Jump to content

The coinage of the gens Caecilii Metelli: My latest (and greatest Roman Republic MSC) coin


Recommended Posts

My latest coin of the gens Caecilii Metelli is from one of the most interesting and fun to learn about in the republic's sordid down fall:


M. Caecilius Metellus,

82-80 BC, Denarius 82-80 BC, Rome. 3,73 g. Head of Apollo right; before, value-mark ROMA / M METELLVS Q F Macedonian shield decorated with elephant`s head; around laurel-wreath. Mediolanum 369/1; Syd. 719. good very fine, horn silver.

Purchased from Munzhandlung Ritter GmbH


"Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius had a long career as a politician and general in the early 1st century BC. He earned the title "Pius" for his unwavering support for his father, Metellus Numidicus. During the Social War, Pius was a solid if unspectacular commander and a more successful judge administering the newly conquered lands of Italy. During the civil war of 84-80 BC, he reluctantly supported Sulla against to the Marian regime of Cinna i Carbo, eventually becoming his deputy. It was during this period that he minted silver denarii of the type presented at an unknown mint in northern Italy. These denarii refer to his title as Pontifex Maximus, or chief priest. 63 BC, the office of Pontifex Maximus, which was sought and finally won by the young Julius Caesar, became vacant."

Now let's do a rewind...



This illustrious family is mentioned as far back as the 5th century BCE. And was one of the most powerful families of the Republic (you have to be powerful to be an enemy of guys like Marius and Julius Caesar!), whom traced their ancestry all the way back to the god Vulcan.


After their ancestor L Caecilius Metellus defeated Carthaginian Hasdruble and his elephants, during the first Cartheginian war, in 251 BCE. The family adopted the elephant as their mascot/emblem soon after and became major players in state politics for the next couple hundred years. 

With a pedigree like that you bet they were staunch members of the optimates (the elitist group that literally means "the best ones") as opposed to the populares (for the people).


My earliest from the family:


L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus, 
Denarius, 17mm, 3.5gr, 128 BC, mint Rome
Obverse: head of Roma in helmet facing right, behind X's head
Reverse: Pax in the bidze to the right, an elephant's head below, the inscription ROMA at the bottom
Reference: Crawford 262/1, Sydenham 496.


M. Caecilius Q.f. Q.n. Metellus, Rome, 127 BC. Æ Semis (22mm, 7.18g, 12h). Laureate head of Saturn r. R/ Prow of galley r.; above, Macedonian shield. Crawford 263/3b; RBW 1067. Good Fine Ex London ancient coins


M. Caecilius Q. f. Q. n. Metellus. 
AE Quadrans, c. 127 BC. Obv. Head of Hercules right, wearing lion skin; behind, three pellets. Rev. Prow right, inscribed M·METELLVS; above, Macedonian shield and before, three pellets. Below, ROMA. Cr. 263/5b; B. 33. AE. 4.50 g. 18.00 mm. Scarce. Earthen green patina. About VF/VF. Purchased from Artemide July 2022


M. Caecilius Q.f. Q.n. Metellus. Denarius; M. Caecilius Q.f. Q.n. Metellus; 127 BC, Denarius, 3.72g. 20MM, Cr-263/1a, Syd-480, RSC Caecilia-29. Obv: Head of Roma r., star on helmet flap, ROMA upward behind. Rx: M.METELLVS.Q.F. around Macedonian shield, elephant's head in center; all in laurel wreath.. VF



Thanks for reading along with me. Hopefully you learned something new, got inspired or at least enjoyed the coins. 

Please post your coins of this family, coins of the Roman Republic, oh, huh, my new coin has something on the reverse with an elephant in its center, happy to see those as well 😀

Edited by Ryro
  • Like 17
  • Heart Eyes 2
  • Mind blown 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice new Macedonian shield and an entertaining write-up on the Metelli!

I collect coins of the Metelli mainly because of the cute little elephants on their denarii:


Roman Republic, moneyer: Q. Caecilius Metellus Balearicus, AR denarius, 130 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Q·METE (ligated); head of Roma, helmeted, r.; before, crossed X. Rev: ROMA; Jupiter in quadriga, r., holding reins and thunderbolt in l. hand and branch in r. hand. 20mm, 3.87g. RRC 256/1. Ex Peus, Lagerliste 26, lot 99 (1973); ex Hommel collection; ex Kölner Münzkabinett.


Roman Republic, moneyer: presumably L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus, or L. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus, AR denarius, 128 BC, Rome mint. Obv: head of Roma r., helmeted; behind, crossed X. Rev: [ROMA]; goddess (Pax or Juno Regina) in biga r., holding sceptre and reins in l. hand and branch in r. hand; below, elephant’s head with bell attached. 17mm, 3.88g. Ref: RRC 262/1. Ex Artemide, e-live auction 17, lot 251.


Roman Republic, moneyer: M. Caecilius Metellus, AR denarius, 127 BC, Rome mint. Obv: ROMA; head of Roma, helmeted, r.; before, X. Rev: M·METELLVS·Q·F; Macedonian shield decorated with elephant's head. 18mm, 3.83g. RRC 263/1a. Ex Hommel collection, ex Kölner Münzkabinett.


Roman Republic, imperatorial issue of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR denarius, 81 BC, Northern Italian mint. Obv: diademed head of Pietas r.; to r., stork standing r. Rev: Q C M P I; elephant standing l., wearing bell around neck. 17mm, 3.55g. Ref: RRC 374/1. Ex JB collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 105.


Roman Republic, imperatorial issue of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR denarius, 81 BC, Northern Italian mint. Obv: diademed head of Pietas r.; to r., stork standing r. Rev: IMPER; jug and lituus; in laurel wreath. Ref: RRC 374/2. 19mm, 3.90g. Ex Artemide, e-auction 12, lot 271.

  • Like 9
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Man, that coin is right up your alley, @Ryro! It has everything you like: Macedonian shields, elephants, Apollo, and it's from the Republic. That portrait kind of reminds me of the Vejovis denarii like this one.

Mn. Fonteius C.f., 85 BC.
Roman AR Denarius, 3.97 g, 21.0 mm, 5h.
Rome mint.
Obv: MN. FONTEI C. F, Laureate head of Apollo-Vejovis right; thunderbolt below; Roma monogram below chin.
Rev: Infant Genius seated right on goat; pilei of the Dioscuri above; below, filleted thyrsus right; all within wreath.
Refs: Crawford 353/1a; Sydenham 724; Fonteia 9; BMCRR 2476; RCV 271; Varesi 290.

  • Like 10
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/7/2023 at 2:55 PM, Ursus said:


Thanks so much! Aren't their elephants awesome!? But that second to last coin's beefy elephant is spectacular! And I really love those storks. We know about the reason for elephants. But why storks? And where else on ancients do we see them?

Thanks @expat!

Nice pretty boy Apollo @Roman Collector. Iseemto recall @DonnaML having one where we can see Genius (I still say Cupid) smiling on his goat. 

Here's mine. He lacks the little lord Fauntleroy curls of yours:


Edited by Ryro
  • Like 7
  • Clap 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor
3 hours ago, Ryro said:

Thanks so much! Aren't their elephants awesome!? But that second to last coin's beefy elephant is spectacular! And I really love those storks. We know about the reason for elephants. But why storks? And where else on ancients do we see them?

Thanks @expat!

Nice pretty boy Apollo @Roman Collector. Iseemto recall @DonnaML having one where we can see Genius (I still say Cupid) smiling on his goat. 


@Ryro, what I actually have is the Infant Genius (although I, too, believe it's Cupid) smiling on his dolphin on a Lucretius Trio denarius:


As for your question about the meaning of the stork, here's my write-up of the relevant type, with an explanation in the footnote, in boldface:

Roman Republic, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR Denarius, 81 BCE. Obv. Head of Pietas right, wearing diadem; below chin, stork standing right / Rev. Elephant standing left, wearing bell around neck; in exergue, Q•C•M•P•I [Q. Caecilius Metellus Imperator]. Crawford 374/1, RSC I Caecilia 43, Sear RCV I 301 (ill.), Sydenham 750, BMCRR Spain 43. 18 mm., 3.9 g.*


*See Sear RCV I at p. 128: “The issuer strikes as imperator in Northern Italy where he was campaigning on behalf of Sulla. The following year he was to be the dictator’s colleague in the consulship.” See also Crawford Vol. I p. 390: “This issue was produced by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, serving as a Sullan commander in the fight against Carrinas, Norbanus and Carbo. The obverse type [of Pietas] . . . alludes to his cognomen, acquired for his part in securing the restoration from exile of his father Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus.” The stork depicted in front of Pietas “is an emblem of family piety and an occasional adjunct of the goddess.” Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby, 1990) p. 243, under entry for Pietas.  (Apparently, the Romans believed that the stork demonstrated family loyalty by returning to the same nest every year, and that it took care of its parents in old age.)  

Crawford also states at Vol. I p. 390 that “[t]he reverse type of an elephant recalls the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants by L. Caecilius Metellus in 251 [BCE]” . . . . The family was known for its opposition to Caesar.

A few more Caecilii Metelli elephants or elephant heads I own:

Crawford 262:


Crawford 263:


Crawford 269:


Crawford 459:


  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
  • Clap 1
  • Heart Eyes 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I still doubt the dating of the Apollo-head-series to 82 BC

Andreas Alföldi rejected it in 1971 (written in French, so no one took notice)

I had a talk at the ANS with William Metcalf in 1980 and he showed me two coins of this series - identical reverse die, one obverse Apollo, one obverse Roma
A "die-injury" showed that the Apollo type was minted first.

I do have photos somewhere in the attic - but no time at the moment (usual for a pensioner)



  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...