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DonnaML's Roman Republican Coin # 92


DonnaML

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I purchased this coin in the last week of December, but it arrived after the New Year, so I consider it my first Roman Republican coin of 2024. I imagine that if I do attend the NYINC on Friday, I'll be tempted by more of them! (Although I'm contemplating limiting my expenditures by taking less cash than I did last year, given that many dealers there don't like to take credit cards for obvious reasons!)

Roman Republic, L. Valerius Flaccus, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 108-107 BCE. Obv. Winged and draped bust of Victory right, wearing single-drop earring and necklace, with hair collected into a knot behind her head; below chin, * (= XVI monogram as mark of value) / Rev. Mars standing left, helmeted and with chlamys tied around his waist, holding transverse spear in right hand with point downwards, and trophy over shoulder in left hand; before him, an apex (flamen’s conical white cap with spindle on top [see fn.]); behind him, an ear of corn; in left field in two lines downwards, L•VALERI | FLACCI. 20 mm., 3.79 g. Crawford 306/1 (Vol. I p. 316); RSC I (Babelon) Valeria 11 (pp. 93-94, ill p. 93) [see also Babelon Vol. II p. 511 (1885 ed.)]; Sear RCV I 183 (ill. p. 107); BMCRR II Italy 647 (p. 309) (ill. Vol. III Pl. xcv.12); Yarrow pp. 141-142 (ill. p. 141, Fig. 3.38) [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]; RBW Collection 1147 (ill. p. 237); Sydenham 565; Albert 1098 (ill. p. 154) ) [Albert, Rainer, Die Münzen der Römischen Republik (2011)]; RBW Collection 1176 (ill. p. 243).* Purchased 23 Dec. 2023 from Münzenhandlung Dirk Löbbers, Wettringen, Germany; ex Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Osnabruck, Germany, Auction 80, 5 Dec. 2023, Lot 1088 (with old coin envelope, pre-1974).**

[Dealer's photo]:

 ValeriusFlaccusMarsCrawford306-1DirkLobbers.jpg.2062a241bf005776b423ca1e8849f418.jpg

My photo of the reverse with the background removed:

20240108_140840_Valerius_Flaccus_Rev_2-removebg.png.27e0aacfe3b1856942bc34ea80fc9749.png

*Crawford states (Vol. I p. 316) that the moneyer “is presumably L. Valerius Flaccus, Cos. 100. The figure of Mars and the apex together recall the fact that the moneyer’s father, Cos. 131, held the office of Flamen Martialis” (priest of Mars), an office that this moneyer had probably not yet held at the time of this issue according to Crawford (but see the quotation from Yarrow below), but did hold later on. Id.

For a further description of the apex depicted on the reverse of this type, as worn by Roman priests such as the Flamen Martialis, see https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Apex  : “The apex was a leather skull-cap worn by Flamen (Roman priests), with a chin-strap and a point of olive wood on its top, like a spindle, with a little fluff of wool at the base of the spindle”) (a definition based [see id.] on the entry for “Apex” in S.W. Stevenson’s A Dictionary of Roman Coins (1889), which notes, inter alia, that the apex “somewhat resemble[ed] a  bishop's mitre, for which its form probably, after ages, furnished a pattern.  On the top was a pointed piece of wood, the base of which was surrounded by a little woollen tuft. Two fillaments of the same material, hanging from the bottom of it, served to fasten it under the chin. The derivation of this word is not satisfactorily explained by learned writers. But its sometimes round -- sometimes conical shape -- and the pointed tassel on the top (Apex) most probably gave the name to the cap itself. It seems to have been first used by the Salian priests, and was afterwards worn by the Pontifex Maximus and the Flamines generally. . . . The Apex is found on a denarius of the Quinctia gens, as indicating the connection of Quinctius Flaminius with the priesthood of Jupiter. As a symbol of Valerius Flaccus [the father of the Crawford 306 moneyer] being a Salian, or priest of Mars [Flamen Martialis], it appears on a coin of the Valeria gens" (emphasis added). As explained in John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London, 1990) (entry for “Flamen” at p. 117), the term “Flamen” is derived from “flare, ‘to blow’, a word which originally meant one who kindled a sacred fire. The word became the name of a class of priest of very high status at Rome. There were fifteen flamines, three major and twelve minor, who were in charge of the worship of various gods; for instance, the flamen Dialis was the high priest of Jupiter (Diespiter), the flamen Martialis of Mars. . . . The flamines were distinguished by a white conical hat, crowned by a twig of olive wood and a woollen thread. The decoration at the top was called the apex, a word which later came to be used for the whole hat.”

In BMCRR II Italy (p. 301 n. 4 cont.), Grueber suggests that the figure of Mars on the reverse, together with the depiction of Victory on the obverse, may also represent “the successes of L. Valerius Flaccus,” another ancestor of the moneyer, “against the Gauls in B.C. 194.” See also RSC I Valeria 11 p. 93 (same). As for the corn-ear depicted on the reverse, although Grueber (in the same footnote), followed by RSC, suggests a rather obscure connection to “the colonization of Placentia and Cremona by the triumvir of the same name in B.C. 190,” Crawford prefers to see this and the other frequent depictions of corn-ears by moneyers during this period -- many of whom, like L. Valerius Flaccus, served as moneyers at a relatively advanced age, within ten years before their later consulates, rather than serving in their 20s as was traditional -- as a form of “self-advertisement” by referring to corn-distributions, even though such distributions were one of the responsibilities of the Aediles:

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the moneyership was in the case of such men a substitute for an aedileship; self-advertisement was a feature of both offices. The surmise is perhaps confirmed by the occurrence of what may be called ‘aedilician’ types, referring to games in the circus and to coin-distributions [examples omitted], or only corn-distributions [examples also omitted]. It is almost as if the moneyers concerned placed on their coins and indication of what they would have provided if they had been elected Aediles [fn omitted, listing various types including this type of L. Valerius Flaccus].”

Crawford Vol. II p. 729 & fn. 4.

Professor Yarrow’s book also discusses this type in the context of self-advertisement by “ambitious men,” which L. Valerius certainly was, as shown by his association with both Marius and Sulla:

“We have other late-second-century hints of contemporary politics intruding on the regular issues of the Roman mint on account of ambitious men. L. Valerius Flaccus advertised his association with the role of flamen Martialis, priest of Mars, in 107 BCE (Figure 3.38). Our understanding of the chronology is hazy, but his father (COS. 131 BCE) will have held the priesthood at this time, or possibly the younger Flaccus, the moneyer himself had already succeeded his father in the post. This is the same Flaccus, the consul of 100 BCE and an apparent backer of Marius, who will be princeps senatus from 86 BCE, first influencing and moderatin Cinna’s policies and then shifting his alliances successfully to become in 82 BCE the interrex responsible for making Sulla dictator and being thus rewarded with the post of magister equitum. These (perhaps) less familiar governmental roles were nonetheless deeply influential: the princeps senatus (‘first man of the Senate’) was selected every five years by the censors, spoke first in each senatorial debate, and was considered its most esteemed member; an interrex (‘the between king’) was appointed by the senate as a temporary official in charge of holding elections in extraordinary circumstances when the consuls were not able to fulfill this role; a magister equitum (‘master of the horse’) was appointed by the dictator as his second-in-command. Flaccus’ standing with Marius, then Cinna, and finally Sulla clearly helped the careers of his cousins, both the luckless Lucius whom Fimbria murdered . . . and the more successful Gaius.”

Yarrow, op. cit., pp. 141-142 (fns. omitted.)

**This is a photo of the front of the old coin envelope accompanying the coin, bearing a German-language description that does not appear to have been made with a ballpoint pen, and otherwise looks like it was written no later than the early 20th century:

ValeriusFlaccusCoinTicketVictory-MarsCrawford306-1DirkLobbers.jpg.jpeg.a621b4292063126eb191c1d62bd97ac6.jpeg

Although the description does not cite any catalogs or other authorities, the date of 104 BC which the envelope assigns to the coin -- by contrast to the 108-107 date generally used since Crawford’s publication in 1974, at the latest -- may have its origin in Ernst Babelon’s Monnaies de la Republique Romaine (Paris, 1885), which also used that date. See Vol. II p. 511 (available at hathitrust.org):

BabelonVol_IIp.511ValeriusFlaccusVictory-Mars.png.bebb9faea905e6111d215460f1402d1b.png

 

In addition, the German term used for the apex on the old coin envelope (“flaminermütze”) appears to be a close translation of Babelon’s French term “bonnet de flamine.” The collector did not adopt the term “Priesterhut” used to describe the apex in the leading earlier work on Roman Republican coins, Theodor Mommsen’s Geschichte des Romische Münzwesen (1860) – which, in addition, does not appear to assign any specific date to this type; see No. 194 at p. 570 (available at https://archive.org/details/geschichtedesrmi00momm/page/570/mode/2up?view=theater&q=flaccus ) :

Mommsenno_194p.570ValeriusFlaccus.png.b69e28c45d280ff43020dc805dba5d0d.png

Thus, it seems reasonably likely that the coin envelope postdates the publication of Babelon in 1885. On the other end, even if I am wrong in thinking that the envelope’s description looks like it was written no later than the early 20th century, it probably predates not only Crawford’s publication in 1974 but also the 1952 publication of Edward A. Sydenham’s The Coinage of the Roman Republic. Even though I do not have a copy of Sydenham (and it is not available online), the 1967 edition of  H.A. Seaby, Roman Silver Coins Vol. I  used a 103 BC date for this type rather than Babelon’s (and the old coin envelope’s) 104 BC date. That 103 BC date was almost certainly taken from Sydenham, the only source Seaby cites other than BMCRR II Italy (which was published in 1910 and assigned a date of 90 BC to the type). See Seaby’s 1967 edition, pp. 93-94 (snippet view available at Google Books) :

SeabyVol.I1967ed.entryforValeria11(L.ValeriusFlaccus)with103BCdate.png.df9a7842668ccec75347c60767312ca4.png

Thus, it appears rather unlikely that the collector would have continued to use Babelon’s 104 BC date for this type after the publication of Sydenham, with its apparent 103 BC date, in 1952, given that Sydenham soon became the leading reference work on Roman Republican coins until Crawford’s publication in 1974. In any event, the coin envelope’s description appears to me to be older than the 1950s. Keep in mind that not all Germans always wrote cursive in Kurrentschrift, or even in its simplified version (Sütterlin), right up to the point that Hitler mandated use of the modern “Latin” cursive in 1941. Also, it was replaced considerably earlier in Switzerland. So the fact that the envelope’s description was written in deutsche Normalschrift doesn’t necessarily constitute proof that the description dates to the post-1941 period.

Any thoughts on the old coin envelope -- and on the coin itself -- would be appreciated.

Please post anything you think is relevant.

 

Edited by DonnaML
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Fascinating investigation and I'm particularly intrigued with the envelope.

My first thought, which you've already answered, is the envelope must date from after 1941 due to the complete absence of Kurrent, which I remember all too well from poring through old Luxembourg family records.

However, the writing definitely seems older than this. Many of the letters are formed in two parts, I assume due to the pen. The 'p' though, is more of a cursive 'p', but is very different from the Kurrent form.

What I wonder is whether it came from somewhere like Bohemia or Switzerland, which dropped Kurrent earlier.

I'm not sure dating from a publication will help in this case, since publications often take 20-30 years to be "consumed". It may have taken even longer back then for individuals not attached to academics.

Again, your more of an expert here, but I find the text "104 aCh". Shouldn't it be "104 v. Chr"? I don't know the history of the abbreviation, but this suggest to me someone familiar with French enough to write "avant" instead of "vor". So, a Swiss German again seems more likely (could have been Luxembourg too, but I'm not sure when they ceased using the old script).

If I were to guess, I'd date the envelope to the 1920's Switzerland.

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Coingrats on your first RR of the new year!

I do love the type. The beautiful portrait of Venus contrasted with the tough looking Mars looking ready for a fight is perfect. 

Here's mine;

IMG_0273(1).PNG.34c9c0e320de88941f097088a6708752.PNG

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34 minutes ago, kirispupis said:

Fascinating investigation and I'm particularly intrigued with the envelope.

My first thought, which you've already answered, is the envelope must date from after 1941 due to the complete absence of Kurrent, which I remember all too well from poring through old Luxembourg family records.

However, the writing definitely seems older than this. Many of the letters are formed in two parts, I assume due to the pen. The 'p' though, is more of a cursive 'p', but is very different from the Kurrent form.

What I wonder is whether it came from somewhere like Bohemia or Switzerland, which dropped Kurrent earlier.

I'm not sure dating from a publication will help in this case, since publications often take 20-30 years to be "consumed". It may have taken even longer back then for individuals not attached to academics.

Again, your more of an expert here, but I find the text "104 aCh". Shouldn't it be "104 v. Chr"? I don't know the history of the abbreviation, but this suggest to me someone familiar with French enough to write "avant" instead of "vor". So, a Swiss German again seems more likely (could have been Luxembourg too, but I'm not sure when they ceased using the old script).

If I were to guess, I'd date the envelope to the 1920's Switzerland.

Thanks. You're right; in German it should be vor and nach Christ. The use of the "a" instead does suggest someone used to writing in French. So possibly from a country where Kurrent was dropped earlier than 1941. Which would certainly fit the way the writing and ink look.

 

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49 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

@DonnaML, I believe your “104 a Ch” is 104 ante Christum natum, a scholarly Latin phrase which seems more likely than the French equivalent in this context. 

Thanks. Is (or was) that a commonly-used abbreviation in Europe among collectors, rather than the standard German or French abbreviations?

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26 minutes ago, Hrefn said:

In the days when every scholar knew Latin, the phrase would be common.  In fact I, although no great Latinist, automatically read a Ch as ante Christum, the probably more common curtailed phrase.   I just looked it up to double check my memory. Short entry on wiktionary -https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ante_Christum_natum   

Thanks. On the other hand, it's missing the "n." that apparently belongs at the end, so I'll probably never know one way or the other which meaning was intended.  Not that it really matters; I'd rather find out how old the envelope is and who owned it! Perhaps someone will recognize the handwriting someday.

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On 1/9/2024 at 6:19 PM, DonnaML said:

Thus, it seems reasonably likely that the coin envelope postdates the publication of Babelon in 1885. On the other end, even if I am wrong in thinking that the envelope’s description looks like it was written no later than the early 20th century, it probably predates not only Crawford’s publication in 1974 but also the 1952 publication of Edward A. Sydenham’s The Coinage of the Roman Republic. Even though I do not have a copy of Sydenham (and it is not available online), the 1967 edition of  H.A. Seaby, Roman Silver Coins Vol. I  used a 103 BC date for this type rather than Babelon’s (and the old coin envelope’s) 104 BC date. That 103 BC date was almost certainly taken from Sydenham, the only source Seaby cites other than BMCRR II Italy (which was published in 1910 and assigned a date of 90 BC to the type). See Seaby’s 1967 edition, pp. 93-94 (snippet view available at Google Books) :

SeabyVol.I1967ed.entryforValeria11(L.ValeriusFlaccus)with103BCdate.png.df9a7842668ccec75347c60767312ca4.png

Thus, it appears rather unlikely that the collector would have continued to use Babelon’s 104 BC date for this type after the publication of Sydenham, with its apparent 103 BC date, in 1952, given that Sydenham soon became the leading reference work on Roman Republican coins until Crawford’s publication in 1974. In any event, the coin envelope’s description appears to me to be older than the 1950s. Keep in mind that not all Germans always wrote cursive in Kurrentschrift, or even in its simplified version (Sütterlin), right up to the point that Hitler mandated use of the modern “Latin” cursive in 1941. Also, it was replaced considerably earlier in Switzerland. So the fact that the envelope’s description was written in Deutsche Normalschrift doesn’t necessarily constitute proof that the description dates to the post-1941 period.

I recently bought an inexpensive copy of a reprint of Sydenham; I decided that it's worth having even though the majority of the dates attributed to various issues are as obsolete as those in BMCRR (Grueber). In any event, I was able to confirm that the 103 BC date for this type, used prior to Crawford's 1974 publication (including in the 1967 edition of Seaby's Roman Silver Coins Vol. I), was introduced by Sydenham in 1952, replacing the 104 BC date used on the coin ticket, a date introduced by Babelon in 1885. See Sydenham p. 76:

 Sydenham565p.76ValeriusFlaccus.jpg.fa2e301c654c2f0634c09c3df929875b.jpg

I certainly understand @kirispupis's  point that "I'm not sure dating from a publication will help in this case, since publications often take 20-30 years to be 'consumed'. It may have taken even longer back then for individuals not attached to academics." However, I'm not sure that I agree that it would take that long for someone who was obviously an educated collector, who prepared coin tickets like this one, to become aware of Sydenham, given that its date scheme predominated throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and that Sydenham was the first major new catalog of Roman Republican coins in almost 50 years when it was published in 1952. So I do think that sometime in the 1950s is a logical terminus ante quem by which Sydenham is likely to have penetrated the general numismatic consciousness, and that the coin ticket, which still used the 103 BC date, was almost certainly prepared before then. I continue to be somewhat skeptical, however, that the use of German "Normalschrift" proves that the ticket was written after 1941: I have seen handwritten German-language letters and documents written much earlier in that kind of handwriting, some as long ago as the 19th and even the late 18th centuries. Often by people who were bilingual and used to writing in French or some other language that used "Latin" handwriting.

Edited by DonnaML
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2 hours ago, DonnaML said:

I certainly understand @kirispupis's  point that "I'm not sure dating from a publication will help in this case, since publications often take 20-30 years to be 'consumed'. It may have taken even longer back then for individuals not attached to academics." However, I'm not sure that I agree that it would take that long for someone who was obviously an educated collector, who prepared coin tickets like this one, to become aware of Sydenham, given that its date scheme predominated throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and that Sydenham was the first major new catalog of Roman Republican coins in almost 50 years when it was published in 1952. So I do think that sometime in the 1950s is a logical terminus ante quem by which Sydenham is likely to have penetrated the general numismatic consciousness, and that the coin ticket, which still used the 103 BC date, was almost certainly prepared before then. I continue to be somewhat skeptical, however, that the use of German "Normalschrift" proves that the ticket was written after 1941: I have seen handwritten German-language letters and documents written much earlier in that kind of handwriting, some as long ago as the 19th and even the late 18th centuries. Often by people who were bilingual and used to writing in French or some other language that used "Latin" handwriting.

FWIW, my comment stems from researching a coin (I unfortunately can't remember which one) that CNG re-attributed to somewhere/someone else in 2017. A few months after that, Leu and the other main houses followed suit. What I found interesting, though, was the paper they cited as convincing them to change their opinions was published twenty years earlier. If it took CNG twenty years to notice a paper in the digital age, I expect it could have taken an individual much longer back then.

That being said, I agree with you that the script does not prove it was written after 1941. My feeling is it's 10-20 years earlier and I suspect from outside Germany.

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