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Vespasian Mount Argaeus Bronze

David Atherton

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Vespasian's silver coinage from Cappadocia is fairly well known. But did you know he also struck bronze coins there as well? The bronzes are not as common as the silver and often are seen fairly worn. All things considered, this one is fairly acceptable.



Æ27, 15.69g
Caesarea (Cappadocia) mint, 77-78 AD
Obv: ΑΥΤΟΚΡ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ ϹƐΒΑϹ ΟΥƐϹΠΑϹΙΑΝΟϹ; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
Rev: ƐΠΙ Μ ΝƐΡΑ ΠΑΝϹΑ ΠΡΕϹΒ, ƐΤ Ι in exergue; Mount Argaeus; on summit, radiate figure standing l., globe in r. hand, sceptre in l. hand
RPC 1674 (3 spec.).
Acquired from Marc Breitsprecher, July 2023.

A somewhat rare provincial Vespasian bronze struck at Caeserea, Cappadocia depicting the famous Mount Argaeus dated year 10 under the legat M Hirrius Fronto Neratius Pansa. The Cappadocian bronze issue roughly corresponds to the locally produced silver issues, perhaps indicating a need for small change. It is of no surprise that the mountain which visually loomed over the city figured prominently on the coinage. Strabo described Mount Argaeus as 'the highest of mountains whose peak is constantly covered with snow ...given good visibility, anyone who climbs this mountain - and not many do- are supposed to see both seas, the Pontus and the Issikos'.


In hand.



As always, thanks for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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Here are two of my more unusual Mt. Argaeus bronzes.


Here's a Domitian with the reverse of a statue surmounting the mountain.




This is a very unusual one of Septimius Severus, where the agalma of the mountain has an eagle underneath it and a decorated base. There is also the statue on top of the mountain.



And a common SA, with a common helios(?) head countermark.


There seem to be three main versions of the Mt. Argaeus reverse.

1. Physical mountain with a large statue on top.

2. Agalma on a table/altar.

3. Agalma within a distyle temple.


This makes me wonder - what was the cult image of Mt. Argaeus actually like? I can't imagine they actually had a giant statue on top of the mountain. So, it must have been a small-scale cult icon.

Most likely, there was a small-scale, but still rather large icon of Mt. Argaeus topped by a statue, which sat upon an altar, which lay within a temple. Based on the Severus coin above, where the agalma is on a columned altar on a base, the icon can't have been MASSIVE. Perhaps it was in the neighborhood of 5-10 feet tall with a 1-2 foot statuette on top? Otherwise, if it was too big it would be too heavy for the rather flimy-looking table. However, other coins, like the SA, show the agalma on the floor, filling up the entirety of the portal.

I do wonder if there has been any research done on the specifics of the Mt. Argaeus cult icon.

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Nice coins. Here is silver didrachm:


Marcus Aurelius
AR didrachm
Obv.: AYTOKP ANTωNEINOC CEB, laureate head of Marcus Aurelius right
Rev.: ΥΠΑTOC Γ, Mt. Argaeus, star above
Ar, 19,7mm, 6.6g
Ref.: Metcalf 130b. Sydenham 328

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Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus; 
Bronze of the Roman Imperial Period 189/190 AD: Material: AE; Diameter: 27.8mm; Weight: 14.97g; Mint: Caesarea-Eusebia, Cappadocia; Reference: RPC IV.3 online 6880, Sydenham 374; Obverse: Laureate headed bust of Commodus wearing cuirass and paludamentum, right. The Inscription reads: Μ ΚΟΜΟ ΑΝΤⲰΝΙΝΟϹ for Marcos Kommodos Antouninos (Marcus Commodus Antoninus); Reverse: Altar surmounted by sacred image of Mount Argaeus. The Inscription reads: ΜΗΤΡΟΠΟ ΚΑΙϹΑΡƐΙΑϹ ƐΤ ΙΑ for Metropoleon Kaisareia, Etous Iota Alpha (Metropolitan Caesarea, Reign Year 11 = Dec. 189 - Dec. 190 AD).


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