First, the coin in question: Now for the mystery. The description of the auctioneer is the following: "Pescennius Niger AR Denarius. Caesarea(?), AD 193-194. [IMP CA]ES C PESC NIGER IVST AVG, laureate head to right / [V]IRTVTI AVG, Mars standing facing, helmeted, with cloak over shoulder, head to right, holding spear and parazonium. Unpublished; for discussion of the criteria for distinguishing coins struck at Caesarea in Cappadocia, cf. J. Van Heesch, “Les Ateliers Monétaires de Pescennius Niger” in RBN 124 (1978), pp. 57-72. 2.14g, 19mm, 12h." Due to, or perhaps inspite of, being described as ‘unpublished’, I’ve been trying to identify this coin as much as possible. In that effort, I’ve concentrated on the following elements: - the figure on the reverse - the objects accompanying the figure When comparing my coin with the description, a few things become evident. First, I’m confident there’s no cloak. Perhaps the auctioneer mistakenly identified the shield as a cloack. Second, I’m not convinced the figure is MARS. So, below is the thought process I went through: The figure on the reverse: Since the figure on the reverse appears to be wearing only a helmet and has a warrior like look, Mars does come to mind instantly. However, another candidate would be Virtus. As may be concluded from the various descriptions of ‘VIRTVTI AVG’ types found on acsearch, VIRTVS and MARS are both used to describe the figure on the reverse of these cointypes. I have analyzed the various description and pictures of coins of Pescennius Niger bearing the ‘VIRTVTI AVG’ reverse, and have placed them in the following table: Unfortunately, as the table shows, there is no clear conclusion to be drawn from the examples online for the description of the figure. Both MARS and VIRTVS are used when describing a naked or armored figure. There are many variations mentioned in the positioning of the figure, the arms, and the shield. However, it’s also evident that what makes my coin (for now) unique, is the position of the shield and the item held in the hand, at ‘hip height’. And when it comes to the figure being nude, it appears that MARS is more often shown nude in comparison to VIRTVS. But that’s no guarantee that the reverse figure on my coin is MARS, apparently. So, to be able to identify the reverse figure, I’ve continued my search by looking closer in the OCRE and wildwinds database (Again, I don’t own a lot of reference works...). Wildwinds - when searching for the above mentioned reverse legend, shows RIC 92type RSC 80; RIC 92a var; RIC 92b; RIC 92type RSC 80a-v; RSC 81. OCRE shows ‘RIC IV92; RIC IV 93; RIC IV 94. Of the five descriptions of wildwinds, four mention Virtus (RSC 80; RIC92a; RSC 80a-v; RSC 81). Only RIC92b mentions MARS. The three descriptions of OCRE all mention MARS. Notice the lack of the RIC numbers in the wildwinds database, and OCRE database, that are mentioned by the auctioneers. I was hoping the be able to draw a conclusion based on these descriptions, but it’s still uncertain. Wildwinds consistently uses VIRTVS in combination with ‘tunic’. OCRE however shows only MARS in the descriptions, either nude or wearing a ‘military dress’. So, next I concentrated on the attributes accompanying the figure: a spear, a shield and what appears to be a parazonium (the item at the waiste). The spear is evident. The description of the auctioneer, mentioned above, also describes a cloak, but I’m unable to see it. Unless the seller saw the shield as cloak, but I’m confident it’s a shield. Although the auctioneer mentions the parazonium, I felt in necessary to dive deeper into this item, shown on the reverse. First, when looking in my reference books and online, I found the following descriptions of both MARS and VIRTVS: - MARS is shown with the attributes: spear, shield, trophy, helmet; appears naked but for a cloak and helmet or fully armoured. - VIRTVS frequently appears in armor, stressing the military virtue of the emperor. Usually holding Victory or parazonium and spear, or spear with shield. Sometimes appears on association with honos. As can been seen on my coin, items are shown which generally belong to both MARS and VIRTVS, but for the parazonium. So, can one conclude then, that the figure is VIRTVS, but naked? The first obvious question is whether or not it indeed is a panazonium. However, contrary to my coin, when searching online for coins and parazonium, the results often show the parazonium as a sort of short staff resting on a knee, or being held upwards in the arm of either MARS of VIRTVS. There are examples where a figure is holding the parazonium in a similar manner as the reverse figure on my coin: e.g. the reverse of a denarius of Titus, with a radiate statue on a column (RIC 46). Another example is the sestertius of Nero, with Roma seated. But the imagery on my coin appears to be the exception to the rule. A text found on forumancientcoins however explained the general imagery of the parazonium: “A weapon similar to a dagger but longer (about 35 to 50 cm in length), and semi-triangular in shape; always carried in a sheath which is usually attached mid-body.” The text also mentions coins in which a parazonium is shown resting on a knee, or side, or across both shoulders in the form of a quiver. And, according to the sources mentioned in the text, these exceptional cases of the manner in which it appears upon coins to have been carried, however, do not interfere with the more usual acceptation of the word as signifying a short sheathed sword, worn at the girdle. Given the examples online and the text on forumancientscoins, I’m pretty sure the item indeed is the parazonium. So, where does this lead to? First, nudity is not exclusively reserved for MARS of VIRTVS. Both are depicted naked on coins, if we are to believe the various descriptions mentioned above. Second, the parazonium seems to be an item most often shown together with VIRTVS. But that’s not enough to base a conclusion on, as a simple online search shows: the parazonium is also decpicted in combination with other deities, and even emperors. And I’m pretty sure that the auctioneer used MARS in their description based on the ‘cloak’, which is not present. In conclusion, I’m unable to draw a conclusion! Who is depicted on the reverse? And I wonder if there’s even a conclusion to be drawn at all. To quote Van Meter, in his Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins on coins of PN: “There are a great many varieties in the spelling of the obverse legends, including some rather amazing misspellings of the emperor’s name, as well as irregular abbreviations of his latin titles. Likewise, the deities appearing in the reverse designs vary widely in their depictions, sometimes bearing the wrong or confusing attributes and often wearing Eastern garments. Apparently, the workers at the Antioch mint were skilled neither in the Latin language nor the nuances of its mythology.” Please share your thoughts by voting. And please explain your choice in the comments. And show your coins of MARS, VIRTVS, Pescennius Niger and/or showing the parazonium. Some sidenotes: - Pescennius Niger was a succesful servant of the empire, a consul during the reign of Commodus and governor of Syria when Didius Julianus was murdered. The Syrian legions proclaimed him emperor, upon which he took the surname ‘JUSTUS’ (hence, the IVST in the obverse legend of my coin). However, the more powerful armies in the west (Danube, Rhine) proclaimed Severus emperor, and PN proved no match. The final battle took place in 194 AD, on the plains of Issus, and led to his defeat. He retreated to Antioch, but was captured by agents of Severus and killed. - The mints of PN were located in the East, Antioch, Caesarea and Alexandria. All the mints were unaccustomed with striking Roman currency, hence the many ‘unique’ coins. Likely a huge amount of coins were struck to support his strive for the throne. And many coins were taken out of circulation after the victory of Severus. Today, coins of PN are not particularly rare, but as mentioned, there are many variations and (mis)spellings of the legends, indicated the massive amount of coins struck and the unfamiliarity of the mints with Roman coinage. - I think because of these circumstances, my coin is ‘unique’ too. I’m not particularly interested in the fact that its ‘unique’, although it’s led to a very interesting research effort. Although coins of PN are not exceedingly rare, they demand quite a premium. This coin got into my collection simply because it appears that there was no strong competition for this one during auction. I guess it was not appealing enough for most, who knows... I’ve been searching for coins of the emperors during the civil war of 193 - 194 AD. I’m still lacking a coin of Didius Julianus and Clodius Albinus as emperor.