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Roman Republican Coin # 81: L. Farsuleius Mensor and Libertas (Crawford 392/1b)


DonnaML
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This is my first Roman Republican coin purchased in 2023, and, in fact, my first in three months, since last October.  It's also my first and only ancient coin portraying Libertas on the obverse. The portrait has visible scratches on it, but I don't believe it ruins the coin's overall appearance, especially in hand (see the dealer's video of the coin below).  I think the coin provides another example of why I find so many Roman Republican types so interesting: there's a great deal to learn and write about its possible interpretations, even for a relatively unambiguous design like this one.  Something one rarely encounters with Imperial coins, despite their having their own considerable charms. Here is my writeup:

Roman Republic, L. Farsuleius Mensor, AR Denarius, Rome 75 BCE. Obv. Bust of Libertas right, draped and wearing diadem, earring with triple drop, and necklace, with her hair rolled back, collected into a knot, and falling over her neck; behind bust, S • C • downwards above pileus [cap of liberty];  before bust, MENSOR upwards / Rev. Warrior [or: Mars or Roma or Genius of Roman people; see fn.] holding spear and reining in biga right with left hand; with right hand assisting togate figure at left into biga; below front hooves of horses, control-numeral XX[V?]; in exergue, L•FARSULE[I].  19 mm., 3.94 g. Crawford 392/1b, RSC I Farsuleia 2 (ill. p. 47), BMCRR I 3293 et seq,, Sear RCV I 329 (ill. p. 133), RBW Collection 1431 (ill. p. 293), Harlan RRM I Ch. 10 at pp. 49-53 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (Vol. I) (2012)], Sydenham 789. [For alternative dating of type, based on hoard evidence, see Hersh & Walker 1984 Table 2 [Charles Hersh and Alan Walker, “The Mesagne Hoard,” Museum Notes (American Numismatic Society), 1984, Vol. 29 pp. 103-134 (1984)] (76 BCE); RRM I, op. cit. p. 48) (77 BCE).] Purchased Jan. 2022 from Goduto Giuseppe, Heemskerk, Netherlands.*

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Footnote:

*Moneyer: Crawford states at Vol. I p. 406 that L. Farsuleius Mensor is “not otherwise known,” although “his cognomen [Mensor], with its associations with distributions of land, perhaps indicates popularis sympathies." See George Davis Chase, “The Origin of Roman Praenomina,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 8 (1897) [available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/310491], pp. 103-184 at p. 111 (“Mensor” derives from the word for “measurer”). 

Control-Numerals & S • C • : As Crawford also explains (id.), whereas type 392/1a has a scorpion on the reverse beneath the horses, with control-numerals from I-LXXII on the obverse, type 392/1b bears the control-numerals from I to CXX on the reverse beneath the horses, with no scorpion. For both varieties, “no control-numeral has more than one die” – indicating an original total of at least 192 die combinations, which “must have produced a rather large number of denarii” (Harlan RRM I at p. 51). 

The specific control-numeral appearing on the reverse of my specimen is partially worn away, but clearly begins with “XX,” and shows at least one additional numeral, with a top bar above it extending leftward to cover the top of the right leg of the second “X.”” On the assumption that there was only one die per control numeral, I have examined all the die photos available at the Roman Republican Die Project on CRRO for 392/1b control-numerals from 20 (XX) through 39 (XXXIX) [see pp. beginning at http://numismatics.org/archives/ark:/53695/schaefer.rrdp.processed_300-399#schaefer_clippings_output_392-1b_07_od]. The only die that appears to be a reverse die match to mine (and probably an obverse die match as well) is the die bearing the number 25 (XXV), examples of which can be found at pp. 392-1b_08 and 392-1b_14. If one examines this photo of the five clearest examples of that die, together with my specimen (which is in the second row, far right), it is evident that the horses’ back hooves on all of them, just as on my specimen, rest beginning directly above the “V” in FARSVLEI in the exergue – the only die from XX through XXXIX for which this is the case, with the others resting considerably farther left in relation to the letters in FARSVLEI:

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If anyone disagrees with my opinion that the five pictured coins are all double-die matches to mine, please don't hesitate to say so! (I do believe that other than the control-numeral, the reverse on mine is better-preserved than any of the other five.)

Given the size of the issue and the presence of “S • C •” (Senatus Consulto) on both varieties -- and as a basis for his date of 77 BCE for the issue -- Harlan suggests that the first variety may have been authorized by the Senate in connection with payment of the troops used in Pompey’s suppression of Marcus Aemilius Lepidus’s revolt in 77 BCE following the death of Sulla (posing a threat to peace and liberty; see the obverse depiction of Libertas). (Harlan RRM I pp. 50-52.) According to Harlan, the second variety may have been authorized to pay the additional expenses of keeping the troops under arms while Pompey led his army to Spain in 77-76 BCE to reinforce Quintus Metellus Pius in the war against Sertorius. (Id. at pp. 52-53).

Interpretations of Figures and Scene on Reverse: The armed figure on the reverse assisting the togate figure into the biga has been variously interpreted as a warrior (Sear RCV I and the RBW Collection), Mars as a warrior (Crawford), Roma (RSC I), Roma or a warrior (BMCRR I), the Genius of the Roman people inviting the Genius of Italy to enter her chariot (id. p. 402 n. 2, citing the 18th-century scholar Joseph Eckhel), and even as the recently deceased Sulla in his role as a successful Roman general, having trampled Asia, represented by the scorpion beneath the horses on 392/1a (id.). The togate figure has been seen as representing civilians in general, or specifically the Italian citizens outside Rome who became citizens in 90 BCE after the Social War (thus the “Genius of Italy” interpretation), with the entire scene alluding to peace and reconciliation between soldier and civilian and/or between Rome and the rest of Italy after the Social War and subsequent civil war.

 See, e.g., Crawford Vol. I pp. 406-407, opining on the meaning of the obverse and reverse taken together:

“The most insistent pressure in the 70s was for the restoration of the powers of the tribunate, demanded in the name of libertas, and it does not seem unreasonable to regard the obverse type as expressing sympathy with this demand. The warrior on the reverse is clearly male [rejecting the view that the figure represents Roma] and should probably be regarded as Mars ([given] the constellation Scorpio as the astrological ‘house of Mars’ [an allusion to the scorpion beneath the horses on 293/1a]); the reverse type as a whole suggests the notion of peace and reconciliation between soldier and civilian and perhaps alludes sympathetically to a second objective of some politicians in the 70s, the assimilation of the new citizens enfranchised after the Social War.”

(Citations omitted.) Note that I am by no means certain that the armed figure is as “clearly male” as Crawford asserts; I am not even sure what it is that leads him to hold that opinion so strongly.

In a partially different view, stated at BMCRR I p. 402 n. 2, Grueber characterizes as both “ingenious” and “probable” Eckhel’s theory that the types “allude to the lex Julia which was promulgated during the Social War (B.C. 90), and by which the right of citizenship was granted to all Italians; hence the representation of Libertas on the obverse, and on the reverse, Roma, or the Genius of the Roman people, inviting the Genius of Italy to enter her chariot.” (See also RSC I p. 47, citing the same theory of a reference to the lex Julia.)  After citing other theories (including the Sulla theory mentioned above), Grueber states that it is, at the least, “quite possible that the types of these denarii relate to the Social War or to the more recent struggle between the Marian and Sullan parties.” Id.

At RRM I pp. 49-50, Harlan summarizes the various interpretations (citing Crawford, Eckhel, and Grueber), and concludes that the specific symbolism is essentially immaterial given how clear the overall theme appears to be: 

“[A] reasonable interpretation does not demand precise identification. . . . The contrast between armed and unarmed figures dominates on Farsuleius’ coin. . . . Whether the figures represent Rome and Italy or soldier and civilian, the notion of peace and reconciliation can be seen in the joined hands of the two figures [on the reverse]. The same idea will be seen again on the reverse of the joint issue by [Q. Fufius] Calenus and Cordius [possibly P. Mucius Scaevola] [Crawford 403/1, dated to 70 BCE], where an armed Roma, identified by inscription, clasps the hand of an unarmed Italia, identified by inscription. Farsuleius . . . expressed the same Sullan sentiments about peace and liberty.”

Please post any coins you may have depicting Libertas. I have only one other, this Claudius I as depicting Libertas on the reverse, holding a pileus:

Claudius I AE As, AD 42, Rome Mint. Obv. Bare head left, TI CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVG P M TR P IMP P P / Rev. Libertas standing facing, head right, holding pileus in right hand, left hand extended, LIBERTAS AVGVSTA / S - C. RIC I 113, Sear RCV I 1860, BMCRE 202. 31.62 mm., 11.18 g. Purchased from Marc Breitsprecher.

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And, of course, any and all opinions about the various interpretations of the L. Farsuleius Mensor denarius are welcome.

 

Edited by DonnaML
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Very nice example, @DonnaML. I knew this type and I would like one in my collection. Not a major target but still. 

In the last auction I participated in, I was the underbidder for an example, but inferior to yours, corroded/harshly cleaned and with a more advanced wear - the reverse exergue no longer fully readable. I wouldn't have refused it - but I have some financial limits for worn coins, especially if it's not on a high position on the bucket list. Somebody else just pushed the limit. I think that coin had XXII as control number. 

1 hour ago, DonnaML said:

Please post any coins you may have depicting Libertas.

First coin with Libertas is this Elagabalus limes denarius 

 

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Limes Denarius
Cf RIC IV Elagabalus 115
Date Range: AD 218 - AD 222
Obv IMP ANTONINUS AVG, Bust of Elagabalus, laureate, draped, right 
Rev LIBERTAS AVGVSTI, Libertas, draped, seated left, holding pileus in extended right hand and sceptre in left hand
 

I also have a modest Nerva as. The coin has its flaws, but I like the portrait 

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Nerva AD 96-98. Rome
As Æ
27 mm, 9,76 g
RIC II Nerva 100 (as) C
Date: AD 97
Obv: [IMP NERVA] CAES AVG P M [TR P II COS III P P], Head of Nerva, laureate, right / LIBERT[AS PVBLICA] S C, Libertas, draped, standing left, holding pileus in right hand and short sceptre, pointing up slightly to right, in left hand
 

A very pleasant Trebonianus Gallus 

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Trebonianus Gallus AD 251-253. Rome
Antoninianus AR
21 mm, 3,77 g
IMP C C VIB TREB GALLVS AVG, bust of Trebonianus Gallus, radiate, draped, cuirassed, right / LIBERTAS PVBLICA, Libertas, draped, standing left, holding pileus in right hand and transverse sceptre in left hand
RIC IV Trebonianus Gallus 70; RSC 68
 

and of course, my Brutus. 

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Edited by ambr0zie
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11 hours ago, DonnaML said:

Note that I am by no means certain that the armed figure is as “clearly male” as Crawford asserts; I am not even sure what it is that leads him to hold that opinion so strongly.

I also wonder what would make this figure clearly male?

A very interesting write up, thank you. I do not collect Roman Republican coins but I do enjoy the style and imagery!

I have only a coin that depicts *Liberalitas:

Julia Domna, Liberalitas Julia Domna Ar denarius; 18mm; 3.12g; Emesa/syrian mint  IVLIA DO-MNA AVG draped bust right  LIBE-RA-L AVG Liberalitas standing left holding cornucopia and abacus  RIC 627, RSC 103 Keywords: Julia Domna Emesa Liberalitas

Edited by arizonarobin
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@DonnaML..

Great looking coin Donna with a super write up & research as always!

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Antoninus Pius. 138-161 AD. AE Dupondius (11.76 gm, 25.3mm). Rome mint. Struck 154-155 AD.
Obv.. ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P XVIII, radiate head right.
Rev.. LIBERTAS COS IIII / S - C, Libertas with pileus and sceptre standing left.
RIC 933....BMC 1469. gVF.

 

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Roman Imperatorial Coinage, #LIBERATORS#, Gaius Cassius Longius, Brutus and Cornelius Lentulus Spinther, Denarius, mobile military mint, c. 43-2, diademed and veiled bust of Libertas right, rev. jug and lituus, 3.71g (Craw. 500/5; BMCRR East 80; RSC 6). Very fine, old cabinet tone
Footnote
Provenance: Naville Auction 11 (Geneva), 30 November 2014, lot 173

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2 hours ago, arizonarobin said:

I also wonder what would make this figure clearly male?

A very interesting write up, thank you. I do not collect Roman Republican coins but I do enjoy the style and imagery!

I have only one coin that depicts Libertas:

Julia Domna, Liberalitas Julia Domna Ar denarius; 18mm; 3.12g; Emesa/syrian mint  IVLIA DO-MNA AVG draped bust right  LIBE-RA-L AVG Liberalitas standing left holding cornucopia and abacus  RIC 627, RSC 103 Keywords: Julia Domna Emesa Liberalitas

Thanks. I don't get it either. The figure has neither a beard nor the other visible attribute that makes figures on ancient coins clearly male, so I don't know what Crawford was looking at.

I really like the coin you posted, but I am pretty sure from the reverse legend, as well as the objects the reverse figure is holding -- the cornucopiae and the coin holder or abacus -- that she is Liberalitas rather than Libertas.

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2 hours ago, singig said:

great write-up !  , the numeral on my example also begins with  XX

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The reverse is quite similar, but I don't think it quite matches the XXV die, because the farthest-left hoof rests above the first "S" rather than the "V" in FARSVLEIVS. Also, there are four lines of reins leading from the armed figure's left hand to the horses, as opposed to three on my coin. I suspect that if you spent a little bit of time scrolling through the dies at the Roman Republican Die Project (see links above), you could find a match and determine the control-numeral for your coin.

Edited by DonnaML
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PS to @singig: I think it's very possible that your specimen is an unusually good example (except for part of the control-numeral and a portion of the horses' hooves being off the flan) of the reverse die with control-numeral XXVIII. See these two examples; the farthest left of the horses' hooves appears in each case to rest in exactly the same place as on your specimen. (Neither photo is clear enough to count the number of reins leading from the armed figure's hand to the horses.)

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Edited by DonnaML
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Another spectacular addition Donna! Wanna trade examples 😜

Though, a sad fourée, I liked the portrait of Libertas (Go liberals!) and find it fun and interesting:

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L. Farsuleius Mensor, Denarius, Rome, 75 BC, AR fourée (g 3,2 mm 19 h 7), Diademed and draped bust of Libertas r. behind, pileus and S C before, MENSOR, Rv. Warrior, holding spear and reining biga r., assists togate figure into biga below, control numeral in ex. L FARSVLEI. Crawford 392/1b Farsuleia 2 Sydenham 789. Former: Estatebureau

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Thank you for the advice !  @DonnaML, I was able to find the revere die for my coin  , the complete numeral is XXCV.

Many reverse dies are very similar and is hard to compare them when a part of the numeral is missing .

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Edited by singig
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