Saturday, 3 September 2016

A dynastic coin of Claudius

Claudius, Tetradrachm, c.45-6 AD, RPC I 5164

I recently acquired this “dynastic” coin, made in Alexandria, Egypt, of the emperor Claudius. His portrait is featured on the obverse of the coin. The reverse has a veiled female figure standing left. You would probably think of Demeter at first glance, however, the figure is named and that name is Messalina, Claudius’ third wife. In her hand, outstretched, there are two small children, Claudia Octavia and Britannicus.

Little is known about Messalina’s life prior to her marriage in 38 to Claudius, her first cousin once removed, who was then about 48 years old. Claudia Octavia was born in AD 39 or 40, a future empress, stepsister and first wife to the emperor Nero; and Britannicus in AD 41. When the Emperor Caligula was murdered in 41, the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius the new emperor and Messalina became empress.

With her accession to power, Messalina enters history with a reputation as ruthless, predatory and sexually insatiable. Her husband is represented as easily led by her and unconscious of her many adulteries. In 48 AD, he went away on a trip and was informed when he returned that Messalina had gone so far as to marry her latest lover, the Senator Gaius Silius. While many would have ordered her death, the Emperor offered her another chance. Seeing this as weakness, one of his head officers went behind the Emperor's back and ordered Messalina's death. Upon hearing the news, the Emperor did not react and simply asked for another chalice of wine. The Roman Senate then ordered a damnatio memoriae so that Messalina's name would be removed from all public and private places and all statues of her would be taken down.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Tarr Steps, Devon

The Tarr Steps, Devon, are a clapper bridge across the River Barle in the Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England. A typical clapper bridge construction, the bridge possibly dates to around 1000 BC.

The stone slabs weigh up to two tons each. According to local legend, they were placed by the devil to win a bet. Its age is unknown, as several theories claim that the steps date from the Bronze Age, c. 1000 BC, but others date them from around 1400 AD. It has been restored several times in recent years, following flood damage.

The steps have appeared on British stamps twice, in 1968 and 2015.

 1968 UK stamp

2015 UK stamp

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Iron Age or Roman beehive quern from the lower Wharfe valley



I have just been fortunate enough to acquire as a garden ornament an ancient beehive quern. Dating from the Iron Age or early/mid Roman times this quern was in a garden/architectural salvage dealers in an antiques warehouse in lower Wharfedale. Unpriced it appears the dealer was reluctant to sell as he had the idea of utilising the central grain funnel to make the piece into a water feature!

Beehive querns are a characteristic later pre-Roman Iron Age type, although their chronology has yet to be refined. They were the first characteristic quern shape to be introduced into Britain. The horizon of their introduction is likely to be late in the 4th century BC and they remained in use until replaced by Roman rotary querns, perhaps from late in the first century AD, a process which may have extended over at least a century, although, again, the chronology has yet to be clarified.


In West Yorkshire querns are important as an indicator of the general distribution of later pre-Roman Iron Age settlement, subject to the usual caveats regarding the presence or absence of fieldworkers and museums, and other variables affecting their discovery and reporting.

Querns are particularly prevalent in the valleys of the rivers Wharfe and Aire, the distribution thinning out on the Pennine uplands and in the lower parts of the Vale of York. This pattern presumably reflects limited populations, but the thinning of the distribution in South Yorkshire may be a function of observation and recording. Within the general distribution pattern it is of particular interest to note the iffering distribution of ‘tall’ querns with sides of greater than 70 degrees to base and 'hemispherical' querns with sides of less than 60 degrees to base. While hemispherical querns are particularly found in North Yorkshire and the Tees valley, ‘tall’ querns are a feature of West Yorkshire, suggesting a cultural distinction which may also be reflected in the ritual and burial traditions noted above.

How long it took flat rotary querns to supplant beehive querns remains unclear, but it is likely that the use of beehive querns did not extend into the 3rd century AD.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Joseph Palmer and Edward Palmer

Seeing the posts on the internet about the Somme has prompted me to post about my two great uncles who died in the Great War and are named on the Thorner (near Leeds, West Yorkshire) war memorial, even though they were later casualties.
Private Joseph Richardson Palmer
It took me a while to identify which picture belonged to which person as neither is named but, from examination of cap badges and tunic buttons, I think I’ve got the correct attribution.
 Death notice Private Joseph Palmer
 The first, Private Joseph Richardson Palmer, was in the Leicestershire Regiment. He died of wounds in the 1st Australian Hospital in Rouen on 4th June 1918, aged 23, purportedly from an air raid on the hospital where he was being treated. He is buried in St. Sever cemetery extension, Rouen.

Private Edward Goodwill Palmer

The second, Private Edward Goodwill Palmer, aged 19, in the Essex Regiment was killed on September 21st 1918 aged 19. He is buried in Unicorn cemetery, Vendhuile.


Thorner parish magazine cover, November 1918
His death was reported in the November parish magazine, obviously published just before the declaration of the armistice. Two other village war deaths are recorded in the magazine, Private Percy Yates, died of wounds on 6th October, and Private Herbert Mitchell MM, October 17th and who is buried in Thorner churchyard.
Thorner parish magazine text, November 1918

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Three ancient Greek fractional coins

This isn’t an oversized pound coin, it is a normal 22.5mm diameter piece, yet it comfortably displays three ancient Greek fractional silver coins.

1.
Kolophon in Ionia
AR hemiobol
c.5th cent BC
O - Head of Apollo right
R - Pebbled quadripartite incuse square with pellet in centre
Klein 401v

2.
Kolophon in Ionia
AR hemiobol
6th cent BC
O - Archaic female head left
R - Quadripartite incuse square
SNG Kayham 342, SNG von Aulock 1808

Kolophon  was an ancient city in Ionia. Founded around the turn of the first millennium BC, it was likely one of the oldest of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. In ancient times it was located between Lebedos (120 stadia to the west) and Ephesus (70 stadia to its south). Today the ruins of the city can be found south of the town Değirmendere Fev in the Menderes district of Izmir Province, Turkey.

The city's name comes from the word κολοφών, "summit", which is also the origin of the bibliographic term "colophon", in the metaphorical sense of a 'crowning touch', as it was sited along a ridgeline. The term colophony for rosin comes from the term colophonia resina, that is, resin from the pine trees of Kolophon, which was highly valued for the strings of musical instruments.

3.
Kyzikos in Mysia
AR hemiobol
480-450 BC
O - Forepart of boar left, tunny fish behind
R - Head of lion left, cross above
SNG Cop 49

Kyzikos was an ancient town of Mysia in Anatolia in the current Balıkesir Province of Turkey. It was located on the shoreward side of the present Kapıdağ Peninsula (the classical Arctonnesus), a tombolo which is said to have originally been an island in the Sea of Marmara only to be connected to the mainland in historic times either by artificial means or an earthquake.

Today the site of Kyzikos, located on the Erdek and Bandırma roads, is protected by Turkey's Ministry of Culture. Historically the monuments of Kyzikos were used by the Byzantine emperor Justinian as a quarry for the building of his Saint Sophia cathedral, and were still exploited by the Ottomans.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Knaresborough Priory and St Robert's cave

I took a walk along the course of the River Nidd in Knaresborough today and happened upon Abbey Road. Along this road the long destroyed Knaresborough Priory was located.



The Trinitarian Priory of the Holy Trinity and St Robert, was founded pre-1252. It was destroyed by the Scots in 1318, and suffered at the Black Death. It was dissolved in 1538. Excavations in 1862 and 1949 have recovered the plan of the North transept of the church with towers or turrets at the angles, a South-East buttress, and stone coffins. This was North-West of the later building called `The Priory'. A possible malthouse was exposed South-East of `The Priory'. To the South of this, a possible dovecote was found by remote survey in 1971.


Part of the South precinct wall survives in the garden of Abbey House, and the `Priory' stands on earlier, possible monastic foundations. Parts of the priory buildings are also preserved in the wall and buildings of “The Priory” on Abbey Road.




Further along the road is the cave of “Saint” Robert of Knaresborough, a hermit who lived in a cave by the River Nidd. His feast day is 24th September. Although never officially canonised Robert is considered as one of the outstanding saints of the early thirteenth century.

St Robert lived in various places in the vicinity of Knaresborough before taking up residence in a cave by the river Nidd (then known as St. Giles' Priory). It is said that King John visited him and Trinitarian friars also venerated him. Towards the end of his life, pilgrims flocked to see Robert to seek spiritual guidance and to be healed of physical ailments. His brother Walter, then Mayor of York, came and paid for some new buildings, including a chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The German victories of Gallienus

Gallienus
Antoninianus
Reverse: GERMANICVS MAX V
Two captives seated back-to-back flanking the foot of a trophy of captured equipment, their arms tied behind their backs

In the late 250s the emperor Gallienus was based in Cologne orchestrating the campaign against the barbarians that were crossing from the free lands on the western Rhine and then eastern Rhine.

A major invasion by the Alemanni and other Germanic tribes occurred between 258 and 260 (it is hard to fix the precise date of these events), probably due to the vacuum left by the withdrawal of troops supporting Gallienus in the campaign against the rebel Ingenuus. Franks broke through the lower Rhine, invading Gaul, some reaching as far as southern Spain, sacking Tarraco (modern Tarragona). The Alamanni invaded, probably through Agri Decumates (an area between the upper Rhine and the upper Danube), likely followed by the Juthungi. After devastating Germania Superior and Raetia (parts of southern France and Switzerland), they entered Italy, the first invasion of the Italian peninsula, aside from its most remote northern regions, since Hannibal 500 years before.

When invaders reached the outskirts of Rome, they were repelled by an improvised army assembled by the Senate, consisting of local troops (probably praetorian guards) and the strongest of the civilian population. On their retreat through northern Italy, they were intercepted and defeated in the battle of Mediolanum (near present-day Milan) by Gallienus' army, which had advanced from Gaul, or from the Balkans after dealing with the Franks. The battle of Mediolanum was decisive, and the Alamanni didn't bother the empire for the next ten years. The Juthungi managed to cross the Alps with their valuables and captives from Italy. An historian in the 19th century suggested that the initiative of the Senate gave rise to jealousy and suspicion by Gallienus, thus contributing to his exclusion of senators from military commands


The coin here features, on one side, Gallienus in the spiky, radiate crown, wearing a cloak over his military armour. The other side proclaims a victory against the Germanic tribes and shows two barbarian captives below a trophy of arms.

It is available for purchase from the Mauseus Vcoins inventory, HERE, £35.