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PANSA - Mask of Pan - 48BCE - My first Republican


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Every single coin in my collection is a Roman Imperial between the years of 70AD and 363AD. For the first time I have stepped out of this boundary, and even beyond the category of "Roman Imperial". This type has fascinated me for some time due to its historicity, but derives a piquancy from other aspects too! I paid £51 for this coin on an eBay auction (aulusplautius) and was surprised at the lack of competition I faced. I'd recently lost out on a lower quality example at the recent Naville auction, so I was keen to seize this opportunity.

The date of 48 BCE should be enough to raise the interest of anyone concerned with history. This coin was minted in the same year that the Battle of Pharsalus occurred, the battle that proved decisive for a Caesarian victory in the Civil War. Caius Vibius Pansa Caetronianus was the the moneyer for this issue and was a supporter of Caesar during this time. He was able to secure the rank of aedile or praetor this year through his friendship with Caesar that had arisen due to serving under Caesar in the Gallic campaigns. 

Pansa would prosper in the coming years and was designated for consul by Caesar in 44 BCE (for the year upcoming year 43 BCE) . Despite his support of Caesar which was reciprocated, it appears that Pansa was a Republican at heart. After Caesar's assassination in 44 BCE, he opposed the increasingly tyrannic behaviour of Marcus Antoninus as Consul, despite still supporting Caesarian legislation politically. Spearheaded by Pansa and his fellow Consul Hirtius, the decision was made by the senate to legitimise Octavian's new army and take the fight to Antoninus who was besieging Decimus Brutus and his troops in Cisalpine Gaul.. Again a man of realistic compromise, Pansa prevented Antony being designated an Enemy of the State and appeared to be doing his best to avoid total chaos.

In the ensuing conflict Pansa's forces suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Forum Gallorum, and Pansa himself received serious wounds in the fighting. The second stage of the battle between the Senatorial forces and Antony resulted in a victory for the former at Mutina. As Pansa was dying, he received news of this success and the death of his consular colleague. The deaths of the consuls left Octavian in charge of the senatorial forces and allowed him to act more freely and with more power in the ensuing political manoeuvring. As a result, Octavian was rumoured to have been involved in the death of Pansa.

Allegedly, in his final hours, Pansa told Octavian not to trust Cicero or the Senate. A realistic and pragmatic remark from a man who lived his life in like fashion.

The reverse depicts an interesting deity, Jupiter Anxurvs, the youthful protector of the town of Anxur. Perhaps related to the gens Vibia or Pansa's biological origin?

Another reason I like the coin is that it is quite funny. It is thought that the mask of Pan obverse is simply a reference to PANsa's cognomen. Pansa's (adopted) father was a moneyer in 90 BCE and had made the same joke back then! These masks could be used as decorative items, worn in plays, or for religious purposes.

I also had to research what exactly C.f and C.n mean. Turns out the coin communicates his ancestry and according to ForumAncientCoins, F and N are patronymics, F, filius, for "son of" N, nepos for "grandson of." Since Pansa's father shared his first name Caius, C.f means son of Caius. I couldn't find out his grandfather's name, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was Caius also.

All in all, this is a beautiful coin that traverses the time period between the Republic and the Principate. It was minted under a key player who was involved in the machinations of the most famous Romans. It is an interesting design, combining religion, culture, humour, a specific locality and a family in-joke that whose provenance goes back 50 years!

Post times you ventured out of your collecting niche and provide an explanation if you wish! Furthermore, if anyone has anything to add about my coin, it will be most welcomed! This is also my first attempt at taking my own pictures with a rubbish camera phone. I'll borrow my partner's iPhone for the next batch I think!

C. Vibius C. f. C. n. Pansa Caetronianus AR Denarius. Rome, 48 BC. Mask of bearded Pan to right; PANSA below / Jupiter Axurus (or Anxurus) seated to left, holding patera and sceptre; C•VIBIVS•C•F•C•N IOVIS•AXVR around. Crawford 449/1a; BMCRR Rome 3978; RSC Vibia 18. 3.56g





Edited by Steppenfool
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Great addition and great start!

I started with Republicans in a similar way (as my main collection was based on Imperial and Provincial coins). First I bought a quinarius


Simply because i found it interesting and the price was low. But I was checking the RR sections in auctions and was very interested in the unique designs, many with various symbolic elements from history or mythology. This was the coin that truly started my Republican journey.


L. Censorinus 82 BC. Rome
Denarius AR 17 mm., 3,73 g.
Crawford 363/1d; Marcia 24; Sydenham 737
Obverse Type: Laureate head of Apollo right
Reverse Legend: L•CENSOR
Type: Marsyas walking left, naked with right arm raised and holding wine-skin over left shoulder; behind, column bearing statue of Victory. Banker’s marks on legend


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I'm in the same boat with regards to being captivated by the interesting designs. I actually discovered this type because I was looking for a Silenos coin as I love the "Wisdom of Silenos" mythological event mentioned in Plutarch's Moralia and attributed to Aristotle. I quote it below:

Midas, after hunting, asked his captive Silenus somewhat urgently, what was the most desirable thing among humankind. At first he could offer no response, and was obstinately silent. At length, when Midas would not stop plaguing him, he erupted with these words, though very unwillingly: 'you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature's excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should be our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.' It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.

In the midst of searching for a Silenos, I widened my search to "satyr" types. Then after losing out on one at Naville, I stumbled across this on eBay.

I know that there is a Mask of Pan/Silenos variant from Pansa's father and I hope to get one of them eventually. They are very expensive however. 

Like you say, it seems Republican denarii represent a trove of historical and cultural knowledge if you don't assume they are all Head of Roma types!

@jdmKY Your Pan coin is beautiful and looks a lot more human/life-like than my example. Mine definitely looks like it belongs in a theatre but yours for more serious religious rites! Lovely gold touch to it too gives it a divine air.

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13 minutes ago, Steppenfool said:

Like you say, it seems Republican denarii represent a trove of historical and cultural knowledge if you don't assume they are all Head of Roma types!

I agree. I do not own a large Republican collection at all (18 coins - 14 of them being denarii) but they are all unique in design and I think the engravers did not lack skill and imagination at all.
What I don't like about Republican denarii (and most specialized collectors will not agree) - I find the types with Roma / a biga/triga/quadriga boring. I have none. There is a big change I will not buy one, unless I find one truly appealing and at a bargain price.

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A great purchase, @Steppenwolf, and welcome to the fascinating world of Roman Republican coins!

Here's my example of the type, together with an explanatory footnote:

Roman Republic, C. Vibius C. f. C. n. Pansa Caetronianus, AR Denarius 48 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Mask of bearded Pan right; below, PANSA / Rev. Jupiter A[n]xurus, laureate, barechested, seated left on throne, holding patera in right hand and long scepter in left hand; on right, C•VIBIVS•C•F•C•N curving downwards; on left, IOVIS • AXVR curving upwards. Crawford 449/1a, RSC I Vibia 18 (ill.), Sear RCV I 420 (ill.), Sear Roman Imperators 20 (ill. p. 14), BMCRR 3978, Sydenham 947. 19 mm., 3.75 g.* (Purchased from Silbury Coins, UK, Sep. 2020.)


*Caius Vibius Pansa, son of Caius and grandson of Caius, was Consul in 43 BCE. (Crawford p. 465.) According to Grueber in BMCRR (pp. 509-510 at n. 1), he was a supporter of Caesar, and governor of Bithynia and Pontus in 47 BCE, striking coins at Apamea and Nicaea. He was killed in battle in 43 BCE before the town of Murina. 

The mask of Pan on the obverse is a pun on his cognomen, Pansa. (Crawford p. 465.) The figure of Jupiter A[n]xurus on the reverse (see the reverse legend) refers to an association of the moneyer’s gens, Vibia, with the town of Anxur (now Terracina). (See id.)  The town is in Latium on the Tyrrhenian sea, about 98 km. southeast of Rome. See BMCRR at p. 510 at n. 1, stating that in Anxur “there was a special cult of Jupiter, whose temple was situated on the highest point of the city, and who was represented as a youth, handsome in features, and of perfect form; a representation suggested by the type of the coin.” See also John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) at p. 153, under entry for Jupiter.

I'm not sure exactly what that is sticking out of Jupiter's right heel; perhaps just some sort of sandal decoration?



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Moneyer issues of Imperatorial Rome. C. Vibius C.f. C.n. Pansa Caetronianus, 48 BC. AR Denarius (17mm, 4.04g, 12h). Rome mint. Obv: PANSA, below; Mask of bearded Pan right, with decorated hairpiece; pedum behind Rev: IOVIS · AXVR · upward on left, C · VIBIVS C·F[·C·N] downward on right in straight line; Jupiter Auxurus seated three-quarters left, holding patera and scepter. Ref: Crawford 449/1b; Sydenham 948; Vibia 19. Good Very Fine, nice cabinet toning. Ex Harlan Berk.


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