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Roman Republican Coin # 77: L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, 90 BCE, scarcer variety (horseman left, holding torch)


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As anyone interested in the very large "Apollo/galloping horseman" issues of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi and his son C. Calpurnius Piso L.f. Frugi is probably aware, by far the most common type, especially for the father (see footnote below) shows a horseman galloping right on the reverse, holding a palm-branch. The one coin of Lucius (the father) that I previously owned falls into that category:

Roman Republic, L. [Lucius] Calpurnius Piso Frugi, AR Denarius, 90 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo right (control marks H behind and F below) / Rev. Naked horseman galloping right holding palm frond in upraised left hand (control marks G above and H below), L• PISO FRUGI beneath. Crawford 340/1, RSC I Calpurnia 11, Sear RCV I 235/1, BMCRR 1938-2129 [this combination of two-letter control marks is not recorded in BMCRR; cf. BMCRR 2120 (H, F on obv. paired with C, A on rev.)]. 17 mm., 4.02 g. Purchased from Sphinx Numismatics, May 11, 2018.

image.jpeg.6bcfe2b52bff265567c7dc240da134db.jpeg

And here's my one coin issued by Caius, Lucius's son, on which the horseman also gallops right but doesn't hold anything except his horse's reins:

Roman Republic, C. [Caius/Gaius] Calpurnius Piso L.f. [son of Lucius] Frugi [son-in-law of Cicero, married to Tullia], AR Denarius, 67-59 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo right in high relief, hair long and in ringlets; behind, control symbol ɸ (Greek letter phi) (Crawford obverse die 32; Hersh 1976* obverse die O-33) / Rev. Naked horseman galloping right wearing shaped conical cap, holding reins but carrying no palm branch or other object; above, control symbol sword [Crawford] or knife [Hersh 1976] with curved blade [Crawford reverse die 43, Hersh 1976 reverse die R-1038]; beneath horse, C• PISO• L• F• FRVG [with VG blurred on die]. Crawford 408/1a [Apollo laureate rather than wearing fillet]; BMCRR Rome 3774 [this die combination]; Hersh 1976 at p. 32, Corpus No. 89 [this die combination]; RSC I Calpurnia 24j [Apollo laureate/horseman wearing conical cap & carrying no palm branch or other object]; Harlan, Michael, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins 63 BCE - 49 BCE (2d ed. 2015) (“Harlan RRM II”), Ch. 7 at pp. 54-59; Sear RCV I 348; Sydenham 846. 18 mm., 3.86 g. 6 h. [Double die-match to Ira & Larry Goldberg Auction 80, Lot 3048, 03.06.2014, previously sold by LHS Numismatik AG, Auction 100, Lot 398, 23/04/2007. ]** [Footnotes omitted; see https://www.cointalk.com/threads/roman-republican-denarius-no-50-c-calpurnius-piso-l-f-frugi.377452/ for footnotes.]

Piso Frugi (C. PISO L. F. FRVG) jpg version.jpg

 

In the recent Naville Numismatics auction, I saw an example of the father's issue with the horseman galloping left rather than right, and holding a torch rather than a palm-branch -- both of which are scarcer than the type I already had -- and decided to bid on it. Fortunately, the bid was successful (for a surprisingly low price); the coin arrived yesterday. Here it is, with my write-up:

Roman Republic, L. [Lucius] Calpurnius Piso Frugi, AR Denarius, 90 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo right; behind, control-symbol (quiver); beneath chin, * [= XVI; mark of value]; bead and reel border / Rev. Naked horseman galloping left holding lit torch in upraised right hand; above, control-symbol (arrow left); below in two lines, L•PISO•L•F | FRVGI. Crawford 340/1; BMCRR I 1861 [same combination of control-symbols quiver & arrow, Nos. 3 & 4 in table of control-symbols at p. 252 fn.]; RSC I [Babelon] Calpurnia 9 (ill. p. 24, same sub-type but diff. control symbols); Sear RCV I 235/2 (ill. p. 117, diff. control symbols and var. rev. legend); Sydenham 651/652. 21 mm., 3.68 g. Purchased from Naville Numismatics Ltd. Auction 74, 19 Jun 2022, Lot 352; ex C. [Carlo] Crippa Sale 1, Monete e Medaglie, Milano 1968, Lot 145.*

This is Naville's photo; I think the coin looks sharper in hand but I haven't had a chance to take my own yet: 

image.jpeg.f56a17dd9c23fa8b406bb60819fd8d79.jpeg

*See https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=L%20PISO%20FRVGI, citing Sear RCV I at p. 117:

 “David Sear notes in [Sear] RCV I, on page 117, ‘The extraordinarily large and complex issue [of Lucius Calpurnius Piso L.f. L.n Frugi, in 90 B.C.] represents one of the principal war-coinages of the Romans during the conflict with the Marsic Confederation. The control marks are legion and consist of letters, numerals, and symbols in a multitude of combinations on obv. and rev."

As H.A. Seaby notes in RSC I at page 25, “This is one of the most prolific issues in the whole republican series, the British Museum collection alone contains over 300 different varieties. The type of the head of Apollo and of the horseman refers to the Ludi Apollinares which were established in B.C. 212, the annual celebration of which was proposed by the praetor L. Calpurnius Piso, an ancestor of the moneyer. There are four chief varieties of the reverse type: -- (a) horseman left with torch; (b) horseman l. with palm; (c) horseman right with palm; (d) horseman r. with whip; these may refer to the different types of horse-racing that took place at the games."

See also https://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?radd=1&vpar=18&zpg=112487 for further details regarding the Social War: “Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi's massive issue was struck to support Rome in the Social War against the Marsic Confederation, the Marsi, Peligni, Piceni, Vestini, Samnites, Frentani, Marrucini, and Lucani. Despite making up over half the Roman army, the Italians had been denied Roman citizenship and denied a fair share of the booty and lands taken in Rome's conquests. In 91 B.C., they rebelled with an army of 100,000 battle-hardened soldiers, most Roman army veterans. In 90 B.C., Rome only just managed to stave off total defeat. After some Roman victories and citizenship concessions, the war was nearly over by 88 B.C. The type has numerous variations and control marks, indicating the enormity of the issue. The head of Apollo and the horseman refer to the Ludi Apollinares, games which were first held in 212 B.C. The following year, the praetor C. Calpurnius Piso, an ancestor of this moneyer, made the games a permanent annual event to honor of Apollo to maintain his support of the public health.” Harlan RRM II  notes at p. 56 that that the Ludi Apollinares were made permanent in the same year, 211, in which Hannibal broke off his assault on Rome without ever joining battle, an outcome ascribed to Apollo’s divine intervention. 

According to Crawford Vol. I at p. 340, there are 864 different known obverse dies and 1,080 different reverse dies for the issue – which is more than twice as many as the number of dies known for the similarly-designed issue (also depicting Apollo on the obverse and a galloping horseman on the reverse) by this moneyer’s son, C. Calpurnius Piso L.f. Frugi, in 67-59 BCE (opinions differ on the precise year); see Crawford 408/1. However, by contrast to the extensive die analyses conducted for the son’s issue (see, e.g. Crawford I Table XLII at pp. 420-435; Hersh, Charles A., “A Study of the Coinage of the Moneyer C. Calpurnius Piso L.f. Frugi,” The Numismatic Chronicle, Seventh Series, Vol. 16 at pp. 7-63 (1976) [https://www.jstor.org/stable/42664788?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents]), no detailed die study of the father’s (L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi’s) issue has ever been completed. The one referenced by Crawford -- see Crawford I p. 340 (“A full treatment of this issue, with its complex systems of control-marks, would have to be on a scale out of all proportion with the rest of this book . . . . For full details see R. Grassby and M.H. Crawford, The denarius coinage of L. Piso Frugi (forthcoming)”) -- was never published. 

However, a limited table showing pairs of control-symbols on coins of this issue in the British Museum’s collection as of 1904 (but not attempting to list the many types using control-letters, numbers, or fractional signs rather than symbols) was published in a footnote at BMCRR I p. 252; this coin, as noted above, has symbol No. 3 on the obverse and No. 4 on the reverse:

image.jpeg.1a002edc85791a39edf8d6a29489871a.jpeg

It is evident from the varieties of this issue seen on the market that although there are approximately as many sub-types listed with the horseman riding left as there are with the horseman riding right, the latter comprise the substantial majority of the coins of this issue offered for sale.  (In fact, I’ve never noticed a specimen with the horseman galloping left offered at retail; only at auction.) Although Acsearch can be a rather crude measure given that there is no way of filtering out duplicates, an auction search I did for the words Piso Frugi, [Crawford] 340, 90 [BC], and horseman yielded 1,470 results. Adding “left” and “right” to the search yielded, respectively, 231 and 720 results, i.e., approximately 75% for horsemen riding right. (The approximately 500 “missing” coins in those results probably represent the many descriptions using “l.” and “r.” rather than the full words left and right; I found no way of searching for those.) In addition, regardless of the left vs. right issue, coins on which the horseman is holding a palm-branch also comprise a substantial majority of coins of this issue offered for sale: adding the words “palm,” “torch,” and “whip” to my original search, successively, yielded a total of 1,299 results for palm, 75 for torch, and 40 for whip. 

Of the 75 coins with a horseman holding a torch, however, those with the horseman riding left were in the majority, constituting 47 of the 75 (including coins using “l.” and “r.” rather than spelling out those words). But only 47 out of 1,470 is still a small minority. An even smaller number (5 out of the 47) were the same variety as mine (RSC I Calpurnia 9, with L•PISO•L•F | FRVGI in two lines as the reverse legend, and “ROMA” absent from the legend). And I found only one of the five with the same control-symbol combination of quiver and arrow as mine – the specimen sold as NAC Auction 78, 26.05.2014, Lot 613; see https://www.acsearch.info/search.html?id=1995547; image at  https://www.acsearch.info/image.html?id=1995547

image.jpeg.9dbfbfdf4bf150d613f5ae9ff36486c3.jpeg

The NAC specimen is definitely a double-die match to mine, but not the same specimen, as the strike is off-center to a slightly different extent. The only other example I’ve found that’s an exact match to mine in terms of both sub-type and control-symbols is the specimen at the British Museum noted above, catalogued in BMCRR I as No. 1861, acquired in 1843 (Museum number 1843,0116.349). Although I am less certain (because the lettering on the reverse looks a bit different to me), it also may be a double-die match: 

image.jpeg.ff0590373ed7215b3c47fe23525694b0.jpeg

So far as I know, then, my coin appears to be one of only three specimens of this precise sub-type with the same control-symbols.  Given the absence of any published die study for the denarii of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, it's probably not surprising that I haven't found any authority stating whether there is only one pair of dies for each sub-type with a given control-symbol combination. Although that is often the case with other large Republican issues.

Please post your Piso Frugi coins -- father and/or son. I'd especially like to see any scarce or unusual varieties you may have, and to know whether you agree with me that it's harder to find horsemen galloping left than galloping right.

Edited by DonnaML
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Lovely coins, @DonnaML! I could easily see a collector developing a real interest in studying all these control marks and dies. I have only one Piso Frugi:

[IMG]
L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, 90 BC.
Roman AR denarius, 3.68 g, 18.1 mm, 8 h.
Rome, 90 BC.
Obv: Laureate head of Apollo right; ΨXXXVIII behind.
Rev: Horseman right with palm-branch in left hand and reins in right hand; CVII above, L·PISO FRVGI / ROMA monogram below.
Refs: Ghey, Leins & Crawford 340.1.84; RSC Calpurnia 11; Sydenham (CRR) 664b; BMCRR 1928; Sear 235.
Notes: Double die match to BMC specimen.
 

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Hi Donna ... wow, those are fantastic coins

Oh, and thanks for the great info (very interesting)

 

I have a neat example where my Frugi-guy is carrying a "whip" ... man, there is pretty good relief on this lil' fella

 

C. Piso L.f. Frugi AR Denarius 

 61 BC

Rome mint

Diameter: 17 mm

Weight: 3.73 grams

Obverse: Head of Apollo right, hair bound with fillet; wreath behind

Reverse: Horseman galloping right, holding whip

Reference: Crawford 408/1b (O40/R56); Hersh, Piso 238 (O235/R2056); Sydenham 866; Calpurnia 24d

Other: 6h, toned, porous surfaces, cleaning marks under tone

Ex-stevex6 … From the Bruce R. Brace Collection
 

c piso lf frugi.jpg

C Piso lf frugi side aa.jpg

C Piso lf frugi side a.jpg

 

... also, his coin-hair is in a "fillet/ribbon" rather than the typical laureate-style (cool)

 

 

Edited by Steve
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That horse galloping left is a winner @DonnaML

Just as @Steve's specimen, my dad's example is "whipped" too 🙂

704233ee114f4cc1b1b2f32878f45b08.jpg

L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, Denarius - Rome mint, 90 BC
Laureate head of Apollo right, Δ below chin
Naked horseman galloping right, holding whip ; above swan (I rather see an ibis though...). L.PISO.FRUGI / ROMA at exergue
3,93 gr - 18,8 mm
Ref : RCV # 235, RSC # 12b, RRC # 340/1-Calpurnia 12b-symbol 166
Ex. Naville Numismatics

Q

 

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3 hours ago, Steve said:

Hi Donna ... wow, those are fantastic coins

Oh, and thanks for the great info (very interesting)

 

I have a neat example where my Frugi-guy is carrying a "whip" ... man, there is pretty good relief on this lil' fella

 

C. Piso L.f. Frugi AR Denarius 

 61 BC

Rome mint

Diameter: 17 mm

Weight: 3.73 grams

Obverse: Head of Apollo right, hair bound with fillet; wreath behind

Reverse: Horseman galloping right, holding whip

Reference: Crawford 408/1b (O40/R56); Hersh, Piso 238 (O235/R2056); Sydenham 866; Calpurnia 24d

Other: 6h, toned, porous surfaces, cleaning marks under tone

Ex-stevex6 … From the Bruce R. Brace Collection
 

c piso lf frugi.jpg

C Piso lf frugi side aa.jpg

C Piso lf frugi side a.jpg

A beautiful coin, @Steve! The coins of Lucius's son, like yours, are generally more finely engraved and in higher relief than the coins of the father. See the lengthy discussion in the footnote to my write-up of my coin of the son, at the Coin Talk link I provided.

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15 hours ago, Roman Collector said:


Refs: Ghey, Leins & Crawford 340.1.84
 

Terrific coin, @Roman Collector. I wanted to try to clarify the meaning of one of your citations for those not familiar with it. Ghey, Leins & Crawford, published online in 2010, was the British Museum's searchable online database of its Roman Republican collection, updating the BMCRR volumes (published in 1904) with later additions and Crawford numbers, adding sub-numbers to those Crawford numbers where appropriate -- something especially useful for L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi's issue, since all the sub-types, and all the different control-symbols, were grouped by Crawford under one single number, Crawford 340/1, in anticipation of the publication of the detailed die study that was never actually published .  Thus, your coin (subtype no. 1928 in BMCRR) was given the number 340.1.84 in Ghey, Leins & Crawford, and mine (no. 1861 in BMCRR) was given the number 340.1.3 (see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/C_1843-0116-349). (The fact that our coins are 67 numbers apart in BMCRR, but 81 numbers apart in Ghey, Leins & Crawford, possibly reflects the addition of more L. Piso Frugi coins to the Museum's collection over the century between the assignments of those numbers).

However, unless I'm missing something, the Ghey, Leins & Crawford ("G, L & C") searchable database no longer seems to work in the same way it did when it was introduced: none of the links to the search function from 2010 that I found on Google (for example, in a thread on the Forvm discussion boards; see https://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=65174.0), seems to work; they all bring you to "Page Not Found."  Instead, the only way of finding out the G, L & C number for a particular L. Piso Frugi subtype seems to be through the general British Museum search page, using "RRC" as the abbreviation for Crawford and searching for RRC 340/1.  Which yields 712 results to scroll through; see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/search?keyword=rrc&keyword=340%2F1&view=grid&sort=object_name__asc&page=1. Each coin in the results has its G, L & C number. You can narrow the search down by adding the number from BMCRR (abbreviated as "RR1"); in my case, RR1 1861. Searching for that number together with RRC 340/1 brings you to the specific coin I posted above; see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/C_1843-0116-349 . If you don't want to search using a specific BMCRR number (or don't have one), and just want to see all the specimens of a particular subtype and/or control-symbol pair currently in the Museum's collection, you can search instead (for example) by type and/or control-symbols. Thus, a search for RRC 340/1 with torch, arrow, and quiver yields not only the result for BMCRR 1861, but also a second example of that subtype with the specific control-symbol pair, bequeathed to the Museum in 2002 by the numismatist Charles A. Hersh; see https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/search?keyword=rrc&keyword=340%2F1&keyword=quiver&keyword=arrow&keyword=torch . For an image of the additional coin, see  https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/C_2002-0102-2032:

 image.jpeg.c9055b68054b36945300c61ceb9530e8.jpeg

This coin also appears to be a double-die match to mine. It brings the total of known (to me) examples of the subtype with these control-symbols to four, all using the same pair of dies. Presumably, there were thousands of them once upon a time, multiplied by the thousand-plus known die pairs for the entire issue.

Edited by DonnaML
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2 hours ago, Qcumbor said:

That horse galloping left is a winner @DonnaML

Just as @Steve's specimen, my dad's example is "whipped" too 🙂

704233ee114f4cc1b1b2f32878f45b08.jpg

L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, Denarius - Rome mint, 90 BC
Laureate head of Apollo right, Δ below chin
Naked horseman galloping right, holding whip ; above swan (I rather see an ibis though...). L.PISO.FRUGI / ROMA at exergue
3,93 gr - 18,8 mm
Ref : RCV # 235, RSC # 12b, RRC # 340/1-Calpurnia 12b-symbol 166
Ex. Naville Numismatics

Q

 

It doesn't look like a swan to me. Ibis, or maybe a stork?

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Here's my attempt (with my cellphone, as always, in natural light) at a photo of my new L. Piso Frugi denarius with horseman riding left. I'm not sure that it's really an improvement overall on Naville's photo. But I do think that perhaps the reverse is a bit sharper, and allows one to see more clearly the horseman's cap or hat (which looks sort of like a sunbonnet!), and his nose and mouth and chin sticking out to the side.

image.jpeg.c682bb97e2d36f2b7a0f90e161485e83.jpeg

 

Edited by DonnaML
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That'a a beautiful piece with an interesting control mark. And my impression matches yours – examples with the horseman riding left appear to be quite scarce.

Here is my standard example struck by Piso Frugi the father:

2023681747_RomischeRepublikRRC3401DenarPisoFrugiApolloReiter.png.94431483c4b5f607017f6f7da9f8f6f0.png

Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, AR denarius, 90 BC, Rome mint. Obv: laureate head of Apollo r.: control mark. Rev: L PISO FRVGI; horseman galloping r. with palm-branch; control mark CVI. 18mm, 3.77g.

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PREPPIN' for the SOCIAL WAR!!!

 

QUINARIUS

image.png.7360693bc8cb4f04a8103baab2e970a5.png

RR

L Calpurnius Piso Frugi

AR Quinarius 90 BCE

13 mm 1-93 g 2 h

Rome - Social War issue

Laureate head of Apollo right

uncertain symbol behind Victory advancing right holding wreath and palm

Cr 340-2 Calpurnia 13

 

image.png.bd81659ef74004b736f023274782d050.png

RR Calpurnius Piso Frugi 90 BCE Social War issue AR Den CXXXII ROM-A monogram Apollo Horseman - Marsic S 235 Cr 340-1

 

And this one is just a HOT MESS:

image.png.6432aca217565c37790be6ddea77b137.png

Caius Calpurnius Piso L.f. Frugi, 61 BC,  Laur-Tainia Apollo - Horseman, strigil, plow(?)-abv C·PISO·L·F·FRVG below. Crawford 408-1

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10 hours ago, DonnaML said:

 the horseman's cap or hat (which looks sort of like a sunbonnet!)

 

image.jpeg.e9fae7944cb8dd037660226ddff59535.jpeg

I doubt that any of you is old enough to remember the Sunbonnet Babies -- a popular series of books for beginning readers back in the early 20th Century when I was young. Obviously the author was familiar with the coins of L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi:

image.jpeg.9d147ca84ced5137b21c57e49ac6aa50.jpeg

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Given that I have no more Roman Republican coins on the way or on the horizon (assuming that the lost M. Aquillius I bought from Cayon Subastas in February never turns up), I thought that now might be a good time to post a photo of all 77 reverses in my Roman Republican coin tray, in chronological order except for the two quinarii at the end.  Except for one that's just too shiny (the biga of Cupids in Row 4 column 5), and even though some of the others are kind of blurry, you can at least get an idea of what the coins look like.  The new L. Piso Frugi that's the subject of this thread is in Row 5 column 1. One of these days I'll turn the coins over and try to photograph the obverses! 

image.jpeg.4a2c0059a7311a4e249592e55bf60099.jpeg

 

Edited by DonnaML
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7 minutes ago, Spaniard said:

@DonnaML...A wonderful selection Donna! I see a large number of animals is this by accident or something you look for on the RRs?

Thanks! And yes, I definitely like Roman Republican coins with reverses depicting real or mythical animals (beyond horses).  I think I'm beginning to run out of the ones that are reasonably possible to find.

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11 hours ago, Charles H said:

I have a number of these 

Some Crawford 340.1

image.png.149c4fafbf7e91ef53efbffa28d51f99.png

 

image.png.d35019a1a46394b16b79533a050caf7a.png

image.png.3aef2c24f242ae03bd4580056325bc1c.png

image.png.d9573a236627d4ff7b0551513625d88a.png

and some Crawford 408.1b ( I am fond of the rider's hat on the last one)

image.png.d3a3a3500fbc6f1377f6b332eb380f66.png

image.png.d2d279d32aef16e43519bc4c68308470.png

image.png.7b74b169752bf427a37586f2516a4fce.png

image.png.fe9ec8c721bc917927dd561fb85c3615.png

They're all great, but that hat on the last one is amazing! I wonder what it signifies. Perhaps it looks a little bit like a Kausia, the ancient Macedonian flat, round hat, as depicted on this coin of Cn. Plancius (Crawford 432/1)? But I'm by no means certain.

image.jpeg.c31fd4ef3b0b41ce4779569a4409cec1.jpeg

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13 hours ago, DonnaML said:

They're all great, but that hat on the last one is amazing! I wonder what it signifies. Perhaps it looks a little bit like a Kausia, the ancient Macedonian flat, round hat, as depicted on this coin of Cn. Plancius (Crawford 432/1)? But I'm by no means certain.

 

I wondered that, but in any event would it not be in danger of blowing off  ?  

I have been unable to find any references to it.

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2 hours ago, Charles H said:

I wondered that, but in any event would it not be in danger of blowing off  ?  

I have been unable to find any references to it.

I imagine that it's tied under his chin! Maybe it's just a sun hat. Even though we associate that shape with East Asia, it's a logical shape that probably existed in many places.

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Posted (edited)

Here's my Piso junior. I was surprised at the degree of relief on the obverse (doesn't show in my photos).

piso-2.jpg.21c658295194deab7c3fc2efcefed8e3.jpg

C. Piso L.f. Frugi. 61 BC. AR Denarius (18mm, 3.93 g, 6h). Rome mint. Head of Apollo right, hair bound with taenia; dolphin swimming downward to left / Rider, holding palm frond, on horse galloping right; uncertain control off flan. Crawford 408/1a; cf. Hersh, Piso 201-2 (O221/R2036-7); Sydenham 851h; Calpurnia 24; RBW –. 

Edited by Etcherdude
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