Damnatio Memoriae

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by hotwheelsearl, Oct 17, 2021.

  1. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member

    I really have to wonder if any defaced coins were done officially as part of a damnatio memoriae. If you're going to go to all the trouble of pulling a given emperor's coins out of circulation to (theoretically) deface them, wouldn't it be simpler/better just to keep them out of circulation ?!

    Even if the state preferred to deliberately keep "damned" emperor's coins in circulation, wouldn't it be quicker/cheaper/better to punch them with some kind of stamp rather than scratch/cut them ?

    Of course the actions of an individual (vs state representative executing a damnatio memoriae) are a different matter, but it's impossible to know anyone's motivation for defacing any given coin, regardless of whether the emperor on it had suffered damnatio or not.
    ominus1 and paschka like this.
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. ominus1

    ominus1 Be seeing you!.. Supporter

    right...one or two scratches does not a damnatio memoriae make...:smug:
  4. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    I am sorry everybody, a failure of a collector, I am
  5. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    We all make mistakes here and there. Most of us who have been here a while have made much worse mistakes in our "collecting careers" than mistaking some damage for a damnatio.
  6. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    I agree that the mere presence of scratches or gouges is not prima facie that the coin was defaced as a damnatio memoriae. The coin I posted could very well have been defaced, assuming that it is not corrosion, for any of a number of reasons.

    I do think that the examples with complete erasure of a portrait or all or part of a legend are the best candidates for this classification.
    DonnaML likes this.
  7. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    The only 100% certain damnatio coins I'm aware of are the provincials of Caracalla (or Septimius) and Geta where Geta is fully scratched off and replaced by a counterstamp (none to share, I made up my mind to finally win one only *after* they doubled in average hammer price).

    Another is more rare, but some coins of Bilbilis have had Sejanus' name deliberately removed - Wikipedia has one, but I've never seen one at auction (the type as a whole is pretty rare anyway).

    Less certain, I saw a denarius of Paulina pop up at a couple auctions where the coin is in good shape, but for whatever reason someone in antiquity decided to remove the entire peacock-apotheosis scene from the reverse. Can't easily find it, but it sold at least twice in the past 18-24 months.

    It's worth noting that aside from the famous cases of Geta or Sejanus, some individuals seem to have undergone a successful Damnatio...

    We know functionally nothing at all about Severina - were it not for the striking resemblance to Aurelian, and her presence on the back of some his coins, we would be unable to determine whose wife she was, as no history mentions her. Perhaps because it is widely believed that she served as the de facto sole empress for several months, and may have refused to step down... after her coins had been in circulation too long to recall effectively?
    Severina antoninianus concordiae militvm.jpg

    Carinus was a legitimate emperor who was deposed by the usurper Diocletian after a lengthy battle for control of his half of the empire. All that remains of his history is Diocletian's smear campaign - that he was a ruthless tyrant, a womanizer, and was justly murdered by an angry officer whom he had cuckolded. No opposing accounts exist, but the scarce issues of his wife Magnia Urbica (who is totally absent from history and previously thought to be the wife of Carus) and their deified and tenderly-depicted young son Nigrinian cast doubt on the claim that he had married 9 women in quick succession in just a year, and thus give us reason to doubt anything we know about him, save that he was the son of Carus and brother to Numerian
    Carinus Fides Militvm.jpg
    Magnia Urbica venus.jpg
    ominus1, Tejas, paschka and 6 others like this.
  8. robinjojo

    robinjojo Supporter! Supporter

    It would have been very helpful for present day collectors if the Roman Senate issued a manual on how to go about creating a damnatio memoriae coin of the subject emperor, something like "Damnatio for Dummies". Such documentation, assuming it survives, would be the definitive reference for collectors.
  9. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Nero. AD 54-68. Æ Sestertius (34mm, 23.94 gm, 1h). Uncertain Balkan mint, possibly Perinthus in Thrace. Struck circa 64 AD. Obv: Laureate head right; Countermarked ΓΑΛΒΑ at Perinthos to deface the tyrant Nero in a form of "damnatio.". This assertion is based on the observation that this writer has seen numerous GALBA countermarks on this type coin and in every single case, the countermark obliterates Nero's face....and not seen elsewhere. Rev: Triumphal arch with wreath hung between pillars surmounted by statuary group of Nero in quadriga, escorted by Victory and Pax and flanked by soldiers; statue of Mars in niche on left side of arch. RIC I –; RPC I, 1758 var.
    Writes a major auction house: "Perinthus has been proposed as a possible mint for this rare issue of aes coinage with Latin legends. The style is quite distinct from the two western issues of Rome and Lugdunum, and there is nothing in common with the Latin issues of Antioch or Corinth. Provenance, when known, is almost always in the northwest Balkan area. In addition, the coins are frequently encountered countermarked with Galban stamps (GAL KAI and GALBA) used to countermark provincial Perinthus issues"
    galba68, ominus1, Orielensis and 10 others like this.
  10. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member

    Is this just referring to coins of Nero being countermarked at Perinthus, or does it include "GALBA" countermarked types from other (earlier) emperors that may have also been circulating ?
    Roman Collector likes this.
  11. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    It refers only to the coins of Nero. I do not know of coins of other emperors countermarked ΓΑΛΒΑ.
    ominus1, paschka and Roman Collector like this.
  12. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    These incidental scratches removed a countermark from this Stratonicaea. What countermark? IDK
    galba68, ominus1, Bing and 3 others like this.
  13. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    Looks like the coin was scratched/gouged from both sides to make the hole? Or maybe the reverse patina separated? I don't know... it's impossible to be sure for most of these. They certainly are interesting.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
    ominus1 likes this.
  14. ominus1

    ominus1 Be seeing you!.. Supporter

    ..yeah, that removal almost certainly looks intentional...
    well, if that's all it takes to make a bad collector, then there are many here amongst you, me included..:)
    galba68 likes this.
  15. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member

    Out of curiosity I searched for "GALBA countermark" on Coin Archives (without paying attention to issuing city), and there are quite a few that come up.

    While it's true that the GALBA stamp on coins of Nero do seem to be on his face (at least from those on CA), Galba also countermarked coins of other circulating emperors/empresses, and stamp placement seems to vary.

    Here's a selection:


    Nero sest GALBA countermark.jpg


    Claudius sest GALBA countermark #2.jpg
    Claudius sest GALBA countermark.jpg

    Divus Augustus

    Divus Augustus sest GALBA countermark.jpg


    Agrippina sest GALBA countermark.jpg

    So the evidence for these GALBA stamps on Nero's face being a result of Damnatio Memoriae seems a bit unclear. Certainly Galba doesn't seem to have singled out coins of Nero for countermarking, nor does any particular care seem to have been taken to avoid facial stamp placement for other emperors.

    It seems the best we can say is that whoever was applying these countermarks seems to have deliberately chosen to place them on the face of Nero (whether per official instruction or not), although that placement doesn't seem to have had any official meaning since we also see stamps applied to the face of others such as Claudius and Agrippina as above.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
  16. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    Very interesting analysis.

    I find that many countermarks (VAR, IMP, AUG, eagle head, etc.) deliberatedly avoid damaging the imperial portraits and I suspect that the mint workers were ordered to apply the stamps in that matter.

    The Galba administration may not have issued such orders, but allowed the mintworkers to apply the stamps in any way they wanted. Perhaps we need to distinguish active damnatio memoriae from a more passive neglect.
    Heliodromus and ominus1 like this.
  17. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    paschka likes this.
  18. paschka

    paschka Well-Known Member

    20170916_165454.jpg 20210527_093955.jpg [ATTACH = полный] 1379732 [/ ATTACH] [ATTACH = полный] 1379734 [/ ATTACH] [ATTACH = полный] 1379732 [/ ATTACH]

    your theory is wrong: the contermark on the faces CESAR was different and the was also

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
    Bing likes this.
  19. dltsrq

    dltsrq Grumpy Old Man

    I agree. Although damnatio memoriae is Latin, it's a modern term first used at the end of the 17th century to describe a certain category of official acts. I would reserve it's use for mutilation sanctioned by the emperor or the Senate and corroborated by contemporary records, defacement of statues, erasement of public inscriptions, etc. Examples would include the removal of Geta's portrait on the first coin below or the erasure of the name of the consul Sejanus, accused of a plot to overthrow Tiberius, on the second.

    10001728.jpg Sejanus_Damnatio_Memoriae.jpg
    I would not dilute the definition by including some of the more subjective candidates discussed above. Not that a coin with what appears to be an intentional gash across the neck of an unpopular emperor isn't interesting, it's just not what I would classify as damnatio memoriae in the strict sense.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
  20. Gam3rBlake

    Gam3rBlake Well-Known Member

    I don’t have any damnatio memoriae coins or I would share :(

    But I think this damnatio memoriae of Commodus is interesting because I never knew he was subjected to it in the first place.


    Damnatio memoriae of 'Commodus' on an inscription in the Museum of Roman History Osterburken. The abbreviation "CO" was later restored with paint.

    I think it’s interesting how much value Romans put into image and memory.

    Epictetus even joked about it. He once took out a sestertius and said:
    "Whose imprint does this sestertius bear? Trajan's? Give it to me. Nero's? Throw it out, it will not pass, it is rotten."

    He was making fun of the fact that some coins were seen to be inferior just due to having an unpopular Emperor on it even though the denarii for example had actual silver intrinsic value that was equal or more than accepted coins. Like a denarius of Nero had more silver (usually) than one of Trajan but Nero’s denarii were seen as unacceptable while Trajan’s were happily accepted by all.

    I imagine that’s why Caligula’s denarii are so rare and expensive. Most of them were melted down because the Roman people hated everything about him so instead of keeping them in circulation they took them in to be re-minted into shiny new Claudius denarii.

    However the denarii of very popular Emperors like Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Trajan, Hadrian etc., are relatively common because the Roman people approved of those Emperors and kept their coins in circulation.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
    DonnaML likes this.
  21. Heliodromus

    Heliodromus Well-Known Member

    Have those erasures been done to the dies (convex on coin), or on the coins themselves (gouges/concave on coin) ? The shadows on the first coin look as if it was done to the coin itself.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page