Sunday, 7 May 2017

"Carausius lies here under these stones"

Whilst recently staying in north Wales one of the things I wanted to see was the Roman gravemarker of Carausius. The stone, found during the 19th century, proclaims in coarse Latin epigraphy that “Carausius lies here under these stones”. Above the inscription is a christogram, the amalgamation of the first two letters of the word “Christ” and marks this burial to be overtly Christian.

Carausius is an unusual name, known from Roman history in the form of a Menapian usurper who took Britain out of central Roman control at the end of the third century. Note that Menapiae is in the area of modern Belgium. Interestingly William Stukeley in the 18th century postulated that instead of being from Menapiae that Carausius was Menavian, ie from south Wales.

It is unlikely that this usurper is the same Carausius named on the grave marker as it thought that it probably dates to the fifth or sixth century AD.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Odenathus, the "lion" of Palmyra

I have just been reading a paper in BCEN 2015 on new adventus and profectio types from the mint of Antioch during the sole reign of Gallienus by Charles Euston. In the paper they question whether the control of the Antioch mint was under the control of Odenathus, ruler of Palmyra and Roman ally for some time after the recapture of the mint after the usurpation of Macrianus and Quietus. He doubts the hypothesis of J._M Doyen that aurei and medallions were struck by Odenathus at Antioch to celebrate his own victories.

I recalled a passage in the Sybilline Books that may actually lend support to the Doyen theory of Odenathus promoting his campaign successes. A coin reverse type in the antoninianus series from Antioch features a walking lion, either holding a thunderbolt or, on some types, a bull’s head. The 13th Sybilline book, dealing with this period of Roman history, states from line 210:

The very mighty Romans, one of whom
Shall have the number seventy, and the other
The number three, even then the stately bull,
That digs the earth with his hoofs and stirs up
The dust with his horns, shall many ills
Upon a dark skinned serpent perpetrate
That draws a trail with his scales; and besides,
Himself shall perish. And yet after him
Again shall come another fair-horned stag,
Hungry upon the mountains, striving hard
To feed upon the venom-shedding beasts.
Sent from the sun and breathing forth much flame.
And then too by his shameless recklessness
Shall he destroy the well-horned rapid stag

The general commentary accepts that the lion referred to is Odenathus and I just wonder (without wanting to over read the ambition of the die cutter’s intention) whether the lion of the Antioch coin type is a reference to Odenathus.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Galba aureus in Wakefield museum

A chance visit to a charity shop yesterday threw up a interesting batch of postcards, all unused and the same design and useful to use as notelets to numismatic friends. The batch of thirty or so cards bore an image of an aureus of Galba currently in the collection of Wakefield Museums. It inspired me to do a bit of digging about this coin and how it came to the museum.

Sadly there is very little online, apparently found by a metal detectorist working in the vicinity of Castleford (Roman Lagentium, thought to mean 'The Place of the Swordsmen') during road construction work in the centre of what was the Roman fort.

Most of the information gleaned came from Bland and Loriot’s monograph on Roman gold coins found in Britain. In that work it is entry number 646.

It is interesting to note that although the coin was found in 1979 it was not able to be included in the 1984 significant revision of Roman Imperial Coinage volume 1 where the type (obverse legend 5c, bust G (laureate, right) was only recorded as a denarius, the recorded aurei with obverse legend 5c being paired with a left facing laureate bust or a right facing laureate and draped bust:

Monday, 2 January 2017

A unique Silandos/Tabala mule

I recently came across this ancient coin that has a rather interesting story. It was sold as a 21mm bronze coin of the Silandos mint in Lydia (Turkey), an autonomous issue under Roman rule most often dated to around the Severan period in literature. Having searched through a number of references I was unable to place the type with helmeted Roma on the obverse and Tyche holding a rudder and cornucopia on the reverse. The obverse is known, for example, on SNG Copenhagen 547.

SNG Cop 547

I then took a closer look at the legend on the reverse, reading EΠI Λ MAPOC Y IE TABAΛEѠ[N ], a reverse type of Tabala in Lydia, not Silandos! Although the reverse legend is known, for example on the coinage of the city under Commodus and Crispina (eg SNG von Aulock 8272), the Tyche reverse design is not recorded for Tabala in the references I have consulted.

There is the thought that such mixes of types of different cities occurs because coining was a specialist craft and one location was contracted to produce types for a number of neighbouring cities. Thus errors could occur with the mixing of city types, although this combination was unknown to Konrad Kraft in his work Kaiserzeitliche Münzprägung in Kleinasien. This looks to have occurred here but, unusually, mixing a known obverse/portrait side from Silandos with a new, unrecorded reverse type from Tabala and is probably unique.

This coin can be bought HERE.