Antoninus Pius Britannia As

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by thejewk, Oct 18, 2019.

  1. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    New addition just arrived today, and one I've been after all year.

    Antoninus As Britannia.jpg

    RIC 934 - As - 154-155AD
    ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P XVIII - Laureate head right
    BRITANNIA COS IIII S C - Britannia seated left on rock in attitude of dejection, shield and vexillum in background
    27mm, 10.5g, ex Keith Cullum collection

    In hand the coin in a glossy black, and is more attractive than the photograph with harsher lighting. I was initially concerned by the green spot at the top right of the reverse, but now it is in hand I am satisfied that it is a solid encrustation that isn't removable with a wooden pick and does not crumble like the dreaded BD.

    Ever since I discovered that this coin existed I knew I had to have an example in my collection because it features the first presentation of Britannia in this particular and now familiar pose (with the first overall being featured on Hadrian's coinage) and due to the type's strong connection to the history of my own rainy homeland. It quickly became apparent that my aspirations and my budget were at odds, so I decided to search for an example within my budget that featured a strong reverse image and also the full BRITANNIA part of the legend. Happily this coin ticked all the boxes and it now sitting alongside the AP denarius in my profile image.

    Although far rougher than I would like, the coin fabric is typical of the type due to the fact that the vast majority of these coins are found singly in the UK by detectorists. A brief look at the Portable Antiquities Scheme site will show home many of these coins have been found over the last decade, and the one consistent feature is the rough surfaces.

    Malcolm Todd in his article Romano-British Mintages of Antoninus Pius in The Numismatic Chronicle (1966) (available on JSTOR if anyone is interested) comes to the conclusion that the combination of the find spot data (further strengthened by the PAS data mentioned above), the fact that bronze coinage is known to remain relatively localised to the point of origin compared to regularly hoarded denominations, the fact that almost none of the examples of the type are well centred and the low quality fabric of the coins point to the probability that they were struck in Britain using imported Roman dies and local artisans with local materials. Although no dies have been found for conclusive evidence, there is evidence of another official die being discovered on a site close to Hadrian's Wall, lending further credence to the idea.

    Another interesting point is the varying interpretations of Britannia's pose. The description above says that her pose is one of 'dejection,' raising interesting possibilities for the coin as a propaganda tool. I'd argue that this seems an unlikely intention. I prefer to think that she is being presented 'at ease' now that the Roman forces have quelled the raids from the north, represented by the shield and standard to the left of the image. I read an article discussing Trajan's Dacian type coins which came to the conclusion that the more fierce types including speared Dacians and Victory standing on a poor Dacian's head were minted on higher value coins designed for circulation within and around Rome itself, while the more gentle types including a Dacian sitting alongside Roman arms are commonly found around Dacia itself. Hardly conclusive, but what is in numismatics?

    Please feel free to post anything you feel is relevant.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    What a historically meaningful acquisition for your collection! Great write up, too!

    This is what ancient numismatics is all about!
  4. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Interesting and nice coin. And also a very good write up.

    For the same reasons as yours I am looking for a coin with Germania. But it's even harder to find than Britannia.
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  5. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Great coin and great write-up thejewk.

    A while back I posted a link to a article about Roman coins of "British Association" - and not surprisingly, your Britannia example is one of these types noted. A lot of coins of "British Association" were found in the baths at Bath - overall these types tend to be found in Britain only (or mostly). I hadn't heard about the possibility of any of these actually being minted in Britain, which is just fascinating.

    Here's the article by David Shotter and Sam Moorhead:

    Here's my original post - I don't have a Britannia type, but I do have 2 "British Association" types (Faustina II and Ant. Pius dupondius):
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  6. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Thanks @Roman Collector and @Parthicus Maximus for the kind words.

    @Marsyas Mike thank for the links, I was actually looking for that 'British connection' paper a few days ago, but couldn't find it. I read it with great interest in that original post but forgot to save a copy. I will definitely be trying to add a few more of those coins to my collection.
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  7. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Not conclusive as you say, but I'm convinced! :)

    I am the temporary custodian of this example, with the usual surfaces you mention:


    Is there maybe a little tooling on your reverse?
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I want to again thank @Marsyas Mike for pointing out the "Coins of British Association" article. I have two such coins, both middle bronzes of Faustina II minted under the authority of her father, Antoninus Pius:

    Faustina Jr, Augusta AD 147-175.
    Roman Æ as or dupondius, 11.41 g, 23.8 mm.
    Rome, AD 153-155?
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: FELICITAS SC, Felicitas standing left, holding caduceus, left hand on hip.
    Refs: RIC (Pius) 1395; BMCRE 2187; Cohen 108; RCV --.

    Faustina Jr, under Antoninus Pius, 147-161.
    Roman orichalcum dupondius, 11.60 gm, 25.5 mm, 2 h
    Rome, AD 153-155?
    Obv: FAVSTINA AVG PII AVG FIL, bare-headed and draped bust, right
    Rev: VENVS S C, Venus standing left, holding apple and leaning elbow against a column
    Refs: RIC --; BMCRE p. 856 *; Cohen 271; RCV --.
  9. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    Hmm now you have me worried. I don't thinks so, as there seems to be two different styles of the reverse. You coin has the superior style reverse by far, whereas there are a number of coins pictured online that look like mine, with Britannia sitting in a more upright position and looking a little chunkier. The impression is also exacerbated by the fact that my coin is on an oval flan and I am missing the right of the image and all of the legend on the right, corresponding on the obverse to the top of AP's head. When I look under magnification I can't find any obvious marks, but I am certainly not an expert and could be completely wrong.

    Please share your thoughts.

    Edit: looking again, my reverse looks like the one commonly seen on the dupondius rather than the as, I think. Have a look at Sear 4266 on Wildwinds and see what you think. I can't see on my example any definitive trace of either a laureate or radiate headpiece due to the corrosion.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
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  10. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    The theory that the dies were imported makes some sense. That portrait is a very typical imperial portrait, as nice as any that came from Rome itself.

    As for Britannia being “dejected,” I think that interpretation is based on her head being slightly down. Britannia on @Severus Alexander’s coin appears to be in more of a relaxed, reclining position, reminiscent of the style of Hadrian’s travel series, so I do see some contrast there. I would like to see both coins in a higher grade to be sure, but that’s the impression they both left me.

    Great coins from an excellent emperor, all!
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  11. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Well that is a good sign! I'd have to see the coin in hand to have any further comment, though.

    Just to be clear, the coin I posted isn't actually mine, it's @Justin Lee's, for the moment. :)
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  12. Coinsandmedals

    Coinsandmedals Well-Known Member

    Very cool thread and great write-up @thejewk!

    I was doing a bit of background research on my recent additions when I came across this thread.

    My first example:
    138-161 Antoninus Pius AE As Rev. Britannia Mourning 5769069001 Obv..JPG 138-161 Antoninus Pius AE As Rev. Britannia Mourning 5769069001 Rev..JPG

    My second example:
    Pius Raw Exmaple 2 Obv..JPG Pius Raw Exmaple 2 Rev..JPG
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