An Exotic Goddess and a Strange Bird: A Denarius of C. Fabius Hadrianus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orielensis, Sep 10, 2020.

  1. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    At many recent auctions, prices went above my budget. Fortunately, the last Artemide auction was an exception, and I was able to win this coin (as well as three others that I might post soon) at a fair price:
    Bildschirmfoto 2020-09-10 um 15.13.25.png
    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):
    Römische Republik – RRC 374:1, Denar, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, Pietas Elefant.jpg
    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.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Would one of our Republican specialists care to explain the system requiring some coins to be marked in various abbreviations "from Public Silver? This seems to have been quite common in the time of the OP coin but there are some from other dates. What circumstances led to these issues?
    PV r13180bb3171.jpg

    A PV (mine is a fourree)

    My Hadrianus bird is not so marked.
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  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    OK, strange bird (Phoenix) on my latest arrival.

    PeteB, Marsyas Mike, Edessa and 6 others like this.
  6. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    I'm not a Roman Republican specialist, but I know an article by Charles T. Barlow in which he argues that the argento publico coinage likely was struck from silver taken from the sanctius aerarium, Rome's reserve and emergency fund built largely from the tax on manumitted slaves and plundered by Caesar in 49 BC. I quote Barlow's summary of his argument:

    "the sanctius aerarium seems to have been established originally to finance wars against the Gauls. It was drawn upon in 209, 112, 102, 101, 100, 89, 86 and 85 for that purpose, although not exclusively for that purpose. Beginning in 112 the coins struck from bullion kept in the sanctius aerarium were said to have been struck from public silver, argento publico."(Charles T. Barlow: "The Sanctius Aerarium and the Argento Publico Coinage," in: The American Journal of Philology 98.3 (1977), pp. 290–302, cit. 302.)

    I don't know whether there is better or more recent research on this topic. Maybe one of the real experts has an idea?

    Here are my other argento publico coins:
    Römische Republik – RRC 324:1, Denar, M. Lucilius Rufus, Roma Victoria in Biga.jpg
    Roman Republic, moneyer: M. Lucilius Rufus, AR denarius, 101 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Helmeted head of Roma r.; behind, PV; laurel-wreath as border. Rev: M·LVCILI RVF; Victory in biga r., holding reins in l. hand and whip in r. hand. 20mm, 3.93g. Ref: RRC 324/1. Ex Calgary Coin; ex JB collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 100 (their picture).

    Römische Republik – RRC 344:2c, Denar, L. Titurius Sabinus, Tarpeia-Legende.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Titurius L. f. Sabinus, AR denarius, 89 BC, Rome mint. Obv: SABIN APV; head of king Titus Tatius r., branch before. Rev: L. TITVRI; Tarpeia seated, arms raised, being crushed with shields by two soldiers; above, star in crescent. 18mm, 3.78g. Ref: RRC 344/2c.
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  7. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Nice write up and coins, @Orielensis ... Read the Wiki on Hadrianus... bad guy.


    RR Anon AR Quinarius 81 BC Apollo MARIUS GAUL Victory S 305 Cr 373-1

    RR Anon AR Quinarius 81 BC Apol MARIUS GAUL Vict var 2 i S 305 Cr 373-1b
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    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...And then there's Marius, who I'd even heard of. It's only landing on me right now, as a really resonant gestalt, that you can collect Roman Republican by famous moneyers. (Sorry I can't recall who posted the one of Sulla a little while ago; that time, it registered more as a one-off.)
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  9. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    RR Fundanius AR Quinarius 101 BCE Marius triumph Jupiter E control Victory captive carnyx Q Sear 205 Craw 326-2
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  10. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Tres, Tres Cool, Alegandron. The real traction I get from this is how cool it is to get a feudal coin in a count's or even (sometimes) seigneur's name. Never saw the same principle translate to a different context before.
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  11. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    I guess you could call the Simurgh a "strange bird":
    (And yes, even though it looks more like a dragon in this image, the simurgh is unambiguously described as a bird in Persian sources.)
  12. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great write-up and coins, @Orielensis. Here’s a Cybele from the 3rd Century.


    Septimius Severus - Julia Domna, Moesia Inferior. Marcianopolis. AE Pentassarion (29 mm., 14.09g), Confronted busts of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna/ Rev. Cybele seated left, holding patera, arm resting on drum, lions at sides. Epsilon in left field.
  13. Edessa

    Edessa Well-Known Member

    Roman Thrace, Anchialus. Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161. Æ19 (8.75g, 6h). Obv: [AVT AΔPI]A ANTΩNЄINOC CЄB; Laureate head right. Rev: [ΟVΛΠ?] AΓXI-AΛЄΩN; Cybele seated left on high backed throne, resting left arm on tympanum, holding patera in right. Ref: RPC Online IV 4510 (temporary number); AMNG 419.

  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter


    RR Lucilius Rufus 101 BCE Ar Den Roma Biga Marius Victories S 202 Cr 324-1
  15. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Orielensis - I am just finding this post today. A belated congratulations on the new coin and both coins are nice examples from my favorite period. Here's my example (with victory lost in the strike and edge of the flan). Here are my notes on this coin: "Birds and Bad Luck". There is reason to suspect that Fabius Hadrianus' death was related to being on the wrong side of Sulla - his successor was Pompey the Great a Sulla supporter. This could also be a factor in the lack of follow-up on his murder. I read the bird as a general symbol of "good auspices".
    C_Fabius_Hadrianus Blk.png
    Date: 102 BC
    Obv: EX A PV, Turreted and veiled bust of Cybele right
    Rev: Victory driving galloping biga right, E below horses, bird before, C FABI C F in exergue
    Size: 19.6mm, 3.96 grams
    Ref: Crawford 322/1b; Fabia 14; Sydenham 590
    Note: EX A PV translates to EX Argento PVblico, indicating a special issue struck from the reserve bullion in the public treasury.
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