Featured Acquired THE White Whale

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by ValiantKnight, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight MMDCCXLV A·V·C Supporter

    Longtime regulars here might remember the ruler/coin I've been wanting the most, practically since I've started collecting ancient coins. Proud to say that I finally managed to acquire him for my collection after all these years, and after much saliva lost drooling over the examples that a couple of members here (@Brian Bucklan , @Valentinianvs ) have and other examples elsewhere on the internet. First king of Italy Odoacer is now a part of my collection.

    Odoacer, Kingdom of Italy
    AE nummus
    Obv: OD[O-VAC], bare-headed, draped, cuirassed bust right
    Rev: Odoacer's monogram (letters ODOVA) within wreath
    Mint: Ravenna
    Date: 476-493 AD
    Ref: RIC X 3502
    Provenance: Ex Classical Numismatics Group (CNG) 81, 20 May 2009, lot 1157; Ex Gemini, XIII, 6 April 2017, lot 265; Ex Harlan J. Berk (HJB), 2018 September



    As a late Roman/early medieval enthusiast, it was a must to have a coin of the Germanic ruler that finally ended the Western Roman Empire, and by extension also "ended" (interpretations vary) the era of antiquity and ushered in the Middle Ages in Europe (although daily life didn't really change at the time). The birthplace of Roman civilization passed into the hands of the Germanic world as Odoacer took the throne as the first king of post-Roman Italy.

    And by a strange twist of fate, I sort of (unknowingly) predicted owning this very example, way back in April of 2017 in another thread:


    Funny how things worked out :)


    Odoacer (also known as Odovacar) was born around the year 433 AD in Pannonia, the son of Edeko, who possibly was an ambassador of Attila to the Eastern Roman court. Very little is known of Odoacer's background and early history; his tribal affiliation is not known for certain, although the common conjectures are that he is either from the Heruli tribe, or a member of the Scirii. Other guesses include the Goths, the Huns, the Thuringii, and the Rugii. Also, a reference in the Decem Libri Historiarum (by Gregory of Tours) to an "Adovacrius" or "Odovacrius" could possibly have Odoacer as having been fighting in the early 460s.

    Attributed to him is an event that occurred just before he entered Italy as part of a contingent of barbarians. According to Eugippius, Odoacer and the other barbarians paid their respects to Saint Severinus of Noricum. Severinus then told Odoacer that he was going to become famous, and that he would "soon... make rich gifts to many."

    By the time of Odoacer's appointment as leader of the foederati within the Western Roman Army in 475, the Western Empire was greatly diminished, merely one state co-existing with the new barbarian kingdoms that had sprung up in former Roman territories such as Hispania, North Africa, and most of Gaul. The western throne had been populated for the most part in the previous two decades by ineffective puppet emperors who were chosen (and sometimes killed by) their magisters militum, the military strongmen who were the real power behind the throne.


    In 475, the Western emperor Julius Nepos appointed the Roman general Orestes as his magister militum. But ambition for the throne drove Orestes to rise up and depose Nepos, who subsequently fled Italy and re-established his government in Dalmatia. Orestes then proclaimed his 15-year old son Romulus Augustus (he was also referred to as Augustulus, "little Augustus"). Nepos had the recognition and backing of the few remaining Western Roman territories outside of Italy, and of the Eastern Empire itself, while Orestes was widely viewed as a usurper.

    Odoacer and his foederati, who had assisted Orestes with his usurpation, desired to improve their living conditions in Italy. They asked Orestes for land of their own, by fulfilling the promise he had made that he would grant a third of the lands in Italy to them. Orestes denied them this, and Odoacer and the rest of the mercenaries revolted in 476. During this time, the barbarians proclaimed Odoacer as rex Italiae. The mostly-barbarian Roman army managed to kill Orestes at Placentia, and then laid siege to the Western capital Ravenna, where the young Romulus Augustus was holed up. They managed to capture the city, and on September 4, 476, forced Romulus to abdicate the imperial throne. As an gesture of kindness, Odoacer exiled the former emperor to live with relatives in Campania, along with granting him a yearly pension of 6,000 solidii.


    Odoacer then had the Senate of Rome send the Western imperial regalia to Emperor Zeno, to communicate that the West did not require an emperor of its own, that "one monarch sufficed [to rule] the world". This meant that the two halves of the Roman Empire were to be reunited under Zeno, but Zeno was hesitant to accept this while the legitimate Western emperor Nepos was still in Dalmatia, and informed the Senate that they should accept Nepos back instead. Nonetheless, Zeno made Odoacer patrician, and granted him the authority to rule Italy in his name. Odoacer paid respect and homage to the Eastern emperor, including through the minting of coins in Zeno's name, but ruled autonomously, and did not hesitate in referring to himself as king.

    The new king of Italy wasted no time in expanding and consolidating his rule. He persuaded King Gaiseric of the Vandals in late 476 or 477 to cede to him most of Sicily, and when Nepos was assassinated in 480, Odoacer had his army invade Dalmatia supposedly to avenge the deposed emperor; in actuality conquering the region for his kingdom. And in 487, Odoacer and his army fought and won against the Rugians in Noricum, capturing their king in the process, but afterwards decided to move the Roman inhabitants of the region to Italy. He established and maintained good relations with the Roman Senate, and kept the Roman administration of Italy intact and run by Roman officials. After a hiatus of two centuries, large bronze coins featuring the initials SC (senatus consultum) were struck again, demonstrating the increase of power the Senate had under Odoacer.

    With Odoacer's rise, Zeno came to view him as a threat. After making peace with his rebellious magister militum praesentalis King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths, Zeno instructed him to invade Italy, promising him the authority to rule there. Theodoric's invasion began in 489, and in August of that year, Odoacer and Theodoric engaged in battle by the Isontius River, near Aquileia. Odoacer and his forces suffered defeat there. Afterwards, he would again meet defeat at Verona, and subsequently retreated to Ravenna. Most of his army was, however, stationed at Mediolanum, and when the Ostrogoths captured the city, they surrendered and a number of them switched over, including Odoacer's general Tufa. Tufa later betrayed Theodoric, and inflicted a defeat on Theodoric that compelled him to fortify himself at Ticinum. Odoacer then advanced and besieged Theodoric, in 490.

    The Ostrogothic invasion of Italy seemed stopped in its tracks, but King Alaric II of the Visigoths then decided to come to the assistance of the Ostrogothic king by sending his army to break the siege. Odoacer was again forced to retreat back to Ravenna, where Theodoric laid siege to the city for three years. Through mediation by Bishop John of Ravenna, Theodoric and Odoacer agreed to end the war and to jointly rule Italy. But Theodoric had other plans. In 493, while they and their warriors dined together in the former imperial palace, Theodoric killed Odoacer, striking him on the collarbone with his sword after some of his warriors failed to assassinate him themselves. Later, Odoacer's wife and brother were put to death, and his son exiled (but who would also later be killed for attempting to return to Italy).

    (I'm not sure if this image is supposed to be an artist's depiction of Odoacer, but this showed up when I Google Image searched his name, so for the purpose of this thread, lets assume its him :D )

    *Information from Wikipedia; images (except for my coin photo) from Wikpedia, Catbikes, WorldHistoryMaps, and Pinterest*

    Please post anything relevant, and thanks for reading!
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
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  3. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations ValiantKnight on such a rare and sought after coin, and so historically important.
  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Wow! I am glad to see you finally got one!
  5. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wow! Big congrats on the score, VK!
  7. TheRed

    TheRed Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on such an awesome coin!
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    What a wonderful case of kismet. Congrats, VK!
  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations on acquiring your dream-coin! And great write-up, too!
  10. KIWITI

    KIWITI Well-Known Member

    Congrats! It´s a very nice example too!
  11. Orfew

    Orfew Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations on landing one of these.
  12. Hellbent

    Hellbent Member

    Congratulations on a wonderful coin Splendid article as well.
  13. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    Clear monogram. Well done.
  14. HoldingHistory

    HoldingHistory Active Member

    Congratulations! That is an exceptional coin, above average monogram for these too.
  15. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Redditor Lucis Aeternae

    Nice article and great coin! It's interesting to see, and a forgotten fact, that Roman traditions were maintained by Odoacer.
  16. Ajax

    Ajax Well-Known Member

    Nice! Congrats VK
  17. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight MMDCCXLV A·V·C Supporter

    Appreciate all the comments and likes!
    Yeah, it was practical not to alienate the native Italian Roman population which I'm sure outnumbered the Germanic population in Italy, and to keep in positions of power those who knew how to run a government. In addition, I'm sure the Eastern Empire would have made sure their western compatriots were being well-taken care of. I also would imagine Odoacer probably was Romanized to a degree (similar to Theodoric), and had an appreciation for Roman culture.
  18. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Nice coin! What’s the size and weight of these? Are they rare because few survive due to small size/poor metal (but many were made) or because few were minted? I’m just wondering why base-metal coins from this era seem to be rare and why more 5th century emperors and rulers aren’t pulled from crusty lucky AE4 eBay lots. I admit, I ask these questions because I’m clueless about western coinage after about 400Ad.
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
  19. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Super envious, VK, what a great coin!! Good karma too. :)

    Should be a featured post!
  20. ValiantKnight

    ValiantKnight MMDCCXLV A·V·C Supporter

    Thanks! Usually they are ≤10 mm, and under 1 gram. Mine sits at 0.86 gr and is 10mm wide. I think they are rare due to a number of possible factors: less mint output, loss of mines due to loss of territory, less use for money due to the poorer economic conditions of the time, and the reigns of many of the last Western emperors being too short to make significant amounts of coins.
    Thanks and I agree! :D
  21. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    Congratulations, and a great writeup!!
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