Roman Republican Coins and Books by Andrew McCabe
Books on Hoards and Archaeology      Coins: Cicero, Crassus and Pompey 72-50BC
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56BC 426-04-09205-39-FAVSTVS Hercules Triumphal wreaths globe Denarius

Links to Books on Hoards and Archaeology, Coins: Cicero, Crassus and Pompey 72-50BC:

The Mesagne Hoard and its implications for dating

The period 72-50BC is among the least understood in Roman Republican numismatics. The problem is that it was too quiet. The slave revolt of Spartacus was defeated in 71BC and there was no large-scale trouble on Italian soil for 20 years excepting the brief revolt of Cataline, memorably dealt with by Cicero. The war with Mithradates of Pontus was carried out in distant Asia, likewise the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae in 53BC. We don't know how the armies of Lucullus, Pompey, and Crassus were paid, perhaps in cistophoric tetradrachms, but Roman currency was evidently not struck in large volumes in this period. Compounding this, relative peace in Italy means that hoards are rare. In Crawford's hoard census, excepting about 15 common issues from the 72-50BC period, well represented in most late hoards, the remaining 50 or so coin issues are represented by 400 coins thinly spread over a dozen hoards, less than one of each coin per hoard. What's more no large hoard ends decisively in the middle of the period. So Crawford's ordering was based on very thin evidence, much of it prosopographical (the collective study of the lives, relationships and activities of a group of people). Then, in 1984 Charles Hersh and Alan Walker published a hoard of 5,940 coins believed to have been buried 58BC or so, but missing many large issues supposiedly from an earlier period, most notably the relatively large (in aggregate) muses series that supposedly dates to 66BC. The hoard as a whole was securely dated by fresh coins from the curule aedile coinage of M.Scaurus and P.Hypsaeus in 58BC. The presence of some issues that were thought to follow this date, the absence of many other issues thought to precede 58BC, and the massive size of the hoard which makes it very unlikely that absence could be due to chance factors, has required a wholesale redating of the period, with in some cases significant changes to dates adopted by Crawford or Sydenham . I adopt the Hersh and Walker dating here.

52BC 410/8 #9554-39 Q.POMPONI MVSA Apollo star, Muse Urania pointing to globe on tripod, Denarius

Coins: 72-50BC, Cicero Crassus Caesar Pompey, Crawford 395/439

Click on any photo to see that coin. Or click on the right-hand blue link to see the entire set.

72-59BC, Crawford 395/417, Cicero Crassus Pompey

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 72-60BC Cr399/420 Cicero Crassus Pompey Spartacus   72-60BC Cr399/420 Cicero Crassus Pompey Spartacus
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Following the defeat of Spartacus in 71BC and the first consulship of Crassus and Pompey in 70BC, the 60s were the decade of Cicero, Crassus and Pompey. At the end of 60BC, Caesar was elected to the consulship for 59BC signalling a transition to a new force in politics, one that would lead to Empire. Conveniently the Mesagne hoard closes on the date-certain issue of M.Scaurus and P.Hypsaeus as curule aediles the following year, so this set contains essentially all the coins in the Mesagne hoard apart from those of 58BC. Notably Crawford 405 M.Plaetorius Cestianus, and Crawford 410 Q.Pomponius Musa, both large issues, are missing. The coins are arranged according to Hersh and Walker. The coins of 72-70BC are notable for their rarity and their interesting types. The Crawford 396 athletic type show different prizes awarded in games on different dies, in this case a pot, perhaps of oil, below the athlete’s feet. The rare coins of Pomponia have eight individually numbered reverse dies each associated with one symbol, in this case the prawn is number III. The eagle with wreath type was to be copied on a civil war era gold stater thirty years later.

58-50BC, Crawford 405/439, Caesar in Gaul, Crassus, Pompey

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 59-50BC Cr421/439 Caesar in Gaul, Crassus, Pompey   59-50BC Cr421/439 Caesar in Gaul, Crassus, Pompey
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The 50s BC were the decade of Caesar in Gaul, and a concerned Pompey, Crassus (to die at Carrhae in 53BC), Cicero and Senate in Rome. All the coins in this set apart from those of 58BC are missing from Mesagne. The arrangement here is that proposed by HB Mattingly, which also considers W.Hollstein's study from 1993, and differs in some details from that of Hersh and Walker. The missing Crawford 405 and 410 are dated to 57BC and 52BC respectively. A minor anomaly of HB Mattingly's write-up is that Crawford 411 L.Torquatus is not discussed by Mattingly, thus placed in 58BC as per Hersh and Walker. Coins of this decade are produced to a remarkable artistic standard. The low volume of coinage in the late 50s BC might relate to the turbulent political situation in Rome. One wonders how then were Caesar's Gaul legions paid. Perhaps by the donatives eventually given out at his triumph with his large gold issue of 46BC. Coin issues of this last decade before the civil war probably represent the peak of ancestral allusions on coin types, cleverly worked in high quality workmanship. Faustus Cornelia Sulla, Quaestor in 54BC and the eldest surviving son of the Dictator Sulla, produced a series of elegant types commemorating his father, including one showing Sulla's subjugation of Jugurtha, on the right of the coin in chains, and submission of Bocchus, on the left offering a palm to Sulla, in 104BC.

Triage for Coins: Reading Hoards and Coin Accumulations

Howe Norfolk hoard, detail view, many Republican denarii amongst Imperial gold and silver
What is this group of coins saying?

Ask this question whenever you see an accumulation of coins, before you look at any label. Triage: from the French verb trier, to separate, sort, sift, select. In emergency or battle-field medicine it's the initial assessment and sorting for treatment. In numismatics it's the first-look assessment and mental sorting of any accumulation of coins in a way that allows sensible deductions before you permit yourself to be misled by labels and someone else's prior conclusions. You don't need to know that these particular coins are in a museum because basic triage for coins doesn't require more than the instinctive reflex to read the coins before you read about the coins. First know your own mind. All that extra context written on the label will help a great deal once you've done with triage, specially if the labelled facts are true!

So let's practice with coin groups displayed in the British Museum. This lot is mostly silver and some gold. The gold is all Roman Imperial, nice condition but Vespasian's head less worn than the young Nero. Silver the great majority. There seems to be a couple of eastern drachms on the right but otherwise an even mix of Roman Imperial and Republican. Nothing from the 2nd century AD, indeed definitively no Domitians, Nervas or Trajans. A few Vespasian-like portraits though one or two may be a younger Titus. It looks at first glance as an accumulation from 70s AD and earlier so it's worth the discipline to go round one more time and make sure there's nothing later. Because a single later coin could puncture a hypothesis about an intact hoard. But it's far to early to jump to conclusions. There are other possibilities, perhaps these are the pre-80AD coins from a museum or coin dealer ready to be replaced in their trays. Let's look closer. No dioscuri or early biga types from 150BC or earlier. At lower right I see a Maenia from 130BC but nothing else before 100BC. And it is certainly not an illusion, but the Republican coins are much the most worn. Top left and bottom left, there's the heads of Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great both pretty smoothed over. At the other end the Vespasian types are all GVF or better, there's a couple of Tiberius probably Tribute-type denarii at left and one in centre, all about VF, a late Augustus at centre-top in similar condition and an about Fine early Augustus at centre. Checking the Republic again, not a single one merits VF and most are Fine or Fair. So, sharp-cut-off date, no very early coins, the Republican coins are very worn and the Vespasian era ones are unworn, with the Julio-Claudians in between. There's no major gaps in history with the period 50BC to 70AD fairly well represented. It does indeed look like a hoard dating from the 70s BC, with the oldest coin I can see, the Maenia, some 200 years old by that time.

Triage done, we can look at the label now, and read that it's indeed a hoard, from Howe in Norfolk, and likely the savings of a soldier or official. Still we are not done reading the coins - as distinct from the label. The label implies it's a circulation hoard - the contents of the legionaries purse - rather than an accumulation savings hoard - the safe at home below the floor to which coins are periodically added. Is there any evidence of accumulation over time? Well the broken coins and worn condition say not. Anyone who has ever stored money-valuables, whether in banknotes or coin, tends to reserve the crispest best examples for the store. It's human instinct, but that clearly hasn't happened here. Also all the GVF-EF coins seem to be from a short time period in the 70s AD - if it was a long-term accumulation you'd expect to see top-notch coins from prior decades. What else? Well lets look at the Republican coins to measure the expected bias caused by Nero's recoinage, away from the early good silver pieces and towards Mark Antony legionaries. Not seen. The mix of Republican coins shows no evidence of any withdrawal, except perhaps the early Dioscuri and Bigati types although that might be as much to do with age, and also doesn't show lots of legionaries, contra the stereotypes. It doesn't mean that the well-known withdrawal of Republican types didn't take place, but you just can't see it. There is something else missing. Being Britain, you would expect a lot of coins of Claudius reflecting the heavy use of currency during the wars of Britain's occupation. Not seen here and a little puzzling, and would prompt me to look later at other hoards of the period. There's also rather fewer Julio-Claudians and rather more Imperatorial coins than I might have expected from a normal long tail. I've no immediate answer to this, perhaps it's normal.

So what about it being the savings of a "soldier or official" as claimed by the label. Let's look at the full hoard below:

Howe Norfolk hoard, a great many Republican denarii amongst Imperial gold and silver dating to Vespasian

There's 12 aureii and roughly 100 denarii (I got lost twice in counting), or about 400 denarii-worth in total. The pay of a legionary after Julius Caesar was 225 denarii per year, from which money would be spent on food and luxuries and much may have been withheld in the legion's bank or social funds until discharge. This doesn't look like the pay of a legionary, it is far too much money. Could it have been spoils of war? Let's look at the gold. It's uniformly in rather fresh condition, with the few coins of Nero and what may be a single aureus of Gaius somewhat more worn. This smells of government issued money, not spoils of war which would be concentrated on older types. So I'd conclude that, not being pay and not being spoils, this was not a soldier's purse. Perhaps indeed it was the savings of an official, but now we've punctured the British Museum's label, feel free to let your mind wander further, there are other possibilities, perhaps a Centurion's savings, perhaps a local contractor working on the Villa of senior official or magistrate, who was paid for major works in government gold but used the local pool of circulating denarii for his outgoing payments. The coins have spoken, so let your imagination loose.

A few more accumulations, in rather less detail:

Eriswell Suffolk mixed hoard of Iceni and Roman. L.Sentius, C.Fabius about 102BC, Brutus, Augustus, Tiberius. Could old coins be spoils Brenner pass defeat.

A small group, mixed British iron-age and Roman. The Fabia and Sentia are odd here, about 100BC or just before. Could these be long-ago remnants of spoils from the Roman's wars with the Teutones and Cimbri in the time of Marius? Probably yes. When reporting in 2009 on occurrence of Roman Republican coins in individual site finds, Sam Moorhead of the British Museum noted a spike of coins in the last decades of the 2nd century BC, and these would be part of that spike. That the British coins are of similar type and unworn suggesting an ancient accumulation or small hoard, and their predominance suggests also it's an indigenous hoard rather than a Roman soldier's. The Augustus and Tiberius are quite worn though so perhaps still post-occupation. Label time: it comes from Eriswell Suffolk, and says there are several such small mixed hoards in the area including the one below:

Eriswell Suffolk another hoard with British iron-age coins and Roman to Claudius including Postumius Albinus 81BC Scipio Asiagenus 106BC and a legionary

Here we do have a Claudius confirming a post-occupation date, but more interesting also a Scipo Asiagenus of 106BC. Another Alpine spoil of the Teutones and Cimbri? Eriswell apparently has about 40 scattered archaeological finds including many battle-axes, palstaves and rapiers but otherwise draws a blank on internet searches. This smells like a battle-site or camp-site and the multiple finds of small coin groups says "purse hoard" to me - the remains of defeated native British led by Boadiceae queen of the Iceni in her war against the Romans 60-61 AD, and these are Iceni coins.

Bredgar Hoard, Kent, 37 gold aureii with the latest of Claudius 42AD. There's a clear but worn aureus of Julius Caesar and Aulus Hirtius, Cr475 in centre

A quick glance at this golden group says hoard, the 37 coins are clustered in a short time space and unworn, with a Claudius in view at the centre but no Neros, thus from the occupation of 43AD. There's a solitary Republican coin, an aureus of Aulus Hirtius with Julius Caesar 46BC just beside the Claudius and its state of wear is consistent with 80 years light circulation. Label says Bredgar, Kent, and the internet says that a Mr H A Baker of Chantry Cottages Bredgar received 65 pounds as a reward for a crock of gold coins he dug up in his front garden. That was a decent incentive to report, though my detective work on a bronze hoard from Upchurch Kent below shows the natural human tendency for economics with the truth and a tendency to hold coins back. I can't say who hid this gold and didn't recover it, but clearly Roman, perhaps an officer of senior stature, and the Kent location would coincide with his loss at the battle of the Medway led by Aulus Plautius 43BC against the Catuvellauni and other British tribes.

Norton Subcourse Norfolk, Roman up to Claudius with Piso Caepio 100BC, Pomponius Molo 97BC, Hosidia 64BC, some Caesar's and legionaries

This group of silver looks like the first one we looked at but ends in Claudius with a good selection of Imperatorial coins. Yet again there are some earlier coins, Piso Caepio 100BC and nice condition Pomponius Molo 97BC, but in this case all Roman, coincident with the invasion and probably brought by a legionary from Gaul - the scale is right, 24 denarii or a little over a month's pay. Recurrent common Republican types are seen in all these Romano-British hoards: legionaries, the Aeneas and Anchises and the Spanish trophy types of Caesar. The label says this comes from Norton Subcourse in Norfolk, so not from the invasion of 43AD which only reached the Thames, but rather later conquests and settlements during Claudius' and later reigns.

Snettisham Norfolk jeweller's hoard 154AD mixed metal and coins. 83 silver denarii mostly Imperial, C.Naevius Balbus 79BC and another worn RR at top

This is a later group with many coins of Domitian and centre-left just one Trajan, which suggests 100AD, a conclusion we will find in a moment to be entirely wrong. Its composition is very different from the Howe, Kent hoard of the 70s AD - the proportion of Republican coins have gone from 30%-40% to close to zero. At top right is a C.Naevius Balbus of 79AD and under it a slug that is also likely Republican. The group looks like it came from the Roman government coffers - though it's not all fresh coin, even some Domitians are worn. In contrast the silver in the Howe, Kent group must have come from British circulation. Or else something remarkable happened to the coinage between 80 and 100AD that I don't have answers to. A late response to Nero's recoinage? Very late indeed. Whenever you don't have answers, look at more material, look at the context and ask questions. The label and accompanying bronze coins (no Republican unfortunately) and silver objects and bullion says this was a silversmith's hoard from Snettisham in Norfolk, implying to casual readers that these coins were on the way to the melting pot to make brooches and necklaces. But the bronze coins date from 154 AD! The bronzes date the hoard so, when laid down this group of predominantly Domitian denarii was some 70 years old already. The label suggests they were selected for melting due to the high silver content of the early coins. Yes that makes superficial sense. But it doesn't answer why there are not a great many more coins of Trajan and Vespasian and Nerva in the group, of what I would assume to be similarly good silver. At this point I was out of my depth but Ian Leins of the British Museum came to the rescue. The answer is that Vespasian's coins, those of the first year of Domitian's reign (AD 81-2) and those of Nerva and Trajan are all of lower silver content than those struck by Domitian in AD82-5 (which are 98%) and AD 85-96 (93.5%). Thus, the coins with the highest silver content were being deliberately selected. Given the other material in the assemblage, it makes sense to suggest that their collector was using them as a source of bullion. Richard Abdy explains the mystery Romano-British Coin Hoards, Princes Risborough (2002), pp28-9. A very interesting group of coins, and you can see the rest of the Snettisham Hoard on the BM's website.

Cordoba Spain silversmith's hoard worked and unworked silver with silver Republican coinage before 100BC

The final picture isn't a British hoard but as it shows 100% Roman Republican material it's nice to show here anyway. It's the Cordoba Treasure at the Britism Museum, buried about 100BC with 222 Roman Republican coins and 82 Iberian denarii. Oddly the Iberian coins are mostly missing from the coins shown below and aren't elsewhere in the display case - I see a single example at the very centre of the picture. If they are at the bottom, the coins need to be mixed a bit. Roman Republican Coin Hoards lists this as found 1916, the last coin in the group being Q.Lutatius Cerco 109BC, and a listed Victoriatus is probably the earliest. RRCH says there are silver ornaments of which two denarii formed part. Coins in jewellery have ancient origins. This group doesn't require as much detective work as the Romano-British hoards but it's sure nice to look at. In contrast the next piece by Professor Ted Buttrey about excavations at Morgantina is one of the classic detective stories of Roman numismatics.

Cordoba Spain silversmith's hoard 222 Roman denarii to 100BC with silver objects and 82 Iberian denarii. Could Roman coins be from Cimbri Teutones defeats,

Coins from Morgantina and the date of the first Roman denarius

Morgantina Studies II: The Coins, T.V. Buttrey, Princeton, 1989

This is a fundamental archaeological report on the date of the first denarius issue. What is remarkable is that Rudi Thomsen deduced the date of the denarius to 212BC from a multitude of empirical sources in his 1957 study, however Professor Buttrey provided incontrovertible physical evidence in excavations in the late 1950s, republished in this book which contains two of his essays as well as other material. One addresses the archaeological evidence for the date of the denarius, the other from 1979 rebutts an alternative theory with additional analysis and evidence. The first essay is so compelling that I quote part of it below, courtesy of Professor T.V. Buttrey:

QUOTE In the so-called House of Ganymede here there were found lying exposed on the floor (but under the burnt layer and the fallen roof tiles) a silver didrachm of Hieronymous (215-214BC) and a heavy gold ring set with a garnet. That these were openly abandoned indicates a rapid evacuation of the house; that they were not subsequently recovered indicates that no time elapsed between the abandonment of the house and its destruction. The coin of Hieronymous, which is in almost uncirculated condition, gives us the date; not before 215, and not long after. How this bears on the date of the denarius is made clear with a glance at the sanctuaries of Demeter and Kore. ... In all, in the three rooms were found twenty six non-Roman coins, none of them dated by anybody later than the third century BC. The numismatic evidence then is exactly consistent in itself, consistent with the evidence of the architecture, with the ceramic and terracotta evidence, with the literary evidence and the obviously intended destruction of the site. This sanctuary was purposely destroyed in 214 or 211 BC.

There is only one problem. The single Roman coin found on the floor of the rear room of the south sanctuary - sealed under the fallen roof tiles - is a silver sestertius dated according to the chronology of Mattingly and Robinson to 187BC at the earliest.


In the sanctuary room proper, two Roman coins were found on the floor; one a post- semilibral uncia with grain symbol, certainly third century, the other a second silver sestertius.


And also on the floor, still under the fallen roof tiles, was found a small jar - a medicine bottle - containing a deposit of nine silver coins: four anonymous victoriates, one anonymous denarius, three anonymous quinarii, and one anonymous sesterius.

44/5 anonymous Roma Dioscuri Denarius curved visor, large head,

All of this clearly represents the earliest silver of the denarius system. These coins must have deposited before the sanctuary was destroyed. ...

Across the agora to the east we find about 400 metres away - that is, in no way contiguous - 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.

72/2 corn-ear 20 As. Mars, Eagle on thunderbolt, below cornear. AM#1091-11. Note badly rusted obverse die.

The silver coins are dated by Mattingly and Robinson, and by the Sydenham catalogue, to 187BC; the gold coin even later to 167BC. Most of these coins were found on the floor of the cistern, but one quinarius was found within a small pitcher which suggests that it had been let down into the cistern deliberately. Certainly no-one throws gold coin and jewelry into his cistern without some hope of recovery; and that he throws them there at all must indicate some anxiety of mind. ... Here again we have evidence for the existence of the earliest denarii and the corresponding gold at least twenty five years earlier than the Mattingly chronology would permit. ...

If it can be shown that an early denarius was sealed in a Second Punic War stratum, Mattingly's chronology cannot stand. ... Similarly this evidence does not support the conservative chronology [AM: this refers to Pliny’s reference to 289BC, today taken to refer to the first wolf-and-twins didrachm struck within the city of Rome]. The sealed deposits do suggest that the first denarius cannot have been very old at the time. Again according to the conservative chronology, by the date of destruction, say 214BC, the whole range of sextantal bronze would have been run through and the uncial standard would have been in effect for three years. But in the sealed deposit not only was no uncial bronze found, at all, but not even any sextantal bronzes with moneyers symbols or monograms. In short, the stratigraphic evidence is curiously anachronistic if we follow the conservative school, and seriously parachronistic [AM: I just learnt a new word!] if we follow the British school. The answer must lie between. All this evidence indicates that the denarius and the sextantal bronze system came into being shortly before the burning of the city of Morgantina in 214BC or 211 BC. UNQUOTE.

The Upchurch Hoard

Well-reported and intact hoards are news worthy events. Sutton Hoo. Hoxne. Staffordshire. Most hoards are of course smaller, and even where properly reported they usually fade into obscurity with their contents dispersed and not as much as one colour photo on the internet. Although not Roman Republican this hoard is probably more typical of the scale of many private savings containing just 5 denarii equivalent, so I thought worth the illustration.

Upchurch Hoard, 1950

In the winter of 1950 near the village of Upchurch, Kent, a pot containing twenty Roman sestertii dating from the late 1st century to the second half of the second century AD was found in the area known as Slay Hill Marshes. All the coins were fairly worn, thus indicating a long period of use, with the most recent Divus Aurelius and Faustina II in Very Fine condition, and those of Domitian and Trajan in Fine, some with corrosion and others with good surfaces. Judging from this, and the pot, which is a small bellied Olla, a type typical for the area, the hoard was probably concealed sometime in the early third century AD (Source: Gavin Manton). The hoard contents are as follows (all sestertii): Domitian 1, Trajan 3, Hadrian 8, Antoninus Pius 2, Elder Faustina 1, Marcus Aurelius 3, Divus Aurelius 1, Younger Faustina 1.

Whilst it is perhaps unusual that it is all sestertii, the amount equals exactly 5 denarii, so it may have been a savings hoard. An alternative explanation suggested by Richard Abdy in Numismatic Chronicle 2003, from his analysis of a very similar hoard found in Longhorsely, Northumberland near Hadrian’s wall and with, again, the last coin of Faustina II, is that the cost of the brass in the 3rd century AD far exceeded the 5 denarii face value of the coins. This and other similar hoards may have been reserved due to their large size and weight for use as bullion. Abdy quotes four hoards, not including Upchurch which was not cited. He notes that supply of third century sestertii to Roman Britain appears to have been extremely rare, and even with new coins being minted under Severus Alexander, they did not make it to Britain, nor Gaul. Thus the Antonine period coins were effectively the last major brass coinage imports. Abdy suggests that from the mid third century AD, these coins were recycled into barbarous radiates. A key indicator of brass sestertii is the presence of zinc, a difficult metal to keep in a brass alloy because at high temperatures zinc vapourises. However most radiate copies contain higher levels of zinc than would be naturally expected. As the creation of orichalcum was beyond the technique of a blacksmith, reused sestertii must have been the metal source and this explains their hoarding in the 3rd century AD. Richard Reece has argued that the sestertii may have been hoarded in a vain hope that they might regain monetary value, but the fact that sestertius hoards are much less common than radiate hoards suggests that owners monetised the former by converting them into the latter. Whereas owners of radiates had no such conversion options. Abdy quotes an inscription as saying "Celatus the bronzesmith fashioned [this bronze statuette of Mars] and gave a pound of bronze made at the cost of 3 denarii". Since 3 denarii is worth 48 asses, and 48 asses probably weigh much more than a Roman pound of bronze, this suggests that base metal coin was worth significantly more than its face value in Britain even during the denarius era. The disparity can only have increased as denarii turned to inflated antoniniani, when the sestertius must have been worth much more as brass than as coin.

Upchurch is situated on a creek of the river Medway, five miles east of Chatham and has the remains of a Roman cemetery. There are also extensive traces of a pottery and large gravel pits abounding with fossils. The hoard was initially published in Archaeologica Cantiana, 1951, and republished in Seaby's coin and medal bulletin, 1989. In any event, this is a very unusual example of a fully intact hoard in its unbroken original container, properly recorded in an archaeological journal and pre-dating the invention of metal detecting.

Whilst writing the above, my attention was kindly drawn to a further reference to this hoard. In "Coins of Roman Britain, volume X", Cathy King reviews the Race Down Farm hoard of bronzes from Bridport, Dorset. She lists in detail 25 similar hoards including this Upchurch hoard. There are a couple of pages discussing the significance of these hoards. Her conclusions are basically that the supply of bronze coins (sestertii, dupondii and asses) to Britain dropped sharply in the late 2nd century but that older coins continued to circulate in many cases into the 3rd century.

Since the above article was written, mid 2009, further information has brought more information to light as follows:

I spoke to Gavin Manton in 1989 about his short article describing the hoard context in the Seaby Coin and Medal Bulletin November 1989. He referred me to Archaeologica Cantiana as a further research source. I recently searched all 1950s volumes of Arch Cant, and found a reference that says this hoard was previously published in the Journal of Roman Studies volume 43, 1953. The JRS article had a picture of the hoard but not details, however it cited original work by R.A.G. Carson and Surgeon Commander Peter Grey. In related searches I found that the hoard was fully published in the Numismatic Chronicle 1954, by R.A.G. Carson, with detailed descriptions of all coins. It seems that some coins in the current hoard, as reported by Gavin Manton, are missing - there are 20 out of an original 37. These 20 coins match with pieces listed in R.A.G. Carson's article. Furthermore the NC article says that the hoard was found in the summer of 1952, not in the winter of 1950.

So what happened? I believe the hoard was verbally reported as being intact and a date of Winter 1950 given, possibly by an ancestor of the finder, Peter Grey when disposing of the material in 1989, and quite likely in good faith. What it demonstrates is that the best published information sources, the note by Gavin Manton in the Seaby Bulletin, may be based on inaccurate sources. It also shows the difficulty in ensuring reported hoards are absolutely as intact as reported, given the tendency for material to get lost in the context of a find. A real learning experience.

The text of this article about the Upchurch Hoard together with the embedded picture is available under Creative Commons attribution only and the author and photographer, Andrew McCabe, agrees that they can be used by Wikipedia. All other parts of this website are copyright Andrew McCabe unless where otherwise stated.

Books: Hoards & Archaeology


Professor Buttrey’s work on the Morgantina excavations which established some physical proof regarding the date of the first denarius, is an important reference and is summarised above. Serious students should read further than this web-page, and become familiar with the Mesagne hoard and its conclusions as reported by Hersh and Walker. These provide a fundamental re-ordering of the coins of the 70s-50sBC. So, find a copy of ANS museum notes 1984, which is readily available. The refinements proposed by W. Hollstein and HB Mattingly can also be found in their books (the former in German), see the Period-specific Studies section.

The Mesagne Hoard, Charles Hersh and Alan Walker, ANS Museum Notes 1984

The original publication of the hoard, providing an inarguable separation of pre-Mesagne and post-Mesagne coins although there has been much subsequent discussion of arrangements within these sets.

The Mesagne hoard and the coinage of the late Republic, HB Mattingly, NC 1995

Further refinements on Hersh and Walkers conclusions for the 50s BC. Important, and as with the other HB Mattingly studies listed on this website, can be found in “From Coins to History”

Those with a deeper fascination about archaeology and hoards should obtain at least one primer on hoards and archaeology, of which the following two are my favourites, and RRCH provides a lot of fundamental evidence about which coins have been found where, and with which companions:

Coins and the Archaeologist, John Casey and Richard Reece, 1988.
Understanding Ancient Coins, an Introduction for Archaeologists and Historians, John Casey 1986

Either of these two books is an appropriate starting point for a proper understanding of coins and archaeology. The first is a set of papers on the interpretation of coin finds (in England, though relevant to all eras), the second is a much shorter introductory book covering the same ground, a good foundation work.

Crawford Michael Editing Title: Sources for Ancient History

Archaeological techniques with a chapter on the numismatic method.

Roman Republican Coin Hoards, Michael Crawford, 1970

Listing of the hoards used in the preparation of RRC. Whilst RRC contains a type count of the Republican denarii in each hoard which is more information than in RRCH, RRCH is still very useful to get the context of foreign coins, other objects and find conditions. You can read RRCH chronologically and it actually makes sense as a picture of how the coinage evolved so long as you are aware that the hoard contents guide the proposed dating, rather than the dating guiding the arrangement. There are three excellent plates all picturing early silver with symbols, which types are rare and often not illustrated in catalogues.

Excavations at Cosa, in Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome Volume XXXIV, 1980

Much of this consists of Ted Buttrey's catalogue and analysis of the Republican coins found there. Hard to find. It is useful not for the general site finds but for two other essays. One, on the coins of Cosa itself show that the earliest Cosa bronzes were modelled on Crawford 13/1 Mars/horsehead didrachm and have anomolous weights. A slightly later set of bronzes are modelled exactly on Crawford 17 types and weight standards. Cosa was founded in 273BC so that places Cr13 prior to and Cr17 after that date. Further consideration of Crawford 17 find patterns shows them clustered around Rome and thus likely associated with the coinage of Rome from 269BC, ie together with Crawford 20 wolf and twins didrachm, and not of Campania. The second important essay is on a find of two thousand denarii at Cosa, most in EF or better but dated over a 30 year time period closing about 72BC. So the hoard was apparently laid down over time from better available denarii. A curious feature is that some plated coins in the hoard leached copper oxides over their adjacent coins only, thereby revealing that the coins were laid down in bunches of uncirculated new coins of the same types at various times over 30 years. As they were all fresh mint product this strongly suggests the hoarder was a state contractor, who supplied regularly to the state, perhaps produce, and always received new coin from which he would store the excess. Another model tale of numismatic method from Professor Buttrey.


Roman Coins and Archaeology collected papers, Richard Reece, Moneta 32, 2003; The coinage of Roman Britain, Richard Reece, 2002

Although Reece’s work is based mainly on English excavations and hence on Roman Imperial coinages, the numismatic and archaeological techniques are relevant to all eras. He has developed many novel concepts, for example that small bronze finds often come from discards in periods of demonetisation and/or low commercial activity, rather than being losses in a busy commercial environment.

A Tri-denominational Hoard of Early Roman Coins from Sicily, Charles Hersh, ANS Notes 21 1976,
A quinarius hoard from southern Italy, Charles Hersh, Numismatic Chronicle 1972

These two studies provide additional evidence on the early denarius.

An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards, Margaret Thompson, Otto Morkholm, Colin Kraay

Inexpensive and interesting to browse to see where Roman coins mixed into Greek coin hoards. For nerds.

Coin Hoards, Sydney Noe, ANS NNM 1920

Sometimes the smallest books can contain the essence of wisdom, this is about what we can learn from hoards, and still entirely valid nearly a century later. It is available online from Digital Library NUMIS.

A hoard of Republican asses from Rome, T.V. Buttrey, Numismatic Chronicle 1973

Well-reported Republican bronze hoards are very rare. This reports on a hoard of 72 Asses found in the Janiculum in rome in 1960. It reports for the first time on the anonymous 197/198B series with the value mark before the prow and seems to have been deposited late 2nd century BC. It can be compared with Table IX in Roman Republican coins which publishes six hoards of Asses.

Not Useful

Numismatic Archaeology, K. A. Sheedy and Ch. Papageorgiadou-Banis

There are much better books listed above that cover the same ground as this.

Coins and Archaeology, Lloyd Laing, London 1969

Riddled with basic numismatic errors. Valuable as a source of amusement if nothing else. There is a tendency to make straightforward statements of facts that are not established facts, for example "during the life of a single obverse die three reverse dies at least would have been used" or "There was six different systems of putting sequence marks on Republican coins and these systems are related to each other chronologically. One can use the sequence marks to arrange the coins within each series into chronological order". There are no sources or evidence quoted for such gems ("three reverse dies at least???") and after a while one wonders what is fact and what is his own supposition. Still, he loves the subject and that shines through the text even if much of it is indeed supposition.

I am curious when I see it offered for sale on the internet as to what the buyer will make of it.

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See my rarity estimates for Roman Republican Bronzes: Roman Republic Bronze Rarities..