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DonnaML's Top Roman Republican Coins for 2022


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Even though I didn't buy nearly as many Roman Republican coins in 2022 as I had the last few years, I still find them as fascinating as I ever did, and still have a special fondness for the category. 

Out of my purchases this year -- which bring my current total of Roman Republican coins to exactly 80 -- I picked 13 favorites for this list. I'll post them in order of their Crawford numbers (in other words, in essentially chronological order), 10 tonight and the other 3 (including two I haven't even finished writing up yet!) when I can. (Before the New Year, I sincerely hope.)  In addition, I just wrote up two of tonight's group (#'s 2 and 7), and am posting them now for the first time, even though I bought them quite a while ago, one of them back in August!

You can mention any of the first 10 that you particularly like now, or wait until I've posted all of them! 

As always, my apologies for the great length of some of my footnotes. Please feel entirely free to skip them, and just look at the pictures!

1.  Roman Republic, M. Aurelius Cota [Cotta], AR Denarius 139 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right, wearing winged helmet ornamented with stylized representation of gryphon’s head, earring with three pellets, and necklace of pendants; hair arranged in three symmetrical locks; to right below chin, COTA; behind, mark of value X [after re-tariffing, thus = 16 asses] / Rev. Hercules in biga of centaurs right, holding reins in left hand and club in right hand; each of centaurs carries branch in left hand; below, M•AVRELI (AVR ligate); in exergue, ROMA. 19 mm., 3.78 g. “Removed from a ring mount; otherwise very fine.” Crawford 229/1b; BMCRR I 916-917 (& Vol. III Pl. xxvi. 2); RBW Collection 959 (ill. p. 201); RSC I Aurelia 16; Sear RCV 1 106. Purchased from Dix Noonan Webb Auction 253, 13 April 2022, Lot 1240; ex. Spink Numismatic Circular May 1984, No. 2625 at p. 125 (ill. p. 137).*

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*According to Crawford (Vol. I p. 263), the moneyer “is perhaps M. Aurelius Cotta, father of C. Aurelius Cotta, M. Aurelius Cotta and L. Aurelius Cotta, Co[nsuls] 75, 74 and 65; he may also be a younger son of L. Aurelius Cotta, Cos. 144 . . . , born therefore c. 160 or later.” 

Mattingly agrees with Crawford’s date for this issue: “M. Cotta. . . should go in 139. He was the father of three consuls of the 70s and 60s, and as the younger brother of the consul of 119 [another L. Aurelius Cotta], he must have been born ca. 160. Like C. Scribonius, he would have been moneyer at an unusually young age.” See the chapter entitled “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.” in Harold B. Mattingly, From Coins to History: Selected Numismatic Studies (2004) pp. 199-226 at p. 216.

Grueber notes (BMCRR I  p. 128 n. 1) that the L. Aurelius Cotta who, according to Crawford, may have been the moneyer’s father and was consul in 144, was also tribune of the plebs c. 154. He states (id.) that the moneyer may also have been descended from the M. Aurelius Cotta who was legate of L. Cornelius Scipio, B.C. 189, during the war against Antiochus the Great.

Insofar as the reverse design (Hercules in a biga of centaurs) is concerned, Grueber stated in 1904 that it “has not been satisfactorily explained” (BMCRR I p. 128 n. 3). 70 years later, Crawford characterized it as still “extraordinarily obscure” (Vol. I p. 263). See also John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London, 1990), entry for Centaur at pp. 50-51: "A denarius of 139 BC (M. Aurelius Cot(t)a) has the unusual reverse type of Hercules driving a biga drawn by centaurs. If this is anything more than a variant on the regular scene of Hercules driving a chariot as a symbol of victory, the reference is not now understood." [TLDR: "We have no idea what this is all about."]

Perhaps surprisingly given the rather prominent place held by centaurs in Greco-Roman mythology -- including more than one battle or other encounter between Hercules and various centaurs such as Chiron and Nessus (see http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Ca-Cr/Centaurs.html ; https://www.greeklegendsandmyths.com/centaurs.html; https://stefanosskarmintzos.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/centaurs-and-centauromachy-in-the-greek-world/ ) -- this coin is the second and last of only two occasions on which a centaur or centaurs appeared on a Roman Republican coin. (The first was Crawford 39/1, a bronze triens issued ca. 217-215 BCE with a reverse depicting Hercules fighting a centaur.) Crawford rejects Babelon’s theory that the reverse refers to family history, namely the victories of M. Aurelius Cotta, Scipio’s legate, over Antiochus at Thermopolyae in 191 BCE, by means of an allusion to the mythical battles of Hercules with the Centaurs in the same geographical area: “It is not recorded that the Legate played any major part in the victory nor is it likely that he was senior enough to do so.” Id. Instead, Crawford cites parallel examples of Hercules drawn by centaurs as an artistic motif, and suggests that the coin type “should be regarded as an artistic variation of a normal Hercules in a biga type, perhaps chosen to highlight Hercules as a conqueror.” At BMCRR I p. 128 n. 3, Grueber cites Babelon as noting “a certain resemblance” between this reverse and the reverse type of Juno in a biga of goats issued by C. Renius at around the same time (see Crawford 231/1, minted in 138 BCE), and suggesting that the two moneyers could have been colleagues at the mint. Or, perhaps they merely shared the sense of the absurd – and/or connectedness to myth -- that appears throughout the history of Roman Republican coinage, in depicting bigas drawn by a wide variety of animals and mythical creatures other than horses.
 

2. [New Write-up] Roman Republic, Q. Marcius Philippus, AR denarius Rome 129 BC. Obv. Head of Roma right with winged helmet; behind, * [X with bar through it = XVI monogram] / Rev. Horseman galloping right, wearing Greek armor and high-crested helmet, holding reins in left hand and lance in right; behind, Macedonian helmet with goat horns; below, Q • PILIPVS; in exergue, ROMA. Crawford 259/1; RSC I [Babelon] Marcia 11; BMCRR Vol. I 1143; Sydenham 477. 17 x 19 mm., 3.86 g. Purchased from Künker Auction 377, 20 Oct. 2022, Lot 5524, ex The Mark & Lottie Salton Collection (with old collector’s envelope).*

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*“The moneyer is doubtless the grandson of Q. Marcius Philippus, Cos. 186 and 169.” See Crawford Vol. I at p. 285. See also BMCRR Vol. I at p. 175 fn. 1, pointing out that Q. Marcius Philippus was sent as an ambassador to the Macedonian king Philip V in 183 BCE, and campaigned in Macedonia against Philip’s son Perseus in 169 BCE.

Crawford continues his discussion of this type at p. 285: “The helmet with goat’s horns on the reverse seems to be the distinctive headdress of a Macedonian king . . . . It doubtless alludes, by way of the Macedonian monarch who made the deepest impression on the Roman mind, Philip V, to the moneyer’s cognomen, Philippus. The origin of this is of course unknown and unconnected with the Macedonian royal house. But this allusion is entirely intelligible . . . ; the moneyer may have thought of it because of his family’s friendship with Philip V. The horseman on the reverse, whose helmet is completely different from the helmet with goat horns, is perhaps more likely to be divine than human; he resembles one of the Dioscuri and it is just worth recalling that this issue is contemporary with the plebiscitum reddendorum equorum, by which Senators were forbidden to retain the equus publicus . . . , and that the Dioscuri were the patrons of the Equites.

 

3.  Roman Republic, C. Servilius Vatia, AR Denarius, 127 BC. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged helmet with star on helmet’s neck-piece, triple-drop earring, and beaded necklace; below, ROMA; behind, lituus; under chin, mark of value (* = XVI ligate = 16 asses) / Rev. Horseman [M. Servilius Pulex Geminus, see fn.] with plumed helmet, cape flowing behind, and shield inscribed M on upper half, charging left and piercing with his spear another horseman fleeing left before him, but turning back towards first horseman with shield in right hand and sword raised in left hand, as his horse (seen from behind) loses footing; in exergue, C•SERVEIL (VE ligate). Crawford 264/1; BMCRR II 1166 (ill. BMCRR III Pl. xxx No. 4); RSC I Servilia 6 (ill. p. 88); Sear RCV I 140 (ill. p. 100); Yarrow pp. 100-101 (ill. Fig. 2.52) [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]; RBW Collection 1069 (ill. p. 221) (2014). 19 mm., 3.81 g. Purchased from Savoca Coins 133rd Silver Auction, 15 May 2022, Lot 297; ex Savoca Coins 124th Silver Auction, 23 Jan. 2022, Lot 385.*

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*The authorities agree that “the reverse type of the denarius probably refers to the propensity for single combat of the moneyer’s ancestor, M. Servilius Pulex Geminus, Cos. 202 [citations to Livy and Plutarch omitted.]. . . . The letter M on the shield thus stands for Marcus.” See Crawford Vol. I p. 289. As RSC elaborates at p. 88, based on a footnote in BMCRR I (p. 179 n. 2), “The horseman represented here is M. Servilius Pulex Geminus, who was elected Augur in B.C. 211 and who filled that office for about 40 years and who was consul in B.C. 202. He is said to have received wounds in twenty-three single combats and to have been victorious in all.” See also Yarrow p. 101, emphasizing the importance of the way in which Pulex’s opponent is portrayed: “For Pulex, the raised sword of the fleeing horseman . . . illustrates the ‘frontality’ of his own scars in contrast to those he inflicted (Figure 2.52). The depiction of the horse from behind draws inspiration from Hellenistic battle scenes, such as the Alexander mosaic (House of the Vetii, Pompeii), which places such a horse at the very center of its composition.”

 

4.  Roman Republic, C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, AR Denarius 125 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged Phrygian helmet with crest in form of head and beak of eagle (i.e, griffin); behind, ROMA downwards; before, mark of value * (= XVI) [off flan] / Rev. Jupiter, crowned with wreath by flying Victory above, in biga of elephants left, holding thunderbolt in left hand and reins in right hand; in exergue, C•METELLVS (ME ligate). 17 mm., 3.90 g. Crawford 269/1, BMCRR I 1180-1182 (& Vol. III Pl. xxx 8), RSC I Caecilia 14, Sear RCV I 145. Purchased from Dix Noonan Webb [now Noonans] Auction 253, 13 April 2022, Lot 1247; ex. Spink Numismatic Circular Dec. 1985, No. 8404 at p. 334.*

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*The moneyer “is presumably C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, Cos. 113” (Crawford Vol. I p. 293), who was born ca. 160 BCE, and served under Scipio Aemilianus at the siege of Numantia in 133 BCE in the Third Punic War; he died sometime after 102 BCE. BMCRR I p. 182 n. 1; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Caecilius_Metellus_Caprarius.

For the biga of elephants on the reverse, Crawford refers (see Vol. I p. 293) to his explanation (id. p. 287) of the elephant head on the reverse of Crawford 262, a coin issued by another moneyer from the Caecilius Metellus family: the reference “recalls the victory of L. Caecilius Metellus, Cos. 251, over Hasdrubal at [the Battle of] Panormus in 250 [BCE], and the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants.” As Grueber notes in his discussion of the elephant biga design, the captured elephants were afterwards exhibited at Metullus’s triumph at Rome. BMCRR I p. 182 n. 2.  

In addition to C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, a number of other moneyers belonging to the Caecilii Metelli issued denarii with elephants or elephant heads to commemorate their ancestor’s famous victory. See Crawford 262/1 (Anonymous, probably Caecilius Metellus Diadematus or Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus, 128 BCE); Crawford 263/1 (M. Caecilius Q.f. Metelllus, 127 BCE); Crawford 374/1 (Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, 81 BCE); and Crawford 459/1 (Q. Caecilius Metullus Pius Scipio, 47-46 BCE).

 

5.  Roman Republic, L. Porcius Licinius, L. Licinius Crassus and Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, AR Serrate Denarius, Narbo Mint [Narbo Martius colony (Narbonne), Province of Gaul], 118 BCE [year of Narbo’s founding].* Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged helmet, necklace, and drop earring, with hair in two curling locks extending down from helmet; L•PORCI upwards in front; LICI downwards behind followed by mark of value * [= XVI asses] behind neck / Rev. Naked, bearded Gallic warrior [possibly Bituitus, king of Arverni; see 2nd fn.] driving galloping biga right, holding shield with criss-cross pattern, dragon-head carnyx, and reins in left hand, and hurling spear with right hand; in exergue, L•LIC•CN•DOM. Crawford 282/5; BMCRR I Rome 1187; RSC I Porcia 8 (ill. p. 81) [this type is also RSC I Licinia 15 and Domitia 19]; Sear RCV I 158; see also Yarrow p. 110 & Fig. 2.68 at p. 113 [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]; RBW Collection 1110 (ill. p. 229); Foss p. 2 (The Republic No. 2a) [Clive Foss, Roman Historical Coins (Seaby, London, 1990)].  20 mm., 3.39 g., 8 h. Purchased from Roma Numismatics Ltd., E-Auction 96, 5 May 2022, Lot 893 (from “Vitangelo” Collection).**

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*On stylistic and other grounds, Mattingly argues for a somewhat later date, ca. 115-114 BCE. See See Harold B. Mattingly, “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.,” in From Coins to History (2004), pp. 199-226 at pp. 210-211.

**See Sear RCV I at p. 106 regarding the five different types of Crawford 282, i.e., this type (Crawford 282/5) and Crawford 282/1-282/4: “This extraordinary issue, distinguished by flans with serrated edges, was minted at the newly-founded city of Narbo, the first Roman colony in Gaul. The two principal magistrates (Licinius Crassus and Domitius Ahenobarbus) produced their coins in association with five junior colleagues” – one subtype for each of them, in this case L. Porcius Licinius. For each subtype, the junior magistrate’s name appears on the obverse and the two principal magistrates’ names appear on the reverse. See also Crawford I p. 298. 

For identification of the three moneyers/magistrates named on this type, see Crawford I pp. 298-299:

“The L. Licinius who is one of the two senior monetary magistrates was surely the L. Licinius Crassus responsible for the [founding of the] colony . . . . [and] was Cos. 95; Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus seems to have struck coinage as moneyer also (no. 285) and to have been Cos. 96. Their junior associates did not have distinguished careers - . . . . L. Porcius Licinus is presumably the grandson or great-grandson of L. Porcius Licinus, Cos. 184.” See also BMCRR I pp. 184-185 n. 1 (re the two senior magistrates); p. 185 n. 1 (re L. Porcius Licinus).

Regarding the scene on the reverse, Crawford states as follows at Vol. I p. 299: “The accoutrements of the figure in the biga forming the reverse type are purely Gallic (note the carnyx and the criss-cross pattern on the shield, similar to those on [Crawford] no. 281/1[issued by  M Fovri L.f. Philus]. . . . The figure is clearly a Gaul . . . ; that the figure is the Gallic king Bituitus, captured by the father of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus according to the probably mendacious account of Valerius Maximus . . . and Eutropius . . ., seems incapable of proof.” Contra BMCRR I pp. 184-185 n. 1: “The reverse type, which is common to the coins of all the moneyers of this issue, records the victory in Gaul of Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, the father of the [magistrate], over the Allobroges and their ally, Bituitus, king of the Arverni, who is represented in his chariot. Bituitus was shortly afterwards taken prisoner by C. Fabius Maximus, and figured in Rome in his own chariot of silver at the triumph of Fabius.” RSC I (3rd ed. 1978), although published post-Crawford, continues to follow this interpretation. See id. p. 18 (note to Aurelia 20).

Without addressing the specific identity of the Gallic warrior on the reverse of this issue, Yarrow places the scene in context; see Section 2.2.6 at pp. 106-108, 110:

“The Roman concern to honor both the gods and their ancestors for their military successes and the territorial hegemony those victories had granted to the populus Romanus required the development of a very specific visual language. The desire was not to communicate a general celebration of the divine or of militarism but rather to hold up as exempla specific deeds as proofs of Roman (and familial) exceptionalism. To this end, the Romans chose to appropriate symbols associated with the strength and prowess of their enemies and transform them into an iconography of Roman conquest: falcatas (Iberian-style swords), torques, elephants, camel cavalries, and Macedonian shields all fall into this category. Just as actual torques, carnyces (Gallic dragon-shaped war trumpets), shields, and falcatas were displayed in Rome as the spoils of war – dedicated in temples and hung on the houses of the generals as lasting testimony to the victories – so too the alien symbols on the coinage testify to the defeat of a specific formidable enemy. This desire for iconographic specificity was not, of course, particular to the Romans, and they borrowed heavily from Hellenistic precedents for their choice of symbols. What is unique is the breadth, nuance, and frequency of this symbolic repertoire. While use of these and similar symbols was not originally limited to the coinage, given how few other Republican monuments survive, coins remain our prime means of tracing this development. . . .

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6.  Roman Republic, L. Memmius, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 109-108 BCE. Obv. Male head to right (Apollo?), wearing oak wreath, star (*) [= monogrammed XVI; mark of value] beneath chin / Rev. The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), cloaked, with stars above their heads, standing facing between their horses, each holding a spear and the bridle of his horse, with each horse raising its outside front hoof; L•MEMMI in exergue. Crawford 304/1, RSC I Memmia 1 (ill. p. 65), Sear RCV I 181 (ill. p. 107), BMCRR II Italy 643, RBW Collection 1145 (ill. p. 237). 19 mm., 3.95 g. Purchased Jan. 6, 2022 at Roma Numismatics E-Sale 93, Lot 897. Ex Andrew McCabe Collection; ex Numismatica Ars Classica AG, Auction 7, 27 May 2014, Lot 1944; ex Aureo & Calico, Auction 159, 3 March 2004, Lot 1056.*

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*Crawford says little about this issue, stating only (see Crawford I p. 315) that the moneyer “may be identified with L. Memmius, who visited Egypt as a Senator in 112,” that the obverse type “remains unexplained” (but resembles the head of Apollo on Crawford 350A, including in wearing an oak-wreath rather than a laurel wreath), and that the representation of the Dioscuri -- dismounted and standing next to their horses rather than mounted and galloping in the same direction with couched lances, their traditional portrayal on Roman Republican coins, especially during the 2nd Century BCE – is “unusual.” For detailed discussions of the Dioscuri in mythology, in their role as protectors of the Roman people as a result of their miraculous intervention on the Roman side at the battle of Lake Regillus, and as frequently depicted on Roman Republican coins (albeit rarely on Roman Imperial coins), see, e.g., https://www.ostia-antica.org/dict/topics/mint/mint04.htm#:~:text=The Dioscuri were known to,against the Latins in c; https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Dioscuri: 

“[T]he worship of the Dioscuri, as divinities, had its origin at Rome, from the victory which the consul Postumius gained, near the lake Regillus, over the Latins and the sons of Tarquinius Superbus (B.C. 493 or 496). It was said that, after that engagement, the Dioscuri appeared in the forum of Rome, wearing conical bonnets, over each of which was a star. They stood resting upon their lances, beside their horses, which were drinking at a fountain. These twin heroes disappeared as soon as they had announced the news of the battle, at a moment when, on account of the distance from the scene of the slaughter, no one could have as yet become acquainted with the event. It is also related that, during the action, two young men, mounted on two white horses, were seen fighting valiantly for the Romans. . . . The Dioscuri most frequently appear, on coins of the Roman Republic, as horsemen galloping, with couched lances, and stars above their pilei. . . . In the imperial series, this type (which was meant to denote brotherly concord), is of rare occurrence.”

It has been suggested that the portrayal of the Dioscuri on the reverse of this coin may be based on an ancient statuary group similar to the pair of statues unearthed in 1561, located at the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome since 1583:

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See https://www.walksinrome.com/uploads/2/5/1/0/25107996/castor-and-pollux-piazza-del-campidoglio-rome_orig.jpg. And, if taken together, the pair of statues certainly resembles the reverse of the L. Memmius denarius:

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7. [New Write-up] Roman Republic, Q. Lutatius Cerco as Quaestor, AR Denarius, Rome Mint (or other Italian Mint; see BMCRR Italy p. 298 fn 4 cont.), 109-108 BCE (or 107 BCE, per Mattingly p. 207). Obv. Head of Roma or Mars right [Crawford, RBW Collection: Roma; Sear RCV: Mars; BMCRR & RSC: Roma or Mars], wearing crested helmet ornamented with feather/plume between two stars [representing the Dioscuri(?)] and Δ or triangle to right of stars; above, ROMA; beneath chin; CERCO upwards; behind, * [= XVI; mark of value] / Rev. Galley right with horizontal shields above oarsmen, prow in shape of helmet, and head of gubernator right at stern beneath aplustre; above, Q•LVTATI [VT ligate] over Q [Quaestor]; all surrounded by oak-wreath (corona civica) with acorns. 19 mm., 3.87 g. Crawford 305/1; RSC I Lutatia 2 (ill. p. 60); BMCRR II Italy 636; Sear RCV I 182; RBW Collection 1146 (ill. p. 237). Purchased from Jordan M. Sheckells (Facebook Ancient & Medieval Coins Sales Group) Aug 2022; ex Pegasi Numismatics (private purchase 2019); ex Pegasi Numismatics Auction 39, 13 Nov. 2018, Lot 397 (unsold).*

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*Moneyer as Quaestor  The denarius and uncia categorized as Crawford 305/1 and 305/2  “are the only record which we have of Quintus Lutatius Cerco, who held the office of quaestor” (BMCRR II Italy p. 297 n. 3); see also Crawford p. 315, stating that he “is not known to have progressed beyond the quaestorship.” As explained in John Melville Jones’s A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) (entry for “Quaestor” at pp. 261-262):

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know whether this was by authority conferred on them from the Senate at Rome, or by virtue of the imperium of their commanders, or whether such issues were fully legal.”

However, BMCRR Italy (at p. 298 fn. 4 [continuation]) is the only authority to suggest that this issue may have been minted outside Rome or that Lutatius Cerco may have been a provincial quaestor, citing, among other things, “the fabric of the denarius.”

Date of Issue Crawford dates this issue to 109 or 108 BCE (see Vol. I p. 315), but then states that it is “worth remarking that Q. Lutatius Catulus, Cos. 102,” who belonged to the same gens as the moneyer, “was a candidate for the consulship in 107.” Mattingly agrees that the “family propaganda of Q. Lutatius Cerco, as Crawford saw, might be connected with the consular canvass of Q. Lutatius Catulus. (See the chapter entitled “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.” in Harold B. Mattingly, From Coins to History: Selected Numismatic Studies (2004) pp. 199-226 at p. 207.) However, if that is the case, then “the ‘109 or 108 B.C.’ dating will not do for this. Catulus first campaigned in 107 against the noble C. Atilius Serranus and was defeated. He then suffered two further setbacks at the hands of ‘new men’ in 106 and 105. Few men had such a tough passage in the hustings; but even the first contest must have looked tough enough in prospect, and 107 would have been an admirable year for Cerco to revive the family’s glory; no Lutatius had been consul since 220.” Id. See also Mattingly at p. 133 (in article entitled “The Numismatic Evidence and the Founding of Narbo Martius,” at pp. 130-139), stating that “Cerco’s quaestorian issue looks very like part of what must have been an increasingly feverish campaign to secure Catulus’s election.” 

Obverse: Roma or Mars? As noted above, the authorities disagree as to whether the obverse portrait depicts Roma or Mars – based in part on unsupported pronouncements as to whether the face is more “masculine” or “feminine,” demonstrating that gender can be in the eye of the beholder! Compare Sear RCV I 182 at p. 107 fn. (arguing that a “youthful Mars” interpretation is “preferable” because “the features appear to be masculine”) with BMCRR II Italy 636 at pp. 297-298 fn. 4 (stating that the head “may be of Mars or Roma,” presenting the argument for Mars [see below] but opining that “the features have, however, a feminine appearance,” and ultimately declining to take a position, as does RSC, following Babelon). In fact, the argument in favor of a Mars identification seems logical to me: BMCRR points out (p. 298 n. 4) that during this period, “a feather instead of a wing as an ornament to the helmet usually occurs with the head of Mars,” as shown on the coins of Ti. Veturius [Crawford 234/1], Q. Minucius Thermus [Crawford 319/1], and C. Publicius Malleolus [Crawford 385/3a-g]. All three types do, in fact, depict a helmet with a feather or plume rather than an eagle’s wing on the obverse – just like this type -- and all three obverses are uniformly interpreted as portraying Mars. (I have not, however, reviewed all the different types from this period to see if there are any counter-examples.) To be sure, the legend “ROMA” appears on the obverse, but I do not believe the presence or absence of that word constitutes a definitive identification of the obverse portrait one way or the other. [All thoughts are welcome on this issue!]

Meaning of Reverse Design See BMCRR II Italy p. 298 fn 4: “The reverse type records the great victory of the consul Q. Lutatius Catulus over the Carthaginian fleet under Hanno in the battle off the island of Aegusa in B.C. 241. For this victory Catulus received the honor of a triumph. The oak-wreath is the corona civica which was accorded to a general who had preserved the life of a citizen or saved the State at a critical juncture.” See also Crawford I at p. 315, stating that the significance of the corona civica is “unclear,” but that it “perhaps reflects the fact that the victory meant the end of the drain on Roman manpower caused by the First Punic War.”

Possible Obverse Reference to the Dioscuri Given the naval theme of the reverse design of this type, Liv Mariah Yarrow has raised the question in her blog of whether the “two big stars” on the obverse helmet were intended to recall the Dioscuri/Penates, citing, among other things, the two stars above the heads of the Dioscuri on the Mn. Fonteius denarius with a galley on the reverse (Crawford 307/1; see below) issued almost contemporaneously with the Lutatius Cerco denarius (Crawford 305/1). (See https://livyarrow.org/2014/02/11/238-out-of-410-days-a-fashion-for-ships/.) She also cites a Republican as depicting Dioscuri caps in front of ship prows to support the notion of an association between naval victories and the Dioscuri. (Id.) And, of course, the immediately preceding issue to Lutatius Cerco’s, that of L. Memmius (Crawford 304/1) also depicts the two Dioscuri, with stars above their heads.

As far as I know, neither Yarrow nor any other authority has attempted to explain the Δ to the right of the two stars on this type, let alone interpret it as the letter Delta, making specific reference to the Dioscuri. However, given the naval theme of the reverse, an attribution of the stars on the obverse helmet to the Dioscuri – whether the obverse depicts Mars or Roma -- would certainly be consistent with the role of the Dioscuri in Greco-Roman mythology as the patron deities of sailors and ships. See, e.g., Eric Flaum, The Encyclopedia of Mythology (1993) (entry for “Dioscuri” at p. 63) (“The Dioscuri were said to be guardians of sailors in distress”); Aaron J. Brody, “The Specialized Religions of Ancient Mediterranean Seafarers,” Religion Compass Vol. 2, Issue 4, pp. 444-454 at p. 445 (2008) (https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-8171.2008.00079.x) (“Because of their control over favorable winds, the Dioscuri, twins Castor and Pollux, were patrons of Greek and Roman sailors who set course by the light of their constellation at night”) (citing Rougé, J, 1981, Ships and Fleets of the Ancient Mediterranean, Trans. by S. Frazer, Wesleyan, University Press, Middletown, CT); https://www.theoi.com/Cult/DioskouroiCult.html (quoting Plutarch, Life of Lysander 12. 1 as stating "There were some who declared that the Dioskouroi appeared as twin stars on either side of Lysander's ship just as he was sailing out of the harbor against the enemy, and shone out over the rudder-sweeps").
 

8. Roman Republic, Mn. Fonteius, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 108-107 BCE. Obv. Jugate and laureate heads of Dioscuri right, stars above their heads; below their chins to  right, * [= XVI; mark of value] / Rev. Galley right depicted in three-quarters perspective at prow, with long projecting rostrum, full-length oars on front side (with overlapping horizontal shields above oars), and partial view of foreshortened oars on back side*; pilot seated in stern beneath aplustre; above, MN • FONTEI [MN and NTE ligate]; below galley, control-letter B. 20 mm., 3.91 g., 4 h. Crawford 307/1b, BMCRR I 1205; RSC I Fonteia 7 (ill. p. 48); Sear RCV I 184 (ill. p. 107). Purchased from Roma Numismatics E-Sale 98, 16 Jun 2022, Lot 1029.**

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*Presumably intentionally, the three-quarters view of the prow of the galley presents the distinct impression of a face, with two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and headgear; the foreshortened oars to the right somewhat resemble a cat’s whiskers. 

**According to Crawford I at pp. 316-317 (referring to id. p. 305), the moneyer “is doubtless a brother or cousin of the moneyer C. Fonteius,” the issuer of Crawford 290/1 in approximately 114-113 BCE, similarly depicting the Dioscuri (in a Janiform design) on the obverse and a galley on the reverse; “either may be identified with the Fonteius who was Legate in 91 [BCE].”  The reason that both moneyers chose to portray the Dioscuri and a galley, as explained at Crawford I p. 305, is that the gens Fonteia came from Tusculum, the chief cult-center of the Dioscuri in Latium.  The galleys on both reverses are “doubtless” allusions to the transmarine origin of Telegonus (the son of Ulysses and Circe), who was the legendary founder of Tusculum. Here's my example of Crawford 290/1, without the write-up:

Fonteius (Dioscuri-Galley) jpg version.jpg

 

9.  Roman Republic, C. Annius T.f. T.n Luscus and L. Fabius L.f. Hispaniensis, AR Denarius, 82-81 BCE, minted in N. Italy (or Spain). Obv. Female bust right, unidentified [according to Crawford & Sear RCV] but possibly Anna Perenna [see BMCRR & RSC],* draped, wearing diadem, earring of three drops and necklace; hair rolled back and collected into a knot behind, and falling in one lock down the neck; before, scales; behind, winged caduceus; C•ANNI•T•F•T•N• - PRO•COS•EX•S•C around counter-clockwise from 4:00; below bust, control-letter R between two dots / Rev. Victory leaning forward in quadriga of galloping horses right, holding reins in left hand and palm-branch in extended right hand; horse on far right turns head back towards the other three horses; Q above horses; in exergue, [L]•FABI•L•F•HISP. 21 mm., 3.78 g., 4 h. Crawford 366/1b; BMCRR II Spain 13-18 var. [different control-letters]; RSC I Annia 2b & Fabia 17; Sear RCV I 289 (ill. p. 126), RBW Collection 1376 (ill. p. 283). Purchased from Roma Numismatics Ltd. E-Sale 98, 16 Jun 2022, Lot 1071; “from the collection of Z.P., Austria” (with old coin ticket in English on one side and in Italian on other side).**

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*BMCRR II, at p. 353 n. 2 (continuation), identifies the obverse bust as “Anna Perenna, who according to Ovid [citations omitted] was the sister of Dido, and was worshipped in Italy in the character of a rustic deity. It may have been from her that the Annia gens claimed descent. The caduceus, the symbol of commerce, may refer to the corn-producing wealth of Spain, or even to Anna Perenna herself, of whom Ovid relates that when the people of Rome were in want of food she distributed cakes amongst the hungry multitude, who in gratitude erected a temple to her. The scales may have a monetary significance.” RSC I adopts the same identification. Crawford, however, states that “the identity of the deity who forms the obverse type is entirely uncertain.” Crawford I p. 386. Sear RCV I, at p. 126, also declines to identify the obverse figure. 

**As stated in BMCRR II at pp. 352-353 n. 2, "Caius Annius Luscus was the son of T. Annius Rufus, consul B.C. 128, and grandson of T. Annius Luscus, consul B.C. 153. This information is supplied by the legend on the obverse of the coins. He served under Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidius in Africa in the war against Jugurtha, B.C. 107, commanded the garrison at Leptis, and later, in B.C. 82, was sent by Sulla to Spain, with the title of proconsul, to oppose Sertorius, who had retired there after the collapse of the Marian party in Rome. . . . (T)hese coins were struck under a special mandate of the Senate [hence the “EX•S•C”] by his quaestors, L. Fabius Hispaniensis and C. Tarquitius. [The latter’s name appears only on Crawford 366/4.] . . . . The Victory in a quadriga on the reverse is no doubt intended to record the successes of C. Annius Luscus at the beginning of the campaign.”

See also Crawford I p. 386 (citations omitted): “C. Annius was sent against Q. Sertorius in Spain some time after the middle of 82 B.C.; the early part of the issue, struck in Italy, bears the name of one Quaestor, L. Fabius L.f. Hispaniensis, the later part, struck in Spain, bears also that of C. Tarquitius P.f.; the presence of two Quaestors at this stage is entirely intelligible if C. Annius was in charge of both Spanish provinces. C. Tarquitius is not heard of again, L. Fabius deserted to Sertorius (for which he was proscribed), and shared in his murder.”

 I have seen no express explanation of the presence of the letter “Q” above the horses on the reverse (and present on the reverse of all variations of Crawford 366), but it may simply mean “Quaestor.”

 

10.  Roman Republic, M. [Marcus] Volteius, AR Denarius, 78 BCE (Crawford) or 75 BCE (Harlan). Obv. Helmeted, draped bust of young deity (Attis or Corybas [male] or Bellona [female])* right (with Phrygian[?] helmet bound with laurel-wreath, and long flowing hair beneath helmet); behind, control-symbol of thyrsus** / Rev. Cybele, wearing turreted crown [off flan] and veil, in biga of lions right, holding reins in left hand and patera in right hand; control mark Θ (Theta) above**; in exergue, M•VOLTEI•M•F. 17.5 mm., 3.89 g. Crawford 385/4; RSC I Volteia 4 (ill. p. 100); BMCRR I 3185 (specimen with control-marks thyrsus & Θ); Sear RCV I 315 (ill. p. 131); RBW Collection 1417 (ill. p. 291); Harlan RRM I Ch. 28 pp. 62-66 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (Vol. I) (2012)]; Yarrow pp. 168-171 (ill. Fig. 4.9 at p. 171) [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]. Purchased 6 April 2022 (but didn't arrive for two months!), Künker [Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Osnabrück, Germany] Auction 367, 6 April 2022, Lot 7-793; ex Artemide Auction LIII, 2-3 May 2020, Lot 212.***   

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*The authorities disagree on the identity of the obverse bust, whether it is male or female, and whether it can be identified at all. See Crawford Vol. I pp. 400, 402 (“The identity of the obverse type of 4 is uncertain; Attis . . . Corybas . . . and Bellona . . . are suggested, in every case without decisive evidence”) (citations omitted); Sear RCV I 315 at p. 131 (no identification); Yarrow at p. 171, Fig. 4.9 (“uncertain long-haired divinity”); RSC I at p. 100 (“Attis or young Corybas”); BMCRR I 3179 at p. 390 (“Attis(?)”); Harlan RRM I at p. 64 (“most likely Attis”); Künker Auction 367, Lot 7-793 description (identifying the obverse as Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, citing Hollstein, Wilhelm, Roman Coinage in the years 78-50 BC [Die stadtrömische Münzprägung der Jahre 78-50 v. Chr.] (Munich 1993) p. 10, for the theory that the obverse refers to Sulla’s temple restorations or new constructions, including the probable new erection of a Bellona altar on the Capitol and the construction of the Bellona Temple near the Porta Collina). 

I do not have access to Hollstein’s explanation of the basis for his identification of the obverse as Bellona. The book was essentially the author’s published dissertation. See the generally unenthusiastic review by Jane DeRose Evans in the American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 7/8 (1995-96), pp. 289-293, at https://www.jstor.org/stable/43580271?seq=1, characterizing it at p. 290 as “a book that some numismatists may find helpful,” and noting at p. 293 that “Not everyone will agree with his insistence on seeing references to Sulla or Pompey in many coin types (I myself remain skeptical in several cases, as Sulla especially seems to have far too many tutelary deities).” Absent such access, or any general adoption by scholars of Hollstein’s theory, I think that Attis or Corybas would seem to be more likely identifications than Bellona, given their connections to Cybele, the deity portrayed in the lion biga on the reverse. By contrast, I am not aware of any thematic connection between Bellona and Cybele.  Thus, Attis was a “Phrygian god, the companion of the Great Mother of the Gods (see Cybele), who castrated himself, died and was brought back to life again.” See Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby 1990), entry for “Attis” at p. 28.  Corybas was “the son of Iasion and the goddess Cybele, who gave his name to the Corybantes (Koribantes), or dancing priests of Phrygia.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corybas_(mythology). See also Jones, op. cit., entry for “Corybant” at p. 74, defining the term as “a male follower of the goddess Cybele. Since the Corybants celebrated her rites by leaping and dancing, clashing weapons and cymbals, they are sometimes confused with the Curetes of Crete, who used to engage in similar activities.”

 **Regarding the obverse control-symbol on my coin of a thyrsus (a staff covered with ivy, topped with a pine cone, associated with Bacchus and his followers), and the reverse control-mark of a Θ (Theta), see Crawford I p. 399, explaining that “a given control-symbol on [385/]4 is always paired with the same control-numeral; no pair of control-marks has more than one pair of dies.” For the control-mark pairings attested as of Crawford’s publication in 1974, see Crawford’s Table xxxv at Crawford I p. 401, listing the Thyrsus and Θ as a known combination (citing Paris, A 16891). See also BMCRR I 3185 at p. 391, citing the British Museum’s specimen of the same pairing.

 ***The generally-accepted interpretation of the depiction of Cybele in a biga of lions on the reverse of this coin (together with the portrayal of Cybele’s companion Attis or her son Corybas on the obverse), is that it refers to one of the five major annual games celebrated in the Roman Calendar, specifically the Ludi Megalenses honoring Cybele – just as the designs of the four other types issued by Marcus Volteius in 78 BCE (Crawford 385/1-3 & 5) referred to four other major games, the Ludi Cereales (Ceres), the Ludi Apollinares (Apollo), the Ludi Romani (Jupiter), and the Ludi Plebeii or Herculani (Hercules). See Crawford I p. 402; Harlan RRM I pp. 62-67 (and specifically pp. 63-66 regarding Cybele and the Ludi Megalenses). See Yarrow pp. 168-169: “Crawford suggestes that the issue is anticipating the moneyer’s campaign for an aedileship and encodes a promise of largitones, or generosity, in his potential staging of the games. Yet, different magistrates oversaw each of these games; the ludi Cereales fell under the purview of the plebeian aediles; the ludi Romani under the curule aediles; and the ludi Apollinares under the praetor urbanus. The moneyer cannot be campaigning for all simultaneously. Instead , we might want to think about this series as a miniature fasti (calendar) or symbolic representation of the religious year. For all we know, the moneyer may have originally intended to strike types for other festivals and for one reason or another simply never did; not all of the five types were struck in equal proportion, those in honor of Apollo being represented by the fewest known dies [see the die totals for each type at Crawford I p. 399].”

 Specifically concerning the Ludi Megalenses, see Harlan RRM I at pp. 63-66:

 “The Ludi Megalenses held between 4 and 10 April were the first games of the calendar year. Volteius represented these games with the depiction of a male head wearing a Phrygian helmet on the obverse and the goddess Cybele driving a cart drawn by a pair of lions on the reverse. Cybele, also known as the Great Mother, was a Phrygian goddess whose frenzied rituals were quite foreign to Roman sensitivities. [Lengthy quotation on subject of Cybele from Lucretius’s poem On the Nature of Things omitted.] The Phrygian followers of Idaean Cybele were called Corybantes, but in Latin literature they were frequently confused with the Curetes, who concealed infant Jupiter’s cries on Mount Ida in Crete. It may be one of these Corybantes who appears to be represented on the obverse of Volteius’ coin, but more likely it is Attis, the young consort of Cybele. He is usually depicted in Phrygian trousers fastened with toggles down the front and a laureate Phrygian cap. His act of self-castration is the reason why Cybele’s priests were eunuchs and why in Rome Cybele’s worship remained distinctly Greek in character and was maintained by Greek priests. Romans were prohibited by decree of the Senate from taking part in the priestly service of the goddess. Even the name of the games remained Greek, derived from Megale Mater meaning Great Mother. The goddess did not become part of the Roman pantheon until 204 [BCE]. In that year the Sybilline books were consulted because, according to Livy, it had rained stones more than usual that year. In the books a prophecy was found that if the Romans ever wished to drive out a foreign enemy who had invaded Italy, they would be successful if they should bring Cybele, the Idaean Mother of the Gods, from Pessinus to Rome. [Lengthy description omitted of transportation of Cybele to Rome, with cooperation of Attalus of Pergamum, who had recently become an ally of Rome.] The day of her installation was 4 April 204 and games were held in her honor for the first time. The specific contests of the first games were not recorded, but scenic games were added for the first time . . . in 194. At some point in the development of the games, the re-enactment of the goddess’ reception into Rome became part of the ceremonies. . . .

 Volteius’ coin depicts Cybele in her typical Greek aspect rather than as the sacred stone that was brought to Rome. She wears a mural crown and drives a cart pulled by a pair of lions, beasts once common to Phrygia.”

Edited by DonnaML
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Great selection @DonnaML, congratulations! I'll admit I did not read all your footnotes (🙄), but did zoom into your no. 1 and 6, which stood out to me, with your no 6 being my favorite. I like your reference in your 'footnote' to the statues currently placed at the Piazza del Campidoglio, of which it is said they are restored Roman-era copies of original statues. Its amazing that they pulled these out of the ground, they are huge! (I was there in 2015.)

Have a good 2023! 

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6 hours ago, Limes said:

Great selection @DonnaML, congratulations! I'll admit I did not read all your footnotes (🙄), but did zoom into your no. 1 and 6, which stood out to me, with your no 6 being my favorite. I like your reference in your 'footnote' to the statues currently placed at the Piazza del Campidoglio, of which it is said they are restored Roman-era copies of original statues. Its amazing that they pulled these out of the ground, they are huge! (I was there in 2015.)

Have a good 2023! 

Thanks, @Limes. As I said, the footnotes aren't required reading; there won't be an exam! They're there for reference purposes and for the record, in case anyone is interested. Although I admit that I'm quite curious as to whether people think the obverse portrait on No. 7 is Roma or Mars. One of the three remaining Republicans I still plan to post has a similar obverse identification issue between Mars and Minerva. Apparently the "Mars vs. Roma or Minerva" question is in serious dispute for a number of Republican issues; see a number of Liv Mariah Yarrow's recent blog posts.

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I decided that I might as well go ahead and post the one Republican denarius, out of the three remaining on my list, that I've already written up, even though it's out of chronological order:

11. Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, P. Accoleius Lariscolus, AR Denarius, Sep-Dec. 43 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust of Diana Nemorensis right, head closely bound with fillet, and hair arranged in close locks above her forehead; behind, P • ACCOLEIVS upwards; before, LARISCOLVS downwards / Rev. Triple cult statue of Diana Nemorensis (Diana-Hecate-Selene) facing, supporting on their hands and shoulders a beam, above which are five cypress trees, the figure on left (Diana) holding bow, the figure on right (Selene?) holding poppy or lily, with Hecate in the center. Crawford 486/1, RSC I Accoleia 1 (ill. p. 9), BMCRR I 4211, Sear CRI 172 at p. 109 [David Sear, The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC (1998)], Sear RCV I 484 (ill. p. 161), RBW Collection 1701 (ill. p. 363). 19 mm., 3.32 g., 10 hr. Purchased May 2022; ex Classical Numismatic Group [CNG] Electronic Auction 491, 5 May 2021, Lot 349 (from the Lampasas Collection); ex CNG Electronic Auction 409, 8 Nov. 2017, Lot 535; ex CNG Sale 76/2, 12 Sep. 2007, Lot 3242 (from John A. Seeger Collection).*

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*See John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) (entry for “Diana,” at p. 97) explaining that in Roman religion Diana was not only generally equated with the Greek goddess Artemis as the divine huntress, but “was also equated with Luna (the Greek Selene) and Hecate [the Greek goddess associated with night, magic, necromancy, the underworld, etc.]. A triple Diana, combining these three forms, appears once on Roman coins, on a denarius of P. Accoleius Lariscolus (43 BC) which shows her as she was worshipped at Aricia near Lake Nemi, the home of the mint magistrate’s family. This Diana Nemorensis is portrayed in the form of a triple statue on the reverse of the coin, the head of the goddess being the obverse type (an earlier interpretation of the type as a representation of the Nymphae Querquetulanae is less satisfactory).” (For that earlier interpretation, see RSC I at p. 9, stating that the referenced Nymphae “preside over the green forests and it was to them that the groves of the Lares on Mount Coelius were consecrated.”)

Crawford follows the Diana Nemorensis interpretation, stating that “the types refer to the Aricine origin of the moneyer.” (Crawford Vol. I p. 497.) However, he rejects the theory of Andreas Alföldi that the type was also connected to the fact that Octavian’s mother Atia, who died during her son’s consulship in 43 BCE, was born in Aricia, stating that Lariscolus’s “appointment as moneyer will have taken place in 44 and hence have owed nothing to Octavian.” (Id.) However, in Sear CRI at p. 107, David Sear argues the contrary in the latter part of his discussion of this type:

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I identify the figure on the left as Diana holding a bow, and the figure on the right as Selene holding a poppy (or lily), following the description by Jochen1 at Coin Talk, in his thread at https://www.cointalk.com/threads/diana-nemorensis.344409/#post-4859090 . The standard authorities generally identify the object held by the figure on the left as a poppy rather than a bow, and the one held by the figure on the right as a lily rather than a poppy, without specifying which goddess is which. In fact, on my specimen, the flower on the right does seem to resemble a lily more than a poppy. I am not aware of any tradition identifying Luna/Selene with either. Although I believe that lilies do open at night.
 

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7 hours ago, Limes said:

Great selection @DonnaML, congratulations! I'll admit I did not read all your footnotes (🙄), but did zoom into your no. 1 and 6, which stood out to me, with your no 6 being my favorite. I like your reference in your 'footnote' to the statues currently placed at the Piazza del Campidoglio, of which it is said they are restored Roman-era copies of original statues. Its amazing that they pulled these out of the ground, they are huge! (I was there in 2015.)

Have a good 2023! 

31 minutes ago, AncientJoe said:

Your Memmius is a standout for me but all are very attractive. Congratulations on a great set of additions!

24 minutes ago, Qcumbor said:

I agee on the Memmius being the best one of the one already shown. Great haul !

Q

Thank you. After all, the Memmius is an ex Andrew McCabe Collection, and I think it's a pretty safe bet that if a Roman Republican coin was good enough for him, everyone else is going to like it too! One of the two Republicans on my list that I still have to write up and post is also an ex Andrew McCabe Collection coin purchased from Roma, and I think people will enjoy that one as well.  

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Didn't expect anything less.  I can't pick just 3 like I usually do.

My favorites from the list are #1 (as I mentioned in the past, I am not a big fan of standard RR denarii with bigas/quadrigas, but a biga of centaurs is certainly something that makes me raise an eyebrow); #4 - GREAT example on both obverse and reverse - I love the details and the toning - I am after a similar example too but the ones I have seen in auctions were much inferior and the elephant + the cap were very poor; #10 for reasons similar to #1; #11 - another example of perfect ancient coin in my opinion - great toning, great centering, great design + the perfect amount of wear that makes an ancient coin very attractive for me. 

Special mention for #9. I like this type because of the obverse + other particularities of this coin (example - one horse with the head turned back). It is the only coin from the list I possess in my collection (a different subtype). 

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1 hour ago, Octavius said:

 I love all of them. Julius Caesar's mother's name was Aurelia Cotta - ? related to the M. Aurelius Cotta as well?

If one reads the Wikipedia article about her, it seems that she was either the daughter or the niece of the M. Aurelius Cotta who was probably this moneyer. Which would mean that he may have been Julius Caesar's grandfather. I had no idea; thanks for pointing this out.

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Donna, they are obviously "all' winna-winnas, but I particularly like 4-9-10 

4 => elephants are always winners

9 => that cheeky-horse turning his head (I love it)

10 => a biga of fricken lions??? => for the WIN

 

... keep-up the awesome collecting (you Rock!) 

Cheers & Happy Holidays

 

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On 12/20/2022 at 11:16 PM, DonnaML said:

Even though I didn't buy nearly as many Roman Republican coins in 2022 as I had the last few years, I still find them as fascinating as I ever did, and still have a special fondness for the category. 

Out of my purchases this year -- which bring my current total of Roman Republican coins to exactly 80 -- I picked 13 favorites for this list. I'll post them in order of their Crawford numbers (in other words, in essentially chronological order), 10 tonight and the other 3 (including two I haven't even finished writing up yet!) when I can. (Before the New Year, I sincerely hope.)  In addition, I just wrote up two of tonight's group (#'s 2 and 7), and am posting them now for the first time, even though I bought them quite a while ago, one of them back in August!

You can mention any of the first 10 that you particularly like now, or wait until I've posted all of them! 

As always, my apologies for the great length of some of my footnotes. Please feel entirely free to skip them, and just look at the pictures!

1.  Roman Republic, M. Aurelius Cota [Cotta], AR Denarius 139 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right, wearing winged helmet ornamented with stylized representation of gryphon’s head, earring with three pellets, and necklace of pendants; hair arranged in three symmetrical locks; to right below chin, COTA; behind, mark of value X [after re-tariffing, thus = 16 asses] / Rev. Hercules in biga of centaurs right, holding reins in left hand and club in right hand; each of centaurs carries branch in left hand; below, M•AVRELI (AVR ligate); in exergue, ROMA. 19 mm., 3.78 g. “Removed from a ring mount; otherwise very fine.” Crawford 229/1b; BMCRR I 916-917 (& Vol. III Pl. xxvi. 2); RBW Collection 959 (ill. p. 201); RSC I Aurelia 16; Sear RCV 1 106. Purchased from Dix Noonan Webb Auction 253, 13 April 2022, Lot 1240; ex. Spink Numismatic Circular May 1984, No. 2625 at p. 125 (ill. p. 137).*

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*According to Crawford (Vol. I p. 263), the moneyer “is perhaps M. Aurelius Cotta, father of C. Aurelius Cotta, M. Aurelius Cotta and L. Aurelius Cotta, Co[nsuls] 75, 74 and 65; he may also be a younger son of L. Aurelius Cotta, Cos. 144 . . . , born therefore c. 160 or later.” 

Mattingly agrees with Crawford’s date for this issue: “M. Cotta. . . should go in 139. He was the father of three consuls of the 70s and 60s, and as the younger brother of the consul of 119 [another L. Aurelius Cotta], he must have been born ca. 160. Like C. Scribonius, he would have been moneyer at an unusually young age.” See the chapter entitled “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.” in Harold B. Mattingly, From Coins to History: Selected Numismatic Studies (2004) pp. 199-226 at p. 216.

Grueber notes (BMCRR I  p. 128 n. 1) that the L. Aurelius Cotta who, according to Crawford, may have been the moneyer’s father and was consul in 144, was also tribune of the plebs c. 154. He states (id.) that the moneyer may also have been descended from the M. Aurelius Cotta who was legate of L. Cornelius Scipio, B.C. 189, during the war against Antiochus the Great.

Insofar as the reverse design (Hercules in a biga of centaurs) is concerned, Grueber stated in 1904 that it “has not been satisfactorily explained” (BMCRR I p. 128 n. 3). 70 years later, Crawford characterized it as still “extraordinarily obscure” (Vol. I p. 263). See also John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London, 1990), entry for Centaur at pp. 50-51: "A denarius of 139 BC (M. Aurelius Cot(t)a) has the unusual reverse type of Hercules driving a biga drawn by centaurs. If this is anything more than a variant on the regular scene of Hercules driving a chariot as a symbol of victory, the reference is not now understood." [TLDR: "We have no idea what this is all about."]

Perhaps surprisingly given the rather prominent place held by centaurs in Greco-Roman mythology -- including more than one battle or other encounter between Hercules and various centaurs such as Chiron and Nessus (see http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Ca-Cr/Centaurs.html ; https://www.greeklegendsandmyths.com/centaurs.html; https://stefanosskarmintzos.wordpress.com/2017/06/04/centaurs-and-centauromachy-in-the-greek-world/ ) -- this coin is the second and last of only two occasions on which a centaur or centaurs appeared on a Roman Republican coin. (The first was Crawford 39/1, a bronze triens issued ca. 217-215 BCE with a reverse depicting Hercules fighting a centaur.) Crawford rejects Babelon’s theory that the reverse refers to family history, namely the victories of M. Aurelius Cotta, Scipio’s legate, over Antiochus at Thermopolyae in 191 BCE, by means of an allusion to the mythical battles of Hercules with the Centaurs in the same geographical area: “It is not recorded that the Legate played any major part in the victory nor is it likely that he was senior enough to do so.” Id. Instead, Crawford cites parallel examples of Hercules drawn by centaurs as an artistic motif, and suggests that the coin type “should be regarded as an artistic variation of a normal Hercules in a biga type, perhaps chosen to highlight Hercules as a conqueror.” At BMCRR I p. 128 n. 3, Grueber cites Babelon as noting “a certain resemblance” between this reverse and the reverse type of Juno in a biga of goats issued by C. Renius at around the same time (see Crawford 231/1, minted in 138 BCE), and suggesting that the two moneyers could have been colleagues at the mint. Or, perhaps they merely shared the sense of the absurd – and/or connectedness to myth -- that appears throughout the history of Roman Republican coinage, in depicting bigas drawn by a wide variety of animals and mythical creatures other than horses.
 

2. [New Write-up] Roman Republic, Q. Marcius Philippus, AR denarius Rome 129 BC. Obv. Head of Roma right with winged helmet; behind, * [X with bar through it = XVI monogram] / Rev. Horseman galloping right, wearing Greek armor and high-crested helmet, holding reins in left hand and lance in right; behind, Macedonian helmet with goat horns; below, Q • PILIPVS; in exergue, ROMA. Crawford 259/1; RSC I [Babelon] Marcia 11; BMCRR Vol. I 1143; Sydenham 477. 17 x 19 mm., 3.86 g. Purchased from Künker Auction 377, 20 Oct. 2022, Lot 5524, ex The Mark & Lottie Salton Collection (with old collector’s envelope).*

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*“The moneyer is doubtless the grandson of Q. Marcius Philippus, Cos. 186 and 169.” See Crawford Vol. I at p. 285. See also BMCRR Vol. I at p. 175 fn. 1, pointing out that Q. Marcius Philippus was sent as an ambassador to the Macedonian king Philip V in 183 BCE, and campaigned in Macedonia against Philip’s son Perseus in 169 BCE.

Crawford continues his discussion of this type at p. 285: “The helmet with goat’s horns on the reverse seems to be the distinctive headdress of a Macedonian king . . . . It doubtless alludes, by way of the Macedonian monarch who made the deepest impression on the Roman mind, Philip V, to the moneyer’s cognomen, Philippus. The origin of this is of course unknown and unconnected with the Macedonian royal house. But this allusion is entirely intelligible . . . ; the moneyer may have thought of it because of his family’s friendship with Philip V. The horseman on the reverse, whose helmet is completely different from the helmet with goat horns, is perhaps more likely to be divine than human; he resembles one of the Dioscuri and it is just worth recalling that this issue is contemporary with the plebiscitum reddendorum equorum, by which Senators were forbidden to retain the equus publicus . . . , and that the Dioscuri were the patrons of the Equites.

 

3.  Roman Republic, C. Servilius Vatia, AR Denarius, 127 BC. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged helmet with star on helmet’s neck-piece, triple-drop earring, and beaded necklace; below, ROMA; behind, lituus; under chin, mark of value (* = XVI ligate = 16 asses) / Rev. Horseman [M. Servilius Pulex Geminus, see fn.] with plumed helmet, cape flowing behind, and shield inscribed M on upper half, charging left and piercing with his spear another horseman fleeing left before him, but turning back towards first horseman with shield in right hand and sword raised in left hand, as his horse (seen from behind) loses footing; in exergue, C•SERVEIL (VE ligate). Crawford 264/1; BMCRR II 1166 (ill. BMCRR III Pl. xxx No. 4); RSC I Servilia 6 (ill. p. 88); Sear RCV I 140 (ill. p. 100); Yarrow pp. 100-101 (ill. Fig. 2.52) [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]; RBW Collection 1069 (ill. p. 221) (2014). 19 mm., 3.81 g. Purchased from Savoca Coins 133rd Silver Auction, 15 May 2022, Lot 297; ex Savoca Coins 124th Silver Auction, 23 Jan. 2022, Lot 385.*

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*The authorities agree that “the reverse type of the denarius probably refers to the propensity for single combat of the moneyer’s ancestor, M. Servilius Pulex Geminus, Cos. 202 [citations to Livy and Plutarch omitted.]. . . . The letter M on the shield thus stands for Marcus.” See Crawford Vol. I p. 289. As RSC elaborates at p. 88, based on a footnote in BMCRR I (p. 179 n. 2), “The horseman represented here is M. Servilius Pulex Geminus, who was elected Augur in B.C. 211 and who filled that office for about 40 years and who was consul in B.C. 202. He is said to have received wounds in twenty-three single combats and to have been victorious in all.” See also Yarrow p. 101, emphasizing the importance of the way in which Pulex’s opponent is portrayed: “For Pulex, the raised sword of the fleeing horseman . . . illustrates the ‘frontality’ of his own scars in contrast to those he inflicted (Figure 2.52). The depiction of the horse from behind draws inspiration from Hellenistic battle scenes, such as the Alexander mosaic (House of the Vetii, Pompeii), which places such a horse at the very center of its composition.”

 

4.  Roman Republic, C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, AR Denarius 125 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged Phrygian helmet with crest in form of head and beak of eagle (i.e, griffin); behind, ROMA downwards; before, mark of value * (= XVI) [off flan] / Rev. Jupiter, crowned with wreath by flying Victory above, in biga of elephants left, holding thunderbolt in left hand and reins in right hand; in exergue, C•METELLVS (ME ligate). 17 mm., 3.90 g. Crawford 269/1, BMCRR I 1180-1182 (& Vol. III Pl. xxx 8), RSC I Caecilia 14, Sear RCV I 145. Purchased from Dix Noonan Webb [now Noonans] Auction 253, 13 April 2022, Lot 1247; ex. Spink Numismatic Circular Dec. 1985, No. 8404 at p. 334.*

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*The moneyer “is presumably C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, Cos. 113” (Crawford Vol. I p. 293), who was born ca. 160 BCE, and served under Scipio Aemilianus at the siege of Numantia in 133 BCE in the Third Punic War; he died sometime after 102 BCE. BMCRR I p. 182 n. 1; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Caecilius_Metellus_Caprarius.

For the biga of elephants on the reverse, Crawford refers (see Vol. I p. 293) to his explanation (id. p. 287) of the elephant head on the reverse of Crawford 262, a coin issued by another moneyer from the Caecilius Metellus family: the reference “recalls the victory of L. Caecilius Metellus, Cos. 251, over Hasdrubal at [the Battle of] Panormus in 250 [BCE], and the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants.” As Grueber notes in his discussion of the elephant biga design, the captured elephants were afterwards exhibited at Metullus’s triumph at Rome. BMCRR I p. 182 n. 2.  

In addition to C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, a number of other moneyers belonging to the Caecilii Metelli issued denarii with elephants or elephant heads to commemorate their ancestor’s famous victory. See Crawford 262/1 (Anonymous, probably Caecilius Metellus Diadematus or Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus, 128 BCE); Crawford 263/1 (M. Caecilius Q.f. Metelllus, 127 BCE); Crawford 374/1 (Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, 81 BCE); and Crawford 459/1 (Q. Caecilius Metullus Pius Scipio, 47-46 BCE).

 

5.  Roman Republic, L. Porcius Licinius, L. Licinius Crassus and Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, AR Serrate Denarius, Narbo Mint [Narbo Martius colony (Narbonne), Province of Gaul], 118 BCE [year of Narbo’s founding].* Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged helmet, necklace, and drop earring, with hair in two curling locks extending down from helmet; L•PORCI upwards in front; LICI downwards behind followed by mark of value * [= XVI asses] behind neck / Rev. Naked, bearded Gallic warrior [possibly Bituitus, king of Arverni; see 2nd fn.] driving galloping biga right, holding shield with criss-cross pattern, dragon-head carnyx, and reins in left hand, and hurling spear with right hand; in exergue, L•LIC•CN•DOM. Crawford 282/5; BMCRR I Rome 1187; RSC I Porcia 8 (ill. p. 81) [this type is also RSC I Licinia 15 and Domitia 19]; Sear RCV I 158; see also Yarrow p. 110 & Fig. 2.68 at p. 113 [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]; RBW Collection 1110 (ill. p. 229); Foss p. 2 (The Republic No. 2a) [Clive Foss, Roman Historical Coins (Seaby, London, 1990)].  20 mm., 3.39 g., 8 h. Purchased from Roma Numismatics Ltd., E-Auction 96, 5 May 2022, Lot 893 (from “Vitangelo” Collection).**

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*On stylistic and other grounds, Mattingly argues for a somewhat later date, ca. 115-114 BCE. See See Harold B. Mattingly, “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.,” in From Coins to History (2004), pp. 199-226 at pp. 210-211.

**See Sear RCV I at p. 106 regarding the five different types of Crawford 282, i.e., this type (Crawford 282/5) and Crawford 282/1-282/4: “This extraordinary issue, distinguished by flans with serrated edges, was minted at the newly-founded city of Narbo, the first Roman colony in Gaul. The two principal magistrates (Licinius Crassus and Domitius Ahenobarbus) produced their coins in association with five junior colleagues” – one subtype for each of them, in this case L. Porcius Licinius. For each subtype, the junior magistrate’s name appears on the obverse and the two principal magistrates’ names appear on the reverse. See also Crawford I p. 298. 

For identification of the three moneyers/magistrates named on this type, see Crawford I pp. 298-299:

“The L. Licinius who is one of the two senior monetary magistrates was surely the L. Licinius Crassus responsible for the [founding of the] colony . . . . [and] was Cos. 95; Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus seems to have struck coinage as moneyer also (no. 285) and to have been Cos. 96. Their junior associates did not have distinguished careers - . . . . L. Porcius Licinus is presumably the grandson or great-grandson of L. Porcius Licinus, Cos. 184.” See also BMCRR I pp. 184-185 n. 1 (re the two senior magistrates); p. 185 n. 1 (re L. Porcius Licinus).

Regarding the scene on the reverse, Crawford states as follows at Vol. I p. 299: “The accoutrements of the figure in the biga forming the reverse type are purely Gallic (note the carnyx and the criss-cross pattern on the shield, similar to those on [Crawford] no. 281/1[issued by  M Fovri L.f. Philus]. . . . The figure is clearly a Gaul . . . ; that the figure is the Gallic king Bituitus, captured by the father of Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus according to the probably mendacious account of Valerius Maximus . . . and Eutropius . . ., seems incapable of proof.” Contra BMCRR I pp. 184-185 n. 1: “The reverse type, which is common to the coins of all the moneyers of this issue, records the victory in Gaul of Cnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, the father of the [magistrate], over the Allobroges and their ally, Bituitus, king of the Arverni, who is represented in his chariot. Bituitus was shortly afterwards taken prisoner by C. Fabius Maximus, and figured in Rome in his own chariot of silver at the triumph of Fabius.” RSC I (3rd ed. 1978), although published post-Crawford, continues to follow this interpretation. See id. p. 18 (note to Aurelia 20).

Without addressing the specific identity of the Gallic warrior on the reverse of this issue, Yarrow places the scene in context; see Section 2.2.6 at pp. 106-108, 110:

“The Roman concern to honor both the gods and their ancestors for their military successes and the territorial hegemony those victories had granted to the populus Romanus required the development of a very specific visual language. The desire was not to communicate a general celebration of the divine or of militarism but rather to hold up as exempla specific deeds as proofs of Roman (and familial) exceptionalism. To this end, the Romans chose to appropriate symbols associated with the strength and prowess of their enemies and transform them into an iconography of Roman conquest: falcatas (Iberian-style swords), torques, elephants, camel cavalries, and Macedonian shields all fall into this category. Just as actual torques, carnyces (Gallic dragon-shaped war trumpets), shields, and falcatas were displayed in Rome as the spoils of war – dedicated in temples and hung on the houses of the generals as lasting testimony to the victories – so too the alien symbols on the coinage testify to the defeat of a specific formidable enemy. This desire for iconographic specificity was not, of course, particular to the Romans, and they borrowed heavily from Hellenistic precedents for their choice of symbols. What is unique is the breadth, nuance, and frequency of this symbolic repertoire. While use of these and similar symbols was not originally limited to the coinage, given how few other Republican monuments survive, coins remain our prime means of tracing this development. . . .

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6.  Roman Republic, L. Memmius, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 109-108 BCE. Obv. Male head to right (Apollo?), wearing oak wreath, star (*) [= monogrammed XVI; mark of value] beneath chin / Rev. The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), cloaked, with stars above their heads, standing facing between their horses, each holding a spear and the bridle of his horse, with each horse raising its outside front hoof; L•MEMMI in exergue. Crawford 304/1, RSC I Memmia 1 (ill. p. 65), Sear RCV I 181 (ill. p. 107), BMCRR II Italy 643, RBW Collection 1145 (ill. p. 237). 19 mm., 3.95 g. Purchased Jan. 6, 2022 at Roma Numismatics E-Sale 93, Lot 897. Ex Andrew McCabe Collection; ex Numismatica Ars Classica AG, Auction 7, 27 May 2014, Lot 1944; ex Aureo & Calico, Auction 159, 3 March 2004, Lot 1056.*

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*Crawford says little about this issue, stating only (see Crawford I p. 315) that the moneyer “may be identified with L. Memmius, who visited Egypt as a Senator in 112,” that the obverse type “remains unexplained” (but resembles the head of Apollo on Crawford 350A, including in wearing an oak-wreath rather than a laurel wreath), and that the representation of the Dioscuri -- dismounted and standing next to their horses rather than mounted and galloping in the same direction with couched lances, their traditional portrayal on Roman Republican coins, especially during the 2nd Century BCE – is “unusual.” For detailed discussions of the Dioscuri in mythology, in their role as protectors of the Roman people as a result of their miraculous intervention on the Roman side at the battle of Lake Regillus, and as frequently depicted on Roman Republican coins (albeit rarely on Roman Imperial coins), see, e.g., https://www.ostia-antica.org/dict/topics/mint/mint04.htm#:~:text=The Dioscuri were known to,against the Latins in c; https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Dioscuri: 

“[T]he worship of the Dioscuri, as divinities, had its origin at Rome, from the victory which the consul Postumius gained, near the lake Regillus, over the Latins and the sons of Tarquinius Superbus (B.C. 493 or 496). It was said that, after that engagement, the Dioscuri appeared in the forum of Rome, wearing conical bonnets, over each of which was a star. They stood resting upon their lances, beside their horses, which were drinking at a fountain. These twin heroes disappeared as soon as they had announced the news of the battle, at a moment when, on account of the distance from the scene of the slaughter, no one could have as yet become acquainted with the event. It is also related that, during the action, two young men, mounted on two white horses, were seen fighting valiantly for the Romans. . . . The Dioscuri most frequently appear, on coins of the Roman Republic, as horsemen galloping, with couched lances, and stars above their pilei. . . . In the imperial series, this type (which was meant to denote brotherly concord), is of rare occurrence.”

It has been suggested that the portrayal of the Dioscuri on the reverse of this coin may be based on an ancient statuary group similar to the pair of statues unearthed in 1561, located at the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome since 1583:

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See https://www.walksinrome.com/uploads/2/5/1/0/25107996/castor-and-pollux-piazza-del-campidoglio-rome_orig.jpg. And, if taken together, the pair of statues certainly resembles the reverse of the L. Memmius denarius:

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7. [New Write-up] Roman Republic, Q. Lutatius Cerco as Quaestor, AR Denarius, Rome Mint (or other Italian Mint; see BMCRR Italy p. 298 fn 4 cont.), 109-108 BCE (or 107 BCE, per Mattingly p. 207). Obv. Head of Roma or Mars right [Crawford, RBW Collection: Roma; Sear RCV: Mars; BMCRR & RSC: Roma or Mars], wearing crested helmet ornamented with feather/plume between two stars [representing the Dioscuri(?)] and Δ or triangle to right of stars; above, ROMA; beneath chin; CERCO upwards; behind, * [= XVI; mark of value] / Rev. Galley right with horizontal shields above oarsmen, prow in shape of helmet, and head of gubernator right at stern beneath aplustre; above, Q•LVTATI [VT ligate] over Q [Quaestor]; all surrounded by oak-wreath (corona civica) with acorns. 19 mm., 3.87 g. Crawford 305/1; RSC I Lutatia 2 (ill. p. 60); BMCRR II Italy 636; Sear RCV I 182; RBW Collection 1146 (ill. p. 237). Purchased from Jordan M. Sheckells (Facebook Ancient & Medieval Coins Sales Group) Aug 2022; ex Pegasi Numismatics (private purchase 2019); ex Pegasi Numismatics Auction 39, 13 Nov. 2018, Lot 397 (unsold).*

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*Moneyer as Quaestor  The denarius and uncia categorized as Crawford 305/1 and 305/2  “are the only record which we have of Quintus Lutatius Cerco, who held the office of quaestor” (BMCRR II Italy p. 297 n. 3); see also Crawford p. 315, stating that he “is not known to have progressed beyond the quaestorship.” As explained in John Melville Jones’s A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) (entry for “Quaestor” at pp. 261-262):

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know whether this was by authority conferred on them from the Senate at Rome, or by virtue of the imperium of their commanders, or whether such issues were fully legal.”

However, BMCRR Italy (at p. 298 fn. 4 [continuation]) is the only authority to suggest that this issue may have been minted outside Rome or that Lutatius Cerco may have been a provincial quaestor, citing, among other things, “the fabric of the denarius.”

Date of Issue Crawford dates this issue to 109 or 108 BCE (see Vol. I p. 315), but then states that it is “worth remarking that Q. Lutatius Catulus, Cos. 102,” who belonged to the same gens as the moneyer, “was a candidate for the consulship in 107.” Mattingly agrees that the “family propaganda of Q. Lutatius Cerco, as Crawford saw, might be connected with the consular canvass of Q. Lutatius Catulus. (See the chapter entitled “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.” in Harold B. Mattingly, From Coins to History: Selected Numismatic Studies (2004) pp. 199-226 at p. 207.) However, if that is the case, then “the ‘109 or 108 B.C.’ dating will not do for this. Catulus first campaigned in 107 against the noble C. Atilius Serranus and was defeated. He then suffered two further setbacks at the hands of ‘new men’ in 106 and 105. Few men had such a tough passage in the hustings; but even the first contest must have looked tough enough in prospect, and 107 would have been an admirable year for Cerco to revive the family’s glory; no Lutatius had been consul since 220.” Id. See also Mattingly at p. 133 (in article entitled “The Numismatic Evidence and the Founding of Narbo Martius,” at pp. 130-139), stating that “Cerco’s quaestorian issue looks very like part of what must have been an increasingly feverish campaign to secure Catulus’s election.” 

Obverse: Roma or Mars? As noted above, the authorities disagree as to whether the obverse portrait depicts Roma or Mars – based in part on unsupported pronouncements as to whether the face is more “masculine” or “feminine,” demonstrating that gender can be in the eye of the beholder! Compare Sear RCV I 182 at p. 107 fn. (arguing that a “youthful Mars” interpretation is “preferable” because “the features appear to be masculine”) with BMCRR II Italy 636 at pp. 297-298 fn. 4 (stating that the head “may be of Mars or Roma,” presenting the argument for Mars [see below] but opining that “the features have, however, a feminine appearance,” and ultimately declining to take a position, as does RSC, following Babelon). In fact, the argument in favor of a Mars identification seems logical to me: BMCRR points out (p. 298 n. 4) that during this period, “a feather instead of a wing as an ornament to the helmet usually occurs with the head of Mars,” as shown on the coins of Ti. Veturius [Crawford 234/1], Q. Minucius Thermus [Crawford 319/1], and C. Publicius Malleolus [Crawford 385/3a-g]. All three types do, in fact, depict a helmet with a feather or plume rather than an eagle’s wing on the obverse – just like this type -- and all three obverses are uniformly interpreted as portraying Mars. (I have not, however, reviewed all the different types from this period to see if there are any counter-examples.) To be sure, the legend “ROMA” appears on the obverse, but I do not believe the presence or absence of that word constitutes a definitive identification of the obverse portrait one way or the other. [All thoughts are welcome on this issue!]

Meaning of Reverse Design See BMCRR II Italy p. 298 fn 4: “The reverse type records the great victory of the consul Q. Lutatius Catulus over the Carthaginian fleet under Hanno in the battle off the island of Aegusa in B.C. 241. For this victory Catulus received the honor of a triumph. The oak-wreath is the corona civica which was accorded to a general who had preserved the life of a citizen or saved the State at a critical juncture.” See also Crawford I at p. 315, stating that the significance of the corona civica is “unclear,” but that it “perhaps reflects the fact that the victory meant the end of the drain on Roman manpower caused by the First Punic War.”

Possible Obverse Reference to the Dioscuri Given the naval theme of the reverse design of this type, Liv Mariah Yarrow has raised the question in her blog of whether the “two big stars” on the obverse helmet were intended to recall the Dioscuri/Penates, citing, among other things, the two stars above the heads of the Dioscuri on the Mn. Fonteius denarius with a galley on the reverse (Crawford 307/1; see below) issued almost contemporaneously with the Lutatius Cerco denarius (Crawford 305/1). (See https://livyarrow.org/2014/02/11/238-out-of-410-days-a-fashion-for-ships/.) She also cites a Republican as depicting Dioscuri caps in front of ship prows to support the notion of an association between naval victories and the Dioscuri. (Id.) And, of course, the immediately preceding issue to Lutatius Cerco’s, that of L. Memmius (Crawford 304/1) also depicts the two Dioscuri, with stars above their heads.

As far as I know, neither Yarrow nor any other authority has attempted to explain the Δ to the right of the two stars on this type, let alone interpret it as the letter Delta, making specific reference to the Dioscuri. However, given the naval theme of the reverse, an attribution of the stars on the obverse helmet to the Dioscuri – whether the obverse depicts Mars or Roma -- would certainly be consistent with the role of the Dioscuri in Greco-Roman mythology as the patron deities of sailors and ships. See, e.g., Eric Flaum, The Encyclopedia of Mythology (1993) (entry for “Dioscuri” at p. 63) (“The Dioscuri were said to be guardians of sailors in distress”); Aaron J. Brody, “The Specialized Religions of Ancient Mediterranean Seafarers,” Religion Compass Vol. 2, Issue 4, pp. 444-454 at p. 445 (2008) (https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-8171.2008.00079.x) (“Because of their control over favorable winds, the Dioscuri, twins Castor and Pollux, were patrons of Greek and Roman sailors who set course by the light of their constellation at night”) (citing Rougé, J, 1981, Ships and Fleets of the Ancient Mediterranean, Trans. by S. Frazer, Wesleyan, University Press, Middletown, CT); https://www.theoi.com/Cult/DioskouroiCult.html (quoting Plutarch, Life of Lysander 12. 1 as stating "There were some who declared that the Dioskouroi appeared as twin stars on either side of Lysander's ship just as he was sailing out of the harbor against the enemy, and shone out over the rudder-sweeps").
 

8. Roman Republic, Mn. Fonteius, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 108-107 BCE. Obv. Jugate and laureate heads of Dioscuri right, stars above their heads; below their chins to  right, * [= XVI; mark of value] / Rev. Galley right depicted in three-quarters perspective at prow, with long projecting rostrum, full-length oars on front side (with overlapping horizontal shields above oars), and partial view of foreshortened oars on back side*; pilot seated in stern beneath aplustre; above, MN • FONTEI [MN and NTE ligate]; below galley, control-letter B. 20 mm., 3.91 g., 4 h. Crawford 307/1b, BMCRR I 1205; RSC I Fonteia 7 (ill. p. 48); Sear RCV I 184 (ill. p. 107). Purchased from Roma Numismatics E-Sale 98, 16 Jun 2022, Lot 1029.**

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*Presumably intentionally, the three-quarters view of the prow of the galley presents the distinct impression of a face, with two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and headgear; the foreshortened oars to the right somewhat resemble a cat’s whiskers. 

**According to Crawford I at pp. 316-317 (referring to id. p. 305), the moneyer “is doubtless a brother or cousin of the moneyer C. Fonteius,” the issuer of Crawford 290/1 in approximately 114-113 BCE, similarly depicting the Dioscuri (in a Janiform design) on the obverse and a galley on the reverse; “either may be identified with the Fonteius who was Legate in 91 [BCE].”  The reason that both moneyers chose to portray the Dioscuri and a galley, as explained at Crawford I p. 305, is that the gens Fonteia came from Tusculum, the chief cult-center of the Dioscuri in Latium.  The galleys on both reverses are “doubtless” allusions to the transmarine origin of Telegonus (the son of Ulysses and Circe), who was the legendary founder of Tusculum. Here's my example of Crawford 290/1, without the write-up:

Fonteius (Dioscuri-Galley) jpg version.jpg

 

9.  Roman Republic, C. Annius T.f. T.n Luscus and L. Fabius L.f. Hispaniensis, AR Denarius, 82-81 BCE, minted in N. Italy (or Spain). Obv. Female bust right, unidentified [according to Crawford & Sear RCV] but possibly Anna Perenna [see BMCRR & RSC],* draped, wearing diadem, earring of three drops and necklace; hair rolled back and collected into a knot behind, and falling in one lock down the neck; before, scales; behind, winged caduceus; C•ANNI•T•F•T•N• - PRO•COS•EX•S•C around counter-clockwise from 4:00; below bust, control-letter R between two dots / Rev. Victory leaning forward in quadriga of galloping horses right, holding reins in left hand and palm-branch in extended right hand; horse on far right turns head back towards the other three horses; Q above horses; in exergue, [L]•FABI•L•F•HISP. 21 mm., 3.78 g., 4 h. Crawford 366/1b; BMCRR II Spain 13-18 var. [different control-letters]; RSC I Annia 2b & Fabia 17; Sear RCV I 289 (ill. p. 126), RBW Collection 1376 (ill. p. 283). Purchased from Roma Numismatics Ltd. E-Sale 98, 16 Jun 2022, Lot 1071; “from the collection of Z.P., Austria” (with old coin ticket in English on one side and in Italian on other side).**

image.jpeg.27ae44560ce7e38fe489315b5c92490b.jpeg

*BMCRR II, at p. 353 n. 2 (continuation), identifies the obverse bust as “Anna Perenna, who according to Ovid [citations omitted] was the sister of Dido, and was worshipped in Italy in the character of a rustic deity. It may have been from her that the Annia gens claimed descent. The caduceus, the symbol of commerce, may refer to the corn-producing wealth of Spain, or even to Anna Perenna herself, of whom Ovid relates that when the people of Rome were in want of food she distributed cakes amongst the hungry multitude, who in gratitude erected a temple to her. The scales may have a monetary significance.” RSC I adopts the same identification. Crawford, however, states that “the identity of the deity who forms the obverse type is entirely uncertain.” Crawford I p. 386. Sear RCV I, at p. 126, also declines to identify the obverse figure. 

**As stated in BMCRR II at pp. 352-353 n. 2, "Caius Annius Luscus was the son of T. Annius Rufus, consul B.C. 128, and grandson of T. Annius Luscus, consul B.C. 153. This information is supplied by the legend on the obverse of the coins. He served under Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidius in Africa in the war against Jugurtha, B.C. 107, commanded the garrison at Leptis, and later, in B.C. 82, was sent by Sulla to Spain, with the title of proconsul, to oppose Sertorius, who had retired there after the collapse of the Marian party in Rome. . . . (T)hese coins were struck under a special mandate of the Senate [hence the “EX•S•C”] by his quaestors, L. Fabius Hispaniensis and C. Tarquitius. [The latter’s name appears only on Crawford 366/4.] . . . . The Victory in a quadriga on the reverse is no doubt intended to record the successes of C. Annius Luscus at the beginning of the campaign.”

See also Crawford I p. 386 (citations omitted): “C. Annius was sent against Q. Sertorius in Spain some time after the middle of 82 B.C.; the early part of the issue, struck in Italy, bears the name of one Quaestor, L. Fabius L.f. Hispaniensis, the later part, struck in Spain, bears also that of C. Tarquitius P.f.; the presence of two Quaestors at this stage is entirely intelligible if C. Annius was in charge of both Spanish provinces. C. Tarquitius is not heard of again, L. Fabius deserted to Sertorius (for which he was proscribed), and shared in his murder.”

 I have seen no express explanation of the presence of the letter “Q” above the horses on the reverse (and present on the reverse of all variations of Crawford 366), but it may simply mean “Quaestor.”

 

10.  Roman Republic, M. [Marcus] Volteius, AR Denarius, 78 BCE (Crawford) or 75 BCE (Harlan). Obv. Helmeted, draped bust of young deity (Attis or Corybas [male] or Bellona [female])* right (with Phrygian[?] helmet bound with laurel-wreath, and long flowing hair beneath helmet); behind, control-symbol of thyrsus** / Rev. Cybele, wearing turreted crown [off flan] and veil, in biga of lions right, holding reins in left hand and patera in right hand; control mark Θ (Theta) above**; in exergue, M•VOLTEI•M•F. 17.5 mm., 3.89 g. Crawford 385/4; RSC I Volteia 4 (ill. p. 100); BMCRR I 3185 (specimen with control-marks thyrsus & Θ); Sear RCV I 315 (ill. p. 131); RBW Collection 1417 (ill. p. 291); Harlan RRM I Ch. 28 pp. 62-66 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (Vol. I) (2012)]; Yarrow pp. 168-171 (ill. Fig. 4.9 at p. 171) [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]. Purchased 6 April 2022 (but didn't arrive for two months!), Künker [Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Osnabrück, Germany] Auction 367, 6 April 2022, Lot 7-793; ex Artemide Auction LIII, 2-3 May 2020, Lot 212.***   

image.jpeg.386a7762238e6ad72af5251c06bd9083.jpeg

*The authorities disagree on the identity of the obverse bust, whether it is male or female, and whether it can be identified at all. See Crawford Vol. I pp. 400, 402 (“The identity of the obverse type of 4 is uncertain; Attis . . . Corybas . . . and Bellona . . . are suggested, in every case without decisive evidence”) (citations omitted); Sear RCV I 315 at p. 131 (no identification); Yarrow at p. 171, Fig. 4.9 (“uncertain long-haired divinity”); RSC I at p. 100 (“Attis or young Corybas”); BMCRR I 3179 at p. 390 (“Attis(?)”); Harlan RRM I at p. 64 (“most likely Attis”); Künker Auction 367, Lot 7-793 description (identifying the obverse as Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, citing Hollstein, Wilhelm, Roman Coinage in the years 78-50 BC [Die stadtrömische Münzprägung der Jahre 78-50 v. Chr.] (Munich 1993) p. 10, for the theory that the obverse refers to Sulla’s temple restorations or new constructions, including the probable new erection of a Bellona altar on the Capitol and the construction of the Bellona Temple near the Porta Collina). 

I do not have access to Hollstein’s explanation of the basis for his identification of the obverse as Bellona. The book was essentially the author’s published dissertation. See the generally unenthusiastic review by Jane DeRose Evans in the American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 7/8 (1995-96), pp. 289-293, at https://www.jstor.org/stable/43580271?seq=1, characterizing it at p. 290 as “a book that some numismatists may find helpful,” and noting at p. 293 that “Not everyone will agree with his insistence on seeing references to Sulla or Pompey in many coin types (I myself remain skeptical in several cases, as Sulla especially seems to have far too many tutelary deities).” Absent such access, or any general adoption by scholars of Hollstein’s theory, I think that Attis or Corybas would seem to be more likely identifications than Bellona, given their connections to Cybele, the deity portrayed in the lion biga on the reverse. By contrast, I am not aware of any thematic connection between Bellona and Cybele.  Thus, Attis was a “Phrygian god, the companion of the Great Mother of the Gods (see Cybele), who castrated himself, died and was brought back to life again.” See Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby 1990), entry for “Attis” at p. 28.  Corybas was “the son of Iasion and the goddess Cybele, who gave his name to the Corybantes (Koribantes), or dancing priests of Phrygia.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corybas_(mythology). See also Jones, op. cit., entry for “Corybant” at p. 74, defining the term as “a male follower of the goddess Cybele. Since the Corybants celebrated her rites by leaping and dancing, clashing weapons and cymbals, they are sometimes confused with the Curetes of Crete, who used to engage in similar activities.”

 **Regarding the obverse control-symbol on my coin of a thyrsus (a staff covered with ivy, topped with a pine cone, associated with Bacchus and his followers), and the reverse control-mark of a Θ (Theta), see Crawford I p. 399, explaining that “a given control-symbol on [385/]4 is always paired with the same control-numeral; no pair of control-marks has more than one pair of dies.” For the control-mark pairings attested as of Crawford’s publication in 1974, see Crawford’s Table xxxv at Crawford I p. 401, listing the Thyrsus and Θ as a known combination (citing Paris, A 16891). See also BMCRR I 3185 at p. 391, citing the British Museum’s specimen of the same pairing.

 ***The generally-accepted interpretation of the depiction of Cybele in a biga of lions on the reverse of this coin (together with the portrayal of Cybele’s companion Attis or her son Corybas on the obverse), is that it refers to one of the five major annual games celebrated in the Roman Calendar, specifically the Ludi Megalenses honoring Cybele – just as the designs of the four other types issued by Marcus Volteius in 78 BCE (Crawford 385/1-3 & 5) referred to four other major games, the Ludi Cereales (Ceres), the Ludi Apollinares (Apollo), the Ludi Romani (Jupiter), and the Ludi Plebeii or Herculani (Hercules). See Crawford I p. 402; Harlan RRM I pp. 62-67 (and specifically pp. 63-66 regarding Cybele and the Ludi Megalenses). See Yarrow pp. 168-169: “Crawford suggestes that the issue is anticipating the moneyer’s campaign for an aedileship and encodes a promise of largitones, or generosity, in his potential staging of the games. Yet, different magistrates oversaw each of these games; the ludi Cereales fell under the purview of the plebeian aediles; the ludi Romani under the curule aediles; and the ludi Apollinares under the praetor urbanus. The moneyer cannot be campaigning for all simultaneously. Instead , we might want to think about this series as a miniature fasti (calendar) or symbolic representation of the religious year. For all we know, the moneyer may have originally intended to strike types for other festivals and for one reason or another simply never did; not all of the five types were struck in equal proportion, those in honor of Apollo being represented by the fewest known dies [see the die totals for each type at Crawford I p. 399].”

 Specifically concerning the Ludi Megalenses, see Harlan RRM I at pp. 63-66:

 “The Ludi Megalenses held between 4 and 10 April were the first games of the calendar year. Volteius represented these games with the depiction of a male head wearing a Phrygian helmet on the obverse and the goddess Cybele driving a cart drawn by a pair of lions on the reverse. Cybele, also known as the Great Mother, was a Phrygian goddess whose frenzied rituals were quite foreign to Roman sensitivities. [Lengthy quotation on subject of Cybele from Lucretius’s poem On the Nature of Things omitted.] The Phrygian followers of Idaean Cybele were called Corybantes, but in Latin literature they were frequently confused with the Curetes, who concealed infant Jupiter’s cries on Mount Ida in Crete. It may be one of these Corybantes who appears to be represented on the obverse of Volteius’ coin, but more likely it is Attis, the young consort of Cybele. He is usually depicted in Phrygian trousers fastened with toggles down the front and a laureate Phrygian cap. His act of self-castration is the reason why Cybele’s priests were eunuchs and why in Rome Cybele’s worship remained distinctly Greek in character and was maintained by Greek priests. Romans were prohibited by decree of the Senate from taking part in the priestly service of the goddess. Even the name of the games remained Greek, derived from Megale Mater meaning Great Mother. The goddess did not become part of the Roman pantheon until 204 [BCE]. In that year the Sybilline books were consulted because, according to Livy, it had rained stones more than usual that year. In the books a prophecy was found that if the Romans ever wished to drive out a foreign enemy who had invaded Italy, they would be successful if they should bring Cybele, the Idaean Mother of the Gods, from Pessinus to Rome. [Lengthy description omitted of transportation of Cybele to Rome, with cooperation of Attalus of Pergamum, who had recently become an ally of Rome.] The day of her installation was 4 April 204 and games were held in her honor for the first time. The specific contests of the first games were not recorded, but scenic games were added for the first time . . . in 194. At some point in the development of the games, the re-enactment of the goddess’ reception into Rome became part of the ceremonies. . . .

 Volteius’ coin depicts Cybele in her typical Greek aspect rather than as the sacred stone that was brought to Rome. She wears a mural crown and drives a cart pulled by a pair of lions, beasts once common to Phrygia.”

Wonderful additions for 2022 🤩. My favorites are #1, 6, & 10 😍.

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Happy New Year, @DonnaML, all lovely RR denarii and nice writeups for all of them!  For me the centaur biga is properly positioned in the top spot (not only chronologically and by Crawford number), with #4 C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius and #2 my next two favorites from a nice collection.   Best wishes, S.

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