Wednesday, 16 October 2013

A coin of two Trajans, son and father

Trajan was the successor of the emperor Nerva and pre-decessor of Hadrian. The coin above shows the emperor Trajan on one side and his natural father, Marcus Ulpius Traianus senior, seated on the other.

Trajan senior was born in Hispania into a Roman family of Italian stock. His paternal ancestors moved from Italy and settled in Italica (near modern Seville, Spain) in the Roman Province of Hispania Baetica.

He was the first member of his family to enter the Roman Senate. Some time before 67, Trajan Sr. may have commanded a legion under the Roman General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. Under the future emperor Vespasian (who was at the time the Roman Governor of Judea), he commanded the tenth legion, Legio X Fretensis, during the First Jewish–Roman War between 67-68. During this time, he came into favour with the future emperor.

Due to his successes, Vespasian awarded Trajan Sr. the governorship of a province, although which one is unknown, and a consulship in 70. In later years, he served as a Roman Governor of Hispania Baetica, Syria, in 79 or 80 governed an unknown African province and then western Anatolia. During his time in Syria, he prevented a Parthian invasion.

Coins depicting Trajan’s natural father are difficult to find. The most cost effective way of acquiring a coin of this Roman personality is to get one which shows him seated on a curule chair on the reverse honouring him post mortem with the legend DIVVS PATER TRAIAN. The above coin is for sale and can be purchased by following the link to Mauseus on vCoins HERE.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A coin of Valerian from Anemurion

Valerian I, AE 27mm Anemurion (Anemurium) in Cilicia

 A bronze coin of Valerian I (253-60 AD), made in the third year of his reign. The unlucky Roman emperor Valerian reigned for seven years before he was captured by the Sasanian ruler Shapur I and spent the rest of his life in captivity.

The above coin itself is not a product from a Roman mint as such but rather one that was made in a provincial mint that made coins for local circulation and for local commerce in the eastern provinces. The main part of the reverse is the mint name, ANEMOVPIŅ N in Greek script.

 The ruins at Anemurion

Anemurion (Anemurium in Latin), located in what is now Turkey but in Roman times was Cilicia. It was situated in on a high bluff knob (Cape Anamur) that marks the southernmost point of Asia Minor, opposite Cyprus.

The theatre

The ruins of its theatres, tombs and walls are still visible and were first mentioned by Francis Beaufort, an English naval captain who explored the south coast of Turkey in 1811-12 and who published his discoveries in Karamania. Excavations have revealed extensive traces of the city's buildings, tombs and history from the 1st century after Christ until the city's abandonment around 650 when Arab attacks made the coast unsafe.

Teams have uncovered a large theatre, a small covered theater or odeon, several public baths decorated with mosaic floors (some converted to industrial use in late antiquity), four early Christian churches (also with mosaic floors and donors' inscriptions), a possible civil basilica (law court), sections of the city walls and aqueducts, and a number of minor structures. Work in the city's extensive necropolis of several hundred tombs built above ground has revealed and conserved wall paintings (including the four seasons) and more mosaic floors.

 Ruins on the shore

The last coins minted in Anemorion were in the mid third century before its capture by the Sasanians in 260.

The coin at the top of this note is for sale and can be purchased by following the link to Mauseus on vCoins HERE.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The capture of Perseus

The officials named on Roman republican coins sometimes took the opportunity to publicise their relative’s acts from times past. An example of this is on the following coin.

Struck in 62 BC by Paullus Lepidus the obverse features a veiled head of Concordia, surrounded by the moneyer’s name. The moneyer was a supporter of Cicero who had the concordia ordinum as a central feature of his policies.

The reverse, however, is rather interesting (to me at least). It depicts a tophy of arms with a large figure and two small ones to the left and another large figure on the right.

The legend TER(tius) above and PAVLLVS below and commemorates the third imperatorial titles (or victories) of L Aemilius Paullus, the large figure on the right, an ancestor of Paullus Lepidus.  His last and greatest claimed victory was in 168 BC over Perseus, the last King of Macedon and his half brother, Philippus, and also his son Alexander at the battle of Pydna. It is these figures that we see on the left of the trophy. Alexander was kept in custody at Alba Fucens, together with his father. He became a skillful toreutes, learned the Latin language, and became a public notary.

The coin at the top of this note is for sale and can be purchased by following the link to Mauseus on vCoins HERE.

The triumph of Aemilius Paullus - Carle Vernet (1789)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

In the footsteps of the legionaries

Having just got back from a rather damp expedition to the Lake District to walk in the footsteps of the legionaries I was reminded of an expedition earlier this summer in better weather to trek another Roman road. We were on holiday and took a day to visit the Roman road on Wheeldale Moor on the North York Moors.

After some initial exploratory clearing in the 1890’s, the currently extant section was uncovered by archaeologists between 1912 and 1920 and runs for approximately 1.2 miles (just under 2km).

There is no clear consensus on the route of any portion of the structure extending beyond that already excavated. It is most commonly conjectured that the structure originally linked the Roman practice forts at Cawthorne Camps with the Roman garrison fort at Lease Rigg, south west of Sleights. However, there is little if any archaeological evidence for this since it has not been excavated. Even more uncertainly, it is conjectured that the original length of the road may have stretched all the way from Derventio Brigantum (possibly modern-day Amotherby near Malton) to Roman coastal fortifications and signal stations near Whitby, possibly passing northward from Malton via Stape and crossing the River Esk at Grosmont.

The extant secition of the structure appears to show a continuous surface metalled with closely fitted slabs of dolomitic limestone with flat upper surfaces, sitting on top of cut turf over black peat. The use of dressed stone rather than gravel as a surface dressing is held to be either a sign against its Roman construction (it being instead either very late Roman when standards of construction were slipping, or else pre-Roman), or alternatively a fact that can be explained by the original gravel surface having washed away through weathering and the stones that remain representing what was originally underlying support rather than the original surface dressing.

Due to the boggy nature of the ground, the structure is crossed by numerous drainage culverts with small becks and water runoff trickling through them.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Sacellum Genii Senatus

The shrine of the Genius of the Roman Senate is a coin type from the reign of Antoninus Pius known from coins dated 158-9 AD.

The depiction is of a cult statue of the “Genius” or spirit of the Senate on a pedestal, togate and holding a branch and wand. All this is framed by columns and a domed ceiling.

The actual location of the shrine in Rome is not known, although it could have been part of the palatine complex. Nor is the reason for the type being used only in 158-9 known.

The scarce dupondius (RIC 1014) at the top of this note is for sale and can be purchased by following the link to Mauseus on vCoins HERE.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Ptolemy III Euergetes

Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-222 BC) ruled Egypt at the time of the Third Syrian War. He over-ran Antioch and Babylon and his actions are alluded to in the Old Testament Book of Daniel (Chapter 11, vs 7-9). Through the peace treaty of 241 BC Ptolemy was awarded new territories on the northern coast of Syria, including Seleucia Pieria, the port of Antioch.

Ptolemy III was responsible for one of three multilingual inscriptions or stele that allowed the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Canopus Stone of 238 BC contains decrees about priestly orders, and is a memorial for his daughter Berenice. But two of its 26 lines of hieroglyphs decree the use of a leap day added to the Egyptian calendar of 365 days, and the associated changes in festivals..

The other two inscriptions are the Memphis Stele, bearing the Decree of Memphis, about 218 BC, passed by his son, Ptolemy IV, and the famous Rosetta Stone erected by Ptolemy Epiphanes, his grandson, in 196 BC.

The huge coin, 38mm in diameter, at the start of this note is an issue of Ptolemy III. The portrait is not Ptolemy but rather Zeus wearing the horn of Ammon. On the reverse is an eagle standing on a thunderbolt with a cornucopia (“the horn of plenty”) to the top right of the design. It is for sale and can be purchased by following the link to vCoins HERE.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

John Atkinson Grimshaw

The other weekend we were in Scarborough, up by the castle. I happened to wander down a little side street, heading towards the cliff top, when I came across a blue plaque honouring a name I recognised – John Atkinson Grimshaw.

 Scarborough Bay

Grimshaw was a Leeds born artist from the second half of the 19th century who specialised in painting in a photo-realistic style delighting in shadow and reflection, often in city scapes. Even now I can remember the Grimshaw print hanging in the doctor’s surgery waiting room when I was 5 or 6 years old (although at that age I didn’t know the artist’s name).

Autumn Afterglow

Grimshaw's primary influence was the Pre-Raphaelites. True to the Pre-Raphaelite style, he created landscapes of accurate colour, lighting, vivid detail and realism. His skill was working with a variety of light sources, in capturing the mood of the passing of twilight into night. After visiting Grimshaw, Whistler remarked that "I considered myself the inventor of Nocturnes until I saw Grimmy's moonlit pictures."

 Autumn Morning

Salterhouse Dock, Liverpool

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A "new" Carausius aureus with a little provenance (still sadly)

I just want to add a little note about the aureus of Carausius pictured below.

I have had it confirmed that it is not a die duplicate of the Trau/Ashmolean specimen, although very similar. There is aso a small provenance for this coin. It first appeared, it would seem, in the Dorotheum sale number 414, 16-17 November 2011, where it was lot 304. No prior history known for this specimen.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A "new" Carausius aureus with absolutely no provenance (sadly)

In May this year the Swiss auction house of Numismatica Ars Classica (NAC) will offer a gold aureus of the third century British usurper Carausius. The coin purports to be an output from the Rouen mint with the reverse OPES IVI AVG.

The style of the products of this mint are all rather different to the main body of coinage of this usurper from the mints in Britain and this Opes coin is decidedly crude.

The provenance they "cite" in the text is Neligen (1881) and Trau (1935), unfortunately this cannot be that coin. The weight cited for the Trau/Neligen specimen is 4.55 grammes, compared to 5.10 grammes for the NAC coin. The shape of the flan, comparing with the plate illustration in the Trau catalogue is decidedly different. Finally, to cap it all, the Trau specimen currently resides in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Looking at the piece the NAC coin does appear to be struck from the same dies as the Trau specimen, the marks in the obverse die, between the A and R in Carausius for example, are clearly visible on both specimens.

I contacted the company to try to get to the bottom of it and their reply came back as follows:

" We did not cite any provenance for the coin, the provenances are given on the line below the estimate and grading.

As you pointed out, the note refers to the Trau specimen, however by "this aureus" the writer was referring simply to the type and not to this particular piece. We can understand that the wording could have been misleading and apologise for this

The result is that we have, if real, a totally unprovenanced new example of a rare gold coin of Carausius. Where has this coin come from, why is there no record of its discovery? Even if this fell outside of the UK laws for mandatory reporting, ie it was a single find, there needs to be a record of it.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Hadrian, diobol from Alexandria in Egypt (Milne 1289)

The Agathodaemon is frequently portrayed in ancient art as a serpent, however delving a little deeper shows that this is not the only incarnation and other manifestations come to light.

Agathodaemon, or rather Agathos Daimon (meaning “good spirit”) is part of a celestial couple with Agathe Tyche (“good fortune”) who may both be portrayed with a polos (sometimes described as a kalathos or modius) with a cornucopia.

Agathos Daimon and Agathe Tyche are not deities with specific personalities like most of the Olympian gods but rather more generic. Pausanias even conjectured, wrongly, that the name Agathodaemon was a mere epithet of Zeus. He was, however, prominent in Greek folk religion and it was customary to drink or pour out a few drops of unmixed wine to honour him in every symposium or formal banquet.

 Agathos Daimon
Agathos Daimon and Agathe Tyche are representations of the demoi, the good spirit of the people and their ancestors.

 Agathe Tyche

Thursday, 14 February 2013

I Feel Fine recording

This blog seeks to record modern aspects of "history" as well as the more ancient ones. In that light I offer this one. [Please click on the images for enlargements]

Sunday 18th October 1964, the recording of The Beatles song I Feel Fine took place.
Mark Lewisohn’s book reproduces the EMI recording sheet for the session. It shows that there were 9 takes of the song but not all of them were complete; takes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8 marked as breakdowns and only 5, 6, and 9 as complete.

I’ve heard a number of these takes through the recordings that circulate amongst collectors:

Take 1 – With a single tracked guide vocal breaks down during the instrumental break.
Take 2 – Again with a single tracked guide vocal breaks down during the instrumental break after a short burst of feedback from one of the guitar amplifiers.
Take 5 – With a guide vocal is more or less complete but the ending terminates rather abruptly.
Take 6 – The instrumental riff of She's a Woman can be heard on the tape, played on the bass, before the feedback start of I Feel Fine is heard. The feedback is noticeably longer than on the released version and there are no guide vocals on take 6.
Take 7 – The only part of this that I’ve been able to hear is immediately after the take is called the instrumental riff to Tequila is played.
Take 9 – The final and “best” take shows that the ending on the untrimmed master tape breaks down shortly after the “whoop whoop” that can be heard in the outro. This take is an overdub take onto a basic track (take 7 or take 8).

Once a song has been recorded the work doesn’t stop there. The tape is multi track, in this case four track, and each of the component tracks can be played at a different level to create a “mix”. The log at EMI’s Abbey Road studios shows that there were five acknowledged mono mixes done of the song, four on Wednesday 21st October and an fifth one the next day. We know that the third mono mix was used for the UK single and the fourth  mono mix was used for the US single. Why these two singles used different mixes I do not know. I’ve played both and the differences are quite profound. The UK mix is very "dry" but the US mix has reverb all over it and is very echoy.

I have, in my possession, a single sided acetate disc of the song, one of the three that I know to exist. The engineer who cut the disc is recorded on the label, the GE on the right hand side standing for Geoffrey Emerick. Of the three I Feel Fine acetates that I’ve seen two are GE and the third is AB for A B Lincoln.
The time showing on the acetate label, 2:20, shows that this is a recording of take 9 but which mix is it? Acetates are rather fragile and I haven’t played it yet. I need to set up the computer to record it when I do play it in order to analyse the recording. It is probably the third (UK) or fourth (US) mono mix, however, there is an outside chance that it is one of the unused mixes.