SKYTHIA, Geto-Dacians Koson AV Stater, struck mid-1st century BC Dia.: 20 mm Wt.: 8.35 g Obv.: ΚΟΣΩΝ; Roman consul accompanied by two lictors advancing left; monogram to left Rev. Eagle standing left on scepter, holding wreath. Ref.: RPC I 1701A; HGC 3, 2049; BMC Vol. III Thrace 1 (pg. 208) Formerly slabbed by NGC The mystery of who struck this coin has been discussed at length for centuries. Instead of making up my mind and trying to argue for one point of view or the other I figured I would use this thread to lay out my current understanding of the various theories as best as I can. I anticipate that I will be coming back to this thread in the future to make updates and to add links to sources as I find them. As such please bear with me if you find a mistake or if I miss an important point here or there. Understanding this coin will be a work in progress and many of the references I would like to read on the subject I have been unable to find so far. I have posted several links and references for further reading. I hope the below will be helpful and entertaining despite being a typically overlong post from Curtisimo. 1: General Information Important to all Theories 1.1 The Historical Context From about ca. 82 BC, a leader by the name of Burebista began to unify the Getea and Dacian tribes under his kingship. This process was substantially complete by 60 BC. In 55 BC, Burebista launched a campaign which led to the conquest of the Greek cities on the west coast of the Black Sea. One of these cities was Olbia. Olbia was a Greek colony of Miletus founded in the 6th century BC at the very edge of the Greek world. It bordered the steppe to the north which meant that is was often dominated by, and had to pay tribute to, Scythian nomads. In the first half of the 1st century BC it came under the control of Mithridates IV and remained so until his death ca 63 BC. It was into this power vacuum left by Mithridates IV that Burebista stepped into when he conquered and sacked Olbia and the other cities on the Black Sea coast ca. 55 BC. Map showing the extent of Dacian power at the end of Burebista's reign (ca. 44 BC). (Author's map) In Caesar’s Civil War, Pompey Magnus secured the support of Burebista and the Dacians against Caesar. Dacians fought at the Battle of Pharsalus on the side of Pompey. After Caesar’s victory the Dacian mercenaries were forced to flee. Any fear that the victorious Caesar would retaliate was put to rest when he was assassinated in 44 BC. Only a few months later Burebista was also assassinated by nobles who resented his absolute power. After Burebista’s death the newly unified Dacian state fractured into multiple smaller kingdoms whose extent and influence is difficult to determine. The king of one of these post-Burebista kingdoms was named Kotison. Kotison chose to ally himself with Marcus Antonius against Octavian in the War of Actium. A few years after Octavian defeated Antonius at Actium he followed up by defeating Kotison in a battle in 25 BC. Some sources claim that Kotison was killed in this battle . In 9 BC the Romans launched a campaign into Dacia itself and some sources speculate that it was during this invasion that Kotison was killed . In either case, after the Roman victories against Dacia under Augustus it would be almost a century before the region would pose a serious threat to Rome again. 1.2 The Discovery of the Koson Staters The first mention of this coin type was in 1520 by Erasmus of Rotterdam [iv] (Thanks for the reference @Sulla80 !). In 1543 a large hoard was found, most probably around Sarmisegetusa . I am unsure as to the primary reference for this. 1.3 The Design One of the only things that is known with any certainty is that the design of this stater is based on two Roman Republican denarii. The obverse is based on a coin issued by Brutus in 54 BC. I acquired a much loved example of this coin earlier this year. Roman Republic M. Junius Brutus AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck 54 BC Dia.: 20.5 mm Wt.: 3.56 g Obv.: LIBERTAS; Head of Liberty right Rev.: BRVTVS; Consul L. Junius Brutus walking left between two lictors, each carrying fasces over shoulder, preceded by accensus Ref.: Crawford 433/1, Sydenham 906, Sear 397 Ex Michael Kelly Collection The reverse is based on a very rare Republican denarius issued by Q. Pomponius Rufus in 70 BC. I don’t have an example of this coin but you can find images of them at CNG here. The eagle bears a resemblance to others in Roman art such as this bronze eagle ca. AD 100-200. This is a photo I took of a bronze eagle from the 2nd century AD in the Getty Villa in Malibu. The eagle was probably part of a larger sculptural group showing either Jupiter or the emperor. The note said it probably held an orb or a thunder bolt but I suppose a wreath wouldn't be out of place here either. (Author's photo) 1.4 The Monogram The Koson staters were struck in two types: examples with a monogram and examples without a monogram. I am aware that there are probably as many interpretations of the monogram as there have been papers written on this coin type. I have chosen four of the interpretations that seem to me to be the most common opinions. I don’t find any of them particularly convincing so please feel free to chime in with opinions or alternate interpretations. Some interpretations of the monogram are; BR - (BR)utus: Reading an “R” into the monogram does not look very convincing to me. In BMC Vol. III the drawn illustration makes the BR interpretation look much clearer than any of the examples I have seen in real life. This is one of the drawback of drawn illustrations. Perhaps the “R” is supposed to be completely superimposed within the “B” but that would make the tail portion meaningless. OLB - (OLB)ia: This looks the best when compared to the actual monogram but I don’t know why the latin “L” would be used here instead of the Greek “Λ” considering the rest of the script for this coin design is in Greek. Barclay Head actually did propose to read a “Λ” in the monogram but I honestly can’t see it. BA - (BA)silews: Here also, I do not find the reading of an “A” into the monogram to be very convincing. LBR - (L)ucius Junius (BR)utus: Considering that the denarius design of 54 BC that the Koson stater is based on was meant to reference this 6th century BC ancestor of M.J. Brutus I suppose this is a plausible interpretation. However, this interpretation would presuppose that there was value to Brutus in highlighting his ancestry to foreign mercenaries... which is debatable. The LBR reading compared to the actual monogram looks more convincing than most of the other interpretations except perhaps OLB. 1.5 The Metal First I should mention that these staters were struck on the standard used by Mithradates IV and not on the Aureus standard. As for the metal composition, this topic is quite interesting. There has been a good bit of scientific analysis done recently. Instead of trying to summarize the paper I will simply link to it below. http://www.acad.ro/sectii2002/proceedings/doc2012-1/03-Constantinescu.pdf. What I took from the analysis was that the gold used in the Koson staters without monogram match the composition of the naturally occurring gold in the region of ancient Dacia as well as known Dacian artifacts. Meanwhile, the Koson staters with the monogram were struck with refined gold that is not consistent with the processes known to be used by the ancient Dacians. 2: Three Theories to Explain the Coin Issuer Theory 1: Brutus In 43 BC Brutus was in Greece preparing for the civil war with the Caesarians that he knew was coming soon. According to Appian he was collecting money and organizing his army when he received an unexpected stroke of luck. Polemocratia, the wife (widow?) of a Thracian prince came to Brutus and presented him with the wealth of her husband in exchange for the protection of her young son. Appian says that this yielded “an unexpected quantity of gold and silver. This he coined and converted into currency.” [ii] The theory (first proposed by Mommsen?) is that Brutus used this unexpected windfall to coin the gold Koson staters in order to pay for mercenaries from the various northern Balkan tribes (Thracians, Dacians, Getea etc.). The central evidence for this interpretation is the use of the obverse design that can be definitely linked to the denarii of Brutus as shown above. The KOΣΩΝ legend has been interpreted to mean “of the Consol.”  If the monogram were taken to be BR then the obverse would read “of the Consol Brutus.”  The fact that refined gold was apparently used to coin the staters with monogram could be interpreted as further evidence that the gold was of Roman origin or coined under Roman supervision. Working against this theory is the fact that Brutus was not a Consol. The Calgary Coin link below discusses this further. It is also not clear why the legend should be in Greek if this was struck by Romans for use by non-Greek speakers? Additionally the arguments for reading “of the Consol” for KOΣΩΝ do not seem particularly strong even if they are technically plausible. Lastly, the copying of a Rufus reverse design seems out of place if this coin were struck by Brutus. Brutus was perfectly capable of executing competent and original coin designs as evidenced from his time as moneyer and would not have needed to resort to copying a design that was 30 years old at the time. Theory 2: A Dacian King As discussed above there was a king by the name of Kotison who ruled at least part of Dacia between 44 BC and 25/9 BC. When Horace references his defeat at the hands of Augustus he says “Occidit Daci Cotisonis agmen” (The Dacian Cotison is beat) [iii]. Accounting for us English (and Latin) speakers and our useless use of the letter “C” when a “K” would do the trick it seems reasonable to render the name KΟΤΙΣΩΝ in Greek. The most common theory I have read is that KOΣΩΝ is a contraction of the name KΟΤΙΣΩΝ. It is also possible that KOΣΩΝ is the name of a predecessor, successor or contemporary of Kotison. Since we know from the metal analysis that the gold in the Koson staters with monogram was not of Dacian origin I can think of only two ways in which the gold could have been acquired for minting by the Dacians. One is tribute payment in gold from the Greek cities on the Black Sea and the other is a payment of gold for mercenaries to the Dacians by Marcus Antonius or Brutus. The best evidence that I see for this theory is the copying of the design for the staters from two separate denarii. This was a noted practice that has been well documented among Dacian imitations. Further, the fact that the denarii that inspired the designs were minted 16 years apart suggests an element of randomness that would not be expected from a Roman issued currency. @Valentinian and @Volodya both have very helpful educational pages on Dacian imitations that are worth referencing. @Volodya 's Website: http://rrimitations.ancients.info/index.html @Valentinian 's Webpage: http://augustuscoins.com/ed/imit/RRimitation.html It seems entirely plausible that a king would be impressed by the design of the Brutus denarii and would want to substitute BRVTVS with his own name. If we take the monogram as BA then we can read the obverse as “Basilews Koson” or “King Koson.” Even if we assume that the monogram stands for OLB (Olbia) this would not be out of the realm of possibility since Olbia was conquered under Burebista. I was not able to determine when the Greek cities of the Black Sea were freed from Dacian dominion. Most likely Olbia was still subject to Dacian authority or tribute in some form until after the defeat of Kotison in 25 BC. The fact that the inscription is in Greek and the gold standard is the same as that used by Mithridates IV argues strongly for a connection of this coin to the Greek cities on the Black Sea coast. The attribution of the staters without monogram to Dacia seems like a reasonable possibility based on metal analysis. The type with monogram being struck in Olbia or another Greek city and the type without monogram being struck in Dacia proper seems like a plausible thoery. However, I personally do not see as drastic a change in style between the types with and without monograms as has been suggested in some of the below sources. It would not be hard for me to believe that both, either or neither of the Koson types were struck by Dacians. I suppose that leaves me back at square one. Working against a Dacian origin theory is the fact that the metal analysis does not support a Dacian source for the gold of the staters with monogram. Even if the staters without monogram were struck by the Dacians that does not prove that those coins were not simply copying the monogram type that may have had a different source. Further, the argument for equating Kotison with Koson is not particularly strong and there are no other Dacian figures recorded in the sources to put forward as a possibility. This is a photo I took in the Vatican Museum that shows the bust of a Dacian. The sculpture is from the era of Trajan (ca. early 2nd century AD) but I couldn't resist showing this beautiful piece of art in the context of a possible Dacian connection to the Koson staters. (Author's photo) Theory 3: A Scythian or Thracian King Barclay Head wrote that a reading of the monogram as ΟΛΒ (Olbia) could be taken as evidence that the staters have a Scythian origin and that Koson is an otherwise unrecorded Scythian king . He states that the known locations of hoard finds support an interpretation of a source in Scythia over Thrace (from what I have read the find locations could support a Dacian interpretation as well). I was not able to find much additinal information on this theory but considering that Olbia often had to pay tribute in gold to the Scythians this interpretation is possible. It does, however, hinge on the monogram being interpreted as a mint mark for Olbia. It also doesn’t explain the metallurgical differences in the staters with and without monogram. Many of the above arguments for a Dacian origin could be just as easily be argued here. An example would be the weight standard and Greek script connecting the Koson stater with the Black Sea cities. Interestingly enough, this coin was formerly slabbed and the NGC label listed it as Thracian or Scythian. My guess is that there is more to this theory than I am currently aware. Hopefully my research will allow me to come back and update this section in the future. Further Reading  Koson Staters – Calgary Coin https://www.calgarycoin.com/reference/articles/koson/koson.htm  Olbia https://coinweek.com/ancient-coins/olbia-ancient-greek-coins-of-the-black-seas-northern-coast/  Mithridates IV - Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithridates_VI_Eupator  Koson Staters - Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koson_(coin)#cite_note-2  Numiswiki - Koson https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=koson  Brutus https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Junius_Brutus  Kotison https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotiso  General Comments about the Type. Of specific interest is the connection with the Koson staters and the Lysimachus type staters. See this post. Munteanu, Lucian. (2011). Some Remarks Concerning the Gold Coins with the Legend ‘ΚΟΣΩΝ’, in N. Holmes (ed), Proceedings of the “XIV International Numismatic Congress, Glasgow 2009”, I, Glasgow 2011, 304-309. References [i’] Head, Barclay, Historia Numorum: A Manual of Greek Numismatics, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1911 (pg. 289) [ii] Appian, The Civil Wars Book IV 75: https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/appian/civil_wars/4*.html [iii] Horace, The Works of Horace Vol. I: http://google.cat/books?pg=PA268&vq...21187332&lr=&id=ByMJAAAAQAAJ&output=html_text [iv] https://www.cointalk.com/threads/a-beautiful-gold-stater-of-brutus.390998/page-2#post-8130057 Sources I Haven't Found Yet Max Bahrfeldt, Über die KOΣΩN-Münzen, Berliner Münzblätter, 1912 Note: There may be an earlier and more thorough discussion of the subject by Bahrfeldt from 1911 that I have seen alluded to but I have not found that one either. Anything outlining hoard evidence or die studies. Pile On Lots of room to pile on here people… no excuses for not getting in on the fun! Please post your; Koson Staters Coins of Brutus Coins of Q. Pomponius Rufus Coins of Caesar Coins of Pompey Coins of Marcus Antonius Coins of Octavian Dacian imitations Coins referencing Dacia Coins with unknown issuers Other stuff!!!!