Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Cucumbor, May 14, 2017.

  1. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Hello to you all CT friends

    As some of you may already know, I’ve been on the process of assembling the series of antoniniani struck by Trajan Decius in honor of the « good emperors » of the past, also called « the Divi series », for some years now. On the occasion of the arrival of the 21st of them out of 22 in my trays (from the last Gemini XIII auction), I thought it might be entertaining and educationnal to our community to write something on the subject. The following is a translation of an article I wrote five years ago for a french numismatic review. Thank you so much to @TIF for reading it and pointing out big mistakes or when my words have failed to express my thoughts and have the whole un- or mis-understandable (I sometimes feel translating from french into english more difficult than writing in english from the begining because I would then use a more basic level of language). All the coins illustrated are from my personnal collection.

    Anyway, here’s the coin :

    Augustus, Antoninianus
    Rome mint AD 250/251
    DIVO AVGVSTO radiate head right

    CONSECRATIO Eagle facing with spred wings and head left
    3.10 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 77, Cohen # 577, RCV # 9458
    reference of dies in qblay's catalog : AU27/A045
    Ex Gemini XIII auction, #291

    CAIVS MESSIVS QVINTVS DECIVS, as the admirer of the emperor Trajan he was (talented general and respected emperor from the 2nd century CE during the reign of whom the Empire experienced its greatest expansion), took the name of TRAJAN DECIUS at his accession to the throne. His short reign, from September 249 CE to June or July 251 CE is known for a revival of conservative values : attempts to reunify the empire to prevent from barbaric invasions, restoration of the prestige of Rome and religious traditions, foundation of a new dynasty. In such a context, the decision to honor the “good” emperors from a glorious past makes sense. However, the attribution of the Divi series to Trajan Decius and when, why, and where they were minted have for long been controversial.


    249 Portrait de Trajan Dece, Rome Portrait of Trajan Dece, Rome.jpg

    Decius would be born in 201 CE not far from Sirmium, Pannonia (today Mitrovica, Serbia) in a family from the Senatorial Order. Before his accession to power his cursus isn’t known with certainty. Some historians say he might have been governor in Moesia Inferior under Severus Alexander and governor in Hispania Citerior under Maximinus Thrax. Around 245 CE Philip the Arab named him Praefectus Urbi, among the highest position a member of the Senatorial Order could pretend to.

    At this time Philip the Arab had to face invasions and rebellions in several parts of the Empire, in particular usurpations by Jotapian in Cappadocia and Pacatian in the Danube area. Although these ended in being minor events, the usurpers being shortly defeated, Philip found himself unsettled enough that he decided to entrust to Decius the command of an army with mission to restoring order in the provinces of Danube and repelling Goths invaders.

    On the occasion of this expedition, after the assassination of Pacatian, the troops of the Danube region acclaimed Decius, who found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to accept the Imperial Purple (under the risk of being killed by his men should he refuse to), while assuring Philip of his loyalty. The confrontation with Philip becoming inevitable, it took place near Verona, and turned to the advantage of Decius. Meanwhile, Philip II, son and co-emperor with Philip the Arab, was being killed in Rome.

    Philippus I, Sestertius Rome mint, 248 AD
    IMP M IVL PHILIPPVS AVG, Draped and laureate bust of Philippus right
    P M TRP V COS III PP, Felicitas standing left, holding cornucopiae and caduceus
    18.71 gr
    Ref : Cohen #149, RCV #9008

    Philippus II, Antonianus Rome mint, 246 AD
    M IVL PHILIPPVS CAES, Radiate and draped bust of Philippus right
    PRINCIPI IVVENT, Philippus II standing left, holding globe and spear
    4.42 gr
    Cohen #48, RCV #9240

    Back to Rome, and once his power has been endorsed by the senate, Decius developed a whole system, back to conservative values :

    - The imperial cult, from optional became mandatory. The most visible and well-known consequence from a contemporary reading of history was the persecution of Christians.

    - Attempt to found a new dynasty, as the Antonines or the Severans, by quickly associating his two sons to power.

    - Emphasizing the values of the first century CE such as Pudicitia (modesty) or Pietas (piety).

    - Restoration of the central authority of Rome over the provinces of the Empire, in the first rank of which is Dacia, where the Emperor had been able to assert himself.

    All these elements are found on the coins of the reign : reverses extolling the values of a glorious past, victories over the Dacians, but also abundant emissions with the effigy of the Empress and her children.

    Trajan Decius, Antoninianus Rome mint, AD 250-251
    IMP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind
    DACIA, Dacia standing left holding a standard surmounted by an ass's head
    3.52 gr - 20/23 mm
    Ref : RCV # 9368, RSC # 16, RIC IV-3 # 12b

    Herennia Etruscilla, Antoninianus Rome mint, AD 250-251
    HER ETRVSCILLA AVG, diademed bust right, with hair ridged in waves
    PVDICITIA AVG, Pudicitia standing left holding transverse sceptre and drawing veil from her face
    3.78 gr, 21 mm
    Ref : RIV IV # 58b, Cohen # 17, RCV # 9494

    Herennius Etruscus, Antoninianus Rome mint, AD 250-251
    Q HER ETR MES DECIVS NOB C, Radiate bust of Herennius right
    PIETAS AVGVSTORVM, Sacrificial implements
    4.45 gr
    Ref : RIC # 143, Cohen #14, RCV #9521

    Hostilian, Antoninianus Rome mint, AD 251. Issued as Caesar with Trajan Decius
    C VALENS HOSTIL MES QUINTVS N C, radiate and draped bust right
    MARTI PROPUGNATORI, Mars advancing right, holding spear and shield
    2.74 gr
    Ref : RCV # 9556, Cohen # 15, RIC # 177b

    The reign has also been marked by a number of originalities in the numismatic field. While the antoninian was experiencing a slow degradation of its silver content, bronze coins became more and more expensive to manufacture so production fell. The lack of low value coins was felt in daily life. Trajan Decius then introduced a new denomination, the double sestertius, and reintroduced the bronze semis, in an attempt to restore legitimacy to this metal.

    Trajan Decius, Semis Rome mint, AD 249-250
    IMP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG Laureate and draped bust right
    Mars standing left, holding spear and shield. S|C in field
    19 mm, 4,71 gr
    Ref : RIC # 128, Cohen # 102

    Decius and his son Herennius Etruscus perished in June or July 251 CE at the Battle of Abrittus, during an offensive against the Goths led by Cniva.
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
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  3. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member


    The series is solely composed of antoninians.The antoninian had been created in 215 CE on the occasion of Caracalla‘s monetary reform. It’s characterized by a radiate portrait of the Emperor, or the presence of a crescent under the bust in the case of an Empress. Its value is of two denarii, for a silver content of one and a half times that of the denarius at the origin.

    Caracalla, Antoninianus Rome mint, AD 216
    ANTONINVS PIVS AVG GERM, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Caracalla right, seen from behind
    VENVS VICTRIX, Victory standing left, holding helmet and sceptre, resting on shield set on a captive, another captive at her feet
    4.87 gr
    Ref : RCV # 6785, RIC # 312c, RSC # 612b

    The antoninian quickly became the most widespread currency, gradually clearing the other denominations. After the reign of Gordian III, the denarius is only occasionally issued and, as we have seen above, bronze is scarcer due to its production cost too high in comparison to its intrinsic value.

    Eleven emperors were honored through the series : Augustus, Vespasian, Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Septimius Severus and Severus Alexander.Historians have often considered the presence of Commodus in the series to be intrusive, but we must not forget that Septimus Severus himself, while claiming a connection with Marcus Aurelius, had asked in 197 for the consecration of Commodus despite his damnatio memoriæ. On the other hand, neither Claudius nor Tiberius, who are today considered as "good" emperors, are on the list. It is always difficult to judge of the view taken on the events of a distant past with a modern eye.

    Obverses of the coins are stereotyped, most often showing a radiate head the Emperor to the right. On some you can find an obverse bust with the paludamentum on left shoulder. It’s the case for Trajan (half of the obverse dies), Commodus (the sole # CO29 die in Joaquim Blay’s database) and for Alexander Severus (the majority of the obverse dies). Exceptionally one can find a radiate bust, draped and cuirassed to the right (one die depicted and illustrated for Titus (# TI02 in Joaquim Blay's database). The legend is short and to the dative, e.g. DIVO SEVERO (To the Divine Severus) for Septimius Severus.

    Septimius Severus, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO SEVERO, Radiate head right
    CONSECRATIO Large altar
    4.02 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 96, Cohen # 800, RCV # 9483
    in qblay's catalog : SE02/P267

    Two types of reverses exist for each of the eleven emperors : about 2/3 of the specimens show a funeral altar while 1/3 have an eagle with spread wings. The only legend is CONSECRATIO.

    In 250-251 CE, the only denomination commonly struck being the antoninian, it was not possible to reproduce in the same way coins with a laurel portrait, which would then have had to be denarii. But the radiate portrait having previously been associated with the consecration of the deceased emperors from the early Empire, the solution was to combine both : strike antoninians which, by their radiate crown, would pay homage to deified emperors.

    All types are not seen in the same proportions. Some of the Emperors are very common in the series : Trajan, and it’s obviously not a surprise given the admiration his distant successor had for him ; But also Severus Alexander and even more Antoninus Pius. On the other hand, Nerva, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus are scarcer. The question has arisen whether this difference was from the begining, by a different production in quantity, or acquired, by a gradual withdrawal of certain types more than others through History. The parallel study of the number of surviving specimens vs the number of dies used leads in the direction of the first hypothesis.

    Titus, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO TITO Radiate head right
    CONSECRATIO Large altar
    3.60 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 81b, Cohen # 405, RCV # 9465
    in qblay's catalog : TI08/P015

    Nerva, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO NERVE (sic !) Radiate head right
    CONSECRATIO Eagle facing
    4.45 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 83b, Cohen # 152, RCV # 9467
    in qblay's catalog : NE06/A052
    See G&M auction # 170/2123, same dies

    Trajan, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO TRAIANO Radiate head right, wearing light drapery on left shoulder
    CONSECRATIO Eagle facing
    3.12 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 85a, Cohen # 666, RCV # 9470
    in qblay's catalog : TR16/A147

    Marcus Aurelius, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO MARCO ANTONINO, Radiate head of Macus Aurelius right
    CONSECRATIO, Eagle facing, wings open
    3.34 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 91b, RCV # 9477, Cohen # 1057
    in qblays catalog : MA19/A018

    Commodus, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO COMMODO Radiate head right
    CONSECRATIO Eagle facing, head left
    3.17 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 93, Cohen #1009, RCV #9480
    in qblay's catalog : CO01/A023


    Restoration programs usually copied the original type while adding elements identifying the Emperor who had them issued. That is not the case with these coins, there is no mention of Trajan Decius, so how do we know which emperor issued them?

    For a long time, scholars, if they clearly situated these emissions in the middle of the third century, varied them in time, from the reign of Philip the Arab to that of Gallienus. The sumptuous celebrations of the Millennium of Rome in 248 CE under Philip, were the occasion of special monetary issues such as the "Saeculares" series and great was the temptation to associate there the tribute paid to the previous "good" emperors.

    A more technical approach consisted, for a certain period of time, in comparing the weight of specimens from these emissions with that of different emperors of that time productions.
    Joaquim Blay, in his corpus dedicated to the subject, studied more than 1000 examples of the Divi series, the weight of 600 of them being known. The average weight is 3.78 grams and has not changed after the 400th, assuming it’s the actual average weight of the entire series.

    It is also known that weight and fineness of the antoninian went on decreasing throughout the third century, especially around 250 CE. Kenneth Harl works, quoted by Richard Beale, report an average weight of 4.12 grams for the antoninian under Philip the Arab with a silver content of 47.07%, 3.97 grams and 41.12% under Trajan Decius, 3.46 grams and 35.94% under Trebonian Gallus.

    Admitting a certain continuity in the lowering of weight and silver content in these emissions, these elements will encourage us to situate the minting of the series during the reign of Trajan Decius.

    But we must be careful not to conclude too hastily, for if we consider that in the preceding periods restoration coins were made via massive restrikes (see Titus programs in homage to Galba or those of Trajan for the Roman republic, for example), it’s necessary to take into account the presence of old specimens, at different weights and fineness, overstruck as antoninians in these emissions. These facts are attested by the presence in the Dorchester hoard of an antoninian honoring Augustus (DIVO AVGVSTO), still showing parts of the legend of a Caracalla denarius. Curtis Clay, for his part, reports in his own collection a specimen for Nerva, which also contains fragments of legend on the obverse as well as on the reverse that allow to attribute the undertype to Caracalla.

    Moreover, the massive restrikes of 251 CE evidently began during the life of Trajan Decius. They were motivated by the urgent need for cash to meet the considerable expenses incurred by the war against the Goths on the Danube. Still in the Dorchester hoard are 24 coins showing identifiable traces of overstrike, among which 20 are coins of Decius, Etruscilla or their children as Caesars.

    The study of treasures can help us to date more accurately this coinage. The Plevna hoard, in particular, contains no coin of the late Decius’ rule, nor of the other members of his family, causing to estimate the date of its burying at the beginning of 251 CE, probably in January (Curtis Clay). This treasure contains two coins of the DIVI series. On the other hand, the British Museum houses a DIVO VESPASIANO / VICTORIA AVG hybrid, the reverse type of which with Victory walking left can only be attributed to the beginning of Trajan Decius’ reign, the legend ending in AVG, excluding a joint reign, which would have imposed the "plural" AVGG (Curtis Clay).

    However, the study of later treasures (Dorchester, Clamerey, Smederevo, Gibraltar) finds a somewhat larger proportion of these coins, leading to the conclusion of strikes being continued after the death of Trajan Decius, spilling over the reigns of Trebonian Gallus and his son Volusian. The presence of Divi / Trebonian or Divi / Volusian hybrids featuring a IVNONI MARTIALI reverse is further evidence of this if needed.

    The place of issue of the DIVI series has long been attributed to the Milan mint. Nowadays, thanks to the die links study, which connect them with coins undoubtedly struck at Rome, everybody agrees to have them coming from this last mint. So many die links between antoniniani struck for different emperors reinforce the idea of a unique place of striking : the same reverse die is frequently associated with the obverse die of two emperors at least (sometimes up to four), a given obverse die may be associated with both an eagle or an altar (see the two DIVO SEVERO below sharing the same obverse die # AL26 in Joaquim Blay database). Jérôme Mairat pleads for a distribution in six workshops, the first being supposed to strike in the name of Trajan and the other five spreading out the rest of the emperors honored two by two. However, the comprehensive study of the die links tree established by Joaquim Blay reveals so many reverse dies associated with two or more different emperor obverses that more likely a single striking place was used.

    Severus Alexander, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO ALEXANDRO Radiate head right
    CONSECRATIO Large altar
    3.84 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 98, Cohen # 598, RCV # 9485
    in qblay's catalog : AL26/P149

    Severus Alexander, Antoninianus Rome mint AD 250-251
    DIVO ALEXANDRO Radiate head right
    CONSECRATIO Eagle facing
    3.38 gr
    Ref : RIC IV # 97, Cohen # 599, RCV # 9484
    in qblay's catalog : AL26/A146


    By the time of a short reign lasting less than two years, Trajan Decius knew how to use the medium that is coinage in original ways, from the political point of view, with the propaganda of ideas and values which he intended to exalt, economical by the innovations introduced into the monetary system, or even historical by associating his name with the homage paid to the great emperors of the two preceding centuries.


    1 - Blay Detrell J., “DIVI SERIES”, Una Emisión Conmemorativa de Antoninianos de Restitución del Siglo III d.C. Gaceta Numismática 165, Barcelona, 2007, pp.69-82.
    2 - Mattingly H., Sydenham E. A. and coll., Roman Imperial Coinage Vol. IV. Part 3, London, 1923-1994.
    3 - Mattingly H., The Great Dorchester Hoard, Numismatic Chronicle, 1939.
    4 - Mattingly H., Salisbury F.S., A Find of Roman Coins from Plevna, Numismatic Chronicle, 1924.
    5 - Mattingly, H., The coins of the "DIVI", issued by Trajan Decius, p-p 75-82, Numismatic Chronicle, 1949
    6 - Elks K.J.J., Reattribution of the Milan Coins of Trajan Decius to the Rome Mint, Numismatic Chronicle, 1972
    7 - Cohen H., Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l’Empire romain, Seconde édition. Paris, 1880-1892.
    8 - Giard J-B., Le trésor de Clamerey. Trésors monétaires, T. 2, 1980.
    9 - Harl K. W., Coinage in the Roman Economy 300 B.C. to A.D. 700. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996.
    10 - Estiot S., Le troisième siècle et la monnaie: crise et mutations, in Le IIIe siècle en Gaule Narbonnaise, données régionales sur la crise de l'Empire, Antibes, 1996.
    11 - Sear D., Roman coins and their values, Vol III. Spink 2005
    12 – Mairat J., Prieur M., Schmitt L., Rome IX, Editions les Chevau-légers, 2001. Available on line : www.cgb.fr/monnaies/rome/r09/index.html
    13 – Zosso F., Zingg C., Les Empereurs romains 27 av. J.-C. - 476 apr. J.-C., Editions Errance, 1994


    14 – The most important work dedicated to the Divi series available online is that of Joaquim Blay : http://www.qblay.com/DiviSeries/English/0-DiviSeries.html
    15 – Also of interest is a long thread at Forvm Ancient Coins where Joaquim Blay, Curtis Clay, Richard Beale and many others have had the opportunity of presenting their views on the subject : http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=22464.0
    16–Beale R., Roman Imperial Coins of 249-253 « four bad years » : http://sonic.net/~marius1/mysite/DIVI%20Series.htm

    Hope you all have a nice sunday
    :) Q

    Edit to add : and for those who would like to see my whole Trajan Decius collection you can visit my gallery at Forvm : http://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=216
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning.

    I learned quite a bit reading this! How these coins became attributed to Decius was particularly interesting :)

    I have no restitution coins to share but thanks for the in-depth writeup!
    ominus1, Pellinore, Mikey Zee and 3 others like this.
  5. Ajax

    Ajax Well-Known Member

    Wow, that was very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing Q. Great coins as well man, those are awesome. I need to be on the lookout for one of the Commodus examples.
    ominus1, Roman Collector and Cucumbor like this.
  6. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Of course, please toss in anything you find relevant :)

  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member

    That's fantastic!! Very informative. That's what ancient numismatics is all about.

    I don't have any of the restitution coins, but here's a humble antoninianus:

    Trajan Decius Victoria.jpg
    Trajan Decius, AD 249-251
    Billon Antoninianus; 21.7 mm, 3.62 gm, 7:00
    Rome, AD 250
    Obv: IMP CMQ TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG, radiate bust, r.
    Rev: VICTORIA AVG, Victory advancing l., holding wreath and palm.
    Refs: RIC 29c; Hunter 13; RSC 113a; RCV 9387
    ominus1, cmezner, Puckles and 16 others like this.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Excellent! Congrats on the latest addition to the set. Also, thanks for the comprehensive and educational writeup, Q. I'll definitely be saving this resource for future reference. I'm sure I'll have many occasions to refer back to it.

    My only example from the Divi series is one of A-Pi. At 4.86g, it's a bit of an outlier in terms of weight.

    ominus1, cmezner, Puckles and 18 others like this.
  9. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Excellent specimen @zumbly, thanks for showing it

  10. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    Thank you. I did not know about the "DIVI Series".

    Now I will certainly notice them when I'm browsing ancient coin sites.

    As to your English, it is good enough that I had no idea you were French until now.
    ominus1 and Cucumbor like this.
  11. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Thanks Q, this is the kind of post we all learn from which makes us all better numismatists.
  12. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago

    Wonderful post 'Q'!! Great coins and a very cool and informative presentation!

    Since my PC is down, I can't add any photos...but I loved this thread.
  13. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Now that is a really cool set, especially once it gets put together.

    Were these struck concurrently with each other, or were they struck in some kind of order like the US state quarters? If the latter was true, maybe they did not get to other "good" emperors before the end of Trajan Decius' reign.
    Cucumbor and Roman Collector like this.
  14. Alegandron

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

    Cuke! BEYOND awesome! What a great write-up! I have enjoyed this, and learned a lot! I like the historical approach. I will post later (if I have anything worthy! :) ), as it is Mother's Day here and a bit busy. However, I wanted to state my appreciation of this fantastic post!
  15. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great article Q, I learned a lot. This is what's best about numismatics.
    ominus1 and Cucumbor like this.
  16. Johndoe2000$

    Johndoe2000$ Well-Known Member

    Excellent, informative post.
    Cucumbor likes this.
  17. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    You are the man Q! What a spectacular write up and (as always) top notch coins. These are the type of posts that make this site invaluable as a resource.

    I wish I had a divi series coin to contribute but unfortunately I don't :( I enjoyed reading your post and now I'll definitely take some time to dig in to your online resources as well.
    Cucumbor likes this.
  18. Alegandron

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

    All I have is the cool Traj Dec Dacia with Draco...

    RI Trajan Decius 249-251 CE AR Ant Dacia draco standard.jpg
    RI Trajan Decius 249-251 CE AR Ant Dacia draco standard
    ominus1, Puckles, dlhill132 and 10 others like this.
  19. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Wonderful addition!
    Cucumbor likes this.
  20. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Well-Known Member

    Fantastic and informative write up Cucumbor on a subject that interests me greatly, I will bookmark your topic for further reference. And that is one beautiful collection of Divi a real credit to you.
    Cucumbor likes this.
  21. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

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