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Antioch in Rome


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I was attracted to this coin's fine style and overall eye-appeal. A real beauty in hand!

 

 

V1567.jpg.e19b17f2dc4cb94d39c4250f62b3d9fe.jpg

Vespasian

Æ Semis, 4.82g
Rome mint, 74 AD
Obv: IMP•VESP•AVG•P•M•T•P; Head of Vespasian, laureate, r.
Rev: ANTIOCHIA; Bust of city-goddess, r.
RIC 1567 (C). BMC -. BNC -. RPC 1987 (14 spec.).
Acquired from London Ancient Coins, June 2022.

Traditionally, the remarkable bronze issue this rather odd semis is from has been attributed to various different mints over the years. Ted Buttrey in the unpublished RIC II.1 Addenda wrote - 'RIC 756-767 are irregular Dupondii, which should be taken together with Asses, semisses and quadrantes (RIC 1564-1581), forming together a single extraordinary issue in four denominations, distinct in typology and metal, as well as overall character from the regular coinage of the year. Although Eastern in aspect and reverse type, the circulation area of the dupondii is almost exclusively Gaul, Germany, Italy – i.e. the West, with scarcely any penetration of the East. Finds of the smaller denominations are rarely attested anywhere, East or West. The citations in RPC II are drawn almost entirely from Western collections, and total: Western - 108, Eastern - 4. The Eastern finds appear to be simply the débris of Mediterranean circulation. Previously the series had been attributed to Commagene (BMCRE II, pp.217-222), then as a likelihood to Antioch (e.g. RPC II 1982-2005). The correct attribution to Rome is proved by mules of the dupondii with regular issues (Buttrey, “Vespasian’s Roman Orichalcum: An Unrecognized Celebratory Coinage” in David M. Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos, Judaea and Rome in Coins, 65 CBE – 135 CE (2012).'

I think it quite extraordinary that the Rome mint would produce a coin blatantly featuring a provincial city-goddess that was intended for circulation in the West. Vespasian's fondness for the region that elevated him to the purple must have been strong indeed! The heavy use of dots in the obverse legend is a curiosity as well.

Thanks for looking!

Edited by David Atherton
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1 hour ago, Kamnaskires said:

This is fascinating. Basically, quasi-Provincial. Those turrets sure look like books...she seems to be balancing a small library.

They do, but did books in the form of codices (as opposed to scrolls) commonly exist yet at the time? I don't think so, in which case I doubt many viewers of the coin would have made that connection

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What is the goddess?  Tyche, Cebele?   Maybe the clue is in the goddess?  Cybele had a strong showing  with the legionary types in Syria. Famed for the eunuch priests  who self mutilated.  A cut above the others I think!  A set of emasculating snippers is in the London Museum as i remember!  Maybe meant a lot to Vespasian's  foreign troops! 

 

NSK=John

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3 hours ago, NewStyleKing said:

What is the goddess?  Tyche, Cebele?   Maybe the clue is in the goddess?  Cybele had a strong showing  with the legionary types in Syria. Famed for the eunuch priests  who self mutilated.  A cut above the others I think!  A set of emasculating snippers is in the London Museum as i remember!  Maybe meant a lot to Vespasian's  foreign troops! 

 

NSK=John

Tyche as Antiocha, the personification of Antioch. The reverse legend makes the identity easier to solve.

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Hi David,

The circulation pattern is extremely intriguing!  Should this series perhaps be considered a commemorative series as a tribute to Vespasian’s eastern victories?  Regardless of intention, it would seem clear that these were likely only circulated in the west.  The denomination system is puzzling though.  It is clearly not Roman imperial, but I recall that the west probably saw mostly imperial coinage circulation at this time, the sunsetting of Hispania and Gaul provincial coinage having occurred a generation earlier.

thanks for highlighting this interesting series!

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46 minutes ago, Aleph said:

Hi David,

The circulation pattern is extremely intriguing!  Should this series perhaps be considered a commemorative series as a tribute to Vespasian’s eastern victories?  Regardless of intention, it would seem clear that these were likely only circulated in the west.  The denomination system is puzzling though.  It is clearly not Roman imperial, but I recall that the west probably saw mostly imperial coinage circulation at this time, the sunsetting of Hispania and Gaul provincial coinage having occurred a generation earlier.

thanks for highlighting this interesting series!

It's certainly an interesting series with a lot of unanswered questions! I do think these coins have something to do with the region that elevated Vespasian to empire. Just what that relationship is remains the puzzle.

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