A Claudius Æ 24 from Caesarea -- but which Caesarea?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jan 17, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Although the coin itself says it was minted in Caesarea, there has been disagreement between numismatists over the years as to which Caesarea may have struck the coin, because there were several cities named Caesarea located in Cappadocia, Cilicia and Syria. Findspot evidence points to eastern Cilicia and northern Syria. Recent scholarship by Bekircan Tahberer, however, has suggested that for a five-year period during the reign of Claudius, the city of Mopsuestia (a.k.a. Mopsus) was renamed Caesarea and it was this city that struck the coin below.[1]

    Claudius Caesarea AE 24 Tyche.jpg
    Claudius, AD 41-54.
    Roman provincial Æ 23.2 mm, 7.13 g, 12 h.
    Cilicia, Caesarea (formerly Mopsuestia), AD 50/1.
    Obv: ΤΙΒЄΡΙΟϹ ΚΛΑΥΔΙΟϹ ΚΑΙϹΑΡ; bare head of Claudius, right.
    Rev: ΚΑΙⳞΑΡΕΩΝ ΕΤΟΥⳞ Ε; veiled Tyche, seated right, on rocks and holding ears of corn; below, river god.
    Refs: RPC I 4086; SNG von Aulock 6348 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Copenhagen 177 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Schweiz II (Righetti) 1759 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Österreich (Caesarea in Cappadocia) 2759-60; RG 4744-45; BMC 21.31,4 (Anazarbus?).


    Caesareas located in Cappadocia, Cilicia, Commagene and Syria that
    have been suggested as mints.[2]

    Hill, writing in 1900, notes the attribution to Anazarbus is doubtful, but offers no better alternative.[3]

    Capture 2.JPG

    This attribution was followed (with a question-mark) by Barclay Head, writing in 1911.[4] Sydenham, writing in 1933, attributed the coin to Caesarea in Cappadocia, but very doubtfully. He noted that the British Museum specimen was very different in style from the coins of Cappadocian Caesarea in Cappadocia, and that the square form of its sigma would be most unusual at that mint.[5] The editors of several relevant volumes of Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum likewise attribute the coin to Caesarea in Cappadocia.[6]

    This was the view for most of the twentieth century. However, in 1991, Kevin Butcher suggested similar coins might belong to an east Cilician city which temporarily bore the name Caesarea.[7] In the most thorough study of the issue to day, Tahberer concluded on stylistic grounds, that this and similar coins were struck at Mopsus between AD 45/6 and AD 50/1, during a period Mopsus called itself Caesarea.[8] I find his argument convincing.

    Mopsuestia/Mopsus is in Cilicia near Anazarbus, to its southwest, and east of Adana.

    Mopsuestia Map.png
    Eastern Cilicia.[9]

    This is consistent with findspot evidence and with Butcher's hypothesis.


    Tahberer argues from the standpoint of findspot evidence and from stylistic features. He also systematically rules out all of the alternative possibilities; I refer you to his paper rather than reiterate those arguments here.

    Among the stylistic features he notes are the similarity in the letter forms between coins of Mopsuestia minted during the reign of Tiberius and the coins of Caesarea under Claudius. The use of the square form of sigma (Ⳟ) on the reverse is common in Cilicia at mints such as Tarsus, Mallos, Aigeai, Anazarbus, Epiphaneia and especially Mopsuestia, from the time of Claudius to Antoninus Pius. However, it is very rare at Cappadocian Caesarea.

    He also argues in terms of artistic similarity. For example, note the resemblance of this coin of Tiberius, RPC 4050 (Gorny & Mosch 134, 11 Oct. 2004, lot 2058) and the coin in my collection.

    Æ 25 of Tiberius, RPC 4050

    Claudius Caesarea AE 24 Tyche.jpg
    Coin in my collection noted above.

    Both coins depict on their reverses Tyche seated on rocks with a river god swimming at her feet. Tahberer notes: (a) Tyche is seated to the right on very similar rocks; (b) the ethnics ΜΟΨΕΑΤΩΝ and ΚΑΙⳞΑΡΕΩΝ are written in the same fashion, horizontally in the upper right field in two lines; and (c) Tyche’s drapery hanging next to the rocks is very similar.

    Tahberer notes examples of this coin appear to have been struck only in the fifth year of the city (AD 50/1), from at least two obverse dies and three reverse dies.

    Capture 1.JPG

    My coin was struck with the second obverse die (fig. 17a) and the first reverse die (fig. 16b).


    As for the period during which Mopsuestia called itself Caesarea, a minimum of four to five years (on the assumption that the dating numbers 3 and 5 on coins of this series refer to the city's new era), the only possibility would seem to be the five year period between the attested issues with the ethnic ΜΟΨΕΑΤΩΝ dated AD 45/6 (RPC I, 4054-5) and AD 50/1 (RPC I, 4056).

    The abandonment of the name Caesarea is clearly illustrated in Tahberer's paper by two year-five coins from which the ethnic ΚΑΙⳞΑΡΕΩΝ was deliberately scraped away after striking.

    Capture 3.JPG


    In summary, my coin was struck in Mopsuestia in AD 50/1, during a five-year period Mopsuestia called itself Caesarea, though one can only speculate as to why the name change was so short-lived.

    Post your coins of Mopsus/Mopsuestia, Claudius provincials, comments, or anything you feel is relevant!

    1. Tahberer, Bekircan. "A Series of Coins from an Uncertain Caesarea." The Numismatic Chronicle, vol. 175, 2015, pp. 47–55. Available online here.

    2. Ibid., p. 48.

    3. Hill, G.F. A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Greek Coins of Lycaonia, Isauria, and Cilicia. British Museum, London, 1900, p. 31. Available online here.

    4. Head, Barclay V., et al. Historia Numorum: a Manual of Greek Numismatics. Clarendon Press, 1911, pp. 716-17. Fully digital version available online here, courtesy of @Ed Snible.

    5. Sydenham, Edward Allen. The Coinage of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Spink & Son, 1933 (repr. Attic Books, 1978, with supplement by Alex G. Malloy), pp. 34-35; as cited by Tahberer, op. cit., p. 50.

    6. For example, SNG von Aulock 6348 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Copenhagen 177 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Schweiz II (Righetti) 1759 (Caesarea in Cappadocia); SNG Österreich (Caesarea in Cappadocia) 2759-60.

    7. K. Butcher, "Some Cilician coins in the Hatay Museum" in C.S. Lightfoot (ed.), Recent Turkish Coin Hoards and Numismatic Studies (1991), pp. 181-190, at 190; as cited by Tahberer, op. cit., p. 49.

    8. Tahberer, op. cit.

    9. From "Diocese of the East." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 Dec. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diocese_of_the_East#/media/File:Dioecesis_Orientis_400_AD.png. Public Domain.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Very interesting coin @Roman Collector and a fascinating write-up. You have really consulted an array of amazing sources to get to the bottom of the mystery. I hope the article is FEATURED.
  4. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    As Octavian might have put it, "a multitude of Caesarea's is not a good thing". Perhaps I should explain my pun. Reportedly when Octavian was asked what to do with Caesarion, Julius Caesar's son by Cleopatra, after Octavian took over Egypt, he quoted a line from Homer about too many rulers not being a good thing (this according to Plutarch). In Greek that line from Homer is, "ouk agathon poly kouranie" but Octavian himself punned the line by saying , "ouk agathon poly kaisirie".
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2021
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you for the kind words!

  6. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    So well done, @Roman Collector . Thank you. Always interesting!

    My musing would be: so many Caesaeas would wreak havoc on Ancient Rome’s Google Maps. Ass-carts would be going everywhere, and, nowhere...

    Roman Collector likes this.
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