Some Habits at SE Italian Mints? Signing Quaestors and Overstriking?

HN Italy 718. Venusia. ‘double-nummus’. Image from Burnett, ‘La monetazione di Venosa…’ (1991), 4.1.

This post is hot on the heels of the last.  There is a lot going on in the numismatic world of SE Italy during the Hannibalic War.  I wish I had a copy of Marchetti’s Histoire économique et monétaire de la deuxième querre punique (1975) to hand.  I can’t let go my concerns about the CA series and its attribution to Canusium, especially when the Latin colony Venusia just 40km up the same river valley and on the Via Appia (the better road!) was Marcellus’ base of operations and thus hosting many soldiers in need of payment. So I thought I’d peak at the Venusian coins–I can’t type Venusian without smirking and thinking of hippy-dippy alien theorists–but in all seriousness I observe a couple of things:

  • The quincunx, teruncius, biunx, and sescuncia are all reported as being overstruck on other issues (HN Italy 720-723).
  • The coin above is signed by a quaestor with the initials CA.

No this isn’t  a smoking gun, but if I was a Roman general looking for a mint in the Aufidus region I think I’d pick a colony near a troop base on a main road, even if they were a little lazy about not recasting flans.

Burnett, and HN Italy following Burnett, read GA.Q, not CA.Q, but C/G are pretty much the same letter form in this period and most subsequent ones.  The letter forms are different from the CA on Roman coins and I can’t actually bring myself to say RRC 100 is actually close in ‘style’ to any of the Venusian specimens I’ve looked at.

This is not the only coin in the region that seems to be signed by a quaestor.  Reportedly (I’ve not seen an image) Naples, S.2219 = HN Italy Brundisium 749 reads M.PV Q.   Brundisium is also a Latin colony and a major military staging post in this period of the second Hannibalic War.  In fact it seems THE major port and certainly M. Valerius Laevinus’ original base before he started his cross Adriatic shenanigans.   Brundisium’ coinage is signed by a bunch of magistrates.  And most of M.PV’s coins aren’t labelled with a Q.

These two instances of quaestors at Latin colonies got me thinking about quaestors and coinage more generally.  As I’ve said before, there isn’t a lot of evidence on 3rd century quaestors generally and that part of what made the signed Egadi rams special, but here are two more quaestors.

Are they local quaestors?  Probably, the lex Osca Bantina of the late second early first century BC mentions quaestors in its list of magistrates and it is thought to derive from an earlier Venusian prototype (Bispham 2007: 142-152, p. 143 n. 124 lists other examples of Italian communities borrowing the structure of Rome’s magistracies).  That said, Badian in his 1975 article on the quaestorship spent a lot of time thinking about the Roman expansion of the quaestorship and the growth and change of the coinage system.  These two minor examples might lend a little weight to the idea of a third century connection between coinage and quaestors.  And might help point the way towards how we should be thinking about some of the unidentified signatures on Roman series. …   Early posts on quaestors.

Yes, I’m still laughing about ‘Venusian’:

A useful map:

From Fonda, Between Rome and Carthage (CUP 2010): xx; note especially the indication of the limits of river navigation!

A slightly clearer image of the coin above taken from Carroccio 2008:


295 out 410 days: Third Century Quaestors and The Fleet

[If you click on the title of a post it will take you to a full page view of that post making it easier to read the images of text clippings.]


This is again from the Tusa and Royal article I keep coming back to (p. 44).  Prag is Jonathan Prag of Merton College, Oxford.  I came back to this passage after reading this portion of Walbank’s Commentary:


The Livy Epitome (15.8)  is really so short as to be down right useless:

Quaestorum numerus ampliatus est, ut essent octo.

The number of quaestors was doubled so that there were eight.

But Lydus, On Magistrates (1.27) is more interesting:



Modern critical edition, translation, and commentary available here (p. 41-45).

Relevant bibliography:

Le Bohec, Yann. – La marine romaine et la première guerre punique. Klio 2003 85 (1) : 57-69 carte.

Harris W. V. – The development of the quaestorship, 267-81 B.C. Classical Quarterly 1976 XXVI : 92-106. Abstract: There were two new quaestorships in 267, not four, as usually supposed, and they probably shared some of the duties of the quaestores urbani. Two more quaestorships were added for Sicily and Sardinia, and in 197 the total was probably raised to ten, a figure maintained until Sulla. The quaestores classici of 267 probably represented a tightening of Roman control in Italy.

The Quaestor and his General

So I was reading about Tiberius Gracchus and came across the account of his dealings with the Numantines in Plutarch’s Life:

After this campaign he was elected quaestor, and had the fortune to serve in a war against Numantia under the consul Caius Mancinus, who was not bad as a man, but most unfortunate of the Romans as a general. Therefore in the midst of unexpected misfortunes and adverse circumstances not only did the sagacity and bravery of Tiberius shine forth all the more, but also — and this was astonishing — the great respect and honour in which he held his commander, who, under the pressure of disasters, forgot even that he was a general. For after he had been defeated in great battles, he attempted to abandon his camp and withdraw his forces by night; but the Numantines became aware of his attempt and promptly seized his camp. Then they fell upon his men as they fled, slew those who were in the rear, encompassed his whole army, and crowded them into regions that were full of difficulties and afforded no escape. Mancinus, despairing of forcing his way to safety, sent heralds to the enemy proposing a truce and terms of peace; 3 but the enemy declared that they had confidence in no Roman save only Tiberius, and ordered that he should be sent to them. They had this feeling towards the young man not only on his own account (for he was held in very high esteem by the Numantine soldiery), but also because they remembered his father Tiberius, who waged war against the Spaniards, and subdued many of them, but made a peace with the Numantines, to the observance of which with integrity and justice he always held the Roman people.  So Tiberius was sent and held conference with the enemy, and after getting them to accept some conditions, and himself accepting others, effected a truce, and thereby manifestly saved the lives of twenty thousand Roman citizens, besides attendants and camp followers.

This outstripping of one’s commander in diplomacy seems so oddly reminiscent of Sulla receiving Jugurtha’s surrender while Marius’ Quaestor.  Then there is also Scaurus’ claim to have defeated Aretas of Nabatea while Pompey’s proquaestor.  How odd is all this behavior? We could throw into the mix testimony of the decree of Lampsacus honoring their ambassador Hegesias.  Hegesias travels nearly the breadth of the Mediterranean in his efforts to secure Roman favors for his city.  He leave no stone unturned and is usually quoted for his use of kinship diplomacy mythical and otherwise.  For our purposes though we should note that he takes very seriously his diplomatic engagement with a quaestor, even after having dealt with higher ranking officials.

Update 28/11/2013: Or maybe it is a literary topos?  Consider the same characterization by Plutarch of Gaius Gracchus‘ actions in Sardinia as Orestes quaestor.  I owe the reference to the discussion by Garnsey and Rathbone in JRS 1985.  They emphasize how Gaius may have borrowed from his experience as quaestor in his grain legislation.

Update 5/7/2014: Here’s another instance of possible interest.  Snippet from Brennan, Praetorship (2000) 226:



This is the coin type that occupied me much of last Thursday.  The interest comes from it being a potentially non-Italian instance of an oath-taking scene.  Such scenes appear during the Hannibalic War on both Roman coinage and that of certain Campanian cities which sided with the Punic forces.

And was resurrected by the Romans probably about 137 BC:

But was then famously the iconography was taken over by the Italian allies during the Social War in the 80s BC when they broke with Rome.

The swearing of an oath on a pig to seal a treaty is well attested as part of Italic culture, perhaps most famously at the Caudine Forks incident.  The legend of the type had previously been read on less clear specimens as FETIA and thought to refer to the fetiales, the priests associated with religious declarations of war and solemnizing the peace.  All these ‘oath scene’ coins have been associated with the fetiales in the past.  That’s somewhat problematic as such an oath could be sworn by the generals without such priests (again, see Cicero on the Caudine Forks oath).

Anyway, the new specimen above clearly reads EETI- and all the other reverse die specimens I’ve seen could be read the same way.  EETIA must be Latin as the letter combination is unattested in Greek.  It’s none too common in Latin.  If the word begins EETI- one thinks of the various legendary kings and heros named Eëtion.   They are associated with the Greek mainland or Asia Minor.  Leypold said he bought his specimen in Amisus and because small bronzes don’t tend to travel far its usually attributed to that location or the general region.   No other specimens find spots are known.   The lack of a diadem or garland on the obverse head has lead to the assumption it was a portrait of a Roman commander.  Speculation then commences about possible Roman commanders active in Asia Minor.  The Roman certainly experimented with coinage in the region.

As we puzzle out the legend we might recall that “Accian” Vowels, i.e. the reduplication of vowels to indicate their long vowel length, do appear on Republican coins.  [This type of vowel is discussed by Lucilius.]

And, even on provincial issues from Macedonia:

For the type of the last see BM catalogue.

One other clue might be visable on this rather awful specimen:

On this specimen one can see what I think might be a Q under the obverse head.   Q or PRO Q is a relativelycommon addition special issues and military coinage of this period.  We’ve seen two examples already above.  Here are two more from the Crawford sequence:

I grabbed this last example because of the placement under the bust.  If there wasn’t the assumption that it was from Asia Minor, I would have speculated Italic or at least Western Mediterranean origins.  The type is closer to the Campanian imagery of two figures holding a pig above the ground than any of the Roman or Marsic scenes.

But finally, given that there only seems to be one obverse die and maybe about four reverse dies amongst all the specimens, not to mention the scarcity of the type, this must be a very low volume production.  Why put all this energy into its manufacture?!  Who benefited?  Is it purely an ideological statement?  If so, towards whom is it aimed?