Roman Republic, moneyer C. Fabius [Hadrianus?], 102 BC, Rome mint. Obv: EX·A·PV; bust of Cybele r., wearing turreted crown and veil. Rev: C.FA BI.C.F; Victory in biga r., holding reins in 1. hand and goad in r. hand; below, bird (flamingo?) and control mark V. 19mm, 3.82g. Ref: RRC 322/1b. Ex Artemide 52E, lot 168. As you know, I generally like Roman Republican denarii, but this coin caught my attention for three main reasons: An Infamous Moneyer As Crawford argues, the moneyer probably is identical with Gaius Fabius Hadrianus, praetor in 84 and allegedly one of the most ghastly figures of the Roman civil wars. Allied with the faction of the Populares, he drove the Sullan general Metellus Pius out of the African provinces in 84 BC and installed himself as governor. Yet Fabius Hadrianus’ style of government soon incited a riot, during which his house was burned down with himself inside. Cicero later wrote about this incident: “Because Roman citizens could not tolerate his greed, he was burned alive in his own house at Utica. What happened to him was considered so well-deserved that everybody was happy about it and no official inquiry was conducted” (In Verrem, 2.1.70). Here is a coin minted by Fabianus Hadrianus’ antagonist, the Optimate Metellus Pius who successfully regained Africa after the former's death (I did a little write-up on his coins here): Roman Republic, imperatorial issue of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR denarius, 81 BC, Northern Italian mint. Obv: diademed head of Pietas r.; to r., stork standing r. Rev: Q C M P I; elephant standing l., wearing bell around neck. 17mm, 3.55g. Ref: RRC 374/1. Ex JB collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 105. A Marian Prophecy The obverse of my coin shows the Anatolian mother goddess Cybele. Her cult was introduced to Rome during the second Punic war in 204 BC, when her sanctuary, the black meteoric stone of Pessinos, was transferred from Asia Minor to Rome in the hopes of thus gaining supernatural help in Rome’s conflict with Carthage. In 103 BC, a priest of Cybele journeyed to Rome to predict a great military victory of Gaius Marius. The event is reported by Plutarch: “Moreover, about this time Bataces, the priest of the Great Mother [i.e. Cybele], came from Pessinus announcing that the goddess had declared to him from her shrine that the Romans were going to be victorious and triumphant in war. The senate gave credence to the story and voted that a temple should be built for the goddess in commemoration of the victory” (Plutarch, Life of Marius, 7). Probably, the portrait on my denarius refers to this prediction, implicitly voicing support for Marius and his Populares. A Mysterious Bird The significance of the little bird on the reverse is somewhat unclear. Crawford identifies it as a sort of flamingo and suggests that it is a pun upon the cognomen “Buteo” used by a branch of the Fabians: “it may therefore be identified with one of the two birds called buteo by the Romans [...]. It should therefore be regarded as the bird which settled on a ship commanded by a Fabius and thus gave a cognomen to the Fabii Buteones” (RRC, p. 326). Yet, Crawford also mentions that Fabianus Hadrianus probably had no real family connection to the Fabii Buteones “who were by now extinct and who did not use the praenomen Caius” (RRC, p. 237). This makes the buteo-hypothesis appear not fully convincing. Apart from a flamingo, the bird could also be interpreted, for example, as a stork (symbol of piety) or an ibis (associated with Egypt). If anyone has a better suggestion than Crawford, I’d be excited to hear about it! Please post your recent Roman Republican acquisitions, Cybeles, Marian coins, or strange birds.