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Confronted Busts Redux: A Scarce New Example from Marcianopolis, depicting Elagabalus and Julia Soaemias


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Two years ago, not long after this forum began, @Roman Collector started a thread on the subject of coins with confronted busts (i.e., dual facing portraits) on the obverse, issued primarily in Moesia Inferior and Thrace in the 3rd Century AD, although there are also some confronted busts on the reverses of Imperial issues. (See the thread at https://www.numisforums.com/topic/97-confronted-busts/#comment-1287 .) As is the case for @Roman Collector, these types are among my favorites. I just acquired a new example for the first time in about a year and a half, so I thought now might be a good time for a new thread.

Elagabalus and Julia Soaemias [his mother], AE Pentassarion [5 Assaria], 218-222 AD, Marcianopolis, Moesia Inferior [now Devnya, Bulgaria] (Iulius Antonius Seleucus, Consular Legate) (legatus Augusti pro praetore). Obv. Confronted busts of Elagabalus right, laureate, facing Julia Soaemias left, bareheaded and draped, ΑΥΤ Κ Μ ΑVΡ ΑΝΤΩΝΕΙ[ΝΟ]Ϲ ΑVΓ ΙΟΥΛΙΑ ϹΟΥΑΙΜΙϹ around from 7:00 o’clock / Rev. Homonoia* standing, draped, head left, holding patera in outstretched right hand and cornucopiae in left, ΥΠ ΙΟΥΛ ΑΝΤ  ϹΕΛΕΥΚΟΥ ΜΑΡΚΙΑΝΟΠΟΛΙΤΩΝ around from 7:00, E [mark of value for “5”]** in left field beneath patera. 27.2 mm., 10.41 g. (broken die at 12:00 on obverse).  RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] VI Online 1448 (temp.) (see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/6/1448) [6 examples, including this coin as example no. 6; see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coin/474175 ]; Hristova & Jekov [Rarity 7 on 1-10 scale] [Nina Hristova and Gospodin Jekov, The Coins of Moesia Inferior I-III c. A.C. MARCIANOPOLIS (2d ed. 2014)]; Pfeiffer 507.40 [Pfeiffer, H.-J., Die römischen Münzen aus Markianopolis: Sammlung H.-J. Pfeiffer (Kaarst, 2013)]; Varbanov I - ; AMNG I - ; Moushmov - ; BMC 3 Moesia -. [The type was unpublished until it was first listed in Pfeiffer (whether in the 2011 1st ed. or the 2013 2nd ed. is unclear) and then in Hristova & Jekov (the 2014 2nd ed.).] Purchased from Kölner Münzkabinett, Cologne, Germany, Auction 121, 12 April 2024, Lot 185.***


*Homonoia (“Agreement” in Greek), was “the Greek equivalent of the Roman personification Concordia, usually shown in art standing by an altar with the attributes of a patera, branch or corn ear. Greek Imperial [i.e., Roman Provincial] coins occasionally announce a homonoia between two (or occasionally three) cities, which indicates that they had agreed to a religious and perhaps to an economic union of some kind.” John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Greek Coins (London, Seaby, 1986) at p. 116 [entry for “Homonoia”]. See also https://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Homonoia.html (“HOMONOIA was the personified spirit (daimona) of concord, unanimity and oneness of mind”). On this type, in addition to a patera, Homonoia holds a cornucopiae, an attribute associated with a large number of specifically Roman personifications, including Concordia. See John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby, 1999) at p. 72 (entry for “Cornucopiae”). Note that Wikipedia, citing various sources, states that “[i]n ancient Roman religion, Concordia (mean[ing] ‘concord’ or ‘harmony’ in Latin) is the goddess who embodies agreement in marriage and society. Her Greek equivalent is usually regarded as Harmonia, with musical harmony a metaphor for an ideal of social concord or entente in the political discourse of the Republican era. She was thus often associated with Pax (‘Peace’) in representing a stable society. As such, she is more closely related to the Greek concept of homonoia (likemindedness), which was also represented by a goddess.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concordia_(mythology) (footnotes omitted.) The distinction, if any, between Harmonia and Homonoia by the time of the Imperial era is probably not important for the interpretation of Roman Provincial Coins: an online search of all volumes of RPC yields 817 results for Homonoia and only one for Harmonia.

**I realize that it looks more like a Z than an E, but unless it's an engraver's error, a Z ( which = 7) would make no sense. I'm not aware of any 7 assaria coins!

***Regarding the rarity of the Marcianopolis pentassaria with confronted busts of Elagabalus and Julia Soaemias, see Curtis L. Clay’s comment on the subject, reproduced in the Numiswiki entry for the Pfeiffer catalog (https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Pfeiffer), and originally posted in 2016 on the Forvm Ancient Coins discussion boards. He states that “Pfeiffer's catalogue illustrates the wealth of material from this mint that has become available on the international numismatic market since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989,” and, as an example, points out that Pfeiffer’s 2011 first edition lists “Six coins with the rare portrait combination, Elagabalus and Julia Soaemias, from four different obv. dies and with six rev. types. AMNG 979-81 knew only four coins of Elagabalus and Soaemias in all the world's collections, from two obv. dies and with three rev. types!” See also Curtis L. Clay’s comments on the Forvm discussion boards on June 14, 2010 (https://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=63627.msg396757#msg396757) (“Soaemias is rare at Marcianopolis, only four obv. dies for her and Elagabalus in my photofile”), and on June 21, 2007 (https://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=38277.msg242370#msg242370 ) (explaining that “Soaemias was dropped from the coinage” in Marcianopolis early in the reign of Elagabalus).

Even now, in 2024, as noted in text, RPC VI records only 6 specimens of RPC VI 1448 with the Homonoia reverse (including my example, added to RPC following the recent Kölner Münzkabinett auction), plus another 5 specimens of RPC VI 1449, a variant on which Elagabalus’s bust is draped and cuirassed. (ACSearch currently lists a total of only four specimens with the Homonoia reverse -- two depicting Elagabalus with a cuirass and two without -- although my specimen will presumably be added at some point.) In addition, at RPC VI 1443-1447 and 1450-1453, RPC VI lists small numbers of Marcianopolis pentassaria with the same Elagabalus/Julia Soaemias obverse design -- struck from the same four obverse dies -- but with different reverses, specifically Ares (1 known specimen), Asclepius (1), Athena (3), Apollo (6), Hermes (7), Hygieia (3), and Sarapis (7).

Here is another Elagabalus dual portrait from Marcianopolis that I already had, this one depicting him with Julia Maesa, his grandmother:

Elagabalus and Julia Maesa [his grandmother], AE Pentassarion [5 Assaria], 218-222 AD, Marcianopolis, Moesia Inferior [now Devnya, Bulgaria] (Iulius Antonius Seleucus, Consular Legate) (legatus Augusti pro praetore). Obv. Confronted busts of Elagabalus right, laureate, draped and cuirassed, facing Julia Maesa left, draped and wearing stephane, AVT K M AVΡ ANTΩNEINOC AVΓ IOYΛIA MAICA AVΓ / Rev. Hera standing, head left, holding patera downwards in right hand and staff in left hand, VΠ IOVΛ ANT CEΛEVKOV MAΡKIANOΠOΛITΩ, E [mark of value for “5”] in right field. RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] VI Online 1416 (temp.) (see https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/6/1416 ; Varbanov I 1651 [Ivan Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins And Their Values, Volume I: Dacia, Moesia Superior & Moesia Inferior (English Edition) (Bourgas, Bulgaria, 2005)]; AMNG I/I 944 [Pick, Behrendt, Die antiken Münzen von Dacien und Moesien, Die antiken Münzen Nord-Griechenlands Vol. I/I (Berlin, 1898) at p. 272] [available at https://archive.org/details/p1dieantikenmn01akaduoft/page/271/mode/1up]; Hristova & Jekov [Nina Hristova and Gospodin Jekov, The Coins of Moesia Inferior I-III c. A.C. MARCIANOPOLIS (2d ed. 2014)]; Moushmov 688 [see http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/moushmov/markianopolis.html for English translation of H. Moushmov, Ancient Coins of the Balkan Peninsula (1912)].  [7 examples on ACSearch; 18 at RPC including 6 from auction sales.] 26 mm., 9.45 g. Purchased 29 Oct. 2021 from Aegean Numismatics, Mentor, OH.


Here are my other five confronted bust coins, for a total of seven:

Septimius Severus and Julia Domna, Tyche reverse, AE Pentassarion [5 Assaria], Marcianopolis Mint, Moesia Inferior [now Devnya, Bulgaria]


Macrinus & Diadumenian, Hermes reverse, AE Pentassarion, Marcianopolis Mint, Moesia Inferior


Gordian III & Tranquillina, Apollo reverse, Thracia, Anchialus [Pomorie, Bulgaria]
Gordian III - Tranquillina Anchialus (Thrace) - jpg version.jpg

Philip I & Otacilia Severa, Nemesis reverse, Mesembria, Thrace [Nessebar, Bulgaria]


Philip II as Caesar & Sarapis,  Serpent Agathodaemon[?] on reverse, AE Pentassarion, 247-249 AD, Marcianopolis Mint, Moesia Inferior 


Please post your own coins with confronted busts, including any you posted in the old thread if you feel like showing them again!


Edited by DonnaML
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What a lovely coin, @DonnaML, and a fun thread!! I have a lot of these dual-portrait coins, as you know, but I have only one with Elagabalus from Marcianopolis. 

Elagabalus and Julia Maesa.
Roman provincial Æ pentassarion, 14.55 g, 28.4 mm, 12:00.
Moesia Inferior, Marcianopolis, under Legate Julius Antonius Seleucus, 220-221 CE.
Obv: ΑVΤ Κ Μ ΑVΡΗ ΑΝΤΩΝΕΙΝΟC ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΜΑΙCΑ ΑVΓ, Laureate head of Elagabalus, right, facing diademed and draped bust of Julia Maesa, left.
Rev: VΠ ΙΟVΛ ΑΝΤ CΕΛΕVΚΟV ΜΑΡΚΙΑΝΟΠΟΛΙ-ΤΩΝ, Dikaiosyne standing left, holding scales and cornucopiae; E (5) in field, right
Refs: Moushmov --; AMNG 962; Varbanov 1620; Mionnet S. 2, 101, 273; similar to BMC 3. 36, 63. 


Edited by Roman Collector
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Vespasian struck a dynastic confronting heads type featuring Titus and Domitian at several different mints. This is probably my favourite variety. Frequency rating unique in RIC. 




AR Denarius, 3.16g
Ephesus mint, 69-70 AD
Obv: IMP•CAES VESPAS•AVG; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
Rev: LIBERI IMP AVG VESPAS; Heads of Titus, bare, r., and Domitian, bare, l., confronting; Φ in r. field
RIC 1402 (R3). BMC-. RSC-. RPC 810 (0 Spec.). BNC-.
Acquired from Kölner, February 2020.

Edited by David Atherton
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Licinius I & Licinius II
Ӕ nummus A.D. 318
21mm 4.2g
D D N N IOVII LICINII INVICT AVG ET CAES; laureate and draped confronted busts, together holding trophy of arms.
I O M ET VIRTVTI DD NN AVG ET CAES; Jupiter stg. Left, chlamys across l. shoulder, leaning on scepter, in front of trophy, at foot of which two captives are seated on either side.
In ex. SMATB
RIC VII Antioch –

This coin was listed in RIC VII as Heraclea 50 by Bruun, because he thought that the mintmark read SMHT[A] instead of SMAT[A]. This error was addressed by Pierre Bastien in his article “Coins with a Double Effigy Issued by Licinius at Nicomedia, Cyzicus, and Antioch.” NC 13 (1973) : 87.


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I also like this obverse design. Here is one from a city that's pretty far from Balkan region 


31,3 mm, 21,27 g.
Mesopotamia, Singara. Gordian with Tranquillina 238-244 AD. Ӕ. 243-244 AD.
ΑΥΤΟΚ Κ Μ ΑΝΤ ΓΟΡΔΙΑΝΟΝ ϹΑΒ ΤΡΑΝΚΥΛΛΙΝΑ ϹΕΒ, confronted busts of Gordian III, laureate and cuirassed, r., seen from rear, and Tranquillina, diademed and draped bust, l. / ΑΥΡ ϹΕΠ ΚΟΛ ϹΙΝΓΑΡΑ, draped, veiled and turreted Tyche, seated l., on rock, holding ears of corn, with centaur (Sagittarius) l. leaping l., shooting bow, above her; below, lower l., half-length figure of river-god Mygdonius swimming l.
RPC VII.2, 3468.

My Marcianopolis example - one of my favorite provincials thanks to the artistry and the nice patina 


This coin does not show confronted busts - quite the opposite in fact - but I still find it relevant  (and beautiful) as it breaks the pattern of bust left/bust right


26 mm, 12,62 g.
Gaul, Nemausus. Augustus 27 BC-14 AD. Ӕ as. Struck 9/8 BC-3 AD.
IMP DIVI F, heads of Agrippa (left) and Augustus (right) back to back, Agrippa wearing combined rostral crown and laurel wreath and Augustus wearing oak-wreath / COL NEM, crocodile chained to palm-shoot with tip right; above on left a wreath with long ties.
RIC 158; RPC 524; AMC 425.

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Great coin and write-up, @DonnaML.  Just this month I got one of those Homonoia issues for two cities (Hierapolis and Ephesus), though not a two-bust type.  It is pretty cruddy, but I had a lot of fun attributing it:


Otacilia Severa  Æ 24 Hierapolis, Phrygia  (Augusta, 244-249) •Μ•ΩΤ• •ϹΕΥΗΡΑ•, diademed and draped bust right / ΙΕΡΑΠΟΛΕΙΤΩΝ Κ ΕΦΕϹΙΩΝ ΝΕΩΚΟ | ΡΩΝ | ΟΜΟΝΟΙΑ | two wreaths, containing Π and Ɛ RPC VIII (unassigned ID 20749) Franke & Nollé 689–700, 707. (6.00 grams / 24 mm) eBay April 2024 $6.00 BIN  

"Beginning late in the first century AD a means of easing political and social strife between neighboring cities in Asia Minor came about through what is known as "Homonia," where concord could be achieved through issued coinage and other means....Note that both the names of Hierapolis along with  the "homonia" city were shown on  the reverse: Otacilia Severa: Hierapolis; Homonia with EphesusBrian Bucklan Coin Talk

Die-Match Obv. & Rev.: Leu Numismatik Web Auct. 7; Lot 741; 23.02.2019 (320 CHF) BMC 172; SNG München 251; Franke/Nollé 694.4 (this coin). Numismatik Naumann Auction 43; Lot 743; 01.05.2016 Franke & Nollé 694; BMC 172. Bucephalus Numismatic Auction 18; Lot 300; 21.04.2023 Franke & Nollé 830-6; BMC 176.

Die-Match Obv. & Rev. (RPC examples): RPC Coin: 97362 British Museum  Inventory No. 1898,1005.4 BMC 172 = Franke & Nollé 691 RPC Coin: 100290 Museum of Fine Arts Boston Inventory 63.1149 Franke & Nollé 692 Die-Match Obv. & Rev. (RPC examples): RPC Coin: 102164 Helios 5 25 June 2010, lot 932 Franke & Nollé 694 RPC Coin: 100926 Numismatik Naumann 43, 1 May 2016, lot 743 RPC Coin: 474283 Rex Numismat. E-Rex Duo 10 6 Apr. 2024, lot 244


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