11 out of 234 days: Aes Grave outside Peninsular Italy

Ugly screen shot of the interactive Google Earth project you are welcome to view

I was collecting bibliography yesterday and was impressed with the running theme of specimens found outside Italy. The Croatian finds don’t surprise me too much because of the Mazin hoard with its roman currency bar fragments (so called aes signatum, see #NotAllElephants). I’d tentatively relate the fragmentary nature of the find in Switzerland to a similar phenomenon. Martínez Chico is right to emphasize the military camp finds at La Palma from the Prow series and events of 2nd Punic War to explain eastern Iberian find patterns and I’d transfer that logic to all the yellow dots in Sicily. The green dots (series 14 and 18) on the Sicilian eastern coast remind me of the patterns noted by Jaia and Molinari 2011, i.e. the association of these early series with the fortification of the Tyrrhenian seacoast line.

The nice thing with building this sort of representation in Google Earth is I can keep adding to it as I come across more references.

ILL still hasn’t given up any treasures as of yet.

The other thing from this morning of note is that the Portuguese variant of RRC 18/1 has Apollo facing left on both sides. I’m concerned however that I don’t understand Martínez Chico assertion that there are two already known variants, A and B. As far as I can tell this is just about the photographer’s choice, but maybe I’m being dense….

link to publication

It is demoralizing to see the same things on my to do list as yesterday. It isn’t that I didn’t do any of the things, I touched them all. It’s just they all need to be touched again. As is the nature of the work. Progress is the key.


  • First steps on Aes Grave project – collect more bibliography
  • More Italy visit logistics
  • More AAH logistics
  • Book flights
  • More BM communications
  • Schaefer follow up
  • follow up with Lafayette

Not Today (but maybe tomorrow, or the day after)

  • Teaching requests for Fall 2023
  • Circle back to department about any Jan planning meetings
  • Set time table for any collaborative RRDP work/publication prep that needs to happen this semester: Chicago pub, INC pub, collaboration with RACOM, etc…
  • Circle back to Capito project
  • Consider ask for funding from Dean’s office
  • Begin Med school rec letter
  • record mini myth
  • find out what is on that v old harddrive and back up to cloud
  • Write up Teaching Eval
  • Rosen Fellowship refs – Jan 16
  • Cancel at least one more digital membership
  • renew Coinarchives
  • Review grad student apps by Jan 19

297 out of 410 days: Acorns again.

ANS specimens of RRC 21/7 = HN Italy 294. Click image for full details.

Last time I was worrying about acorns, I was mostly on about RRC 14/7.  This is the other ‘heavy’ acorn.   Many of the specimens on the market do seem ‘heavy’ for being a 1/24th piece of a 265g as, or at least a quick scan suggests, but the ANS specimens are lighter: 11.75-13.9g.  They are not so heavy that they seem particularly problematic in the weight standard, cf. the ANS uncia specimens of the series which are all much heavier.

My interest was peaked by how they show up in this hoard:

Image links to source publication. Marks in red are my annotations.  [Note: the correct citation for the Nola bronze is HN Italy 607.  Also see below for discrepancy between this report of the hoard and that in IGCH.]
So here RRC 21/7 is hanging out all by its lonesome with a bunch of RRC 14s and 18s.    I’m not really sure why RRC 21/7 couldn’t go with the RRC 18 series.  The types of RRC 21 echo the obverse types of RRC 14, so that would make the acorn fit with RRC 21. Must take a look to see if we have any other hoards with RRC 21/7 out in the cold…

I’m also sure I’m being influenced by how RRC 14s and 18s are often found in hoards together on their own; another great publication surveying this phenomenon is online.

Here’s Burnett 1977 on the importance of the above hoard:

Image links to online version of the publication.

If the statement about the semuncia being contemporary with the Roma/Victory didrachms is true this would pull this hoard’s date down to the end of 1st Punic War based on Burnett’s 2006 reading of the San Martino in Pentilis hoard.   The presence of the Minerva/Cock types and the Aesernia types with the subsequent Man-faced bull issues leads me to think this is a hoard from a transitional phase between the two.  I’d be inclined to agree with M. C. Molinari that it predates both the Pratica di Mare and Teano Hoards…

Okay, here’s one more complication.  R. Russo in Numismatica Sottovoce proposed that RRC 16, 17, and 23 were single series (23 = double unit, 16 = unit, 17 = half unit) minted at Neapolis after the Battle of Beneventum. This seems too early to me and I hesitate to break RRC 23 away from it Messane mint connection.   But neither of these points directly challenge them being a series.



But if RRC 16 was really contemporary with RRC 17 that would detract from M. C. Molinari’s ordering of these three hoards as RRC 16 is present in Pietrabbondante…  I find myself leaning more away from Russo’s idea of a series.

Mattingly’s reading of the Pietrabbondante hoard is here but I think it’s mostly out of date given the evidence of the San Martino in Pentilis evidence.

Something seems to have gone wrong in the transcription of the hoard totals in the above publication.  Here’s the entry from IGCH:


Note that the number of  uncertain have been attributed to Neapolis above and the 126 of Neapolis have been missed out.   I don’ t think it overly affects the interpretation of the hoard in source publication.  The original publication of the hoard  with all the details has been digitized, although it takes forever to load.

288 out 410 days: Heavy Acorns

In trade
RRC 14/7. Semuncia circa 280-265, Æ 14.36 g. Acorn. Rev. Σ. Haeberlin pl. 40, 23-27. Aes Grave 40. Sydenham 14. Thurlow-Vecchi 7. Historia Numorum Italy 274.

Crawford say on p. 40 of CMRR:

Andrew Burnett acutely points out that the weight standard  of the semunciae of the first issue of cast bronze [sc. RRC 14] makes it clear that they represent a point of transition to the second, which is heavier than the first (the reasons are mysterious).

This point is still raised in serious scholarly works such as Alessandro Maria Jaia and Maria Cristina Molinari’s NC piece of 2011 (p. 90).   How exactly does this work?  And what does it mean?

Here’s Crawford in RRC vol 2 p. 595:


I’m still unclear on the whole subject (hence the blogging about it…).  Does it mean that the heavy semuncia of RRC 14 shows a tendency to think about the pound as heavier than 322g?

A 322g as should have a 13.42 ish semuncia as its the 1/24th denomination.

In the ANS collection, the weights are: 19.47, 13.43, 23.78(!), 14.76.

A search of acsearch.info, returned these numbers: 18.49, 14.36, 23.51.

Not a large sample size but woah that’s some variation in the data.   And three, maybe four, of these seven specimens weigh enough to be a plausible weight for a uncia in the same series.

The ANS collection has RRC 14/6 specimens weighing: 20.2, 25.73, 29.33, 22.76, 19.64, 20.79, 25.22.

So what about the ‘heavy series’ RRC 18, no semuncia for comparison but we do have an uncia.  And remember on weight standard of 334g we should expect as weight of about 27.83 g for the 1/12th piece.

The ANS weights for RRC 18/6 are: 18.1, 18.42, 21.51, 26.13, 28.15, 32.57, 22.97, 39.36, 23.61

Holy variation, batman!  But again four of our RRC 14/7’s would fit comfortably into the lower end of this observed data set.

Time to step back and ask a really basic question.  How do we know its a semuncia and it goes in this series?  I opened up Crawford’s list of the Nemi finds.  Not one example of RRC 14/7.  There are for context 50 specimens of other RRC 14 denominations including 11 uncia (weights for the four specimens in Nottingham = 28.19, 27.04, 26.77, 27.46, cf. weights of RRC 18/6: 19.96, 29.09, 24.86, 28.55).  Jaia and Molinari 2011 (link above) have an appendix of all the hoards of just RRC 14 and 18 aes graves (i.e. those that should have an early closing date).  No semuncias. Not surprising really, small change isn’t the most desirable for hoarding.

Well, there is a big sigma on it, right?  That has got to stand for semuncia.  And we’ve got the comparative evidence of RRC 21/7 with an acorn and sigma on each side.  Still.  The weights bother me.  And it also really bothers me how much the type looks like the obols of Mantineia:

ANS specimens. Click image for full refs.

One heck of a coincidence.

And I’m not really less confused that when I started writing this post, but I do have a mad urge to start collecting a big spreadsheet of specimen weights.  I’ll resist for now.

Update: See now also this newer post on related material.



277 out of 410 days: agri quaestorii and Rome’s first issue of cast bronze coins?

RRC 14/1. 358.81g. ANS 1969.83.385. Gift of E.R. Miles.

In CMRR, Crawford first uses the evidence of the Nemi finds to place the RRC 14 finds ‘no earlier than about 280’.  He then goes on: “One may speculate that the need to administer the agri quaestorii acquired in 290 (Lib. Col. 253, 17L; 349, 17 L) played a part in the decision to produce the first issue of cast bronze coinage.” (p.40-41).

To wrap my head around the plausibility of this I turned to Roselaar’s Public Land in the Roman Republic (2010).  She gives a good definition and survey of ager quaestorius (p. 121-127).  On 290 BC she says:


Even if we go ahead and concede the land around Cures was sold shortly after 290, I have a hard time following the logic of how the sale of land is made easier by the creation of coinage.

The other issue muddying the waters regards agrarian issues in this period is the parallel and in precise testimony that M’. Curius Dentatus distributed land. Viris Illustribus has a good mash-up of various accounts.  First after conquering the Samnites he says in a contio  ” I took so much land that it would have become a desert, if I had not taken so many men. I took so many men that they would have starved, if I had not taken so much land.” (33.2)  Then, he gives 14 iugera of land the people (which we do not learn) and only takes so much for himself saying, “there was no one for whom this amount was not sufficient”. (33.5-6)  The latter echoes a pithy saying of his found in Plutarch, but where we are offered no context for it. Valerius Maximus says only seven iugera were given out, but also makes a moral out of the general taking no more than the rest.  Pliny has the very same nugget:

The words, too, that were uttered by Manius Curius after his triumphs and the addition of an immense extent of territory to the Roman sway, are well known: “The man must be looked upon,” said he, “as a dangerous citizen, for whom seven jugera of land are not enough;” such being the amount of land that had been allotted to the people after the expulsion of the kings.

Then at the end of the mini bio in Viris Illustribus (link above) we’re told he’s given 500 iugera by the public for his services (33.10).

And, just to add to the mix we should remember that his campaigns in the Po is said to have led to the founding of the colony of Sena which would have also included land distributions (Polybius 2.19).  The Periochae of Livy don’t have a land distribution, but do have the colonial foundation.

Cato the Elder, and Cicero after him, loved Dentatus as the epitome of the rustic Roman, military man and farmer, happy to conquer everyone in sight and still eat a simple stew from a wooden bowl. [Cincinnatus, anyone!?] The literary sources care FAR more about the bon mot than the distribution.  I don’t think we can nail down a context for it.

Thus, I think this is just a fun rabbit hole with very little promise for finding a context for the aes grave.

That’s not to say Dentatus is completely useless to us when we’re thinking about early contexts for making coins:

6. in the four hundred and eighty-first year from the founding of the City, Manius Curius Dentatus, who held the censorship with Lucius Papirius Cursor, contracted to have the waters of what is now called Old Anio brought into the City, with the proceeds of the booty captured from Pyrrhus. This was in the second consulship of Spurius Carvilius and Lucius Papirius. Then two years later the question of completing the aqueduct was discussed in the Senate on the motion of the praetor. At the close of the discussion, Curius, who had let the original contract, and Fulvius Flaccus were appointed by decree of the Senate as a board of two to bring in the water. Within five days of the time he had been appointed, one of the two commissioners, Curius, died; thus the credit of achieving the work rested with Flaccus. The intake of Old Anio is above Tibur at the twentieth milestone outside the* Gate, where it gives a part of its water to supply the Tiburtines. Owing to the exigence of elevation, its conduit has a length of •43,000 paces. Of this, the channel runs underground for •42,779 paces, while there are above ground. substructures for •221 paces.

I’d not like to connect this aqueduct to any one issue but like the construction of Via Appia, big infrastructure projects and the establishment of colonies are easier if the state has an easy means of making payments.

Map of the course of the Aqua Anio Vetus