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Weird Romans ... Unusual Portraits


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Some may see these "weird" portraits as undesirable but many that fall outside the standard can be very interesting. Poor artists? In some cases maybe - in other cases the art may be a little experimental or reflect a unique interpretation during a shift in artistic styles? Who knows. I enjoy the variety.

Here are a couple of Licinius coins that stand out to me as a little weird....



Below is certainly my favorite… looks like a goldfish with a crazy beard. Its so bad that its awesome.



Please show some weird Romans - any coin you own with a portrait that is a bit unusual ... I would love to see them..




Edited by Constantivs
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Kilikia, Eirenopolis-Neronias
AE28, AD 258-59
Obv.: ΠOΥ ΛIK ΓAΛΛIHNOC, Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right
Rev.: IΡHNOΠOΛE ZS, Cybele seated right, resting arm on tympanum, lion seated to either side
AE, 15.03g, 28mm
Ref.: SNG Von Aulock 5600, Karbach 147, SNG Levante 1629



Valerian I


Valerian I
Ionia, Ephesos.
(AD 253-260)
Obv: AYT K ΠO ΛIKINI OYAΛEPIANOC, Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: EΦECIΩN A ACIAC, Artemis seated on stag right; holding bow and drawing arrow from quiver.
AE, 8.68g, 25mm
Ref.: Karwiese 1136 (V12/R54); BMC -; SNG von Aulock -


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Excellent. Wear pattern, environment and/or engravers' bad days can create funny effects.

For example this Magnentius coin might be the spectacular proof that Vulcans played a major part in ancient history




Other theories suggest that Nero's ancestors were giraffes


I find also the portrait of Septimius Severus unusual. Especially for his era. Few people know that he had a side job - between military campaigns he played metal in local taverns



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I've always found the depictions of Trebonianus Gallus from the Antioch mint a bit "cartoonish".2033977625_normal_treb_tog(1).jpg.45b2bdd16de8e0ee157a6cff0fdc328b.jpg

Trebonianus Gallus, AR Antoninianus, Antioch, 251-253 AD, 21.6mm; 3.55 gr.
Obverse- IMP C C VIB TREB GALLVS PF AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right
Reverse- VICTORIA AVG, Victory walking left, holding wreath and palm.
RIC IV-3, 93;

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Thos one isn't a bad engraving job yet definitely quite cartoon-ish:


Constans, Roman Empire, AE3, 348–350 AD, Trier mint. Obv: D N CONSTANS P F AVG; bust of Constans, rosette-diademed, draped, cuirassed, l., holding globe in r. hand. Rev: FEL•TEMP•REPARATIO; soldier, helmeted, draped, cuirassed, advancing r., head l., leading small bare-headed figure from a hut beneath a tree with r. hand and holding spear in l. hand; in exergue, *PLG•. 20mm, 3.66g. Ref: RIC VIII Lugdunum 88.

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Here's my Licinius II that I've posted before. I love the big googly eyes. This late Tetrarchy / Constantinian portraiture actually works for depicting a toddler.


Photo Credit: V. Clark / Victor's Imperial Coins VCoins

He has a distinct resemblance (minus the beard) to a full size porphyry sculpture believed to be Licinius, as posted previously by @Heliodromus:

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Others may have better examples, but I love that some of the Otho portraits show him with his trademark wig! (Several good ones in a previous thread.)


Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars, as quoted in Wikipedia:

"... because of the thinness of his locks wore a wig so carefully fashioned and fitted to his head, that no one suspected it. Moreover, they say that he used to shave every day and smear his face with moist bread..."

Not that subtle of a wig, really! Though the wet bread face trick obviously worked wonders -- he has the skin of a baby angel! 😇


Roman Provincial from Thessaly, temp. Augustus.
Athena always looks a bit masculine on Greek coins, but especially here. Some people have suggested that on Julius Caesar's coins Venus sometimes had his features (another "disguised portrait" theory).
I've noticed the Athena on these ones can look a bit like Augustus or Julius Caesar (not calling it intentional):


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Interesting post, and coins.  

Here's a wild-eyed Philip II antoninianus I just got off eBay.  The portrait is a bit off, because it is probably an "unofficial" issue (a mule, whatever it is).  Although it looks like a base-metal coin, you can see from highlights on the bust and reverse figure that it does look silver under all that green stuff (seller's photo):


Philip II  Antoninianus (c. 244-246 A.D.) Mule / Unofficial Counterfeit? Rome or Unofficial Mint? M IVL PHILIPPVS CAES, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right / PAX AETERNA, Pax standing left, holding branch and transverse sceptre. See notes for attribution.  (4.82 grams / 23 x 22 mm) eBay Aug. 2022                 $16.50

Notes:  This reverse type not known for Philip II as Caesar.

 Second Example and Obverse Die Match:  Roman Numismatics E-Sale 55; Lot 941; 18.04.2019 (4.49 grams / 23 mm)  

Attribution (from Roma): Cf. RIC 213-215 (for obv. Type); RIC 227 (for rev. type).

Here is the other (shiny silver) example I found, from a Roma auction.  Reverse lettering is very similar to mine, but there seem to be enough differences that I hesitated to call it a reverse die match.  My dirty boy is on top, obviously:




If anybody has seen another one of these, I'd be delighted to hear about it...

Just took my own photos out i' the sun - this gives a better idea of its green: 




Edited by Marsyas Mike
Added greener photo.
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Big-eyed with odd armor



Licinius II
A.D. 319
19mm 2.9g
LICINIVS IVN NOB CAES; laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left.
VIRTVS EXERCIT; Standard inscribed VOT/XX with captive seated on ground on either side, S-F across fields.
in ex. •TS•A•
RIC VII Thessalonica 79






Constantine I
A.D. 318
19mm 3.5gm
IMP CONSTANTI-NVS AVG; high crested helmet, cuir., spear across right shoulder, empty[?] left hand.
VICTORIAE LAETAE PRINC PERP; two Victories stg., facing one another, together holding shield inscribed VOT PR on altar.
in ex. ASIS ✶
RIC VII Siscia 49

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One of the RR coins I wanted a lot in my collection is the Sabinus 344/1b.

Ended up in buying 2 in the same auction (...long story, not a good idea to take an important phone call in the middle of an auction exactly when the lot you want comes)

One of them was a mistake but I keep it because of the oddity caused by the wrong strike/die



This might be shocking for anybody who doesn't know this type, but the engravers did NOT intend to make king Tatius bald.


This is proven by the other 344/1b I bought



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@Constantius, you might want to be on the lookout for an Alexandria mint Falling Horseman with the long style of my coin below.  It reminds me of the colossal head of Contantine intended to make him look more grand than to be realistic.  This is not typical for all coins of the period.  Most coins of this mint and period show a pointy nose that is not all that attractive and certainly not regal.

https://www.thebyzantinelegacy.com/colossus-constantine#:~:text=The colossal statue of Constantine,important statues of Late Antiquity.rx7020b00720lg.jpg.75b5ca36e0748ca57dfd6260ac77bbfd.jpg

Edited by dougsmit
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The Spanish interpretation of Augustus...20211207_AUGUSTUS.jpg.faf56743df16ad9fd21d5d26c22321ea.jpg

Spain, Kelse-Celsa. Augustus. 27 BC-14 AD. AE Unit (10.98 gm, 28mm). Velilla de Ebro (Zaragoza) mint.
Obv.: IMP. CAESAR. DIVI. F. AVGVSTVS. COS. XII, laureate head right.
Rev.: CN. DOMIT. C. POMPEI. II. VIR. C. V I. CEL, bull standing right. Abh. 811. VF.

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Speaking of weird portraits, does this Hadrian portrait on a sestertius in an upcoming auction (see https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?p=lot&sid=5951&lot=91 ) just have an oddly shaped head, and an oddly shaped beard (if there's one at all), or do people think it's been tooled?


Edited by DonnaML
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16 minutes ago, DonnaML said:

Speaking of weird portraits, does this Hadrian portrait on a sestertius in an upcoming auction (see https://www.numisbids.com/n.php?p=lot&sid=5951&lot=91 ) just have an oddly shaped pointy head, and an oddly shaped beard (if there's one at all), or do people think it's been tooled?

Looks like he’s wearing a rug. I’m guessing you’re right and it’s been enhanced with a burin.

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6 minutes ago, Etcherdude said:

Looks like he’s wearing a rug. I’m guessing you’re right and it’s been enhanced with a burin.

The reverse looks a bit suspicious to me as well.  I don't think I've ever seen a galley with such clear detail.

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