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An unusual bust type of Gallienus


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When compared to that of his immediate predecessors, the coinage of Gallienus features not only an unprecedented variety of reverse type, but also a great deal of experimentation when it comes to the representation of the emperor of the obverse: Gallienus was the first emperor to use military busts on coins intended for circulation, and while most of these busts later became much more common under subsequent emperors such as Probus, some of these experimental representations fell by the wayside and were never reused. This coin which I acquired last year features one of these bust types:


Roman Empire, Gallienus (253-268), Antoninianus, Siscia mint, 6th emission, 2nd officina.

Obverse: GAL-LIENVS AVG, radiate head right, with drapery to front and rear, spear over shoulder;

Reverse: PROVI AV-G, Providentia standing left, holding baton in right hand and cornucopia in left hand, globe at feet to right, II in right field;

RIC V - (c.f. RIC V 580 - unlisted bust type); MIR 1476d;


There is a great deal of variety in the military representations of the emperor on the obverse of Roman coins, but one thing that they share is the fact that they show a bust; this is always the case except for a small group of coins of Gallienus which feature a head with drapery instead, paired with a spear. This type does not seem to have caught on, though, since it was never reused and Gallienus' coins featuring it, struck at Rome and Siscia, are all very rare.


Another example of MIR 1476d (Image courtesy of cgb.fr)

However, it's worth mentioning that there are variations between the Siscia types and the Rome ones: at the first mint, the spear is always shown over the shoulder, and the head can face either right or left. At the latter mint, on the other hand, the spear is always pointing forward and the head is exclusively facing right.


MIR 1424n - Siscia (Image courtesy of CNG)


MIR 383d - Rome (Image courtesy of CNG)

It's interesting to ponder why this bust type was abandoned - I wonder whether it's a possibility that they considered the simple head to be too generic, and that this led to its abandonment in favour of a heroic nude bust that better showed the emperor's physical prowess:


A heroic nude bust of Gallienus from Siscia (Image courtesy of CNG)

Anyway, that's all for now - post your coins with an unusual bust type, or anything else you feel like might be relevant!

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Here's my only military bust" antoninianus of Gallienus. It's in horrible condition, but it was very cheap so I can't complain too much!



My most interesting bust on a Gallienus coin is my "VICT GAL AVG" example, which shows Gallienus wearing a lion-skin headdress on the obverse. Very few examples seem to exist (mine is the 4th one I know of). It has somewhat rough surfaces and patchy deposits.


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I think everybody agrees that the coins issued by Gallienus are more interesting that the ones issued by emperors preceding him. And especially the ones after him. 

I am also attracted to obverses that break the rules, at least a little - so not just laureate/radiate/draped/cuirassed/bareheaded. Heroic busts are also interesting, but I haven't managed to grab one yet. 

My most interesting obverse is this popular type with the emperor depicted .... in an unfriendly pose 


19,4 mm, 2,96 g.
Gallienus 253-268 AD. Billon antoninianus. Lugdunum. 257-258.
GALLIENVS PF AVG, radiated and armored bust of Gallienus on the left, seen from three quarters in front with shield and holding a haste on the left shoulder / GERMANICVS MAX V, arms trophy with a captive on each side. Reverse translation: “Germanicus Maximus quintum” (Winner of the Germans for the fifth time).
RIC V Gallienus (joint reign) 18.

What I would call also "unusual" are the Elagabalus coins with horn 


I am also a fan of this obverse where Constantine II holds Victory on globe


probably inspired by Probus obverses when the emperor is holding a sceptre with an eagle 


The Beata Tranquilitas series have many interesting obverses (I am tempted to start a mini collection). Not my coin, but shown by @Victor_Clark here when we were discussing about my coin 


After 3 years I still cannot unsee a child holding a puppet. The shield is also very interesting. 


This front facing Honorius bust is also interesting. 


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