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.