Friday, 30 October 2009

Jugate Carausius and Sol

I’ve been doing a study of this jugate Sol “series” and I now think that Curtis Clay is correct in suggesting that the Hunter specimen is the one illustrated in Stukeley’s plates as I can find no reference to any other examples pairing this obverse type with this reverse legend (excepting my own example, of course).

I now have images of eleven of the twelve examples of the jugate Sol coins known to me and it is apparent that this is more than a single issue when looking at the spread of mint marks (C, CXXI and S/P//C) and the corpus is represented by four distinct obverse dies.

Five of the coins are in the British Museum (one of which, BM 1992,0635.1, must be mis-catalogued on the basis of the die links now known to me; another of the British Museum coins, BM1863,0325.4, is clearly the same specimen as the one illustrated, but not owned, by Kennedy in his “Dissertation upon Oriuna”, from 1751 ), two in the Hunter collection in Glasgow, five in private hands. I need to check the Cambridge and Oxford collections (sadly the Heberden Coin Room is undergoing a reorganisation and so is not dealing with enquiries at present) to see if they hold any further specimens.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Carausius, Stukeley and RIC 5

William Stukeley was perhaps one of the earliest scholars who studied the coins of Carausius, along with Claude Genebrier, John Kennedy and Richard Gough.

The have been criticisms, sometimes valid, over the scholarship of the age, the debate over the status of the personality identified as "Oriuna" not helping put any of the protagonists in a good light.

A biographer of Stukeley wrote in 1985 that "there is little to his credit in the voluminous books of notes and drafts of Histories of Carausius that he so laboriously compiled in the later years of his life".

It is sad that when compiling the appropriate volume of Roman Imperial Coinage (the second part of volume 5 in 1933) that more attention were not paid to the plates of Stukeley from his Medallic History of Marcus Aurelius Carausius, 1757-9 (that were largely copied from Genebrier?) as some rare coins that are known today to exist make an appearence in his plates that are missing from the 1933 catalogue.

One such coin is this one from my own collection that is also illustrated as plate VII, coin 1 in the Medallic History:

Carausius 287-93AD
Radiate bust in imperial mantle left jugate with Sol
Pax walking left holding branch and sceptre
Camulodunum mint
RIC - (cf 341)

Sadly the idealised nature of the plates in Stukeley's work makes it impossible to know if my specimen is the one cited by Stukeley.

However, digging a little deeper what we probably have is an error on the part of Webb, the compiler of the Roman Imperial Coinage volume, and I'll explain why.

RIC 341 describes the above coin except that it says the portrait of the emperor and Sol face RIGHT, not left. He cites his own 1908 publication on the coins of Carausius and, in particular, coin 398 and again the portrait description is right. He also quotes the collection where his particular coin resides, the Hunter Collection, Glasgow University. Fortunately the Hunter collection is published (although the particular coin in question, Hunter 110, is not illustrated). We are fortunate though in that a similar coin, but with a different reverse, Hunter 109, is noted as being an obverse die duplicate of 110 and that coin is illustrated and shows the portraits to the LEFT.

It looks as though we can clear up a descriptive error in Roman Imperial Coinage with a little detective work.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I recently came across this coin that was languishing in a junk box of sorts. I realised straight away that it was a coin of the “rebel” Poemenius, struck in the name of Constantius II. Poemenius, you ask, who’s that?

References are scant and the only extant literary reference for Poemenius is Ammianus 15.6.4: “...Poemenius was condemned as a malefactor, hailed to execution and perished; he was the man (as we have told above) who was chosen to protect his fellow-citizens when Trier closed its gates against Decentius Caesar”. Sadly the writings of Ammianus prior to 353 are lost and we can only wonder what else could be learned if that part of the text remained.

At the time of the civil war between Constantius II and the western usurper Magnentius, the imperial administration was based at Trier. However, the real centre of military power was on the frontier at Cologne and Mainz, leaving the former relatively undefended in the case of attack. By spring, 352 the Trier region was suffering attacks from Germans who had been prompted by Constantius to attack his rival’s centre of power. Poemenius, for whatever reason the most important man left inside the walls of the city, during the resistance to the barbarians had seemingly declared for Constantius – prompting Magnentius’ brother, Decentius, to besiege the town. The rare series of hybrid coins honouring Constantius on the obverse and using the chi-rho type of Magnentius on the reverse were all struck in Trier and are therefore presumed to be a product of Poemenius’ counter-rebellion. The fate of Poemenius is known and Ammianus notes that he was executed after his stand against Magnentius. The period of the revolt was brief, probably lasting a little over one month in the middle of 353.

My example of this scarce issue has been cut down, removing most of the obverse and reverse legends. It has been done in such a way as to preserve the religious symbol, the chi-rho, on the reverse and may have been to mount the coin as a religious pendant.

Although the legends have been largely removed it is possible to identify the portrait as being that of Constantius, rather than Magnentius or Decentius as there is a diadem, only present on the coins of Constantius.