Commagene? Syria? Rome?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Last year I acquired a Vespasian dupondius from a fascinating issue that ended up on my year end Top Ten List. I am happy to report that recently I was able to add an As from that very same issue.

    V1565.jpg Vespasian
    Æ As, 6.57g
    Rome mint, 74 AD
    RIC 1565 (C2). BMC 894. RPC 1984 (20 spec.).
    Obv: IMP CAESAR VESP AVG; Head of Vespasian, laureate, l.
    Rev: S • C in laurel wreath
    Acquired from Ephesus Numismatics, January 2019.

    In 74 AD the Rome mint produced an extraordinary issue of bronze coinage of dupondii, asses, semisses, and quadrantes with a somewhat Eastern theme. Previously, these coins had been attributed to either Commagene (BMCRE) or Syria (RPC, and doubtfully so in RIC), but more recent scholarship has shown they actually were struck in Rome. The circulation pattern confirms this - out of a total of 112 of the smaller denominations cited by RPC, all but 4 were found in Western Europe. Ted Buttrey confirms 'The Eastern finds appear to be simply the débris of Mediterranean circulation.' But why was this series produced in such a fashion? Buttrey proffers a plausible theory - 'There is nothing like this series in the whole of Roman imperial coinage. It is a deliberate act of Orientalism, imposing the flavour of the East on a Western coinage. The key to its understanding is the reverse type of the dupondius, two crossed cornuacopiae with a winged caduceus between. It replicates the type of an obscure issue of the Galilean city of Sepphoris, an issue which had been, astonishingly, signed by Vespasian himself (ΕΠΙ ΟΥΕCΠΑCΙΑΝΟΥ, “on the authority of…”) when on duty there in the last days of Nero. The dupondius-sized bronze was accompanied by a half-unit with the type of a large, central S C – again signed by Vespasian, and now imitated on the As of the orichalcum series with the wreath of the As of Antioch (RPC I 4849-50). The whole of this series memorializes not Vespasian the conquering general (IVDAEA CAPTA, VICTORIA AVGVSTI), but the man. His re-use of earlier coin types is well-known; here he re-uses his own, harking back to his career just prior to his final success in seizing the empire. And the series was struck in 74 A.D., co-terminous with the celebration of Vespasian’s first quinquennium.' So, in essence, a very personally important issue for Vespasian.

    This As is a fine example of the smaller denomination, nicely centred with a beautiful emerald green patina.

    NB: Although catalogued as an As in RIC, its size and weight is much smaller than those of Asses struck contemporaneously at Rome.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    David, Your coin is strikingly similar to a coin illustrated by Richard McAlee in his book The Coins of Roman Antioch, page 171, illustration 370. His coin is 22 mm & weighs 7.39 gm.
  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Roughly the same size and weight as mine at 21mm, 6.57g.
  5. Justin Lee

    Justin Lee I learn by doing Supporter

    I love it, David, and your other larger one linked! Great pick up and great post! I've had my eye out for similar coins--those thought to have been "minted in Rome for use in Syria". Congrats!
    David Atherton likes this.
  6. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    What I really like about this coin is that it proves how much a coin costs is not in direct relation to how interesting it is. This As probably will be my cheapest coin of the year, but gosh, I love the back story behind it.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
  7. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Nice catch David!
    David Atherton likes this.
  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Tribunicia Potestas

    Excellent coin! And a great story, too.
    David Atherton likes this.
  9. Jay GT4

    Jay GT4 Well-Known Member

    Nice one David, I love the green patina. Here's mine from the series


    RIC 757 Vespasian Dupondius

    Laureate head of Vespasian right

    winged caduceus between two cornucopiae


    74 AD
    Minted in Rome for the Syrian monetary circulation.

    RIC II 757 (C2); RIC II 759; RPC 1983
  10. dadams

    dadams Supporter! Supporter

    I like the as posted but, wow!, that dupondius is a stunner! Nice score and appreciate the history lesson. I wonder how much of the coinage emperors had a personal hand in as far as design &ct.
    David Atherton likes this.
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