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Probus and the Roman Cavalry: A Special Bust Variation


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Probus' coinage is known for its wealth of diversity concerning how Probus depicted himself through his bust types. While Probus introduced many bust types and countless variations, I want to focus on two of my favorite Probus coins from my collection: a standard military bust and a very special variation.

 

The Military Bust:

As nearly all the emperors of the Third Century hailed from the army, the portraiture on the coinage also became increasingly militaristic. The standard depiction of the emperor in the earlier empire was usually just his head with the appropriate headwear (i.e. a portrait showing the emperor's head and neck along with a laurel wreath), but during the Third Century, nearly all of the busts included at least a military cuirass. The military bust brings the martial progression of the emperor's depiction to its end as it shows the emperor completely as a soldier with full armor, a helmet, and weapons. Earlier emperors struck militaristic busts with slight variations, but Probus was the first to mint these portraits in regular numbers. 

coins ancient to romans imperial and republican probus mpr 150 sold

Roman Empire, Probus AE Antoninianus. Fourth Officina of Rome, Second Emission (277 AD). RIC Vb Probus 166

Obverse: VIRTVS PROBI AVG. Radiate, cuirassed, and helmeted bust left, holding spear and shield.

Reverse: ADVENTVS PROBI AVG. Emperor on horseback left, right hand raised, holding scepter in left, captive below. RΔ in exergue.

The Parma Bust:

image.png.e65177a8bc439ee160ee11aec474263a.pngimage.png.4f201e1933ba82161c348e99f8349405.png

Roman Empire, Probus AE Antoninianus. Second Officina of Siscia, Seventh Emission (280 AD). Ric Vb Probus 648 (unlisted var.)

Obverse: IMP C PROBVS P AVG. Radiate, cuirassed, and helmeted bust left, holding spear and parma.

Reverse: CLEMENTIA TEMP. Probus standing right, holding scepter and receiving globe from Jupiter, standing left, holding scepter. Crescent in bottom field, KA in exergue.

This coin deviates strangely from standard Probus coinage in several ways. Only four examples of this type are known to me; one is in the collection of Barnaba Skibniewski, and two others (including the example cited in Alfoldi), which are in a private UK collection. The fourth example is this one.

Firstly, the obverse legend of this coin is quite strange. Pius Felix, abbreviated to PF, was a very common title on the coinage of Roman emperors, but here it is just written as Pius (IMP C PROBVS P AVG). Siscia struck four different obverse legend variations with the P-only titulature, and while these legends span several different reverse types, nearly all of the individual types are rare.

What distinguishes this bust from a standard Probus military bust is the type of shield that the emperor is holding. Virtually all of Probus’ military busts depict him with an ovaloid shield, as it is this type of shield that replaced the iconic rectangular scutum during the Third Century, but here Probus wields a parma instead. The parma, a smaller and rounder shield, was originally used by velites — very light and low-ranking troops. With the military reform of Emperor Gallienus two decades earlier, much more emphasis was placed on mobile cavalry units in order to face the threats of the Third Century. Cavalrymen generally preferred smaller shields like the parma, as they were much lighter and wieldier on horseback. While Probus was not a cavalryman himself, he may have been either nodding to the cavalry, or reinforcing his Roman nobilitas, as horsemanship was always associated with nobility. Parma variations are rare at the mints of Siscia and Serdica, and they are extremely rare at Cyzicus and Ticinum.

Finally, while CLEMENTIA TEMP is an incredibly common reverse for Probus, to see it in conjunction with the mint of Siscia and the mintmark of KA is highly peculiar. Several mints struck this reverse, but Siscia only struck a few types (RIC Vb 641-648) with CLEMENTIA TEMP. Of these eight scarce types, about half use the XXI mintmark, while the other half use KA. Siscia was decidedly a western mint, and it only used the KA mark with a handful of reverse types, compared to the hundreds that used the correct mark of XXI. This coin also has an eagle-less sceptre on the reverse, which likely precludes the possibility that the reverse die came from another mint, as I could find no examples of a CLEMENTIA TEMP reverse with both an eagle-less sceptre and the KA mintmark from elsewhere. One possible explanation for this anomalous mintmark is that an eastern engraver somehow arrived at Siscia and carved the design with the wrong mintmark, but without good evidence, this is just conjecture.

 

You can see this coin along with some others featured in the Classical Numismatics video Ancient Coins: The Restorers of the World

 

Post any of your Probus coins or special variations on a regular coin!

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Posted (edited)

Really good post! Parma Probus is one of the best obverses for Probus given how much historical significance and rarity it has.

Just got this Probus myself on the mail today! Another one to my ever growing Probus collection.unknown.png.b46d357257710c39724e35eca953a758.png

Probusposters, assemble!

Edited by GordianAppreciator101
Actually added the pic
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11 minutes ago, GordianAppreciator101 said:

Really good post! Parma Probus is one of the best obverses for Probus given how much historical significance and rarity it has.

Just got this Probus myself on the mail today! Another one to my ever growing Probus collection.unknown.png.b46d357257710c39724e35eca953a758.png

Probusposters, assemble!

Love it! Siscia has to be my favorite mint for Probus' consular busts; a topic that I hope to discuss in depth one day.

unknown.png

Roman Empire, Probus AE Antoninianus. Third Officina of Siscia, Fourth Emission (277 AD). RIC Vb Probus 820.

Obverse: IMP C M AVR PROBVS PF AVG. Radiate bust left, wearing the consular robes and holding and eagle-tipped scepter.

Reverse: VIRTVS PROBI AVG. Two captives at base of trophy. XXIT in exergue.

Probus Coins (Online) 2591 (This coin cited)

https://probuscoins.fr/coin?id=2591

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Posted · Administrator

Always great to see rarities like this displayed for the enjoyment of all, thank you for posting! The coins of Probus are quickly starting to consume a larger and larger share of my own collection. Ironic that one of the more marshal emperors in terms of coin style ends up being killed by his own troops for opining how long Rome would need her armies! 

Here's one of my consular type:

image.thumb.jpeg.d1a243ea313a514a3b34a45b7538f214.jpegIMG_4385.thumb.jpeg.5fea32d67ea2018153c72be2931e38a1.jpeg

 

PROBUS (276-282). Antoninianus. Ticinum.

Obv: IMP C PROBVS AVG. 
Radiate and mantled bust left, holding eagle-tipped sceptre.
Rev: PROVIDENT AVG / Q / SXXI. 
Providentia standing left, holding globus and sceptre.

RIC 490.

Weight: 3.84 g.
Diameter: 25 mm.

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Wow, that is just a stunner!  Fabulous writeup too, thank you!  I don't really have anything too special of Probus, but I'm quite fond of three.  First, my first issue from Rome (I like first issues) :

image.thumb.jpeg.e8e194ec1e408642cc3cd56e2ab79125.jpeg

This one of the "uncertain Asian mint" (quelling the Saturninus revolt?) is quite a nice example, I think:image.thumb.png.f03a922e236ae20435eb4f3ba47ce11c.png

And finally my INV PROBVS from Siscia:

image.thumb.jpeg.5825cc9e0faa4e33c7ab8c3c29cdaeee.jpeg

 

Anyway, worth posting these just to help keep the OP on p.1!

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3 hours ago, Restitutor said:

Always great to see rarities like this displayed for the enjoyment of all, thank you for posting! The coins of Probus are quickly starting to consume a larger and larger share of my own collection. Ironic that one of the more marshal emperors in terms of coin style ends up being killed by his own troops for opining how long Rome would need her armies! 

Here's one of my consular type:

image.thumb.jpeg.d1a243ea313a514a3b34a45b7538f214.jpegIMG_4385.thumb.jpeg.5fea32d67ea2018153c72be2931e38a1.jpeg

 

PROBUS (276-282). Antoninianus. Ticinum.

Obv: IMP C PROBVS AVG. 
Radiate and mantled bust left, holding eagle-tipped sceptre.
Rev: PROVIDENT AVG / Q / SXXI. 
Providentia standing left, holding globus and sceptre.

RIC 490.

Weight: 3.84 g.
Diameter: 25 mm.

Very nice! And also a part of the AEQVITI series of Ticinum!

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