An Ancient Coin Experiment

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Dec 5, 2021.


Is this coin a fourrée?

  1. Yes

    0 vote(s)
  2. No

    14 vote(s)
  3. Maybe

    2 vote(s)
  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Public Domain Image published by Chez le citoyen Mirys in Paris, 1799

    This coin interested me for several reasons :
    • the link to the time when the Roman senate declared war with Jugurtha
    • the portrait of Mars on the obverse - the facial features are less exaggerated than other dies in this series
    • the tripod control on the obverse
    • the eagle between RO and MA on the reverse
    • the metal on the right edge, which invites a chemistry experiment
    The moneyer was a member of the gens Cornelia, one of the most illustrious noble families in the republic with many members holding political and military leadership roles. Servius Cornelius Cossus Maluginensis was first member of this family to hold the consulship, early in the history of the republic in 485 BC. The republic began in 509 BC when king Tarquinius Superbus, was overthrown by Roman nobles led by Lucius Junius Brutus.

    The name Blasio derives from "blaesus" which refers to a lisp or stutter. This branch of the family going back at least as far as Gnaeus Cornelius P. f. Cn. n. Blasio (son of Publius and grandson of Gnaeus born of Blasio), consul in 270 and 257 BC.

    Reviewing the Richard Schaefer die study, I didn't find a die match for my coin - I was curious to see if I could confirm the expected reverse control and find evidence that the coin matched an official die. While no match - I did find that the style is very consistent, and the control that is paired with the trident is always the dolphin (although I cannot convince myself that a dolphin is visible on this coin).

    This coin was issued in 112-111 BC, as the republic had declared war on Numidian king Jugurtha. This war would be a career boost for Sulla as the one who captured Jugurtha and it would fuel the bitter rivalry between Marius and Sulla.

    "And indeed Sulla himself was naturally vainglorious, and now that he had for the first time emerged from his lowly and obscure condition and become of some account among his countrymen, and was enjoying a taste of honour, he was arrogant enough to have a representation of his exploit engraved on a seal-ring which he wore, and continued to use it ever after. The device was, Bocchus delivering, and Sulla receiving, Jugurtha."
    - Plutarch, The Life of Sulla, 3.4

    I decided to take a risk of damaging this coin in the interest of an experiment, the key questions that I am asking: is this a fourrée? what do you think - register a vote and we will see later what emerges.

    The starting point:
    Cn. Blasio Cn.f., 112-111 BC, AR Denarius, (18.2mm, 3.85g, 6h), Rome mint
    Obv: CN BLASIO CNF, Helmeted head of Mars right; tripod to left, mark of value above (off flan)
    Rev: Jupiter holding a sceptre in right hand and thunderbolt in left hand, standing slightly left between Juno and Minerva, Juno holds a scepter in her right hand and Minerva is crowning Jupiter with a wreath and holding a scepter in her other hand; there is a palm frond between Jupiter and Minerva, [an uncertain control letter/symbol - most likely a dolphin] to outer right; in exergue, an eagle between RO MA.
    Ref: Crawford 296/1i; Sydenham 561e; Cornelia 20; RBW –
    Notes: Toned with some deposits in the devices and some metal flaws.
    The control is most likely this dolphin:
    a close look at Jupiter's legs shows the roughness of the metal on the reverse:

    Crawford (RRC 1974) rejects the theory that this is Scipio Africanus on the obverse, and argues that the peculiarities of this obverse portrait show up in other contemporary coins e.g. this Roma with long narrow neck and exaggerated features: cheek bones, nose and chin.

    The first step: a little sodium thiosulfate pentahydrate, dissolved in warm water...
    For the conclusion - see the results in my Notes on Ancient Coins: A Chemistry Experiment.

    Post your cleaning experiments, coins of Cn. Blasio Cn.f., or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
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  3. tenbobbit

    tenbobbit Well-Known Member

    For what it is worth, I can see the Dolphin on your coin.
    The only difference is that it is pointing upward.
    Sulla80 likes this.
  4. Scipio

    Scipio Well-Known Member

    The rough metal between Jupiter’s legs are deposits or concretions, most likely horn silver. Diameter and weight IMHO allow to consider the coin made out of solid silver.
    Jay GT4, Spaniard and Sulla80 like this.
  5. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    to my surprise - almost everyone who voted picked "not fourrée" - which is correct and becomes more obvious looking at the coin after a little gentle cleaning. Horn silver is my best guess at most of the deposits.
    Although it is not particularly easy to see even with the coin in hand - here's how I think the dolphin is oriented:
    I am reluctant to push my luck cleaning it will remain under the horn silver.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2021
    Bing, Johndakerftw, Curtisimo and 4 others like this.
  6. Ryro

    Ryro The last of the Diadochi Supporter

    That is a very unique style portrait for this fun type!
    Mine has a pencil neck and much larger forehead. He looks like he should be delivering pizzas
    RupertP, Marsyas Mike, Bing and 9 others like this.
  7. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    The horn silver removal was very successful, especially with the good surfaces underneath.

    Often times there is corrosion or a lattice-like surface, left by the horn silver, underneath.
    Sulla80 likes this.
  8. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    An important caveat for anyone inspired to try this on a coin: you have to be willing to risk an ugly coin at the end - this one was good luck.

    These are not often pretty coins. Looking at the four examples in the Richard Schaefer die study, and the six that show up for "Blasio tripod" and the 65 that surface with "Blasio palm" on ACSearch - for this specific set of controls, I don't find one that I would consider an upgrade.
    robinjojo likes this.
  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

  10. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Not my coin, but the scene of Bocchus delivering Jugurtha to young Sulla, like on your late 18th c. illustration, was also depicted on a denarius minted by Sulla's son Faustus in 56 BC.

    On reverse : Sulla as quaestor seated left on a bench with straight legs (the quaestor seat); Bocchus kneeling right, extending branch (i.e. soliciting the title of "king friend and ally of the Roman people", like the Nabataean king Aretas III on denarii of Scaurus minted 2 years before); Jugurtha handcuffed kneeling left.
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