Jump to content

A Trajan temple coin with a bit of a mystery


Limes
 Share

Recommended Posts

 

18.7.png.83066c5504869088526183335bdc924c.png

Hello everyone,

One of my latest acquisitions is an interesting (and in my opinion absolutely lovely!) AE As of Trajan, with a temple reverse. The identity of the reverse however is uncertain and various sources identify it differently. However, if the sources are compared, it seems the majority points in the same direction. A note before I start: when it comes to sources, I have to do with a limited amount. I don't have BMC or RIC, so I look online (acsearch, wildwinds, ocre). I do have some books (Sear, van Meter, etc) and of course there are articles online. So, if you happen to have sources that shed another or additional light on this matter, please feel free to add it in this discussion! 

My coin is an AE As, and there's also a sestertius version of this type. It caused a bit of confusion on my side, that both have the same RIC number: 575. There's also a dupondius (RIC 567) on wildwinds, and the reverse is described as showing the temple of Pax. It however looks the same as RIC 575. RIC 577 also shows a temple, but a different one with 'side porticos' that is mentioned by Van Meter in his book, unlike RIC 575. This coin shows the temple of Jupiter Victor. The 'temple coins' were not part of  the coinage commemorating Trajan's building projects, which includes coins showing the Via Traiana, the Aqua Traiana and the famous Forum of Trajan. Sear dates my temple AE As at 107 AD, just before the decennalia of Trajan. This appears to correspond with Clive Foss (p. 97) who mentions that the temples of Honos and Venus Genetrix had already been restored before that anniversary. The building of the Via Traiana for example, commenced in 109 AD. 

Now, about the sources: 

  • RIC: RIC identifies the temple shown on the AE as as the temple of Pax. The temple  is to be sought in the provinces. The sestertius (RIC  575) is identified as the temple of Venus Genetrix (via https://www.wildwinds.com). 
  • Sear (p. 112, 116):  Sear cites Hill, stating that the temple is the temple of Honos. The temple was part of the twin-temple complex of Honos and Virtue, and situated outside the Porta Capena in Rome's First Region. No remains are existent today (wikipedia). According to Sear, RIC 577 shows the temple of Jupiter Victor, at the north eastern corner of the Palatine. 
  • Hill: Philip Hill (pp. 9-10):  Hill refers to the large series of bronze struck by Trajan to commemorate his tenth anniversary, and identifies the figure as Honos (picture 1 shows the sestertius), since it is identical with on of the figures on the 'Honos and Virtus' types of Galba, Vitellius and Vespasian. Hill also states that it is impossible to identify the temple exactly, since details of the temple are lost, but because a large and imposing building is shown, we may assume it is the temple dedicated to Honos and part of the twin-temple complex with Virtus. (Do note the reference to the tents anniversary, which contradicts with Clive Foss.)
  • Clive Foss (p. 97, 102): Prior to his decennalia, Trajan had restored the temples of Honos and Venus Genetrix. Two coins show the restored temples: RIC 575 (sestertius and AE as) shows the temple of Honos (as and sestertius), and RIC 577 shows the temple of Venus Genetrix. 
  • Ursula Kampmann (2009) in Coinsweekly (https://coinsweekly.com/a-temple-for-honos/) identifies the temple as the temple of Honos. She theorizes that temple is shown on the coin because Trajan had received the title 'to the best of princes' by the people of Rome and the Senate.

Many auction houses follow RIC and identify the temple as the temple of Pax, or leave the identification vague and merely mention a 'temple with "Kultbild"'. 

Some question remain, however. For one, I don't understand why RIC differentiates between the temple of Pax for the AE As and the temple of Venus Genetrix for the Sestertius. Both statues look identical to me. Another issue is that Hill shows the sestertius in his book, mentions a 'large series of bronze', but does not mention the difference between the AE As and the sestertius as mentioned in RIC, and links the issue to the decennalia of Trajan (105 - 107 AD). Enough question remain to dive deeper into this coin, and other coins part of the series and the dating. If only I had more time .... 

Hoping to hear what other members of this board think! And please post your temple coins, your Trajan's or coins with a mystery! 

 

Books:
Sear, Roman coins and their values II, reprinted 2010.
Philip Hill, The monuments of Ancient Rome as Coin Types, 1989
Clive Foss, Roman Historical Coins, 1990
David van Meter, The handbook of Roman Imperial Coins, reprinted, 2000
Online:
Acsearch, wildwinds, coinweekly 

Edited by Limes
a million typo's...
  • Like 18
  • Thanks 1
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Architectural types are my favorites.  This one is a beauty with a bit of a mystery as a bonus.  In Monumental Coins, Marvin Tameanko puts forth a theory that the building of the temple may have been started by Trajan, who intended to dedicate it to Plotina, commemorating it on his coinage while it was still in the planning stages.  Perhaps it's a bit like Antoninus Pius building the temple for Faustina, and after his death, having temple re-dedicated by Marcus Aurelius to both Antoninus and Faustina.

Here's an excerpt from Monumental Coins where Tameanko lays out this theory, including his footnotes:

"According to the Augustan History, the temple in the Forum, dedicated to Trajan and his wife Plotina, was built by Hadrian after Trajan's death.2 The structure was monumental in size, and was surrounded by a precinct and two porticoes. The plan measured approximately 198 feet (60 m) long by 132 feet (40 m) wide, and the building was very lofty, perhaps with columns 60 feet (18 m) high. The temple sat directly behind the famous column erected to celebrate Trajan' s victories over the Dacians, on the long axis of the symmetrical plan of the Forum. Unfortunately, Hadrian never commemorated this temple on any of his coins. However, an unusual, lofty, octastyle Corinthian temple does appear on the coins of Trajan struck in A.D. 105-107. See RIC 575. This temple is depicted on the coins as being very high and with very tall Corinthian capitals. Philip Hill, in his work, identified this temple as an edifice dedicated to the deity Honos, but this attribution was based solely on the fact that the central cult figure holds a scepter and a cornucopia.3 Honos is shown with these same attributes on coinage of Galba, Vitellius, and Vespasian (RIC Galba 474, Vitellius 113, Vespasian 423). However, this is slender evidence for a conclusive identification of the temple, and another theory may be considered. Perhaps Trajan began his own temple in the Forum, intending to dedicate it to his wife Plotina, and he commemorated the temple on his coinage in 105-107 while it was still in the planning stages.4 Pre-construction dedication was a common propaganda practice for large imperial building projects. The statue on the coin could be Plotina, or even the emperor himself, holding an imperial scepter and a cornucopia to indicate his generosity to the people. If this was so, then after Trajan died, Hadrian, as the act of a grateful succeeding emperor, completed the temple and dedicated it to his predecessor. Therefore, Hadrian did not commemorate this temple on his own coinage because he did not actually build it."

2 Lives of the Later Caesars, the Augustan History, Hadrian 19.1, translated by Anthony Birley, Penguin Classics, London, 1976, page 78.
3 The Monuments of Ancient Rome as Coin Types, by Philip V. Hill, Seaby, London, 1989, page 9.
4 This theory is well explained in "Das Traiansforum in Rom", by Paul Zanker , in Archaologischer Anzeiger, 1970, page 499.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Zarco said:

Architectural types are my favorites.  This one is a beauty with a bit of a mystery as a bonus.  In Monumental Coins, Marvin Tameanko puts forth a theory that the building of the temple may have been started by Trajan, who intended to dedicate it to Plotina, commemorating it on his coinage while it was still in the planning stages.  Perhaps it's a bit like Antoninus Pius building the temple for Faustina, and after his death, having temple re-dedicated by Marcus Aurelius to both Antoninus and Faustina.

Here's an excerpt from Monumental Coins where Tameanko lays out this theory, including his footnotes:

"According to the Augustan History, the temple in the Forum, dedicated to Trajan and his wife Plotina, was built by Hadrian after Trajan's death.2 The structure was monumental in size, and was surrounded by a precinct and two porticoes. The plan measured approximately 198 feet (60 m) long by 132 feet (40 m) wide, and the building was very lofty, perhaps with columns 60 feet (18 m) high. The temple sat directly behind the famous column erected to celebrate Trajan' s victories over the Dacians, on the long axis of the symmetrical plan of the Forum. Unfortunately, Hadrian never commemorated this temple on any of his coins. However, an unusual, lofty, octastyle Corinthian temple does appear on the coins of Trajan struck in A.D. 105-107. See RIC 575. This temple is depicted on the coins as being very high and with very tall Corinthian capitals. Philip Hill, in his work, identified this temple as an edifice dedicated to the deity Honos, but this attribution was based solely on the fact that the central cult figure holds a scepter and a cornucopia.3 Honos is shown with these same attributes on coinage of Galba, Vitellius, and Vespasian (RIC Galba 474, Vitellius 113, Vespasian 423). However, this is slender evidence for a conclusive identification of the temple, and another theory may be considered. Perhaps Trajan began his own temple in the Forum, intending to dedicate it to his wife Plotina, and he commemorated the temple on his coinage in 105-107 while it was still in the planning stages.4 Pre-construction dedication was a common propaganda practice for large imperial building projects. The statue on the coin could be Plotina, or even the emperor himself, holding an imperial scepter and a cornucopia to indicate his generosity to the people. If this was so, then after Trajan died, Hadrian, as the act of a grateful succeeding emperor, completed the temple and dedicated it to his predecessor. Therefore, Hadrian did not commemorate this temple on his own coinage because he did not actually build it."

 

2 Lives of the Later Caesars, the Augustan History, Hadrian 19.1, translated by Anthony Birley, Penguin Classics, London, 1976, page 78.
3 The Monuments of Ancient Rome as Coin Types, by Philip V. Hill, Seaby, London, 1989, page 9.
4 This theory is well explained in "Das Traiansforum in Rom", by Paul Zanker , in Archaologischer Anzeiger, 1970, page 499.

That’s a really fun book and can be found on Amazon very cheaply. I’d recommend it to anyone that likes architectural coins.

Also a really cool OP coin. I really like it and would love to capture one! Here’s my only Trajan temple coin… a different temple!

TrajanAlexandriaEmmett581.JPG.d59f2f6ad065985cf8ed133a93064ec8.JPG
TrajanAlexandriaEmmett581Sideview.jpg.bcbeebc4e028fae96f59e466f315c240.jpg

Trajan
Alexandria. Year 15, 111-112 AD.
AYT TΡAIAN CEB ΓEΡM ΔAKIK, laureate bust right, with aegis.
Sarapis standing left, holding sceptre within distyle temple, stele at his feet.
Date LI-E across fields. Köln 590; Milne 670; Emmett 581.

Edited by Orange Julius
  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the comments! The theory posted by @Zarco by M. Tameanko sounds interesting. Coincidentally, I've corresponded with David about the book by forementioned author, and ordered it. I do wonder two things. One, is the possibility of the statue of beging of Trajan. Would this mean the statue would have been there before his death? I thought that worshipping living emperors at that time and in such an explicit manner was a taboo? Will have to look into that. Second, the explanation of Hadrian not having places the monument on his coins, could be the case, but is however not very strong, as many emperors before and after him have put monuments on their coins that they did not build, but finished, or repaired. Anyway, whatever the case, I'll doubt we will ever know for certain... 

@David Atherton, just wanted to add that your Domitian coin is absolutely magnificent. I have never seen it before, very rare indeed. An excellent addition to an excellent collection. 

@Orange Julius, thanks for sharing your imposing coin. It's a drachm, I assume? There are many, many temples depicted on provincial coins, its overwhelming. If I were to start collecting those, I think I'll be unable to ever complete it... 🙂

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very interesting coin, and background information on this post - thanks for laying it all out so clearly, @Limes.  A while back I posted something I discovered on Coin Talk - how about a Temple to the Deified Nerva?  

the whole thread is here:  https://www.cointalk.com/threads/my-newest-acquisition-temple-question.354584/

My CT post: 

Bringing up this old post because a while back I got an As of Trajan showing the temple and I was stuck on the Honos/Pax theories as outlined in this post. A chance discovery in a book I'm reading brought up another possibility: what about the Temple of the Deified Nerva? A very interesting work by Mary Taliferro Boatwright makes the case for this (the quote starts off referencing another Trajan temple series with a seated figure, which she discusses pp. 88-89):

"If the seated statue is to be identified as male (in the coins dated 105-107 A.D.), it is possible that Trajan did begin a temple here to honor Nerva. But given the time lag between the coin issues and the actual dedication of the temple by Hadrian, and the fact that the temple was dedicated to Trajan and Plotina without Nerva, it would be more plausible to assume that a different Trajanic series struck ca. 105-108, showing a standing male figure in an unidentified temple, depicts the otherwise unattested Temple of the Deified Nerva (footnote: BMC Emp. III, nos. 955-58). In addition to chronological arguments against assuming that the Temple was first destined for Trajan's deified blood father, we note again that there is no evidence that a temple ever honored this individual." Mary Taliaferro Boatwright, Hadrian and the City of Rome, (p. 92)

Heck if I know, but it is an interesting theory that I've seen nowhere else. Perhaps a high-grade example will emerge showing the figure in the temple with a very large, beaky nose? Here's my low-grade example:

Trajan - As Temple June 2020 (0).jpg
Trajan Æ As
(103-111 A.D.)
Rome Mint

[IMP CAES NERVAE TRAI]ANO AVG GER DAC PM [TR P COS V P P], laureate head right, drapery on left shoulder / [SPQR OPTIMO] PRINCIPI, SC in exergue, Pax (Honos? Nerva?) standing within octastyle temple.
RIC II 575; BMCRE 955.
(8.82 grams / 25 x 24 mm)
eBay June 2020

Even if you disagree with her Nerva theory, I highly recommend Boatwright's book in general; it is very readable yet very scholarly (including extensive numismatic references; I don't do justice to her footnote in the quote above).

https://www.amazon.com/Hadrian-City-Rome-Mary-Boatwright/dp/0691002185

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have the same type except mine is a sestertius

Trajan Ae Sestertius 107-108 AD Obv Bust right  laureate drapery on far shoulder. Rv, Facade of octastyle temple with cult figure standing within the two innermost columns. RIC 575 Woytek 302bD This Coin illustrated 25.18 grms 33 mm Photo by W. Hansentrajans26.JPG.8c1ec60af1ff79762dcab74dc47c357e.JPG

It is most likely a depiction of the Temple of Honos. On many reverses the cult figure is somewhat indistinct however on others the figure is clearly togate and carrying a cornucopia. On mine the togate figure is rather more clear but the cornucopia less so. Only one deity fits that general description  and that would be Honus, 

Denarius of Marcus Aurelius as Caesar Rv Honos standing facing head left holding branch and cornucopia RIC 429a 3.30 grms 19 mm Photo CNG E Auction 460 Lot 659  January 29 2020

4-8YKOV.jpg.7180c7777f0c59414607816abd3fdb32.jpg 

 

Note Woytek does identify the Temple as Honus? Elkins appears to come to no definite conclusion. Hill concludes that the Temple is one dedicated to both Honus and Virtus. I think much of the resistance to the idea that this edifice is a Temple to Honus revolves around the idea that such an imposing structure would be constructed for such a purpose. Further as Trajan does not explicitly state which deity is being honored it does create an issue. 

  • Like 10
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, kapphnwn said:

I have the same type except mine is a sestertius

Trajan Ae Sestertius 107-108 AD Obv Bust right  laureate drapery on far shoulder. Rv, Facade of octastyle temple with cult figure standing within the two innermost columns. RIC 575 Woytek 302bD This Coin illustrated 25.18 grms 33 mm Photo by W. Hansentrajans26.JPG.8c1ec60af1ff79762dcab74dc47c357e.JPG

It is most likely a depiction of the Temple of Honos. On many reverses the cult figure is somewhat indistinct however on others the figure is clearly togate and carrying a cornucopia. On mine the togate figure is rather more clear but the cornucopia less so. Only one deity fits that general description  and that would be Honus, 

Denarius of Marcus Aurelius as Caesar Rv Honos standing facing head left holding branch and cornucopia RIC 429a 3.30 grms 19 mm Photo CNG E Auction 460 Lot 659  January 29 2020

4-8YKOV.jpg.7180c7777f0c59414607816abd3fdb32.jpg 

 

Note Woytek does identify the Temple as Honus? Elkins appears to come to no definite conclusion. Hill concludes that the Temple is one dedicated to both Honus and Virtus. I think much of the resistance to the idea that this edifice is a Temple to Honus revolves around the idea that such an imposing structure would be constructed for such a purpose. Further as Trajan does not explicitly state which deity is being honored it does create an issue. 

Thanks for showing your sestertius. I believe you posted this before, its a lovely example with an impressive bust. 

Its interesting to think that for us it's a mystery who's temple we are dealing with here. But to think for the Romans; its likely that for them it was pretty clear what the Best of the Princes' did and what temple it was. So there's perhaps not need to make it explicit on the coins, just as long as its clear who did it. 

Edited by Limes
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...