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The types of Hostilius Saserna: closing the circle on a curious set of coins celebrating desolation and despair/ Barbarians on RR coinage


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This coin is the last to complete my set of coins from 48 BCE moneyer, and friend of Julius Caesar, Hostilius Saserna.

It's a bit odd, in that it's not very odd. As the other 2 coin types minted by him bare images of scroungy, emaciated, beaten down Gauls. Clearly celebrating Julius Caesar's campaigns in Gaul. However, this type can come in some very attractive and "pretty" specimens. 

The best guess here is after kissing up to Caesar twice on his victories with the other coins of the set, he puckered up a third time to celebrate JC's clemency. But that's just a guess:



Moneyer issues of Imperatorial Rome. L. Hostilius Saserna. 48 BC. AR Denarius (18mm, 3.6 g, 7h). Rome mint. Diademed female head (Pietas or Clementia?) right, wearing oak wreath / Victory advancing right, holding winged caduceus and trophy. Crawford 448/1a; CRI 17; Sydenham 951; Hostilia 5; BMCRR Rome 3989-92; RBW 1567.
"Nothing certain is known about Lucius Hostilius Saserna, one of the tresviri monetales for 48 BC, except that he was evidently a supporter of Julius Caesar. His coin types all celebrate Caesar's conquests in Gaul and the civil war with Pompey, as well as his clemency to former enemies. The female head on this type closely resembles two issues of Caesar himself and is thought to represent Clementia (Clemency). Two relations named Gaius and Publius Hostilius Saserna, possibly brothers or sons, served under Caesar in Africa in 46 BC, but history is silent about the later careers of all the Hostilia Sasernae."

The first of the three that I purchased was this budget coin with a very spooky half dead looking Gaulish women. Despite the wear the coin, with its very unique style, gives a very strange and bleak feeling



HOSTILIA (48 BC) Lucius Hostilius Saserna Denarius, Rome, 18mm, 3.66g.

Degree of rarity: R1


Obverse: Female head disheveled on the right (Gaul); behind, a carnyx.


Diana of Ephesus standing from the front, holding with her right hand a deer and from the left, a vertical javelin.


"This coin commemorates both the victories of Caesar over the Gauls and the siege and capture in 49 BC of Marseille who had not wanted to choose between Pompey and Caesar. L. Hostilius Saserna is best known for another denarius representing a Gallic warrior, identified as Vercingetorix (RCV 418). The carnyx behind the female head is a Gallic trumpet. On the reverse the statue of Diana of Ephesus also recalls the worship that the massaliètes rendered to the goddess (Artémis), and the temple that they had raised. Lucius Hostilius Saserna was originally from Cremona in Cisalpine Gaul. He owed his career to Julius Caesar he had followed throughout the war of Gaul (58-50 BC). In the fratricidal struggle between Caesars and Pompeians, he remained faithful to Caesar and took part in the siege of Marseilles. He served in Africa and is mentioned by Cicero as a friend of Antoine and Octave. He entered the Senate."


Certainly the most important of the three has got to be this coin type that is generally believed to be that of the legendary Gaulish king who unified many tribes to nearly take out the Roman juggernaut... only to come up short,


(Vercingetorix admitting defeat and supplicating himself to the rug...I mean Roman general)

get dragged around for five years to be shown off in Caesar's parade, only to be garroted (strangled to death) at the end of the celebration:



L. Hostilius Saserna. Fourré Denarius (18-19 mm, 2.86 g), Rome, 48 BC.

Obv. Bearded male head to right, his hair straggling out behind him; cloak around neck and Gallic shield behind.

Rev. L HOSTILIVS / SASERN, Nude Gallic warrior, holding shield with his left hand and hurling spear with his right, standing left in a galloping biga being driven to right by a seated charioteer holding a whip.

Cf. Craw. 448/2; Syd. 952.

Fourré. Very fine. Purchased from Auctiones gmbh March 2021


"The head on this famous and desirable coin has long been identified as that of Vercingetorix. This can not be proven but the head does have remarkably individualistic and naturalistic features, and it must surely represent an actual Gaulish captive seen by the die engraver."

Someone actually tried caking the coin with some kind of paint before I got ahold of it.

1066795_1582795416.l.jpg.5f5873d7785b934cc5e4ab6f7b33e076.jpg The buyer returned the coin to Auctiones, whom cleaned it off and put it back up for sale as the fourré it is for me to purchase. 

Despite it being a fourée I still sent it to David Sear for peace of mind:



Of course there are plenty of other rad coins celebrating the Gauls!


L. Cosconius M.f. 118 BCE. AR Serrate Denarius (17 MM, 3.53g, 6h). Narbo mint. Helmeted head of Roma right; X (mark of value) to left / Gallic warrior (Bituitus, king of the Averni?)driving galloping biga right, hurling spear and holding shield and carnyx. Crawford 282/2; Sydenham 521; Cosconia 1. 

You may have noticed the carnyx on a couple of these coins. These were the horns they would blow to intimidate their enemies:


If, like me, you're doing to know what the carnyx sounds like here is a modern professional musician playing jazz on one:




 M. Servilius AR Denarius. Rome, 100 BC. Helmeted head of Roma right; control mark Є behind / Two warriors, a Roman and a barbarian, fighting on foot, each with a horse behind him; M•SERVEILI•C•[F] V in two lines in exergue. Crawford 327/1; RSC Servilia 13. 3.47g, 20mm, 6h. Banker's marks. Purchased from Savoca April 2022

So please share your Hostilius coins, coins celebrating the Gauls, any recent sets you've completed or whatever barbarian coinage you'd like!

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9 minutes ago, Phil Davis said:





My eyes just keep darting back and forth trying to decide which one I like the most. Though, that Vercingetorix has gotta take the cake. An extremely popular coin fresh from the mint 2,100 years ago! And don't even get me started on the detail of both shields...

Your cherry examples really show off what I was saying earlier about the Clementia being a distinct departure from his other coins of the year. I do wonder why she doesn't get an object behind her portrait?

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Coingratulations on completing your set of Hostilius Saserna denarii, @Ryro! Fun and informative write-up, too! I don't have any coins issued by that dude, I'm sad to say. I don't even have any coins that have much to do with the Gauls. But you asked for a barbarian coin and ask and you shall receive!

Constans, AD 337-350.
Roman billon light maiorina, 3.88 g, 19.6 mm, 5 h.
Antioch, sixth officina, AD 348-350.
Obv: D N CONSTA-NS P F AVG, pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust, left, holding globe in right hand.
Rev: FEL TEMP REPA-RATIO, soldier advancing right, looking back, leading barbarian (child?) out of a hut beneath a tree and holding a spear in the left hand; * in upper left field, ANS in exergue.
Refs: RIC 128; RCV 18700; Cohen 19; LRBC II 2617.

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11 minutes ago, jdmKY said:


I'm fairly certain that your mind blowing Gaulish girl just stole my soul. And that dead Artemis is one of the most perfectly centered coins! What imagery!

However, whoes 'getorix has the best buns?!

Definitely not mine, whom due to its exposed bronze core makes it look like the Celtic king/Rex (it's even in his name, Veri-cing(King)-ato-rix(Rex) sullied his trousers:


However, both @Phil Davis& @jdmKY 's examples have some pretty beefy buns:


And both those shields!!!

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Wow, @Ryro, not an easy set to complete!  Congrats!  Sadly I'm still looking for my Saserna. 😞 My target is the Gaulish woman / Artemis, they always seem to go higher than I want to pay.  (It's not the coin for me, but I actually love your zombie version!)

I think @jdmKY wins the buns competition!  Phil's buns look a bit... like they're on the rack at Safeway!  😆 (Sorry @Phil Davis!)

Carnyx: Here's a quinarius issued by C. Fundanius in 101 BCE to celebrate Marius's victories over mixed Germans and Gauls.  Carnyx on the right:


Here is NOT a carnyx, and NOT celebrating victories over Gauls 😉:



And finally, here's a quinarius issued by Antony (w/ Lepidus) in Transalpine Gaul while he was kicking his heels having alienated the Senate.  Later this year he would conclude the triumvirate agreement with Octavian and that L guy who doesn't matter:


M ANT IMP (ANT is ligate); Lituus, capis and raven standing l. (emblems of the augurate) / LEP IMP Simpulum, aspergillum, securis, and apex (emblems of the pontificate)

Edited by Severus Alexander
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  • 1 year later...
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On 6/18/2022 at 11:03 PM, jdmKY said:


I have scrolled through all Gallia denarii on acsearch (268 results) and did not even know that such an attractive coin of Gallia exists. 
Also the other coins shown here are exceptional.

@Curtis JJ has made an interesting observation about the portrait of Gallia. There seem to be 2 different types, a 'veristic' and an idealized one. 

Here's mine.


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1 hour ago, jdmKY said:

@Salomons Cat Yes, I agree. Her expressive portrait is one of my favorite portrait coins, by far.

I just realized that your Gallia is from CNG, 2021. That was an excellent purchase, truly top-notch. A world-class coin.
Mine is quite 'barbaric' in comparison— less refined, probably not done by a master engraver, but you still see the despair in her face. I also adore it; it's also among my favorites. 

I believe Hispania was the sole province that has ever been personified on the obverse of a Roman coin besides Gallia. I find the disparity in expressiveness and abstraction between Gallia and Hispania quite remarkable.


Edited by Salomons Cat
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