Jump to content

Interesting Roman As reverse types - Trajan Restores Italy


CPK

Recommended Posts

In an earlier post, I mentioned that recently, I’ve been collecting Roman As coins with interesting and unusual reverse types.

Part of this new focus comes from my interest in the coins as ancient story-tellers - small artifacts that mark a moment in time, long past, commemorating certain people, places, or events. The Romans especially made constant use of coins as mediums for official news and propaganda.

Why the As? Well, to me the denomination seems to strike a nice balance. Aureii are nowhere within my range. Denarii are somewhat small, and tend to be more expensive. The sestertius boasts the largest canvas and superb artistry, but they tend (accordingly) to be very expensive, especially the more unusual types. As for dupondii, for some reason I’ve never really cared for the look of the radiate portrait (more so on earlier Roman coins; it’s more or less unavoidable on later coinage.) Very generally, the As tends to be the most affordable, with laureate portraits and a wide range of different types.

One of my most recent acquisitions is an as struck under Trajan, with a very rare and interesting reverse type:

trajan_italia_rest.jpg.3d0ba200c386770e04f8e046314036be.jpg

(At this point, I’d like to thank @curtislclay and @Coinmaster for their invaluable assistance in helping me identify and learn more about this type!)

This “ITALIA REST” or “REST ITALIA” type was struck in aureii, as well as all three bronze denominations (I’m not sure about the denarius; I don't think so) All types are quite scarce; searches on acsearch.com return just four different aureii and one dupondius. I could not find either of the two sestertius types on acsearch; though there is one currently for sale on cgb.fr.

The As is perhaps the rarest of all; it is not even listed in RIC. The only one on acsearch.com is this one (mine), sold a few years ago. The only references I know of are from Woytek, the great authority on the coinage of Trajan, and Paul L. Strack, who wrote in the 1930’s. Woytek cites just two specimens - one in the Munich collection, and one in the Vienna collection, with the Vienna coin illustrated:

IMG_20230521_224105.jpg.577bf4a4a47e020dd4bb630d1498d600.jpg.671cc072e52c78203a10e245e7d7147f.jpg

(Woytek, photo courtesy of @Coinmaster)

I am assuming that the coin cited by Strack is the Munich specimen - or possibly the Vienna coin, but as of yet I have been unable to confirm that. If anyone has access to Strack (412) and can check for me, I’d be much obliged!

I reached out to both collections asking about the coins; Vienna was very helpful and confirmed that they had one specimen. I haven’t heard from Munich, which is a pity since I’d love to get a look at the coin! Unfortunately, neither collection happens to have that particular coin displayed in their online virtual collections (although Vienna offered to do that for me! I hope to see it soon.)

So, does my coin make three known specimens? Not quite! As it turns out, there is a specimen on wildwinds.com:

RIC_0470_As(1).jpg.dbb4ad007a61101590bfe1b2bb72177f.jpg

With the following text:

"Trajan AE As. 25/26mm. 8.8 g

Obv: IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate head right.

Rev: S P Q R OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Trajan, togate, standing left, raising

kneeling figure of Italy, between them, two children; in exergue, ITALIA

REST.

Strack 412; (not in RIC or Cohen as AE As); RIC 470 var.

Further examples are in Munich and Vienna.

Contributed by Bogdan Cacuci, Oct. 2010."

This coin is in considerably worse shape than either mine or the Vienna specimen, but it is clearly identifiable as the same type. It also appears to be a reverse-die match to the Vienna coin, and to mine as well. (Looking in particular at the damaged? "C-I" and the "P" in "PRINCIPI", as well as other areas.) What do you all think? Are all three a reverse-die match? I would love to hear your opinions!

(Also what about the obverse?)

This begs the question: how many reverse-dies were used? Could they all have been struck from only a single reverse die? (If only I could get a good look at the Munich coin!)

In any event, this means that - as far as I’ve been able to ascertain - my coin is apparently only the fourth one known to exist - and the second in private hands, which I think is pretty neat, especially for an interesting 2nd-century Imperial bronze issue.

So, enough about the rarity - what about the reverse design?

Well, not surprisingly, I couldn’t find much specific information about this exact reverse type. In some ways it is similar to the more common “ALIM ITAL” coinage, which, according to Sear, referred to the “scheme under which needy children were provided support through the investment in agriculture of funds donated by wealthy philanthropists (including the emperors Nerva and Trajan).” (David Sear, Roman Coins and Their Values, Vol. II, p. 95)

The most direct reference I could find was in a paper titled “Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius: Patterns of Interpretation and Perspectives” by Gunnar Seelentag. The focus of the paper is in comparing how the various Emperors presented themselves to the Roman world and how they wanted to be perceived by their subjects. In it, Seelentag also compares the two similar coin types:

“Various types of coins with the inscription ALIM(entatio) ITAL(iae) depict the emperor distributing his gifts to the children of Italy. In the piece depicted here, the personification of Alimentatio stands in front of the seated emperor, holding a child on her hand and on her arm; the latter stretches out his arms to Trajan. At the same time as these representations, and typologically closely related to them, pieces with the inscription REST(itutio) ITAL(iae) were emitted, in which the emperor repeals the personification of the country that has sunk to the ground. In her left, Italia holds a globe, and in front of her is another child stretching out his arms to the princeps. Taken together, these two accounts stated that Italy's newfound prosperity was the result of the innovative extension of Trajan's care to Italy. If one looks at the common core of the two innovations in Trajan's depiction of power just outlined, one thing becomes clear: the emperor acted as a caretaker, no longer only for Rome, but now also for Italy – and even the empire flourished, as he emphasized with the depictions of the prosperous provinces.”

(Apologies for the awkward web translation - the paper was originally in German)

It should also be pointed out that this ITALIA REST type is very similar to a later coin struck 60-some years later under Marcus Aurelius:

290413.jpg.e5030eb1bb31a4c514d7ec117b884bfd.jpg

(https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=290413)

(Notably, there are no children depicted on this type - perhaps another indication that Trajan's coin has the "Alimentatio" program in mind?)

With the later coin, the type is generally thought to be in recognition of Marcus Aurelius’ efforts in holding back the barbarians which, by that time, had begun to exert considerable pressure on the borders of the Empire.

However, no such conditions prevailed under Trajan. I suppose the conclusion is that Trajan’s type is a more general recognition of Trajan’s beneficent leadership, including the “Alimentatio” scheme - Italy lifted up and restored to peace and prosperity.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to post your thoughts and comments!

 

 

  • Like 23
  • Thanks 1
  • Clap 1
  • Heart Eyes 3
  • Mind blown 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Benefactor

Fascinating explanation. Here's my example of the Marcus Aurelius Restitutori Italiae type.

Marcus Aurelius, AE Sestertius, 173 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, slight drapery on left shoulder; M ANTONINVS AVG TR P XXVII / Rev. Marcus Aurelius standing left, holding scepter with left hand, and, with his right hand, raising by her right hand a kneeling figure of Italia, wearing a turret and holding a globe with her left hand; [RESTITVTORI ITALIAE] IMP VI COS III [bracketed portion off flan]. RIC III 1078, Sear RCV II 4997, Cohen 538. 30mm, 25.8g. [According to David Sear (see RCV II at p. 315), this coin "commemorates the deliverance of Italy from the threat of barbarian invasion resulting from the emperor's successes in his wars against the Germanic tribes of the Danubian region."] [Purchased from Incitatus Coins, June 2020.]

image.png.2ae3eb39c8a6b7c865e2ef498a4473b2.png

  • Like 13
  • Heart Eyes 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Coinmaster said:

Great topic and fascinating coin type!

Congratz!

I wonder if the children are to be taken literary (as Sear stated) or as a symbol for the citizens of Rome / the empire that all benefit under the rule of Trajanus? I think the latest. ☺️

Thanks! 🙂 

Personally, I'd be inclined to think that the children depicted on the ITALIA REST coinage are intended, at least in part, to represent the Alimentatio program. First, because the other main contemporary type to feature children was the ALIM ITAL coinage, which was a direct and explicit reference to the philanthropic scheme; second, because the Alimentatio program was a part of Trajan's policy in Italy, and therefore the image would be in the minds of, and make sense to, the citizens of that region; and third, because on at least one other "Italy Restored" type (the Marcus Aurelius sestertius) there are no children depicted.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, DonnaML said:

Fascinating explanation. Here's my example of the Marcus Aurelius Restitutori Italiae type.

Marcus Aurelius, AE Sestertius, 173 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head right, slight drapery on left shoulder; M ANTONINVS AVG TR P XXVII / Rev. Marcus Aurelius standing left, holding scepter with left hand, and, with his right hand, raising by her right hand a kneeling figure of Italia, wearing a turret and holding a globe with her left hand; [RESTITVTORI ITALIAE] IMP VI COS III [bracketed portion off flan]. RIC III 1078, Sear RCV II 4997, Cohen 538. 30mm, 25.8g. [According to David Sear (see RCV II at p. 315), this coin "commemorates the deliverance of Italy from the threat of barbarian invasion resulting from the emperor's successes in his wars against the Germanic tribes of the Danubian region."] [Purchased from Incitatus Coins, June 2020.]

image.png.2ae3eb39c8a6b7c865e2ef498a4473b2.png

Beautiful coin! 👍

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I must express my thanks and appreciation once again to the curators of the Vienna Museum coin collection. I just noticed that since communicating to them about this coin they have uploaded both their As and Dupondius specimens to their collection website. With much better photos, I was able to better compare the dies between the different coins.

So far, if I am not mistaken, I am only seeing one reverse die used for this type on all examples I can find of both denominations. I'd like to submit the following and would greatly appreciate any feedback!

I have so far only been able to find photos of 3 asses and 3 dupondii. If anyone knows of any other specimens, please let me know, and post here if you would!

(I resized and combined the photos, hopefully making comparison easier!)

trajan_italia_rest_rev.jpg.9d19b3595e5aee5dd3f1eb55b279bfc5.jpg

First of all, apologies for cutting off the very bottom of the last row! I guess I didn't notice that in Paint. Oh well.

In particular I would draw your attention to these areas: (Using the Vienna coin as an example)

AT-KHMW-MK-ID60488-rv.jpg.f0d850a9024be33af763f7c8838641dc.jpg

 

 

To my (admittedly) amateur eyes, all pictured specimens appear to have been struck from the same reverse die; one of the strongest similarities is the "I" in "PRINCIPI" running strongly into the "C", which is visible even on the heavily worn Wildwinds coin. But I would like to get opinions from my fellow NumisForum members.

I would also like some feedback on whether or not my coin is an obverse die match to the Vienna coin, as well. (I think it is.) Here is an obverse comparison:

trajan_italia_rest.jpg.a84cc96a653e46fc03767ce5785ac38c.jpg

For the obverse I'm looking at the "AVGGER" section above Trajan's head: the style and positions of the "G"s, the funky looking "E" on mine seems to be the same on the Vienna coin; and on both specimens the "R" seems to run into Trajan's laurel wreath. Also, the shape, proportion, and position of the bust, as well as other details.

To summarize, I'm asking the following questions:

In your opinion(s),

1. Are all the pictured as/dupondius reverses struck with the same die?

2. Is my coin a double-die match to the Vienna/Woytek coin? 

 

OIP(2).jpg.d0ebe4c207848911fcc8a82b0029acf2.jpg

 

Edited by CPK
  • Like 10
  • Clap 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Coinmaster and @Valentinian Thank you both for your input! I'm glad to hear that corroboration. 🙂 

I've simply got to see the Munich specimen now - if it's also a double die match, it would appear likely that this type was produced with only a single pair of dies, which would be wild! I don't know of many other coin types which can claim that.

 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 6/23/2023 at 9:13 AM, coruja_fdp said:

Great coin CPK.


I've had enough of cleaning late romans and I am starting to wonder around looking for As's 😁, where did you pick this one up and does anyone know where's a good place to pick up some uncleaned coins of this denomination? 

Hi coruja_fdp! Didn't see your post until just now. Welcome to the Forum!

This coin came from a regular online dealer. I'm not too sure where to best get decent, uncleaned middle-bronze coins of this nature. I've heard good things about Noble Roman Coins but the uncleaned lots must sell out in minutes, because although I signed up for email alerts I was an hour or two late and by then they were sold out.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

*** UPDATE ***

Since the last time I posted here, I've been doing a little more digging, trying to uncover more information about additional specimens (both As and Dupondius) for die comparison. I also wanted to know exactly which coins were cited in Strack (the only reference besides Woytek given for the As). Plus I wanted to learn more about the history behind the type itself.

I've made some progress, but am finding myself stuck again. So...

 

Screenshot2023-06-26203452.jpg.ae48d057d4ed8d3071bdddcf86478e77.jpg

 

I've emailed the Munich Collection information mailbox three, four times now asking about the coin in their collection, which is the fourth and final 367b specimen I've yet to see photos of. So far, no response. I guess I will keep trying.

I also reached out to David Sear, and he very kindly offered to look the coin up for me in Strack, and sent some pictures of the relevant page. I can't thank him enough for taking the time to help me out on this! The coin is No. 412, towards the bottom of the page:

unnamed.jpg.244b1761b35d03cefa4a8e4628307a79.jpg

And a picture explaining some of the abbreviations:

unnamed(1).jpg.2621ad1bb813792736f3be66a02b5373.jpg

 

As you can see, on line 412 there is the abbreviation "MuW" which, I take it, stands for "Munchen Staatliches Munzkabinett" and the W "Wien Staatliches Munzkabinett" - i.e., Munich and Vienna, which are the coins cited in Woytek.

However, there is a big jumble of abbreviations and symbols right above - LW?Fi( )BPNa( ) - with what look like Greek letters with subscripts in parentheses. Does anyone know what this is supposed to mean? David Sear agreed that Strack's notations could be confusing and he said he would get back to me if he found out anything more.

But in the meantime, what do you make of it? Can anyone here reveal the mystery?

ALSO, I have acquired photos of two more of the 8 dupondii cited by Woytek, bring my total to five. One of them is pretty worn, but from what I can tell, they seem to be die-matches with all the others - what do you think?

diecomparisons.jpg.cdcda6b47ff0347fbc291c411485f776.jpg

Thanks again for all your help!

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It has just occurred to me that perhaps the LW?Fi( )BPNa( ) line is referring to the Dupondius variant? Looking at the column on the left, you can see "Dp" above, but in the same row, as "As".

In which case, we have for the Dupondius: London, Vienna ?, Florenz (Florence?), Berlin, Paris, and Neapel (Naples?)

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think Strack's (δ1-2) are bust codes, which he summarizes on p. 237, with references to his text and plates.

In translation,

δ1 'Truncation emphatically divided into two parts'.

δ2 'Broad fleshy neck, 2-part division less marked.'

Strack 412: towards the beginning of the entry, the denominations Dp and As should have been printed a bit higher on the page relative to the horizontal lines in Strack's table.

In the listing of specimens at the end, however, the spacing looks correct, so Strack must be indicating eight specimens of this middle bronze, namely six dupondii, three with bust δ1 (BM, Vienna, Florence) and three with bust δ2 (Berlin, Paris, Naples), and two asses, in Munich and Vienna, both with bust δ2.

It would be easy, however, to mix up the bust types or misread the reverse legends, so for complete accuracy you are right to try to assemble images of all available specimens!

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, curtislclay said:

I think Strack's (δ1-2) are bust codes, which he summarizes on p. 237, with references to his text and plates.

In translation,

δ1 'Truncation emphatically divided into two parts'.

δ2 'Broad fleshy neck, 2-part division less marked.'

Strack 412: towards the beginning of the entry, the denominations Dp and As should have been printed a bit higher on the page relative to the horizontal lines in Strack's table.

In the listing of specimens at the end, however, the spacing looks correct, so Strack must be indicating eight specimens of this middle bronze, namely six dupondii, three with bust δ1 (BM, Vienna, Florence) and three with bust δ2 (Berlin, Paris, Naples), and two asses, in Munich and Vienna, both with bust δ2.

It would be easy, however, to mix up the bust types or misread the reverse legends, so for complete accuracy you are right to try to assemble images of all available specimens!

Ah that clears it up! Thanks!

  • Like 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.

Guest
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...