Featured Captives & Trophy, 8 or 9 examples from Julius Caesar to Constantine (& others, if you have them!)

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtis, Feb 3, 2021.

  1. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    *Please share what you think relevant. I would also love to be enlightened on info & types I may be unaware of or anything I may have gotten wrong!*

    CONSERVATORI-Julius Caesar Captives Denarius.png

    One of my favorite collecting themes is what I call Roman “Barbarians, Captives, and Enemies” coinage (or, my “BCE Collection,” pardon the pun/s; full disclosure: I have a page for it on my just-begun blog/site, for which I may revise this post).

    Within that area I include coins with a variety of battle or other military scenes, including the Fallen Horseman and other FEL TEMP REPARATIO series, and, also, those depicting captives (i.e., prisoners of war, presumably destined for slavery or execution). Within the “captives” coinage, one of the most interesting is the type depicting two captives bound to a trophy (c. 46 BC – 337 AD).

    In my view, the most fascinating feature of Roman “Barbarians, Captives, and Enemies” coinage is the continuity of the motifs over six centuries, combined with the changing variety of cultural and political details included in the imagery and message. The most stable of these motifs may be the depiction of two bound captives at the base of a military trophy consisting of confiscated arms.

    It is routinely pointed out that frequent depictions of the captives of war and other military symbols are unsurprising, given the militaristic nature and ethos of the Roman Republic and Empire. An additional feature of Roman society helps explain their prevalence, particularly during the Imperial Period: it’s reliance upon foreign wars for a steady supply of captives to continuously replenish the slave labor force on which the Empire depended. The portraits of the captives served at once to glorify the Empire and its military, and to dehumanize and depict the vanquished as suitable slaves.

    Republican Period

    The Roman numismatic tradition of depicting captives bound to a trophy began during the Republican period, at the turn of the 1st cent. BCE. The earliest examples of which I am aware of are the pair of AR Quinari struck by Caius Fundanius in 101 BC (Crawford 326/2) and Titus Cloelius in 98 BC (Crawford 332/1) in honor of Marius’ military victory in Germania, each depicting a single captive Teuton, bound to the base of a trophy of captured Germanic arms. Likewise, the AR Quinarius of Caius Memmius C.f. in 56 BC (Crawford 427/1), similarly commemorated his victory in Asia Minor – a design later imitated by Titus and others. [*Note: Three coins above, not (yet!) in my collection, are linked to examples from Andrew McCabe’s collection.]

    The coin that would, however, establish the long-running archetype – remaining in frequent use through the time of Constantine – was an AR Denarius of Julius Caesar of 46 BC, commemorating his Gallic Wars (Crawford 468/1; pictured above, video of my example here). On its reverse, two Gallic captives are seated at the base of a trophy of Gallic arms – shields, helmet, spears, and trumpets/carnyxes. In an important element of the design, often preserved in later homages, the male warrior or leader is depicted bound (in different postures, depending on the issue), while the female personification of Gaul is shown with her hands free but cradling her head in a posture of mourning.

    The two figures are believed by many to be the same as those portrayed on the obverse of the pair of “Gallic captives” AR Denarii of Hostilius Saserna, struck c. 48 BC. The male captive is frequently identified as Vercingetorix, leader of the Gallic resistance (or Vercingetorix-as-Pavor) and the female as Gallia (or Gallia-as-Pallor; though neither without disagreement).

    Imperial Period
    Notably, the emphasis shifts with Caesar's captives (and later types), from an anonymous, defeated soldier to living, emotive, captives, suitable for filling the Empire's demand for slaves.

    In the first and second centuries, Titus and Commodus both used very similar reverses on their coinage (especially AR Denarii), but images of single captives prevailed particularly on Vespasian’s historic and famous Judaea Capta series (pictured below), but also notably on Trajan’s Dacia coinage and the Dacia/Parthia series under Lucius Verus. Not strictly speaking the same variety, but, as in Caesar’s depiction of Gallia, Judaea is depicted as a female personification wearing long robes and/or veil, and seated in mourning at the base of the trophy.

    CONSERVATORI-Vespasian Denarius Judaea Capta.png

    In the third century, the pair of captives frequently represented two of Rome’s greatest and most enduring enemies, one to The East, one to The North: Persia and Germania.

    Caracalla (AR Denarius) portrayed Parthian captives with distinctive pointed headwear, similar to a Phrygian cap:

    CONSERVATORI-Caracalla AR Denarius PART MAX Captives #2.png

    The type was carried over from Septimius Severus' earlier denarius, also with a PART MAX reverse legend, leaving no doubt as to the captives being Parthians, represented below by a base "Limes" Denarius (perhaps issued for use by soldiers defending against Germanic enemies on the northern Limes/border):


    Third Century coinage of Alexandria (one of the few Provinicial mints that regularly produced captives coinage) often depicted Germas, particularly the Potin Tetradrachm series beginning under Severus Alexander and Julia Mamaea shortly before their murder, but continued under Maximinus:

    CONSERVATORI-Severus Alexander Tetradrachm Captives.png

    (Please forgive the use of CNG’s (e-484, Lot 610) photo rather than my own, below, for the Maximinus I; I’m waiting for that one to arrive.)

    CNG Maximinus Tetradrachm.jpg

    The Severus Alexander tetradrachm seems to include a particularly novel detail: The Suebian Knot. Just as the Gauls were depicted on Caesar’s wearing hair in knotted cords (now known as “dreadlocks”), occasionally the dies depicting Germanic captives portrayed them with the distinctive hairstyle in which the hair is twisted forward and knotted to the side or top. (Roman bronze and stone sculpture, though, uses the hairstyle quite frequently to portray Germans.)

    At times, though, one wonders if the engravers ignored the details of specific peoples, despite the intended message. On the Antoninianus of Claudius II, below, depicting his namesake Gothic captives, it is uncertain whether the pointed helmet/cap was a carryover from previous designs depicting Parthians/Persians, or if it depicted Gothic headwear:

    CONSERVATORI-Claudius II Gothicus Antoninianus Captives.png

    Probus's Germanic captives, bareheaded, are shown in some detail, but without especially distinctive indicators of ethnicity:


    Just as many have proposed that the Fallen Horseman series depicts numerous “barbarous” tribal enemies of Rome (e.g., Cruz 2019; Dane Kurth; Failmezer 1992, 2002), it seems likely that Constantinian era captives-and-trophy coinage may depict various peoples on various coins, but I’m not aware of anyone having tried to study the topic. The issue below, like several others (but not all) of my examples, seems consistent with Roman portraits of Germanic captives, including the long beard and ragged hair (which sometimes appear on depictions of Persians), but especially the typical loose-fitting, baggy clothing:

    CONSERVATORI-Constantine I Captives VIRTVS EXERCITI AE3.png

    (Note: I don't actually have the Constantine with trophy type yet, just vexillum/standards ones.)

    Finally, an ironic example of a “barbarous imitation” depicting a “barbarian” captive on the reverse of a Licinius II type AE3 Follis (for comparisons, see a few results on acsearch, especially the Leu e-10 example; although they mostly get the spelling of EXERCIT correct!):

    CONSERVATORI-Barbarous Imitation of Licinius II Captives VIRTVS EXERCITI AE3.png

    For References cited: My combined-bibliography page with online links where I can find them.

    *Once again, if you made it this far, please share yours! And thanks for reading!* - CJJ
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
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  3. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer


    Constantine I
    circa A.D. 328
    21mm 3.2gm
    Obv. Anepigraphic: head with rosette diademed, looking up to heavens
    Rev. CONSTANTINIANA DAFNE; Victory seated l. on cippus, palm branch in left hand and laurel branch in right hand, looking r.; trophy at front, at the foot is a kneeling captive with head turned being spurned by Victory; E in left field.
    in ex. CONS
    RIC VII Constantinople—


    Licinius I & Licinius II
    Circa A.D. 318
    21mm 3.8gm
    D D N N IOVII LICINII INVICT AVG ET CAES; laureate and draped confronted busts, together holding trophy of arms.
    I O M ET VIRTVTI DD NN AVG ET CAES; Jupiter stg. Left, chlamys across l. shoulder, leaning on scepter, in front of trophy, at foot of which two captives are seated on either side.
    In ex. SMATS
    RIC VII Antioch –

    Bastien, "Coins with a Double Effigy Issued by Licinius at Nicomedia, Cyzicus, and Antioch," (Numismatic Chronicle 1973), p. 91, 5 (Pl. 6, 27-29).

    two references that are small, more pamphlet than book, but focus on captives, if you have not seen yet.

    Levi, Annalina Calo. Barbarians on Roman Imperial Coins and Sculpture. NNM 123.New York: A N S, 1952.

    Burns, Thomas S. and Bernhard H. Overbeck. Rome and the Germans as Seen in the Coinage. Emory University, 1987.
  4. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    Wonderful examples! I was unaware of that Licinius, but I'll check out that article on JSTOR. And those two references absolutely belong in my library -- many thanks for the leads!!!
  5. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    What an interesting collecting theme...And nice coins!
    I have a Gallienus...RIC VI#18

  6. bcuda

    bcuda Supporter! Supporter

    Nice captive coins @Curtis and a nice write up also !
    I have three coins to share here , also have another but no picture yet.

    Constantine I Sirmium.JPG

    Constantine I
    AD 324-325. AE follis.
    laureate head right.
    Victory advancing right,
    holding trophy, palm
    branch and spurning
    captive on ground to right.
    Mintmark SIRM. 2.64 grams
    RIC VII 48; Hunter 195, 264


    Constantine II, AE3,
    320 AD, Thessalonica,
    Laureate, draped, cuirassed
    bust left
    Rev: VIRTVS-EXERCIT, Vexillum
    with banner inscribed VOT /
    XX between two captives seated
    on ground, S | F across fields
    TS . B . in exergue
    19mm 2.77 grams.
    RIC VII, 80 Officina 2


    Gallienus AR Antoninianus.
    258-259 AD, Joint Reign.
    Obv: GALLIENVS dot P dot F dot
    AVG, radiate, cuirassed
    bust right
    Rev: GERMANICVS MAX V, Trophy
    between two seated and bound
    German captives. RIC V-I, Lyons 18
    var (obv legend dots).
  7. svessien

    svessien Senior Member Supporter

    Sear 1404 Caesar den.jpg
    Julius Caesar , Spain 46-45 BC.

    Obverse: Head of Venus r., wearing diadem; behind, Cupid,

    Reverse: Trophy with oval shield and carnyx in each hand; below, two captives: male and female (Gallia); in ex. CAESAR.

    RRC 468/1a; BMCRR Spain 89; B. Iulia 11; Sydenham 1014; Catalli 2001, 679.

    The bust on the on the obverse is that of Venus Genetrix, to whom Caesar in B.C. 46 had dedicated a temple in the Forum Julium. The reverse refers to his victories and the Gaul may be Vercigetorix.

    Sear 10224 Gallienus.jpg

    Gallienus AR silver antoninianus. Joint reign, Lugdunum mint , 258-9 AD.
    Obverse: GALLIENVS P F AVG, radiate, draped & cuirassed bust right.
    Reverse - GERMANICVS MAX V, two German captives bound and seated at the foot of a trophy.
    RIC 18, RSC 308
  8. jdmKY

    jdmKY Well-Known Member

    318F74B1-7916-4DAF-98A0-FAFF099A8FE3.jpeg 6E6755D8-D2AB-4743-9F01-E026B9C9AE3E.jpeg 59CCFEE8-96EC-4895-961F-044219A93BCD.jpeg 4CA2BF2E-7283-4C14-A437-B5B7763D70C7.jpeg

    Julius Caesar, 46-45 BC
  9. jdmKY

    jdmKY Well-Known Member

    426B1D32-9FCE-4925-87B1-A02A14308317.jpeg 4AD0925E-B48B-4841-9197-7DFECA90CD6D.jpeg 7FD8E56B-D031-4B64-B1AC-0BC9273F400E.jpeg 3482E441-E54A-40C8-9A32-A8FFAFA306CA.jpeg D8602473-5414-49E7-BA2F-02F11C87D156.jpeg C93AFB6B-5299-4A64-84A2-216DD22757BC.jpeg E4E24991-12C9-4C34-99E5-DE08B65CDDCD.jpeg 1AB72FEE-CDEE-43DB-868D-F60676833DBA.jpeg 4AAA56F6-799C-4C28-B506-D39A668E308E.jpeg A9AB15F8-1EED-4C63-A9B2-DBFA4D5FC91D.jpeg

    How about trophies without captives? Plus a naval trophy thrown in.
  10. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Great thread idea, fun write up and lovely examples!
    If that Caesar coin ever gets too heavy I'll happily take her off your hands:D
    I love anything barbaroid!
    L. Cosconius M.f.

    118 BCE. AR Serrate Denarius (17 MM, 3.53g, 6h). Narbo mint. Helmeted head of Roma right; X (mark of value) to left / Gallic warrior (Bituitus, king of the Averni?)driving galloping biga right, hurling spear and holding shield and carnyx. Crawford 282/2; Sydenham 521; Cosconia 1.

    The best captive coin in my collection is from one of my favorite posters @Curtisimo the Great!
    Constans AD 337-350. 20mm., 5,3 g. 6h; Antioch Follis Æ D N CONSTANS P F AVG, diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust left, holding globe in right hand / FEL TEMP REPARATIO, helmeted soldier, spear in left hand, advancing right, head turned to left. With his right hand he is leading a small bare-headed figure from a hut beneath a tree with single figs at the end of the branches. The spear points downwards, between the soldier's legs. ANΓ in exergue. good very fine RIC VIII Antioch 126; Sear 18700. Ex: JAZ Numismatics. Saturnalia 2020 gift from @Curtisimo

    And those Greeks kept some pretty wonderful trophies themselves:
    20190327_140631_290BC852-966C-4568-89F3-D5C17962C775-469-0000007CD5002D0B.png (note the corn ears on the Macedonian Helmet. You don't see those before Antigonus II Gonatas. But the question raised recently is; Does it denote Gonatas or Doson?)

    Antigonus II Gonatas or III Doson
    229-221 BCE, AE19. 4.08g, 18mm.
    Obv: Helmeted head of Athena right. c/m: prow
    Rev: Pan right, erecting trophy to right; B-A across upper field, monogram of Antigonos between legs. In left field, Macedonian helmet; in right field, wreath.
    Moushmov 7308; SNG Copenhagen 1205-11; SNG Alpha Bank 1017-1019; Furtwängler Group 18.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  11. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    A wonderful post, nice examples and an interesting thread. Triumphalism certainly was a favorite theme for Roman coinage through the centuries.

    Here's my only LRM solidus, of Honorius, Ravenna Mint, 393-423 AD

    4.4 grams

    D-Camera Honorius, AV solidus, Ravenna, 393-423 AD, 4.4 grams  11-20 -20.jpg
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  12. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

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  13. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

  14. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Enrich the soldiers...ignore all others

    Great thread. I have a Constantine with captives on either side of a vexillum on the reverse which is the same as one of the OP coins. I suppose someone could write a very interesting scholarly article on this topic.
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  15. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

    This is one great Post....
    Curtis likes this.
  16. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

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  17. Ricardo123

    Ricardo123 Active Member

    Magnifico collection @Curtis !
    Muchas gracias
    ancient coin hunter and Curtis like this.
  18. Romancollector

    Romancollector Well-Known Member

    Honorius solidus mediolanum.jpg I believe this is my only coin that features a captive on its reverse.
    AV Solidus
    Mediolanum mint
    RIC X 1206a
  19. Curtis

    Curtis Supporter! Supporter

    I love those Honorius captive Solidi, @robinjojo. The detail on that one @Romancollector has to be one of the coolest I can remember seeing. I'd want to read up on it, but I feel that must be a Germanic tribesperson being "spurned," to use the technical term, I think. (I'm going for a budget example first! That's the thing about collecting "wide," you find you can be satisfied with a lot of decent examples and a few nice ones.)

    I didn't know about that Gallic warrior reverse, @Ryro but it's obviously the inspiration for the Hostilius Saserna "Vercingetorix" type some 70 years later (I accept the ID as Vercingetorix, though I respect the debate). Here's mine, followed by the second in the series, Gallia, both c. 48 BC (I love that if you look closely, you can tell it's the same characters, especially on nicer examples of the Caesar denarius, like those beauties posted by @jdmKY -- great Imperatorial trophies collection!! -- & @svessien -- love the one with the male on one knee/Venus facing left!):

    CONSERVATORI-Hostilius Saserna AR Denarius Vercingetorix.png
    CONSERVATORI-Hostilius Saserna AR Denarius Dreadlocked Gallia.png

    I love seeing the variety over time. Wonderful expressive faces on the captives, @bcuda. One from Gallienus' German captives like @Spaniard & others are next on my list.

    Now someone needs to post a Victory dragging bound captive AE4 (it all started with little AR Quinari, ended with little AE Nummi)...
  20. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Here are a couple with captives:

    Aurelian AD 270-275.
    Roman silvered billon Antoninianus, 3.60 gm; 21.7 mm, 6 h.
    Rome mint, officina 9, issue 11, early – September AD 275.
    Obv: IMP AVRELIANVS AVG, radiate, cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: ORIE-N-S AVG, Sol walking r., holding olive branch in r. hand and bow in l. hand, l. foot resting on a captive in oriental dress kneeling on the ground to r., head turned l., r. hand raised; * in left field, XXIR in exergue.
    Refs: RIC 64; MER/RIC temp 1834; RCV 11569; Hunter 23; Cohen 159; La Venera 1321-32.

    Licinius I, AD 308-324.
    Roman billon follis, 3.43 g, 19.1 mm, 11 h.
    Antioch, sixth officina, AD 321-323.
    Obv: IMP C VAL LICIN LICINIVS P F AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: IOVI CONSERVATORI, Jupiter standing left, holding Victory on globe and eagle-tipped scepter, another eagle to feet to left, captive seated on ground to right; X/IIΓ in field, right; SMANTS in exergue.
    Refs: RIC vii, p. 682, 35; Cohen 74; RCV 15225.
  21. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    Scarce Constantine Sol with captive.
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