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Trajan 98-117AD. - Elephant Quadriga. EGYPT, Alexandria, c.111-112AD, 13.13gm., AE33mm. Drachm


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A while ago there was a thread about quadrigas and the weird assortment of animals that pulled them. I remember thinking that I only had coins that had horses pulling them and so when this (well worn) Trajan coin that depicted him driving a quadriga pulled by elephants came up, I grabbed it.

Undoubtedly, your examples of Trajan in charge of a quadriga pulled by elephants will be much better looking than mine, but please let me see them.

Trajan 98-117AD.  - Elephant Quadriga. EGYPT, Alexandria, c.111-112AD, 13.13gm., AE33mm. Drachm

Obv: Trajan laureate bust right wearing aegis

Rev: Trajan driving quadriga pulled by four elephants right, holding eagle tipped sceptre and branch

Date 'L' 'IE' in exergue

Koln 583-4., Emmett 462.15., K&G 27.389

(1) Magical Snap - 2023.05.03 07.36 - 117.jpg

(1) Magical Snap - 2023.05.03 07.36 - 116.jpg


Edited by Topcat7
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  • Topcat7 changed the title to Trajan 98-117AD. - Elephant Quadriga. EGYPT, Alexandria, c.111-112AD, 13.13gm., AE33mm. Drachm
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A wonderful type. Here's my example:

Trajan, AE Drachm, Year 15 (111/112 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate bust right, nude and with aegis on left shoulder, ΑΥΤ ΤΡΑΙΑΝ ϹЄΒ ΓЄΡΜ ΔΑΚΙΚ / Rev. Emperor (Trajan), laureate and togate, standing in elephant quadriga, right. holding eagle-tipped sceptre and branch; first three elephants with trunks turned down at end and fourth elephant with trunk turned up; in exergue, L IƐ (Year 15).  RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 4605.4 (2015); RPC Online at https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/3/4605.4 ; Emmett 462.15 [Emmett, Keith, Alexandrian Coins (Lodi, WI, 2001)]; Dattari (Savio) 769 [Savio, A. ed., Catalogo completo della collezione Dattari Numi Augg. Alexandrini (Trieste, 2007)]; BMC 16 Alexandria 512 [Poole, Reginald Stuart, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 16, Alexandria (London, 1892)]; Milne 669 at p. 19 [Milne, J.G., Catalogue of Alexandrian Coins (Oxford 1933, reprint with supplement by Colin M. Kraay, 1971)]. 33.5 mm., 21.26 g. Purchased from Odysseus- Numismatique, Montpellier, France, June 2021.


My only other example of an elephant quadriga or biga:

Roman Republic, C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, AR Denarius 125 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged Phrygian helmet with crest in form of head and beak of eagle (i.e, griffin); behind, ROMA downwards; before, mark of value * (= XVI) [off flan] / Rev. Jupiter, crowned with wreath by flying Victory above, in biga of elephants left, holding thunderbolt in left hand and reins in right hand; in exergue, C•METELLVS (ME ligate). 17 mm., 3.90 g. Crawford 269/1, BMCRR I 1180-1182 (& Vol. III Pl. xxx 8), RSC I Caecilia 14, Sear RCV I 145. Purchased from Dix Noonan Webb Auction 253, 13 April 2022, Lot 1247; ex. Spink Numismatic Circular Dec. 1985, No. 8404 at p. 334.*



*The moneyer “is presumably C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, Cos. 113” (Crawford Vol. I p. 293), who was born ca. 160 BCE, and served under Scipio Aemilianus at the siege of Numantia in 133 BCE in the Third Punic War; he died sometime after 102 BCE. BMCRR I p. 182 n. 1; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaius_Caecilius_Metellus_Caprarius.

For the biga of elephants on the reverse, Crawford refers (see Vol. I p. 293) to his explanation (id. p. 287) of the elephant head on the reverse of Crawford 262, a coin issued by another moneyer from the Caecilius Metellus family: the reference “recalls the victory of L. Caecilius Metellus, Cos. 251, over Hasdrubal at [the Battle of] Panormus in 250 [BCE], and the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants.” As Grueber notes in his discussion of the elephant biga design, the captured elephants were afterwards exhibited at Metellus’s triumph at Rome. BMCRR I p. 182 n. 2.  

In addition to C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, a number of other moneyers belonging to the Caecilii Metelli issued denarii with elephants or elephant heads to commemorate their ancestor’s famous victory. See Crawford 262/1 (Anonymous, probably Caecilius Metellus Diadematus or Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus, 128 BCE); Crawford 263/1 (M. Caecilius Q.f. Metelllus, 127 BCE); Crawford 374/1 (Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, 81 BCE); and Crawford 459/1 (Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio, 47-46 BCE).

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Great write-up indeed, even subtly mentioning the posture of the elephants' trunks! 

I have this, a bit misty as concerns the emperor, but the elephants are emerging clearly. Though the divine libation from the cantharos also recedes into the mists of times. 



3287. Nicaea in Bithynia. Gallienus (253-268). AE22. Obv: ΠOV ΛI ЄΓ ΓAΛΛIHNOC. Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right. Rev: NIKAIЄΩN. Dionysos seated left on quadriga of elephants, pouring a libation from a cantharus. 22.5 mm, 6.57 gr. RG 836; SNG von Aulock 724-5; BMC 154.

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