|Roman Republican Coins and Books by Andrew McCabe
Roman Republican Struck Bronzes A Basic Guide, 215BC to 150BC
Links to Part Four
Links to Parts Two and Three - links not yet active
Part One - Anonymous Bronzes of Rome, Sicily, Etruria and Luceria
Reading Roman Republican struck bronzes is more difficult than it should be, because of a lack of well-arranged and photographed examples to compare with. If you are lucky to have Michael Crawford's Roman Republican Coinage (RRC) by your side, you need to move back and forward between numerous plates to compare examples. The plates in RRC sometimes focus on rare rather than common coins, which means that the most frequently encountered coins may not be illustrated. Still, the plates of RRC are of very high quality. This allows experienced numismatists to recognise the special stylistic fingerprints of certain issues, whether the shape of the flan, or prow details such as the acrostilium (prow-stem, whose shape, angle and decorative features may be typical of an issue), or the keel-line, or the type of deckhouse (peaked, rectangular, platform with club, and others). The good plates in RRC means that these features often receive no special commentary in the text of RRC. You are expected to study and understand the plates, and to handle plenty of genuine coins. After some time you will build up the experience in identifying Republican struck bronzes.
Because not everyone has the time, or interest, to develop this expertise, students use two types of short-cuts to identify coins. These are (1) weight and (2) reading letters and symbols. Unfortunately these short cuts very often lead to incorrect identifications. Worn coins with partial lettering are persistently mis-read, e.g. MAT or NAT confused the rare AV. Issues from Luceria or Canusium are often classified as 'anonymous, from Rome' because the mintmarks (L, P or CA) are often overlooked and it is not widely known that the fighting platform with club is an easily recognised feature of these bronzes. The common lightweight Second Punic War overstrikes on Carthaginian and Syracusan bronzes are continually confused with post-90BC semuncial coins. The same happens with evidently imitative coins, often mistaken as official types. Indeed weight is an unreliable false friend, often quoted as 'evidence' of an early or late date, without looking at the coin, its design features and style. The Gryphon on RRC 182 might be confused with the Elephant head symbol on the much lighter and different style RRC 262. If you think this is unlikely, look at the gryphon As and elephant head Semis below, and compare both with the clearer elephant head Sextans. Who would ever mistake that Semis as being a gryphon type? Well, Andrew McCabe for one, and some other examples are from personal experience too, but whilst I'll make plenty more mistakes, I hope not to repeat the same mistakes I've made before!
The good news is that correct identification is not so difficult with a little guidance, and these web-pages are designed to help. One of the main barriers to understanding Roman Republican coins is seeing different types, side-by-side, at exactly the same scale. There's no better way to show coins to scale than to show them in a single photograph. So all the red-tray pictures on these web-pages are actual photos of 20 or more coins, all together for easy comparison. Here is an example photo to show how size matters (for illustrative purposes at double the scale of the other red-tray photos, which were sized to accomodate obverse and reverse side by side; however, don't reach for your magnifiers - all those other photos are click-to-enlarge to a double size big image!) Hopefully you won't ever again confuse the different Bull Quadrans issues once you see them lined up to scale in this picture. More amazing than the size differences is that all these coins passed current at one quadrans at about the same time!
More help will be on its way soon. The catalogue to the RBW collection sale, in two parts, late 2011 and early 2012, will illustrate one of the most comprehensive collections of Republican gold silver and bronze to be offered at auction. It will be arranged strictly by Crawford number, in a way that can be used as a type catalogue of coins of the Roman Republic. Hopefully, after reading these pages, when you browse the RBW catalogue you will be able to say 'Aha, yes, I recognise the style'. The first part can be downloaded here (large file, 83 MB), and illustrates 720 Republican struck bronzes, all different. Remarkable. Separately, Roberto Russo and I are working on studies of anonymous bronzes, starting with those of Luceria and Canusium in Apulia but with ambitions to cover the whole corpus. So the traditionally difficult area of Republican bronzes will become a progressively easier to comprehend as more well-illustrated studies and catalogues become available.
Now on to content, and starting on this page with Sicily, Etruria and Luceria before reaching those pesky anonymous bronzes which can be the toughest to classify. If you can survive my chat on these anonymous bronzes then you are a true Republican hero!
This webpage focuses on the anonymous bronzes traditionally assigned to Luceria/Canusium, Sicily and Etruria, as well as all other anonymous types from Rome or the rest of Italy. Coins from these four areas are distinctive in style and attributes. With some exceptions, here are some rules of thumbs:
If you can recognise these at sight, then it is a lesser problem to classify them within their series, and the following illustrations and discussion should help! I discuss the coins in this order, as the Sicilian pieces are limited in scope and have plenty of overstrike and dating evidence, whereas 'all other anonymous bronzes' raise the most uncertainties and the scope is certainly wider than the coins which I illustrate.
There are four series of Sicilian corn-ear bronzes, classified by Crawford in three RRC numbers – 42, 69 and 72. Additionally there is a variant no-corn-ear RRC 42 series. All these coins likely come from two mints, one mint in the case of the RRC 42 and early 72 coins (up to RRC 72/10), and a different mint for RRC 69. The later and lighter RRC 72 coins (RRC 72/11 onwards) may or may not be from the same mint. Overstrikes are specially important for understanding these coins and their dating.
RRC 42 is the earliest and heaviest type, likely quadrantal in weight, and including the iconic Bull and corn-ear type. The coins are frequently overstrikes. The bull and corn-ear Quadrans RRC 42/2 are commonly overstruck on Hieron II/Horseman bronzes of Syracuse (which date from 215BC or earlier) and more rarely over Ptolemy II. The Uncia RRC 42/4 is commonly overstruck on Hieron II Poseidon/Trident types and rarely over Carthagian bronzes. Crawford says that these coins were likely issued in connection with the arrival of Marcellus and the beginning of serious operationas against Syracuse in 214 BC. The Bull and corn-ear type comes directly from the pre-Denarius RRC39 collateral types, whose mint is presumed to be Rome. Why this sole type was taken for the Sicilian bronzes, and not the others, is unclear. The bull and cornear quadrans is oddly missing from Sydenham’s catalogue.
Additionally Roberto Russo in Essays Hersh published a variant RRC 42 series, identical in all respects but missing the corn-ear, and including the Quadrans, Sextans, Uncia and Semuncia denominations. These are not shown above, but some examples are below, one with a direct comparison to RRC 42 with corn-ear. They are easily distinguished from other anonymous issues from Rome and other Italian mints which do not have a fighting platform with club within. Luceria types also have a fighting platform with club, but these no-corn-ear types don't have an L mintmark and are also of a distinctive style akin to RRC 42. The no-corn-ear bull Quadrans below weighs 16.5 grams against a typical 40 grams for RRC 39/2, so couldn't be confused with its prototype. Crawford's 42/2 description says 'usually above, corn-ear' but this implied recognition of the no-corn-ear type was not carried over to the other denominations. Three Quadrans dies are known without corn-ear.
The silver Quadrigatus with corn-ear has an unclear relation, if any, with the RRC 42 corn-ear bronzes. The type might equally relate to the lone Aes Grave Quadrans with corn-ear, shown below, or to the heavy 23.9 gram bull and corn-ear Quadrans believed to be the undertype of the Ceres/Hercules Semis RRC 82 if the former is indeed an earlier type than RRC 42/2, or indeed this quadrigatus may be stand-alone, unrelated to any bronzes, cast or struck.
RRC 69 includes the distinctive KA or IC or ICo or C mintmarks. Crawford does not speculate as to what these stand for but numismatists have traditionally assigned them to Catania. The IC and ICo mintmarks are generally taken to be untidy corruptions of the letter K or KA. This is somewhat of a mystery as it is not clear why an engraver who could clearly write ROMA could not also write the simple letters KA. These coins are generally lighter than the RRC 72 bronzes and are frequently overstruck, for example the Triens over Syracuse democaracy (214-212BC) or over Hieronymous of Syracuse (215-214BC); the Quadrans over Rhegium Apollo/Tripod or over Hieron II Poseidon/Trident (215BC or earlier), and the Sextans over the same Poseidon/Trident type or over Syracuse democracy. The series includes As and Semis, but the supposed Dupondius cited by Crawford is a mis-read RRC 56/1 Dupondius, which as overstrikes are prone to confusion between overtype and underype. The RRC 69/6 Quadrans is easily distinguished from the RRC 72/7 or RRC 42/2 Quadrans by both its much smaller size and its cruder engraving style.
The distinctive style RRC 68 silver with corn-ear – as well as related anonymous pieces – is to be associated with the RRC 69 bronzes.
RRC 72 includes two separate series. RRC 72/5 through 72/10 mirror in design and style the RRC42 series, but are of lighter weight. Once again these are frequently overstrikes, but in this case commonly over Roman types (semilibral as well as post-semilibral i.e. RRC 41), and less commonly over Syracuse coins e.g. RRC 72/9 Uncia are struck over Poseidon/Trident. From the overstrikes and weights one sees the general picture of the use of Syracusan bronze booty and Roman lower-denomination types for overstrikes, however it's not possible to be more specific on dates except that overstrikes over Hieronymous or over Syracuse democracy demonstrate a post 214BC dating. We cannot for example say that RRC 72 is later than RRC 69, nor that RRC 69 is later than RRC 42, as these bronzes were struck in different mints, circumstances and sources of bullion. Indeed RRC 72/5 to 72/10 perhaps follows without a break from RRC 42 as the prow denominations can only be distinguished by size and weigh. For example the RRC 42/3 and RRC 72/8 Sextantes look much the same, the former weighing 11 grams and the latter 7 grams. One can see how small the RRC 72/10 Semuncia is, compared with the RRC 42/5 Semuncia, but if not seen side-by-side the differences would not be obvious. The Bull and corn-ear Quadrans RRC 72/7, whilst distinguished by weight, is more or less the same module as the heavier 42/2. RRC 72/7 types are typically characterized by a more stylized and flat style engraving of the bull, very reminiscent of the Caves of Lascaux animals. The heavier RRC 42/2 type has a more rounded engraving of the bull, but the differences are not easy to see. As with all denominations in RRC 42 and in RRC 72/5 through 72/10, although they are generally struck either heavy or light, there are a good few coins of indeterminate intermediate weights, specially Quadrantes. So don't be worried if you are unsure which weight bucket to place your coins in - it may not matter.
The fine style silver with corn-ear is assigned by Crawford to RRC 72, of undoubtedly better style than RRC 69. Crawford also assigns the gold 20 As with corn-ear to RRC 72. In T.V. Buttrey’s “Morgantina, the Coins” one of the most intriguing coin finds in the pre-desctruction layer of Morgantina is this gold 20 As corn-ear type. The thrilling story says "Across the agora to the east we find a private house similarly destroyed by fire, toward the end of the third century, under unusual circumstances. Here were found two coin deposits of some interest. The first was found at the bottom of the cistern, from the fill of which were taken two Greek bronzes, one Siculo-Punic, one Hieron II, both third century BC. The thirty seven coins at the bottom of the cistern are all Roman - one gold, the rest silver - and there were as well several pieces of Hellenistic jewelry in gold and set with garnets, as well as some garnets which had been cut and polished but never set. The gold coin is of the familiar Mars/eagle series, a twenty as piece with the grain ear symbol which is surely a Sicilian mintmark." Other coins in the Morgantina pre-destruction layer include a number of RRC 42 Unciae. So one or both of the gold and silver might also be concurrent with RRC 42, or have been issued in parallel with both RRC 42 and 72.
The lighter RRC72/11 onwards, are of different design, style and types and of distinctly lower weight, although probably from the same mint, which is also the mint that made RRC42. This light series includes the As denomination, RRC 72/11, otherwise missing from RRC42/72. The bronze fractions are distinguished by having ROMA below the prow and only the corn-ear above. Also, the illustrated Quadrans is of a prow design rather than a bull. As can be seen, it is similar in module to the RRC 69/6 Bull quadrans. With the exception of the RRC 72/11 As, all the light denominations, RRC72/12 through RRC 72/15, are very rare indeed.
There also exists a heavyweight As, illustrated below, weighing 47.92 grams, which may be related to the heavy RRC 72/4 through 72/10 bronzes or possibly to the RRC 42 bronzes. The type is different from 72/11 - the value mark is above the corn-ear and not to the right of the prow. Given that the RRC 42 and the heavy RRC 72 bronzes are almost identical in style and overlap in weight it’s not possible to say with which this sole heavy As fits.
Crawford assigns the branch series RRC 76 coins to Sicily based on style links with RRC 72. The As of the series is shown lower right. He is less certain in the case of the dolphin series RRC 80 which in the case of the bronzes have distinctive peaked deckhouses, a rare feature. As noted in the discussion on anonymous bronzes above, the very heavy Asses of dolphin style, as well as the very heavy Asses of club style, also occur in hybrid styles, with dolphin-style obverses linked to club-style reverses (flat deckhouse, broad but tapering prowstems). As far as the bronzes is concerned there seems no special reason to link the dolphin series with other Sicilian coins, thus I note “Sicily or south Italy”.
The RRC 106 series from 'Etruria' is second only to Luceria in complexity for a mint-marked issue. Unlike Luceria whose many varieties are keenly sought after, the bronzes of RRC 106 are often mistaken for anonymous issues even when plainly mint-marked, and are invariably mistaken for anonymous issues when lacking a mint-mark. Even the RRC plates for the anonymous RRC 56 include some coins that should probably by sight be associated with RRC 106. These coins are usually associated with Etruria for mostly circumstantial reasons. Crawford says Etruria(?) without further comment. Yet the bulk of commentary does point towards Etruria, and none against, e.g. (a) Citta Ducala hoard - boundary of Latium and Etruria - where 7 of 15 bronzes with symbols were staff type and a further 70 noted as 'anonymous' may have included staff issues (b) metrological links between Mars/Eagle gold and late Etruscan gold, see Thomson ERC2, 295ff (c) RRC p.34 "I list the generals who received gold with tentative suggestions as to what they did with it ... M Marcellus in Etruria (500 lbs): part struck as issue with pentagram, part passed on to C. Calpurnius Piso [AM: promagistrate in Etruria 210 BC] and struck as issue with staff ..." (d) the distinctive style of these issues is reminiscent of the art and coins of Etruscan cities, the wild look with large staring eyes and straggly hair bringing to mind the Gorgoneion types (e) a further argument from silence comes from all other second punic fields of war and politics - Rome, Apulia, Sicily, Spain, Sardinia - having their clearly located coin issues. Etruria must have had a field coinage, which this must be.
Given that the bronze flans come in two types - broad, flat and thin akin to the later Etruscan bronzes, and thick and cupped, a shape unparalleled in the Republican bronze coinage, we may be looking at two different broze mints in Etruria or north-central Italy, or at a sequenced issue with a change in manufacturing technique.
(2. Silver C, Caduceus and Curved Knife)
This selection of silver demonstrates the commonality between the Etruria pentagram, staff and C issues, which may be effectively one common issue, as well as the likely related caduceus and curved knife issues. There are die-linked obverses between the pentagram and staff victoriati, as well as the above mentioned common gold issue by M. Marcellus and C. Calpurnius Piso. The staff and C issues are in turn linked by a similar sequence of obverse types. The 107/1d anonymous "C" denarius cited by Crawford illustrated with the BM Ghey, Leins, Crawford 2010 107.1.14 has its parallel in an anonymous 106/3 anonymous type (not listed by Crawford) from a different phase in the obverse style sequence, below courtesy of Steve Brinkman's excellent site on anonymous denarius styles. The RRC 108 caduceus denarius (not in the tray but illustrated below) is linked with the RRC 109 curved knife type which as noted in RRC have a remarkably crude style from which stylistic parallels might be drawn to the pentagram-staff-C coins. The very rare B denarius also fits with this set of coins.
The descriptions of RRC 106/4 through 106/10 do not do justice to the sheer variety of staff and club varieties. Group 2 in the red tray illustrates a selection that covers the spectrum - the staff either above or going through the deckhouse, the club within the second wedge-shaped deckhouse (which may be representative of a corvus) or missing and/or present behind or under the obverse head; the staff sometimes missing but the remaining design including the wedge shaped deckhouse with or without club being present. So it is not important to try and match a given specimen with RRC, as the economical natures of its descriptions does not highlight how the staff is placed, or whether or how there is a reverse club present, or indeed all the obverse club varieties, for example with club under head. More important is to recognise the general style - the wide staring eyes, lined straggling hair, the wedged-shape deck house - and then to look carefully at each coin for evidence where the staff and/or club(s) may be hidden. Relative to their weight, most of these coins are struck on broad thin flans, some of the Semisses being so broad and thin, with weights above 25 grams at times, as to seem like an As. Given the large size of the issue there's a general question as to whether this coinage can all date from 209-208 BC, i.e. of the time of Marcellus and Piso in Etruria. Army funding may provide the cause and the coins are all of a common style consistent with a short time period emission, despite the great variety in arrangements. A very interesting series that is undoubtedly not yet fully published.
Crawford classifies this coinage under RRC 56, see pl.XI,10,12 for the Semis and Triens. When placed under the Etruria coins it is difficult to accept they could be from anywhere else, given the closely matched obverse styles with wide staring eyes and similar facial features and hair styles. Compare for example the two Semisses in the first column and the two Trientes in the second columm. The heavy dotted border is another link, untypical of bronzes from other areas. But there are some specific differences that points to a different mint and/or a later issue. The reverse is different, always lacking the wedge-shaped deckhouse with club, and engraved with a less fine cutting tool which shows in the level of details. The flan shape is most unusual - distinctly concave on the reverse, somewhat convex on overse and very thick, which points to a different location or timing. The Semis and Quadrans and the second Triens show this most clearly. I am not aware of this flan shape on any other Roman coin, which must have been difficult to make because it required curved die shapes. Yet it is typical of this issue. It is possible that on all these coins the horizontal line to the left of the deckhouse is the staff of this series, though this cannot be stated confidently because such a line appears on many other bronze coin types. The second Triens does not appear to have the concave flan and does match the obverse style of the series with staff very closely indeed as well as having a slanted line indicative of the wedge shaped deckhouse on the with-staff series. Perhaps it is an a transitional type. There is no difference in weight standards between this issue and the with-staff series, and I'm convinced this is either a later issue, post 208 BC, or an issue from a separate Etruria mint. Perhaps this was Marcellus' issue related to the pentagram silver, and that with staff was Piso's issue. Watch out for these coins
This is a curious coin, very heavy for a Roman brockage, and brockages in Republican bronze are generally very rate. It is clearly of the staff (group 2) or related (group 3) series. It's thick flan makes me think the latter. Lacking a reverse there is no concave prow design, the reverse of course mirroring the reverse, but still it does appear concave, whether just a result of the impression of the convex reverse or related to flan manufacture I cannot say.
I place this Sextans here but without out any strong conviction. It is not a Roman type, none of which have the deckhouse with club, nor is it of Luceria nor Sicilian - it simply does not match any of these in style. There are stylistic links to the illustrated staff group 3 coins and it is possible the line through the deckhouse and the club are just the staff and club of series 106 but from a different engraver. This obverse is also matched with a no-club reverse, see RRC plate XII, 4, and a Quadrans is also known in this style, also with two reverse types. An odd design Sextans which is best placed with the coins of Etruria, for now.
The Complex Coinage of Luceria and Canusium - an Introduction
The coins of Luceria and related issues with L, L-T, L-P, P and CA mintmarks deserve book length treatment, and Roberto Russo and I are currently working on a monograph on the series, an Herculean task given its complexity and profusion of very rare yet distinctive types. I'm grateful for the comments and the many additional coin examples which have been provided by friends including Rick Witschonke, Richard Schaefer and Olivier Legrand, yet this task is still far from complete. A difficulty with current catalogue arrangements is the lack of visual clues, in terms of typical coins arranged with related types side by side. From series 97, Crawford illustrates three bronzes from RRC 43 and thirteen from RRC 97, but these are chosen as much for their differences and uniqueness than for their typicality. The two Quadrantes RRC 97/13a pl.XVIII,8 and 97/13d pl.XVIII,8 are entirely different in obverse and reverse design, style and flan. The same goes for other apparently related coins e.g. 97/5b and 97/7a, or the Quincunx 97/11 and the Triens 97/12. Other than weight, what is to link these coins? The Triens RRC 43/3b with L under the chin has a broad and thin flan, quite unlike the illustrated RRC 43/3a. The cited RRC 43/3c in Hannover is similar in fabric and style to 43/3b, but without knowing this, a reader of RRC might reasonably assume it to look like the illustrated RRC 43/3a of compact style on a thick flan. However a coin that fitted such a visual description would actually be the also-unillustrated RRC 97/4. This is a difficult series!
So it is good to give at least an overview of the basic divisions of the coinage as we see it, but humbly recognising that we are only standing on the shoulders of giants, Riccio, d'Ailly, Grueber and Crawford, who have done so much in their specialist studies of Luceria to sort out this difficult series. Riccio's 1846 study laid the foundations in recognising there were different series within the Luceria L coinage, typified by weight, style and fabric, although some if his illustrations show varieties which are not known to exist. d'Ailly gave a much more systematic and accurate description of the corpus and provides ample data on weights as well as accurate line drawings - as regards style and fabric, not just as to typology. However d'Ailly does not propose an arrangement or classification. Grueber in 'Essays Barclay Head' splits the coinage by weight into Triental, Sextantal and Uncial, but without the underlying data evidence provided by d'Ailly.
Crawford's study of Luceria is the most comprehensive and is based around a careful study of the coins in the Paris collection, with the addition of missing examples from other collections. Paris contains 285 bronze coins of series L, L-T, P and CA and led him to propose a weight-based analysis into groups with As weights of 83 grams, 64 grams, 45 grams and 23.5 grams for series L, 22.5 grams for series P, and 27 grams for series CA. Although some new rare varieties have appeared since RRC's publication, the corpus in RRC is relatively complete and the broad classification by weight does actually reflect the coins in Paris. However the lack of visual clues, as noted above, and the known difficulty in preparing flans and striking bronzes to exact weights leads to some very odd findings. There seems to be dies shared and a continuum of observed weights between the Sextantes RRC 97/20a and RRC 97/27. How can we say they are different coins? RRC 97/20a and RRC 97/20b are always of very different style, design features and fabric. Why should we associate them? RRC 97/5b Quadrans with Loooo under the prow is classified as Sextantal based on the Oxford example RRC pl.XVIII,1 which weighs 15 grams. Yet other examples of this coin type from the same dies weigh 19.4 grams, 21.1 grams, 22.2 grams, 22.3 grams. Shouldn't these be in the '83 gram As weight' group? And why in any event are coins on a 64 gram standard - RRC 97/3 through 97/8 - to be associated with RRC 97 rather than RRC 43? In the end, whilst there is a germ of truth in the weight analysis, it may hinder rather than help a clear understanding of how these coins are to be arranged, and how were they manufactured.
So, we have assembled a photographic database about five times the size of the Paris sample, approaching fifteen hundred examples, and are currently studying this. Whilst this work is ongoing, I can already confidently sort the coins into their major groupings as per the red trays below, now based on visual features alone which can be easily described and recognised. As it happens, a great many of the coins still fall into one or other weight ranges predicted by Michael Crawford, but commonality of design features and manufacture is a better way to place a coin than an uncertain weight classification.Click photo for Large size Obverse images Click photo for Large size Reverse images
The Luceria coins with L mintmark can be visually separated into two stylistic groups, what we call the 'Greek' style groups 1 and 2 in the upper part of the red tray, and the 'Italic' style groups 3,4,5,6 in the lower part of the tray.
The Greek style coins all have obverse engraving styles in the best Hellenistic tradition, the faces have a a beauty and nobility to them, and features such as the petasus - winged hat - of Mercury, and the lion-skin of Hercules, are engraved in classical style. The coins are all struck on relatively thick and short flans. The mintmarks are all prominent and clear, whether behind the head, before the prow or in the prow exergue.
The Italic style coins are struck on very broad thin flans. Observe for example how much larger the Triens in group 3 is as compared with either of those in groups 1 and 2, likewise the Unciae are visually larger whilst not being any heavier than those in the upper half of the tray. Whilst artistically engraved, the obverse heads are no beauties, usually featuring large eyes and very large noses. The mintmarks are invariably small, visible with difficulty or not at all under the head or chin. The later much lighter coins on the bottom row have sometimes clearer mintmarks but still generally a smaller feature and often still not noticed at first glance. The stylistic oddities continue through the later much lighter coins, for example the P As (group 6) with its enormous jutting chin has features that are anything but classical. This Italic group also features odd denominations and designs. These include the Dextans or Ten Uncia coin, the Quincunx or 5 Uncia coin, which represent the Nummus and Half-Nummus in use in many Italian cities who retained the decimal Nummus rather than the duodecimal As. The Quadrans with Mercury head is specially bizzare as it might not be recognised in the marketplace specially once it becomes worn. The Dextans and Quincunx feature Ceres and either a Victory and Quadriga or the Dioscuri. The L-T coinage, probably from the same manufacture, and shown in the next red tray below, also features unusual types including the pictured Minerva/Dioscuri Sextans. The CA coinage, assumed to be from Canusium, continue the same story but at weights even lighter than the later L and P coins.
When viewed like this as a whole, the inescapable conclusion is that different mints, possibly even in different cities struck the Greek and Italic issues, with coinage from the Greek style mint terminating earlier as it never progresses to the very light standards of the later L, P and CA coinages. Given the presence of the Dextans and Quincunx and the corresponding absence of the As and Semis from the heavier Italic series, and also considering the design features which give up the prow in some instances for types with horses, more typical of Italian civic coinage, a further conclusion is that this coinage was perhaps aimed at expenditure in Italian cities rather than say in a Roman military camp. Hoard finds, e.g. RRCH 86 from Canosa and RRCH 88 from Gravina di Puglia, are full of coins with L or L-T mintmarks (hoarded coins being only silver), so the general Apulian area of their issue is indisputed. But the hoards are insufficient to identify the multiple mints in the area, one of which may have been combined with the later civic coinage of Luceria, Historia Numorum Italy types 677ff. At the least, there was one mint for the Greek series, one mint for the Italic L, L-T, L-P and P series, and one for CA. Luceria is today a very small place but may have been big enough at the time to support two operations. Larinum is another possibility, for a second L mint, or a mint also serving Teanum Apulum might explain the L-T mintmark, both of these towns being much closer to Luceria than Canusium, some 70km away, whose coinage no-one doubts was related to that of Luceria. We cannot say where the mints were, but the perspective of two different L mints greatly eases the arrangement of the coins, which I will touch on only very briefly.
The first Greek series was based on an As of over 80 grams. The very rare As and less rare Semis are Aes Grave pieces. There exists an extremely rare but well-made struck Semis, this magnificent example in the Bilbiotheque Nationale Paris (my thanks to Dominique Hollard) being perhaps the most artistically designed and well made Republican struck bronze in existence, at least I can think of none better:
Whilst these coins are, in their higher denominations, about one-and-a-half to twice the weight of the next group 2 coins, there is a simpler way to distinguish them. The As, Semis, Triens, Quadrans, Uncia and some Semunciae of this group all have slanted thick bulbous and relatively short prow-stems. The Sextans has its own prow-stem design, even more slanted but thinner and longer, which is also shared by the remaining Semunciae of this group. I show the two Semuncia designs below, one clearly matching the higher denominations and the second related to the Sextans (courtesy Dominque Hollard at BNF Paris); the first never has a reverse border circle, the second always does. So there seems to have been perhaps two engravers. The Uncia comes with two prow designs, one quite normal and the other - possibly engraved by Sextans engraver - with five small mariners on board, three on the corvus and two on the afterdeck. RRC does not comment on this. I can think of no other Republican bronze with such a large number of sailors on deck! Within group 1 all types except the Uncia and Semuncia are very rare. These Semunciae are perhaps the commonest coins of Luceria.
For most denominations there also appear to have been an additional heavier and extremely rare variety, made by a different engraver, and lacking the star on the side of the prow which is seen on most other group 1 and group 2 coins. It also has a less bulbous although still slanted prowstem. The Quadrans below, with the Looo mintmark/value mark is typical. This variety is however not important for coin collectors or students, as all types are known in just a handful of examples.Click for Obverses Click for Reverses.
The second Greek style group might be visually confused at first glance with the first group. The key feature is the VERTICAL or near-vertical narrow prowstem, which compares with the slanted bulbous prowstems in group 1 (or with the recognisably different design of the Sextans and some Semunciae). They are generally lighter than the first group, with the Semis about half the weight of the first group, most other denominations perhaps two-thirds the weight, and the Semuncia not reduced in weight at all. The Semuncia has the same narrow vertical prowstem as the other denominations and now always in a linear circle. After this series there are no further coins in this style - the later much lighter coins of L, P and CA are all closer to the Italic series in style, though it is of course possible that one or other of the late-light L or P issues was actually struck at this mint. We don't know. We only know that there are no further Greek style bronze series.
The first Italic group includes some coins which are amongst the most remarkable in the Republican series. The amazing broad thin flan of the Triens - probably the largest and heaviest prow-design struck Triens type in existence - has allowed the space for the most wonderful engraving of both the prow and of Minerva, albeit stylistically it certainly conforms with the no-beauty prominent facial features typical of the Italic series. The prow design on all these and most later coins has a distinctive, thin and angled, slightly bulbous at top and tapering towards the bottom. This tapering towards the bottom is characteristic of the Italic series, whereas the Greek series have a prowstem that widens noticeably at the base. The mintmark on the Triens is quite small and below the chin at the edge of the coin, often difficult to see. Both my examples of the Italic Triens were incorrectly described as RRC 41/7b when I found them. The second variety, which Crawford classifies as RRC 43/3c citing Hannover 543, has unusually a very large L before the prow and is exceedingly rare, only my example below (which cost me $27 on eBay) and the Hannover example are known to exist. Wow!
The mintmarks on the Quadrans, Sextans, Unciae and Semunciae are below the head and are invariably off flan, weakly struck, worn or simply unnoticed. So a high proportion of these heavy Italic series coins are not recognised in museums nor in sale descriptions. If you know what they look like then you may find misdescribed examples so keep your eye out. Still even if you know what to look for, all denominations are rare. The Quadrans with Mercury head may in fact be the least rare denomination and its famous type usually causes it to be correctly described. It comes in two varieties, one with denomination mark o-oo around the wing as per the above illustrated coin, and the other with oo-o denomination mark. The Sextans and the two Unciae are persistently misdescribed as RRC 41 since the L under the head is rarely visible. The Uncia with the phrygian helmet with a gryphon emerging from the crest is most easily recognised; that with the Attic style helmet is less easy to see. It is important to recognise that these two helmet styles are associated with the two types of Quinarius, classified by Crawford in the L-T series 98 as 98A/3 and 98B/1. This is not a surprise as the L-T and the Italic series are certainly from the same mint:
Recognition of this Italic series of bronzes has been for me one of the most satisfying experiences in numismatics. There is a thrill of discovery each time I find one of these pieces misdescribed as an anonymous bronze, and I hope others will now share this with me, whether looking in public collections or at sale venues.
I discussed the Dextans and Quincunx above, and their probable role as Nummus and Half Nummus in an Italian decimal monetary system. The relation of these denominations to the heavy Italic group 3 is unclear, because at first glance the Dextans and Quincunx look perhaps too light, with heavy coins weighing about 40 grams and about 27 grams for Dextans and Quincunx respectively (RRC 97/9 Dextans, RRC 97/3 Quincunx) and lighter ones at 27 grams and 18 grams respectively (RRC 97/16 Dextans, RRC 97/11 Quincunx). The two Quincunxes, RRC 97/3 and 97/11 share dies but there is two distinct weight peaks at 27 grams and 18 grams. There is also at least one die from the heavy Dextans RRC 97/9 which is shared with the lighter RRC 97/16 Dextans. There is probably a simple explanation, given that elsewhere in the coinage of Luceria lower denominations were often struck to a somewhat heavier standard than higher denominations of the same series. The heavy Dextans and Quincunx RRC 97/11 and 97/9 were likely the Nummus and Half Nummus of the Italic series and struck at 1.5 ounces and 1 ounce respectively. Later, given that their remarkable design allowed them to be recognised irrespective of weight, the two denominations were reduced in weight to 1 ounce and 2/3 ounce, both token coins. All known examples of the two denominations seem to support this. A comparison with Italian city coinages shows a similar weight reduction, for example Capua where the mid-point Dextans weight of HNI-496 is 41 grams, and that of HNI-531 is 25 grams. Michael Crawford in Coinage and Money under the Roman Republic, 1985, acknowledges that the supposed even lighter RRC 97/23 Dextans does not exist but is simply a corroded example of RRC 97/16, with which I leave an attractive picture:
After these two heavy series of Greek and Italic issues, the coinage with L mintmark of Luceria merges into a single series, very probably from one mint, and given the commonality of style, very likely the mint which produced the heavy Italic style coins. The denominations include As, Semis, Triens, Quadrans and Sextans. Michael Crawford splits this series in two, Semis to Sextans RRC 97/17 through RRC 97/20, and As through Sextans RRC 97/22 through 97/27. Examination of 250 different examples shows that they cannot be separated by weight, with a continuum of weights in all denominations, and with dies being shared between the heaviest and the lightest coins. For example there is one example of RRC 97/22 pictured below which weighs an incredible 52.6 grams and is overstruck on a RRC 39/1 Triens. It is a die-match with another example weighing only 24.4 grams and overstruck on a RRC 38/5 Sextans! However there are some general observations on the As and Semis denominations. The commoner As and Semis types with L below the obverse head have a higher average weight (about 25 grams) and a wider weight distribution and a cruder engraving styles than the rarer examples with L before prow (about 20 grams). which also have finer engraving. The cited RRC 97/22a As with L both under head and before prow does not exist - the illustrated RRC pl.XVIII,10 has only L below obverse head. Unusually for an early Republican struck bronze series, I have not seen an Uncia. The cited RRC 97/21 Turin F664 example, which I have seen in photo, is just a light example of the group 2 Greek series RRC 97/15.
The P series, at an average As weight of 22.5 grams, is about the same average weight as the lighter coins from the L series described in the previous paragraph, i.e. matching the As with L before prow. The obverse style of the P series As is distinct, with its prominent jutting chins. Most remarkably there exists three clear examples of an As with P below the head, and on the obverse Pi above the prow and L before the prow. The reverse with its Pi-L mintmarks is very curious, and the mintmarks are unconventional. But it has a regular Luceria style prow and a completely regular P style obverse. The three examples all are old collection coins, in Milan, Hannover and the ANS - this example, courtesy of the ANS - and with different patinas and wear patterns and there is no reason to doubt the type. Thus it is a proven link between the P and L mints. It is possible that the P coinage is a continuation of the later lightest L coinage at the same mint. It is also possible that it was struck at a related but separate mint, and the P-Pi-L As was a short lived experiment designed to show this link.
The P series includes the Dextans and Quincunx denominations, both shown in the above red tray, which is an unexplained hybrid between Italian decimal and Roman duodecimal weight standards. There may have been a specific usage for the Dextans and Quincunx in an Italian civic context, which we cannot now know.Click photo for Large size Obverse images Click photo for Large size Reverse images
This continuation red tray shows the L-T and CA series coins, and the first example in the tray is a Minerva / Dioscuri L-T Sextans. The probably link of this coinage with the heavy Italic L series is explained fully above. The flan of this example is thicker than a typical Sextans of the heavy Italic L series, but at 10.06 grams it is also one of the heavier known examples which range down to 6.4 grams (BNF Paris, Armand Valton 634). The Mercury head Quadrantes of this L-T series share exactly the same flan characteristics, obverse and reverse styles as the Mercury head L Quadrans, so I have no doubt that the mint is the same.
The final series is that of CA, traditionally assigned to Canusium. CA and L coins have always been associated yet these cities are a full 70 kilometres apart. On my next revision of this web-page I hope to show a map extract from the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World which shows the exact relationship between Luceria, Canusium and the other two cities mentioned on this page - Teanum Apulum and Larinum which are respectively 30 and 50 kilometres from Luceria. The question of mints has to be seen in the context of geography, physical features such as rivers, roads and mountains, as well as military activity such as army bases and movements at given dates, and known hoard find spots whether of bronze or of silver. The sequence of arrangements within RRC presumes an understanding of the history and geography which many students of the series simply don't have. But this will wait for a later date. On the CA series, little more is to be noted. The series is lighter but not greatly so than the later L and P series. It does not include a Dextans or Quincunx. There is a massive volume of overstrike Trientes, one of the commonest single types in the L, L-T, L-P, P and CA series. These overstrikes are over Oeniadae (Zeus right / river god Achelous right) and over Acarnania league, and are usually done in a very rough manner with understrike often visible. There are many different of the CA mintmark and denomination marks on all denominations from As to Uncia, not all of which are documented in RRC.
I must make a brief note of the so-called RRC 97/28 and 99/10 lightweight As coin type. RRC is in error on the cited and illustrated 97/28 The cited coin, Paris d'Ailly 3232, is actually just a full-size RRC 97/22 on a short flan weighing 8.14 grams. The illustrated coin, Paris d'Ailly 3234 is an overstrike and shows no L. The cited and illustrated RRC 99/10 Paris d'Ailly 3549 has a scratch in front of the prow which in the wrong light has been read as a P. I have examined the coin and there is no P. So, whilst these lightweight Asses in the general style of L, P or CA exist, I have not see a single example with a mintmark. The general style is often closer to that of the CA coinage, and find spots indicate a likelier Canusium than Luceria origin. So I suspect all these coins are either from Canusium or are local imitations from the same area, such as the example above whose obverse is akin the coins of Canusium but its reverse, without the fighting platform with club, betrays it as an imitation.
Michael Crawford classifies the pre-150 BC anonymous bronzes into three groups, RRC 41, RRC 56 and RRC 197-198A. These are broad divisions which reflect, respectively, coinage struck shortly after 215BC, coins from about 210BC onward, and coins struck in the mid first century BC. RRC 41 is generally recognisable by broad well-made flans, heavy weights and fine engraving. They weigh from 50 grams to 100 grams on an As-equivalent basis. RRC 56 contains a wide variety of styles, including some better placed with RRC 106. Weights of the As denomination can range from 25 grams to 60 grams. Crawford illustrates a full cross-section of these styles but does not attempt to classify them. Asses lighter than 25 grams are "rare almost to the point of uniqueness" (Crawford) but fractions with As-equivalent weights around 12 grams are common, most notably Trientes about 4 grams and Sextantes at about 2 grams. RRC 197-198A types range in weight from 20 to 30 grams, and relate in the style to RRC 180-210 issues with moneyers names or symbols, so you need to know the moneyer issues in order to classify the related anonymous coins. The trays shown below should help make sense of these coins, but as a starting point it helps to understand that weight is of little help except as a negative indicator, e.g. "too heavy to be RRC 41". Instead look to style. To help familiarise yourself with the most commonly occurring styles I describe eight different and easily distinguished series of anonymous bronzes below. This is by no means a complete set, rather a cross-section of coins in my trays, but sufficient varieties are included to accustom the eye on features to look for.
A note on dating. The RRC 197-198B types clearly relate to other series with symbols/names mostly dating from the 160s and 150s BC. Each of the seven styles in the first picture below, including the lightweight coins, can probably be placed in the Second Punic War period. There is no evidence of any anonymous bronzes being made in the 200BC to 170BC period. There's a widely held misconception that there was a process of gradual weight decline from 215BC onwards but the coin evidence does not seem to back that up. Anonymous bronzes are a phenomeon of the Second Punic War where they were often standalone issues unrelated to coin types with symbols, and then again in the mid second century BC. Reasons probably relate to mint organisation at Rome after the Second Punic War where perhaps there was no incentive to ever produce anonymous issues, and perhaps a requirement that coin issues be signed.
The As-weight of the illustrated coins ranges from 113 grams (Uncia) to 42 grams (Semis) yet all these coins are conventionally regarded as RRC 41. The Semis obverse type can be compared with the RRC 41/6e type shown in the Crawford plate, and die-matches with other examples. The As die-matches with others published by Roberto Russo in Essays Hersh, other examples of which range up to 70 grams or thereabouts. Of far more importance than the erratic weight picture is the completely uniform step-down in diameters from As through to Semuncia, and the fact that all denominations from Semis to Semuncia are of larger diameter than the coin types conventionally regarded as RRC 56. The As is as large but no larger than other RRC 56 style Asses. A recognition trick to finding the rare As - Janus always has a beard with curly hair rather than locks, and also a prominent and brainy forehead! There is a style difference between the As, Semis, Triens and Sextans which all have three converging lines at keel-level at the bottom of the prow, and the relatively heavier Sextans, Uncia and Semuncia which have a triangular shape with visible waves at bottom. This is because there are in fact two "RRC 41" series. Examples of the higher denominations exist with the waves at the bottom of the prow, and of the lower denominations with reverses akin to the illustrated Quadrans. These lower denominations, if below 50 or 60 grams As weight, are easily confused with RRC 56, but their wider diameters place them here. In reality, RRC 41 and 56 cannot be distinguished by weight. Diameter is a more important, but perhaps most important is to realise that the man in the forum or the woman in the marketplace would not have distinguished RRC 41 from RRC 56 at all. They were all bronzes that formed part of the denarius system.
These two massive Asses look to be anonymous variants of the club RRC 89 and dolphin RRC 80 series respectively. I show these only as examples, as there are certainly other anonymous variants of the early bronzes with symbols. Actual examples of RRC 89 club and RRC 80 dolphin are shown below for comparison. Note for example on RRC 89 club the wide and flat deckhouse, and the prow stem which is very fat at its base but tapers, and is relatively short. On RRC 80 dolphin, there is a peaked deckhouse - unusual in the early denarius series, and a narrower and longer prowstem. Both RRC 80 and RRC 89 Asses are typically heavy, as are the two anonymous coins above. The club and dolphin obverses are quite different but the two anonymous coins above have similar obverse styles, more like that of dolphin. Crawford places the club series in Apulia, South East Italy, but is less certain on dolphin which he tentatively assigns to Sicily on stylistic basis. But perhaps both are from Apulia. There exist rare fractions of similar style to each of these general styles. So when you see an anonymous type which you cannot quite place, consider whether their style is akin to club, dolphin or other types with symbols or letters.
This series is of coherent design, and common in all denominations, specially Semis, Triens, Quadrans and Sextans, for which this design is perhaps the iconic RRC 56 design. It is also of remarkably consistent weight - the illustrated As, Semis, Triens, Quadrans and Uncia equating to As weights of respectively 41, 40, 45, 44, 45 grams. The distinctive feature is the very short rounded prowstem, curved back at the end, and with a linear outline. I do not know of any other series with letters or symbols having this style. This together with the large volume of production and very high standards with coins on well-centred round flans with flat surfaces and squared-off edges, and with consistently high engraving standards, suggests to me that this was the main anonymous coinage of Rome in the early denarius period, probably following directly from the RRC 41 series which have equally high standards.
As with the previous group (3) of coins, these coins are of coherent design, relatively common and not related to series with letters or symbols. The distinctive feature is the prowstem with a linear outline which kinks backward very sharply at the end. The heavy-browed obverse features gives the impression that the eyes are looking downwards. These coins are lighter than the previous group of coins, but still of very high engraving standards. In comparison with the previous group the flans are noticeably thinner. As for provenance, this is accidentally disclosed in T.V. Buttrey's Morgantina the Coins where the illustrated post-destruction era anonymous RRC 56 bronzes, almost without expcetion, are of this exact style. Either Ted Buttrey had a special preference for illustrating these kinked-back prowstem types, or more likely these coins were minted locally, in Sicily.
The two illustrated coins have notably long prowstems with a bulge at their end, of a size almost out of proportion with the rest of the prow. The flan size of the As is noticeably small compared to the others shown in the red trays above, and typically weighs 30-35 grams. Engraving quality, specially of the obverse, is less refined than on other issues discussed. Still this is certainly an early issue because in the Ostia hoard documented by Bahrfeldt and recorded in the Hannover museum catalogue, there are several of the RRC 197-198B types illustrated below in excellent condition, and several of this type as well as of other early bronze types in very worn condition, indicating this type dates from decades earlier than the presumably 150 BC or so date of the Ostia deposition. They are very common coins and the type is not related to series with letters or symbols so is likely from the Rome mint, post-dating the coins of the above group (3), perhaps from around 200 BC.
This series with a very low angle, almosts horizontal prowstem, is of heavy weight and more commonly found in small denominations e.g. this is one of the more typical Unciae types. These suggest an early issue. They are well-made coins; the obverse engraving quality is comparable for example to the group (3) coins illustrated above although the reverse style is very different. I cannot confidently place these coins as they are not common in the As denomination, although I presume Rome.
I cannot confidently link the illustrated As with the lightweight fractions beside them except to note that there are similarities in engraving style such as the happy uplifted expression, refined engraving style and treatment of hair, similarities of prow design and treatment of the prowstem. Still, they may not be linked. What is clear is that the fractions, the Triens and Sextans being very common, are typically overstruck on Carthaginian small bronzes, and the choice of denominations was probably dictated by the availability of booty. The small Uncia is very rare, but its module and flan suggests the same series. There was a widespread overstriking of small Carthaginian bronzes particularly into Sextantes on Sardinia and perhaps these have the same origin - their undertypes look very much like Sardo-Punic types. These types are commonly called 'semuncial', but regardless of weight they certainly date from the Second Punic War. These small fractions are commonly found in excellent condition which suggests they may have had a limited circulation life, perhaps being rejected as too small in the marketplace.
This is perhaps a good place to mention RRC 56/1 Dupondius, a type only found as an overstrike on top of Asses weighing about 40 grams. The coin is extremely rare and almost all examples come from one hoard. The style of the overstrike is not clearly linked to any other coin discussed on this page. Whilst the obverse is engraved in fine style, and the reverse with its dolphin in the prow shows a lot of care, the prow design is irregular and not consistent with Rome mint conventions, so I suspect it is more likely a money of necessity, a unique and unclassifiable type. Whilst the Second Punic War is the obvious occasion, I cannot help noticing that the irregular prow style is perhaps similar to the coinage of M.ATILI SARAN RRC 214, or other coins of mid-second century BC, some of which feature short solid prowstems, almost indistinct deckhouses hardly above a line running the length of the deck, rather like this Dupondius. Photo taken at the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, with kind permission Michel Amandry and Dominique Hollard.
Anonymous Struck Bronzes, without Mintmarks - mid Second Century BC varieties
The Ostia hoard earlier mentioned included some coins of this style in excellent condition. As compared with the uncertain discussion above on early anonymous bronzes, the first three coins in this picture are very simple to classify. They are, from the left, an anonymous As of the OPEI series RRC 190, an anonymous As of the SAR series RRC 199 and an anonymous As of either the wolf and twins RRC 183 or butterfly and vine RRC 184 series. So, in this period, 160s BC and 150s BC, anonymous bronzes, specially Asses, were typically issued alongside the moneyers' coinage. The fourth and fifth coins have an odd design with peaked deckhouses - always a feature to watch out for on Republican bronzes - and with the denomination marks in the 'wrong place' before the prow, rather than as is traditional above (for the As and Semis) and below (for the lower fractions). In this they parallel the late anchor series RRC 194 which has the denomination marks for the fractions placed oddly above the prow, and indeed anonymous types related to RRC 194 do exist. The As type with denomination before the prow was first published A hoard of Republican asses from Rome, T.V. Buttrey, Numismatic Chronicle 1973, a rare example of a properly recorded hoard of struck bronzes.
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See my rarity estimates for Roman Republican Bronzes: Roman Republic Bronze Rarities..