Featured A Thread Honoring “Campgates.” Post Yours!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Jul 4, 2019.

  1. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    The “campgate” reverse type is one of the most affordable ancient coins showing an architectural scene that you can get. They are common enough that many people specialize in them and find interesting meaning in all kinds of minute details. I don’t pretend to be an expert on campgates but I have always liked the type. I recently picked up a very nice example of Constantius II as Caesar with a provenance to the Zachary “Beast” Beasley Collection of Camp Gates.

    Roman Empire
    Constantius II as Caesar
    BI Follis, Arelatum Mint (Arles), 4th officina, struck AD 328
    Dia.: 19.9 mm
    Wt.: 3.2 g
    Obv.: FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C; Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right
    Rev.: VIRTVS CAESS; Campgate with 4 turrets, star above, gates open, each door with two panels, each panel ornamented with two dots; S – F flanking sides; QCONST in exergue.
    Ref.: RIC VII Arles 323
    Ex Zachary “Beast” Beasley Collection of Camp Gates. Ex CNG Electronic Auction 134, Lot 452 (March 2006). Ex VAuctions 250, Lot 167 (Aug. 5, 2010). Ex FORVM Ancient Coins (Jun. 2019)

    There is quite a bit of debate about whether the reverse is supposed to show a camp gate, a city gate or some kind of signal tower / structure. I would need to do some more research to have a strong opinion on the debate but for what it is worth I tend to favor the camp gate or fortress hypothesis (particularly for the coins struck under the tetrarchy).

    Here is my example of what some consider the beginning of this design struck for Diocletian.
    Roman Empire
    Diocletian (AD 284-305)
    AR Argenteus, Ticinum mint, struck ca. AD 294
    Dia.: 20 mm
    Wt.: 2.92 g
    Obv.: DIOCLETI-ANVS AVG; Laureate bust right
    Rev.: VIRTVS MILITVM; Tetrarchs sacrificing in front of fort with 6 turrents
    Ref.: RIC VI 14a, R3

    Below is an example of a Roman camp (Mobene) built in the time of the Tetrarchy. Roman camp design was undergoing a shift to a more defensive focus with changes to the turret design and fewer gates (commonly only one).
    Top Left: The camp gate. Top Right: View of the turret. Bottom: Layout of the camp.

    The objects on top of the "campgate" have been referred to as either turrets or signal beacons. I have never seen a visual representation of a beacon that looks anything like these objects. Perhaps it is some type of tripod with a spherical (presumably bronze) fire pit with and a removable lid? Wait… now that I think on it I am pretty sure this type must be evidence of an ancient Roman satellite factory.
    Left: Unidentified object. Right: Sputnik.

    I am also not aware of any archaeological remains of a Roman signal beacon even though we know they existed. Here is a scene from Trajan’s column that shows signal towers along the Danube. Admittedly the beacons shown look nothing like the objects on the camp gate.
    Trajan’s Column Scenes

    Below are a few references I have found that discuss these campgate types.

    References that tend to favor a campgate / turret interpretation
    This is a great reference with lots of images from all the mints that struck this reverse type. There is also some great commentary on the main page about the different theories with the author’s thoughts on each.​

    References that tend to favor a signal tower / fire beacon interpretation

    References that discuss a provincial city gate connection

    General Reference – Coin Photos


    With that I challenge you to show me all your camp gates. To the specialists, feel free to point out any details that us non-specialist might not be aware of.

    Also, please post links to any relevant references that discuss theories related to this type that I may have missed.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
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  3. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing

    Beautiful new addition, Curtis! And an ex Beast coin at that!!
    I accept that challenge! But I only have this one humble campgate...

    Constantius II (as Caesar), 324-337 AD
    AE3, Heraclea Mint, Struck 326 AD

    Obverse: FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left.
    Reverse: PROVIDEN-TIAE CAESS, camp gate with five layers, two turrets, no door and star above.
    Exergue: SMHΓ•
    References: RIC 84
    Size: 21mm, 3.10g
  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Tiberius 5.jpg
    AE 25mm (As)
    Struck at Emerita, Spain, 14-36 AD
    9.27g, 25mm
    RPC 42
    Constantine I 31.jpg
    AE3 Follis
    OBVERSE: CONSTAN-TINVS AVG, Pearl-diademed head right
    REVERSE: VIRTV-S AVGG, campgate with four turrets, open gates and star above, S F at sides, PCONST in ex.
    Struck at Arles, 328AD
    2.70g, 20mm
    RIC VII 321.
    Constantine II 19.jpg
    AE3 Follis
    OBVERSE: CONSTANTINVS MAX AVG, diademed head right
    REVERSE: PROVIDENTIAE AVGG, campgate with two turrets & no doors, star above, GSISdouble-crescent in ex.
    Struck at Siscia 328-9 AD
    3.3g, 19mm
    RIC VII 215G
    Licinius I 7.jpg
    AE3 Follis
    OBVERSE: IMP LICI-NIVS AVG, laureate bust right, wearing imperial mantle, holding globe, sceptre & mappa
    REVERSE: PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG, campgate with three turrets, no door, delta in right field SMHA in ex.
    Struck at Heraclea 318-320 AD
    3.0g, 18mm
    RIC VII 48
    Licinius II 4.jpg
    OBVERSE: D N VAL LICIN LICINIVS NOB C, laurate draped bust left, holding globe, sceptre & mappa
    REVERSE: PROVIDENTIAE CAESS, campgate with three turrets & no doors, 6 layers, dot over dot in right field, SMHD in ex.
    Struck at Heraclea, 317-320 AD
    3.3g, 19mm
    RIC VII 36
    Constantine II 17.jpg
    AE3 Follis
    OBVERSE: CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C - Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left
    REVERSE: PROVIDENTIAE CAESS - Campgate with two towers, 10 rows and star above. SMANTB in ex.
    Struck at Antioch, 325-335 AD
    2.81g, 18mm
    RIC VII 65
  5. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great post and coins, @Curtisimo !

    Constantine I, AE Follis (20 mm, 3.58 g), Treveri, 326. CONSTAN-TINVS AVG Laureate head of Constantine I to right. Rev. PROVIDENTIAE AVGG / PTR(pellet-in-crescent) Camp gate with two turrets and no doors; above, star. RIC 475.
    Constantine II, as Caesar AD 325-326. Rome, AE Follis, (19mm., 3.04g).
    CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left / PROVIDENTIAE CAESS, R-wreath-[?], campgate with two turrets, star above.
  6. Sallent

    Sallent Live long and prosper

    Great idea for a thread, and lovely coins.

    My Constantius II

    And my Galerius
    argenteus (1) (1).jpg
    Spaniard, gogili1977, TIF and 13 others like this.
  7. Hookman

    Hookman Well-Known Member

    Excuse me, but aren't the arched "doorways" in the bottom middle of most of those "campgate" coins supposed to represent doors? or maybe windows ??
  8. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Beginning, middle, end.

    Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 11.12.49 PM.jpg
    Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 11.11.43 PM.jpg
    Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 11.12.28 PM.jpg

    Nice open gates on yours, @Curtisimo! I'm not qualified to have an opinion, but this is CT. ;) So personally I vote for the city gate interpretation on the basis of the late 3rd century transition to walled cities. (Although maybe it's really because I like an underdog. :shame:)
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
  9. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Love the toning on your Constantius, a real eye candy. The later types could well be the same as Diocletian Argentius only instead of an arial view they are shown at ground level looking straight at it, the turrets in the middle being part of the back sphere of the stadium. 12121.jpg
    CONSTATINE I. LONDON 324/5 AD. AE FOLIS, 19.5MM, 3.2GM, RIC VII 294.Sear 16237. RARE. 12312.jpg
    CONSTANTIUS II, as Caesar. 324-337 AD. Æ Follis (20mm - 3.5 g). Arles/Constantia mint. Struck 329 AD. FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C, diademed, draped and cuirassed bust left / VIRTVS CAESS, camp-gate with open doors and four turrets, star above; T-F//PCONST. RIC VII 335 (r4); LRBC 345. Good VF, Rare
  10. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Interesting writeup, Curtis, and wonderful new Constantius II!

    I've casually read theories about these LRB reverse and am not sure what to think but lean towards signaling structures, or camps with signaling structures atop.

    Random thoughts:

    The Murray Dahm article, popularized by its appearance in The Celator, has been discussed on CoinTalk a few times. He does make good points but as you noted the lack of archaeological evidence matching the LRB "campgates" is vexing.

    Or is it? Late Roman bronzes aren't exactly known for their veristic artwork :D. Perhaps the globe-topped tripods are just a stylized engraving shortcut. Nah, probably not because it wouldn't be any harder to engrave a few more brick-like straight lines to make them resemble the Mobene camp you showed.

    Or, maybe those LRBs were accurately if stylistically rendered and those things atop the wall were bronze bowl-like structures meant for holding fire. Maybe there isn't archaeological evidence because the ash is corrosive and over time, the bronze bowls disintegrated? Or, maybe the bronze was plundered and melted down for other uses.

    If the globe-topped tripods aren't rooftop fire pits, then what might they be? I don't have any alternative theories but haven't put much time or imagination into it.

    Many, but not all, LRB campgates have a star atop. Perhaps that was to emphasize that the towers are a signaling system? Eh, probably not, otherwise why wouldn't the die cutter just engrave stars instead of globes atop the tripods?

    Do the attempted perspective reverses of the tetrarachal argentei show the same type of structure as LRB "campgates"? I'm not sure. I've never really thought of them as showing the same type of structures but maybe they do.

    @Gavin Richardson had an interesting post about the cultural context of campgates in ancient times.

    For those who are detail oriented in the extreme (coughOCDcough), check out Dane Kurth's spreadsheet for LRB campgates. There's even a column for number of courses of bricks :D. I guess you can't rule out the importance of such minutia unless it is properly studied but finding meaning from the number rows of bricks seems a stretch.

    She logs one thousand three hundred and twenty-seven different variations of LRB campgates :wideyed:. Not all of them have their own RIC number but even if you were to collect them just by RIC number, it would be a dizzying task.

    I bought a group lot of LRBs several years ago, primarily because there were a bunch of campgates and wanted some, plus they had silvering and I didn't have any silvered LRBs. Many of the campgates in that lot are rarity-rated R3 and R4 according to RIC. Heh. There must be thousands of LRB campgates (tens of thousands? more?). It's hard to take any satisfaction about rarity when it's merely for some trivial difference, plus the RIC rarity data for these types doesn't reflect the market. From this lot I learned that I do not like silvering on base metal coins! Unless it is absolutely pristine it just detracts from the devices, almost like camouflage. Photographing them is difficult too. You have to position the lighting such that there are no harsh reflections or else the speckling is horrible! They look great to the naked eye but in photographs they are awful.

    Someday I'll get some of these campgates with doors, like the one shown by Curtis. The doored campgates LRBs are certainly less common in the marketplace. I'm not sure why that makes me want one but it does :D. They are visually a bit more interesting.

    Here are some from that lot. Not sure if I still have all of these-- some have been given away.

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 78, SMATΓ, rarity R4 (??? How rare can it be if there were three of them in this small mixed lot?):

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 78, SMANTE, rarity rating R3:

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 78, SMANTZ, R3:

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 81, SMANTB, R3:

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 84, SMANTE, R4

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 84, SMANTZ, R3:

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 63, SMANT, Δ-E across fields (9th officina; avoiding the "unlucky" theta, this officina used delta + epsilon, 4 + 5), R4:

    Constantine I, RIC VII Antioch 63, SMANTΔ, R1:

    Here's my favorite because it has a "vintage" Sear certificate. Also, it has no silvering. Doesn't it look nicer than all of the silvered coins shown above, raggedly flan and sloppy engraving notwithstanding?

    Constantine I follis, /campgate; RIC VII Trier 449

    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
  11. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Nice coins! I like the open doors on your Constantius II.
    I have two campgate coins.
    The Constantine II was my first Roman coin.
    Constantine II 317-340
    AE Follis
    Laureate, draped, cuirassed bust right
    Campgate with eight rows, two turrets, no doors, star above, top and
    bottom rows empty blocks
    struck 327-329 in Heraclea(Perinthos)
    3,24g/ 18mm
    ric 96

    Constantine The Great 306-337
    AE Follis
    Pearl-diademed head right
    Campgate with six rows, two turrets, no doors, star above, top and
    bottom rows empty blocks
    SMNS in exergue
    Struck 328-329 in Nicomedia
    3,06g/ 18,5mm
    Ric 153
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
  12. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    I have only bought a few campgates in recent years. I did use to actively collect them.

    Here are my most resent three.

    Alexandria (RIC VII Alexandria 34)
    Antioch (RIC VII Antioch 81)
    Thessalonica (RIC VII Thessalonica 153)
  13. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    This one is far from perfect but it does have a special place in my collection. I received this in a trade along with a few other ancients while I was deployed and I consider it my "first" ancient coin since it was the first coin I was able to identify.

    AE follis
    326-327 AD
    Obverse: CONSTANTINVS AVG, Laureate head right
    Reverse: PROVIDENTIAE AVGG, Campgate with six rows, two turrets, no doors, star above, top and bottom row blocks
    Mintmark dot BSIS dot
    Constantine AE follis 326-327 AD RIC VII 200,B SIS Dot.jpg
  14. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Curtisimo, excellent coins, Mobene photos and an engaging write-up on camp gates. Here are two camp gates to add to the pile. For both coins I like the use of "AVGG" and "CAESS" in the reverse legends as plurals. Also interesting to see the style differences and similarities across mints and rulers in the pile. Thanks @TIF for references.
    Constantine Camp Gate.jpg
    Constantine I, "The Great", AD 307/310-337. Follis
    Struck: Thessalonica
    Obv: CONSTAN-TINVS AVG, Laureate head right.
    Rev: PROVIDEN-TIAE AVGG, Camp gate, with two turrets; star above, pellet to right; SMTSA in exergue
    Size: 3.35g, 18mm
    Ref: RIC 153

    Constantius Camp Gate.jpg
    Constantius II, as Caesar, AD 324-337
    Struck: A.D. 325-326, Cyzicus Mint, 1st officina
    Obv: His laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust left; FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C
    Rev: Camp gate, nine stone layers, two turrets, star above; pellet to left; PROVIDEN-TIAE CAESS around; SMKA in exergue
    Size: 3.06, 18.2mm
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2019
  15. gsimonel

    gsimonel Supporter! Supporter

    Although the Constantine-era campgates are the most common, the design appears over a broad range of places and times, from Bing's Tiberius (and other provincials) up through Arcadius and Valentinian III. So there's no reason to assume that everything we call a campgate was originally intended to depict the same thing.

    Also, one needs to consider the legend when interpreting them. You have the Providentiae and Spes types, which suggest some kind of defensive structure, and the Virtus types (usually with doors), which suggests something more militarily aggressive. So maybe we should narrow the question to ask what this particular reverse legend/type is showing.
  16. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I received this beauty as a Secret Saturnalia gift!


  17. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    The soldiers and standards type celebrated the 'Glory of the Army', the Falling Horsemen the restoration of happy times after the slaughter of Rome's enemies, and, campgates were all about... signalling beacons? o_O Sorry, I don't think I buy that particular theory.

    Actually, I'm pretty sure those things on top of the campgates were BBQ grills of some kind...


    Crispus - Campgate SMANTE 1382.jpg
    AE3. 3.7g, 19.1mm. Antioch mint, AD 325-326. RIC VII Antioch 64 (R2). O: FL IVL CRISPVS NOB CAES, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left. R: PROVIDEN-TIAE CAESS, campgate with 7 layers, 2 turrets, star between; SMANTЄ in exergue.
  18. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Your new Constantius II open-door campgate is fantastic, Curtis. It took me awhile to get one of them, but I eventually managed to pick up Steve's, which I had always admired.

    Constantine II - Campgate TAcRL stevex6 2805.jpg
    CONSTANTINE II, as Caesar
    AE3. 3.09g, 20.8mm. Arles mint, 325-326. RIC VII Arles 294. O: CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust left. R: VIRTVS CAESS, campgate with 12 rows, open doors, 4 turrets and star above; TA(crescent)RL in exergue.
    Ex Stevex6 Collection

    Two other favorites:

    Maximianus - Argenteus Victoriae Sarmatica 2326 b.jpg MAXIMIANUS
    AR Argenteus. 3.11g, 17.9mm. Nicomedia mint, circa AD 295-296. RIC VI Nicomedia 25b; RSC 553c. O: MAXIMIANVS AVG, laureate head right. R: VICTORIAE SARMATICAE, campgate with four turrets, doors open, and star above archway; SMNΓ in exergue.

    magnus maximus400.jpg
    AE4. 0.9g, 14mm. Arles (Arelate) mint, AD 383-388. RIC IX Arelate 29a1. O: D N MAG MAXI-MVS P F AVG, diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right. R: SPES RO-MA-NORVM, campgate with star between two turrets; SCON in exergue.
  19. ken454

    ken454 Well-Known Member

    thats a beauty curt, and your Diocletian is amazing, i didn't even know of that type..

    my campgate collection, thus far...my entire ancients collection is just about 100 coins, these camps are the most i have of a single type...:D

    Licinius II AE3 Follis. Heraclea RIC VII 49

    Constantius II, as Caesar, AE3 Follis. Antioch RIC VII 66.

    Constantine I, AE3 Follis of Antioch. RIC VII 81,E

    Constantine I, AE Follis of Antioch. RIC VII 81, Z

    Constantine I AE3. Nicomedia RIC VII 90,E.1

    Constantine I. AE 3. Nicomedia, RIC VII 121

    Constantine I AE3 Follis Thessalonica RIC VII 153

    Constantine I, AE3 Follis, Siscia RIC VII 214, A

    Constantine II, Arles, Officina 3, RIC VII, 294
  20. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

  21. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Excellent writeup and coins Curtis, and some wonderful coins all around.

    I have just a few ones

    Diocletian - Nicomedia

    Constantius - Antioch

    Constantinus II - Trier

    I personnaly vote for water tanks at the top of buildings, anticipating the global warming and because the soldiers would need a shower after a hard day at walking in the dust


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