being nearly identical in length to Egadi 5, yet has the longest tailpiece and the highest mid-length height and width. The reduction from the head to constricted waist is slightly greater than from the inlet. Given the ram’s significant increase in height from its constricted waist, it possesses the third tallest and second widest head. Its large head combined with a short driving center gives this ram a stubbier design than the others.” (p. 14)

Could it be earlier? Could it be later?  I’d speculate as to the former, but this is only a kneejerk instinct regarding the a likely general design trend from compact and short to long and thin.  Such speculation is likely unwarranted.  I could even argue against it via the ‘stubby’ appearance of the rostrum depicted on The Tomb of Cartilius Poplicola which dates to the 1st century BC (images are already up on my early post on prow stems).

William Murray, Age of Titans (2012), p. 52 gives a great illustration of a three-bladed waterline rams, just more confirmation of the rostra as the correct identification of the coin type.

Miscellaneous Post Scripts.

Another pre Egadi post Athlit publication that will be of interest to anyone interested in rams and rostra:

Also on Duillus and innovations and the coinage, see Morello’s summary of his Italian publication with useful diagrams by Andrew McCabe:

Update 3 April 2014.

See now also my post about the rostrum on the coins of Ariminum.