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Numismatic evidence and the battle of Abritus


Tejas

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I bought the coin fragment below. This is a quarter section of an aureus of Trajan Decius, minted in the name of his younger son Hostilian. The fragment was found in Vinnytsia oblast, Urkaine.

These fragments (chopped aurei) have a unique and highly interesting interpretation. According to the author Aleksander Bursche "The Battle of Abtitus, the Imperial Treasury and Aurei in Barbaricum" (free on Academia.edu), these coin fragments come from the imperial treasury, which fell into the hands of the Goths after the battle of Abritus in AD 251. 

At Abritus the Roman army was utterly defeated and Trajan Decius and his older son Herennius Etruscus lost their lifes. Gold coins of Trajan Decius and his family are the most frequent finds of all Roman gold in the Barbaricum north of the Black Sea. This gold is likely from the imperial treasury. Complete coins from the Barbaricum are almost always holed. According to Bursche, the holes were applied carelessly and in haste, probably directly after the battle, when Gothic warriors adorned themselves with the spoils. 

Most of the coins, however, were transported north and some of them were apparently sacrificed. Hence, in a number of different locations in western Ukraine and eastern Poland, shallow holes have been found (not in a burial context), which contained numerous pieces of chopped aurei. Some of the chopped aurei had previously been pierced.

The interpretation is that these coins were destroyed as sacrifices to the gods to thank them for the victory. This practice is in line with Germanic tradition going back to the Clades Variana of AD 9, of destroying parts of the spoils of war and depositing them in bogs, lakes or burying them in the ground as sacrifces. The act of destruction, seems to have been part of the sacrificial ritual and may have symbolized a second or spiritual defeat of the enemy. 

The coin-fragment is RIC 181b I think:

Obv.: C VALENS HOSTIL MES QVINTVS N C Bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust of Hostilian to right.

Rev.: PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS Prince standing left, holding standard in his right hand and spear in his left.

coin1.PNG

Edited by Tejas
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Awesome article and coin fragment @Tejas . This sort of practice and the cutting of the coins for sacrifice to the Germanic gods is not particularly well known in the collecting world. In my opinion I'd like to see the mainstream media covering your story rather than inane pieces ad nauseum about Sponsian(us)!

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1 hour ago, Tejas said:

I bought the coin fragment below. This is a quarter section of an aureus of Trajan Decius, minted in the name of his younger son Hostilian. The fragment was found in Vinnytsia oblast, Urkaine.

These fragments (chopped aurei) have a unique and highly interesting interpretation. According to the author Aleksander Bursche "The Battle of Abtitus, the Imperial Treasury and Aurei in Barbaricum" (free on Academia.edu), these coin fragments come from the imperial treasury, which fell into the hands of the Goths after the battle of Abritus in AD 251. 

At Abritus the Roman army was utterly defeated and Trajan Decius and his older son Herennius Etruscus lost their lifes. Gold coins of Trajan Decius and his family are the most frequent finds of all Roman gold in the Barbaricum north of the Black Sea. This gold is likely from the imperial treasury. Complete coins from the Barbaricum are almost always holed. According to Bursche, the holes were applied carelessly and in haste, probably directly after the battle, when Gothic warriors adorned themselves with the spoils. 

Most of the coins, however, were transported north and some of them were apparently sacrificed. Hence, in a number of different locations in western Ukraine and eastern Poland, shallow holes have been found (not in a burial context), which contained numerous pieces of chopped aurei. Some of the chopped aurei had previously been pierced.

The interpretation is that these coins were destroyed as sacrifices to the gods to thank them for the victory. This practice is in line with Germanic tradition going back to the Clades Variana of AD 9, of destroying parts of the spoils of war and depositing them in bogs, lakes or burying them in the ground as sacrifces. The act of destruction, seems to have been part of the sacrificial ritual and may have symbolized a second or spiritual defeat of the enemy. 

The coin-fragment is RIC 181b I think:

Obv.: C VALENS HOSTIL MES QVINTVS N C Bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust of Hostilian to right.

Rev.: PRINCIPI IVVENTVTIS Prince standing left, holding standard in his right hand and spear in his left.

coin1.PNG

Excellent score with great historical importance ☺️

                         1495990_Full_Rev.jpg.f677088725d33683aa68658d3c26a9d9.jpg 

                                                              Map & period bust of Decius courtesy of NGC Collectors Society.

Pictured below is a whole coin depicting a complete image of Hostilian for comparison.

HostilianMcAlee1160(e).jpg.3ac81d40cb5c9cf2507d0cba04fc1f34.jpg

SYRIA, Antioch. Hostilian as Caesar, AD 251. Billon Tetradrachm: 11.74 gm, 27 mm, 8 h, 7th Officina. McAlee 1160e. Ex. Rare.  Al Kowsky Collection.

Edited by Al Kowsky
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Here is a section from A. Bursche's article mentioned above:

p. 162

"... It is striking that the chopped aurei from Stara Wieś and Berdychiv had been pierced earlier which suggests that at least for a short time they had been used as pendants or as ornaments of the armour. The uncirculated condition of the coin fragments from Stara Wieś, Berdychiv and Ulów indicates that they were chopped, and presumably deposited, not long after minting. Thus, we can imagine a situation in which the coins were pierced when the Gothic troops were still in the South, soon after the capture of the imperial treasury, its contents presumably shared out among the men according to merit shown in battle, as was done some fifty years earlier with the denarii and the equipment which ended up in the lake at Illerup (Bursche 2011). That the holes were made in hurry is indicated by the fact that some are too close to the coin’s edge and caused a break, making it necessary to make another hole. Then the aurei were used for pendants or dress accessories, or to decorate weapons and horse trappings36 while the troops were making their way back North, which would have taken many weeks; finally, they were chopped or burnt and used as a sacrifice when the war band came back home.37..."

 

It is particularly interesting if a coin can be linked to specific historical events, and Abritus was an important turning point, which brought the empire precariously close to collapse or at least a crisis which lasted several decades. I'm lucky to have found a coin in the name of Hostilian, because Bursche states that the Stara Wies find of 28 chopped up aurei fragments included only 1 which could be attributed to Hostilian.

Bursche's article includes a find report in German from 1942 (footnote 3 on page 152), which states that the holes in which the (quarter-)fragments were deposited were arranged in a semi-circle. Each hole had a diameter of only 5 cm. The excavators in 1942 already realised that they had found a sacrificial site. So an important thing to realize is that these coins were not chopped up to get smaller "denominations" or hack gold for trade and exchange. Instead, they were chopped up only for the purpose of destruction as part of a cultic sacrifice.

 

Here are depictions of these fragments from the article:

Numerian.PNG

Edited by Tejas
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