Jump to content

The last coin struck by the republic.


Recommended Posts

The write-up is done by a friend of mine who inspired me to get this amazing type😀


Okay, so maybe the title is an exaggeration, if only just a TINY bit. This is not the last coin made in Rome, or even the last denarius struck in the city – far from it. However, it is in fact the very last coin to be issued by elected officials of the Roman Republic from the mint of Rome – free from the oversight of dictators, princeps, emperors and the like. All other Republican coins struck in Rome after this would be issued under the false autonomy of a captive Senate under the influence first of Caesar, then Augustus, and then the many emperors who would follow. Those forged in mobile military mints across the Mediterranean would also fall short, being struck under the tyrannical authority of individual imperators vying for near-sole power rather than democratically elected consuls. Very soon into this period, in 23 BCE during the reign of Augustus, all silver and gold coinage would become the sole domain of the emperor himself, and much of it would be struck in provincial mints in Hispania and Gaul – leaving only the base metals to bear even the rubber-stamped seal of authority of a now-impotent Senate. As such, this coin marks an important inflection point in human history – the story conveyed by this coin is that of how the Republic was lost.
I’m sure even the most cursory and uninterested student of Roman history will understand that by 49 BCE the Roman Republic was an entirely different beast to the idyllic nation-state conceived by Lucius Junius Brutus some 460 years earlier. Political polarization had led to the fracture of society and factionalism was rife as a result, leaving the door open to men who served personal ambition rather than patriotic fervour. The civil wars of Sulla and Marius, and the Social War fought within the previous 40 years had normalised a generation of Romans to unjust dictatorship and internecine conflict. Meanwhile the general civil upheaval and strife rooted in growing wealth disparity between the everyman and the elite who ruled in Rome – a conflict which had broiled over many times in the history of the Republic, and was brought to the very fore of Roman politics by the Gracchi less than a century earlier – had finally reached its zenith, dominating political discourse and setting the stage for a final and calamitous conflict between the standard-bearers of the two parties to this conflict – the self-styles Optimates and Populares.
This coin was struck in the early days of 49 BCE, as the Republic descended into chaos, and the many peculiarities of this coin are a direct representation of the many unprecedented going-on of its time. To be somewhat more exact, this coin would have been struck after the election of Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Maior as Consuls on January the 1st – perhaps even in the immediate wake of Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon with the 13th Legion in tow on January 10th, 49 BCE, an unspoken declaration of war against the Republic herself – and before the mass-exodus of the Roman Senate and gentry on the 17th of January – only a few days later.
The new Consuls for the year had been sworn in on the 1st of January as was customary, and their first act in office was to reply to Caesar’s demands that Pompey stand down in own legions in tandem before Caesar relinquished his command and came back to Rome. They flatly refused, considering Caesar’s relatively reasonably demands an act of war, and one week later on the 7th of January, 49 BCE, issued a final decree – SENATVS CONSVLTVM VLTIMVM – branding Gaius Julius Caesar an enemy of the State – a move which would prove fatal to the already palliating Republic. Upon hearing the news, Caesar mobilised from his winter camp in Ravenna, joined by Marcus Antonius who had been forced to flee Rome in fear of his life. A short while later, on the 10th of January, Caesar crossed a small, winding stream known as the Rubicon, casting the die which would seal the fate of Rome for centuries to come, and forever searing his own name into the immortal annals of history. Gaius Julius Caesar stood on the northern banks of that sickly and meandering stream an ambitious general of great repute and undoubted quality – as he slaked the water from his caligae upon its southern shore he had passed into legend, becoming a god amongst mortal men.
The obverse of this coin depicts a bearded deity, very similar in his representation to Jupiter – the Roman equivalent of Zeus. However, upon closer inspection it becomes clear that this is in fact Saturn, the patron god who presided over the lands of Latium in the golden age of heroes – and whom the Romans would equivocate with Kronos after their many interactions with the Hellenes. Part of what gives this away is the sickle-sword, which is slung over his shoulder, with the sickle being a characteristic implement of Saturn, however the reverse is equally important in making this attribution, and will be discussed further below. In the margins is the name of the official who was responsible for issuing the coin – something which had become standard practice by this point in the Republic. However, this coin is set apart from the multitudes in a monumental way when one inspects the exergual legend more closely. Written is NERI·Q·VRB – Nerius, Urban Quaestor. This suggests that rather than being issued by one of the triuvirii monetalis as was standard practice, this coin was instead struck under the express authority of one of the two urban quaestors, the men directly in charge of the treasury within the Temple of Saturn. This is supported by the fact that Gnaeus Nerius was one of the Urban Quaestors elected for 49 BCE, just days before Caesar began his march on Rome.
On the reverse, the coin features a legend which is incredibly unusual, listing the consular date as was tradition in Roman record-keeping at the time – [L·LENT]·C·MARC·[C]OS – Lucius Lentulus and Gaius Marcellus, Consuls. This is speculated to have been done as a means of reinforcing the legitimacy of the Senate and her elected Consuls above that of encroaching Caesar to any handlers of this coin – the majority of whom would likely have been fresh troops levied in the preceding days to the Pompeian cause. The main figure represented on the reverse is that of a legionary standard, or aquila, some of which were kept in the sacred Temple of Saturn at the heart of FORVM ROMANVM. The image of an eagle surmounts a large pole which would foist it skywards, jeering at the feckless enemies of Rome while instilling pietas in her legionaries. Very interestingly, the standards on either side of the aquila bear a letter beneath the ornamentation – H and P respectively. This is thought to signify the ancient military tradition of the Hastati and Principes – a vestigial appendage of the ancient military organisation of the Roman Legions before the Marian Reforms. The Hastati would be comprised of the poorer, often poorly-trained and very modestly equipped front lines of a legion. Behind them would be the core of a Roman army, the heavily armoured and well-trained Principes, drawn from the wealthier landowners and providing the brunt of the assault in battle after the Hastati had softened the enemy’s blow. The third and final line would be composed of the Triarii, the most seasoned, wealthiest, and best-equipped troops of all, and the final hope of the army. Indeed, there was even a saying in the Republic, for when some matter was to be carried on to the very bitter end: res ad triarios venit – it comes down to the triarii. It was also within the confines of Saturn’s sacred sanctuary upon the Capitoline that the treasury of the state was to be the found – the Aerarium. This would be the lifeblood of any future campaign against the oncoming Caesarean forces, and of course it would be swiftly removed from the Pompeian equation amidst the confusion of the blundered retreat from Rome.
As might have become clear by now, the imagery of this coin is meant to convey that it was minted from the very lifeblood of the Republic, from the treasury funds within the Aerarium housed inside the Temple of Saturn, under the authority of a high-ranking magistrate in a time of great tumult and turmoil within Rome. Given this and the political messaging of the legends it only makes sense that this would have been an emergency issue struck in Rome in response to Caesar’s march South, overseen directly by Gnaeus Nerius in the week preceding the Senate’s flight from the city, and most likely with the aim of paying for fresh troops to be levied against the obstreperous general.

Please share any coins you may have of the dying years of the republic🙂


Edited by Victrix
  • Like 20
  • Clap 1
  • Cookie 1
  • Heart Eyes 6
  • Mind blown 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Captch said:

Is this the first coin with a (almost) three standards reverse? Or were they seen in previous times of strife? I want to know who to blame for my least favorite LRB reverse type...

To my knowledge, the iconography employed here was first used by Gaius Valerius Falccus in 82 BC. Minted not during Caesar's civil war, but Sulla's. 



Sulla's Civil War. C. Valerius Flaccus. AR Denarius. Massalia, 82 BC. Draped and winged bust of Victory right / Legionary eagle between two standards inscriped H[astati] and P[rincipes], C·VAL·FLA to left, IMPERAT to right. EX·S·C below. 17 mm, 3,67 g. Crawford 365/1b; Syd. 747a. (Mine)



Bertolami 87 December 2020, Lot 347 (For reference)


  • Like 11
  • Cookie 2
  • Heart Eyes 1
  • Smile 1
  • Thinking 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor

Here, as they appear in my "virtual" tray. are my eight Roman Republican coins that were minted after 49 BCE, and, therefore, are all listed not only in Crawford but in David Sear's book The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC (1998) (sometimes referred to below as "CRI"). 


However, the only one of the eight that was directly linked, by its issuer or thematically, to one of the "Imperators" or to the events of the civil war, is the first coin in the second row: Crawford 459/1, issued in North Africa by Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio (ca. 95-46 BCE) as the commander-in-chief of the remaining Pompeian forces in North Africa after Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalus and subsequent assassination, leading up to their defeat by Caesar at the Battle of Thapsus (in present-day Tunisia) on 6 Feb. 46 BCE.  If one didn't know when they were issued, the others, I believe, could all just as easily have been issued before Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Here are my descriptions of those seven coins, all without footnotes:

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, C. Vibius C. f. C. n. Pansa Caetronianus, AR Denarius 48 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Mask of bearded Pan right; below, PANSA / Rev. Jupiter A[n]xurus, laureate, barechested, seated left on throne, holding patera in right hand and long scepter in left hand; on right, C•VIBIVS•C•F•C•N curving downwards; on left, IOVIS • AXVR curving upwards. Crawford 449/1a, RSC I Vibia 18 (ill.), Sear RCV I 420 (ill.), Sear Roman Imperators 20 (ill. p. 14), BMCRR 3978, Sydenham 947. 19 mm., 3.75 g. (Purchased from Silbury Coins, UK, Sep. 2020.)

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, L. Plautius Plancus, AR Denarius, 47 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Facing head of Medusa with coiled snake on either side of face [bankers’ marks to left of mouth], L. PLAVTIVS below / Rev. Winged Aurora flying right, holding palm frond and conducting the four horses of the sun, PLANCVS below. RSC I Plautia 15, Crawford 453/1a, Sydenham 959, Sear RCV I 429, Sear Roman Imperators 29 (ill. p. 18), BMCRR Rome 4004. 18 mm., 4.0 g. 

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, Mn. Cordius Rufus, AR denarius, 46 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Jugate heads of Dioscuri right, each wearing a laureate pileus surmounted by a star, RVFVS III VIR downwards behind and below / Rev. Venus Genetrix (not Venus Verticordia) standing facing, head left, holding scales in right hand and transverse scepter in left hand, Cupid hovering behind [Sear CRI, BMCRR] or perched upon [Crawford, RSC] her left shoulder, MN CORDIVS (MN ligatured) downwards to right. Crawford 463/1a, CRI 63 (ill. p. 45) [David Sear, The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC (1998)], RSC I (Babelon) Cordia 2a (ill. p. 36), Sear RCV I 440 (ill. p. 156), BMCRR 4037, RBW Collection 1606 (ill. p. 339), Sydenham 976. Purchased from Jordan Scheckells (Louisiana, USA) Feb. 2022; ex. Diana Numismatica (Via Quattro Fontane, Roma). With old coin envelope (early 20th century).

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, T. Carisius, AR Denarius, 46 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Head of Sibyl (or Sphinx) right, her hair elaborately decorated with jewels and enclosed in a sling, tied with bands / Rev. Human-headed Sphinx seated right with open wings, wearing cap, T•CARISIVS above,; in exergue, III•VIR. Crawford 464/1, RSC I Carisia 11 (ill.), Sear RCV I 446 (ill.), Sear Roman Imperators 69 (ill. p. 46), Sydenham 983a, BMCRR 4061. 19 mm., 3.87 g.

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, L. Papius Celsus, AR Denarius, 45 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat’s skin headdress tied at neck; circular banker’s mark “well hidden” [per email from Dimitrios G. Gerothanasis, Nomos AG] near Juno’s ear / Rev. She-wolf standing right, holding stick in mouth which she places on fire; to right of fire, eagle standing left fanning the flames with open wings (and with tip of outer wing extending beyond coin’s border); CELSVS III • VIR  above; L. PAPIVS in exergue. Crawford 472/1, RSC I (Babelon) Papia 2 (ill. p. 71), Sear CRI 82 at pp. 51-52 [David Sear, The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC (1998)], RBW Collection 1647 (ill. p. 349) (2014), BMCRR I 4018 (ill. BMCRR III Pl. L no. 22); Sear RCV I 461 (ill. p. 158), Sydenham 964. 18 mm., 3.08 g., 1 h. Purchased Oct. 3, 2021 at Nomos Obolos 20, Lot 1059.

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, that 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 Roman Imperators 172 at p. 109, 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).

Roman Republic/Imperatorial Period, C. Vibius Varus, AR Denarius, 42 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Bacchus (or Liber)* right, wearing earring and wreath of ivy and grapes / Rev. Spotted panther [leopard]** springing left towards garlanded altar on top of which lies a bearded mask of Silenus or Pan,*** and against which leans a thyrsus with fillet (ribbon); C • VIBIVS in exergue, VARVS upwards to right. Crawford 494/36, RSC I Vibia 24, Sear RCV I 496, Sear Roman Imperators 192 (ill. p. 116), Sydenham 1138, BMCRR 4295. 17 mm., 3.60 g.  Purchased from Edward J. Waddell, Ltd., Nov. 2020; ex Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG, Auction 83, May 20, 2015, Lot 83; ex Frank Sternberg Auction 17, Zurich, May 1986, Lot 519.


Edited by DonnaML
  • Like 7
  • Cookie 1
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

These would also fit into the time frame.


C Vibius Pansa 48 BC



C Vibius Pansa 48 BC




Moneyer issues of Imperatorial Rome. L. Plautius Plancus. 47 BC. AR Denarius.. Rome mint. Facing mask of Medusa with disheveled hair; coiled serpents flanking / Aurora flying right, conducting four horses of the sun and holding palm frond. Crawford 453/1a; CRI 29; Sydenham 959; Plautia 15; RBW 1583.


L. Hostilius Saserna. AR Denarius, Rome Mint, ca. 48 B.C.
Bare head of female Gallic captive facing right, carnyx behind; Reverse: Diana of Ephesus standing facing, holding long spear, stag in left field.


Moneyer issues of Imperatorial Rome. Mn. Cordius Rufus. 46 BC. AR Denarius. Rome mint. Crested Corinthian helmet right, surmounted by owl; RVFVS upward to left / Aegis of Minerva decorated with head of Medusa in center; (MN) # CORDIVS around. Crawford 463/2; CRI 64; Sydenham 978; Cordia 4; BMCRR 4042; Kestner 3598-9; RBW 1607.

Condition: Very Fine Weight: 3.90 gr Diameter: 17 mm



T.CARISIUS 46 BC  Crawford 464/3a; Carisia 4; Sydenham 984a.



  • Like 8
  • Cookie 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Incredible coin @Victrix! Great history, cool design and fantastic toning!

Here is a military mint/ barbarous that Crawford lists as the last of the Republic:


Scarpus Denarius

Contemporary Copy - 27 BC

Obv: CAES [ ] legend with open hand design. Rev: bull(?) left with inscriptions above and below. 1.25 grams. Fair.


From an old Hampshire collection; found near Colchester, UK, 2000s. 

L. Pinarius Scarpus commanded four legions for Marc Antony in Cyrenaica against Octavian's African army, which was under the command of Cornelius Gallus. Scarpus changed his allegiance to Octavian after the defeat of Antony at the Battle of Actium and this issue was minted shortly afterward, the open hand signalizing a gesture of friendship toward Octavian. This issue is the last denarius of the Roman Republic in Crawford.




  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites


More on this coin in my "Notes" https://www.sullacoins.com/post/cassius-conspirator


Roman Republican, C. Cassius Longinus, AR denarius (3.83g, 20mm), 42 BC, military mint moving with Brutus and Cassius, probably at Smyrna, P. Lentulus Spinther, legatus

Obv: C CASSI IMP / LEIBERTAS, diademed and draped bust of Libertas right.

Rev: LENTVLVS SPINT, capis and lituus

Ref: Crawford 500/3

Edited by Sulla80
  • Like 7
  • Heart Eyes 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...