Featured Dating Proserpina - Crawford 405/4b

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Dec 30, 2020.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Some of the most used reference books for ancient coins are not new. This was highlighted in a recent thread on CT by @dougsmit for Severans in BMCRE and by @Orfew for Flavians in Sear. For Roman republican coins, RRC was published by Crawford in 1974 – and the many reprints since then do not add new information. Although Crawford RRC is an amazing resource, the discovery of new information didn't end in 1974.

    In some cases, the evidence used to assign dates, and connect people can be very thin. This is not generally an issue if you are interested in the coins of Julius Caesar, but is a problem if you are interested in the coins of M. Plaetorius Cestianus. My latest Roman republican coin requires a bit of a deep dive, it is a coin that I am glad to have in any condition. For now I will leave the date off of the attribution. Searching ACSearch you can see some interesting inconsistency in the way this coin and other coins from M. Plaetorius are dated by auction houses. M Plaetorius Cestianus 1.jpg
    M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus, AR denarius
    Obv: Female bust (Proserpina) right, draped; quiver behind
    Rev: Jug (oinochoe) and torch, on right, M PLAETORI downwards, on left, CEST EX S C downwards
    Ref: Crawford 405/4b
    Note: EX S.C. = ex senatus consulto, Crawford's hypotheses is that these coins were issues by the senate outside of the annual planning process.

    Prosopographical Evidence
    Crawford assigned this coin to 69 BC, however the evidence was thin e.g. @Andrew McCabe notes on his website: “50 or so coin issues are represented by 400 coins thinly spread over a dozen hoards, less than one of each coin per hoard”. Crawford comments on p.83 of RRC about the difficulty ordering coins (71 BC to 49 BC) Crawford Nos. 401 and 403-440:

    "This is perhaps the most difficult period of the Republican coinage to arrange satisfactorily, at any rate if a precise arrangement is attempted; the hoard evidence helps only with part of it and the whole period is one of great stylistic diversity. I propose to use the hoard evidence to establish an outline arrangement and then with the help of stylistic and prosopographical arguments to attempt somewhat greater precision”

    The evidence that Crawford relies on is “prosopographical” – a word I don’t use often in polite company. Google “prosopography” and you get the “Oxford Languages” definition: “a description of a person's social and family connections, career, etc., or a collection of such descriptions”. Two sources that Crawford references are MRRP by T.R.S. Broughton, and New Men by T.P. Wiseman. Here’s what Broughton has to say about M. Plaetorius:
    And here’s the family tree proposed by Wiseman in “New Men in the Roman Senate”, for this family from Tusculum. Note: the image has been digitally edited and no books were harmed in the making of this image: upload_2020-12-29_20-52-44.png

    Die Matches
    This is not an easy coin to get hold of in any form with only 23 obverse dies reported in Crawford for all 3a-4c variants and because it is a particularly beautiful coin from the Roman republic. The obverse dies are shared across a variety of reverses in this series e.g. this one from the British Museum which appears to be the same die as mine with quiver control mark (image used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license). Within each of the types no control mark has more than one die (there may be multiple dies for some control marks looking across all coins in this issue).
    this coin also at the British Museum shares both dies with my coin (image used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license) :

    References to Cicero
    Crawford in Roman Republican coinage sometimes takes a bit of digging to decode or understand his notes and citations. He highlights several references to the moneyer M. Plaetorius:
    • The "defective text" for Pro Fonteio by Cicero which he describes as not evidence for M. Plaetorius having held the office of quaestorship after being the triumvir monetalis.
    • Cicero's Letters to Atticus. v, 20, 8 about the later life of moneyer, Praetorius. While I do not have the specific notes from Shackleton Bailey, he points to a sentence in Ciciero: "That Seius got scorched in Plaetorius's fire does not grieve me much" which refers to M. Plaetorius Cestianus being condemned for extortion with M. Seius (aedile 75 BC) involved.
    Regarding this specific coin, Crawford references "Roschen 1369 fig. 16", which didn't at first glance make obvious the link between the jug and torch on the reverse of this coin and Proserpina (aka Persephone) on the obverse clear. Having found the reference - it is more understandable:
    and the vase that it references is in the British museum collection (image used under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license):
    Persephone Roscher 1369.jpg
    Left to right: Demeter, Triptolemos, Persephone, Eleusis (personified location)

    "On the right Persephone stands with torch in left and holding out a fluted oinochoe in right as if to pour into the phiale of Triptolemos: she wears a long chiton with studded sleeves, a bordered mantle, earrings, necklace of beads, and hair fastened in crobylos with a radiated stephane decorated with tendril pattern. On the left her name, ΦΕPΟΦΑΤΤΑ, Φερόφαττα."
    -British Museum Collection

    The myth that links the four characters: Demeter mourned for her missing daughter Persephone, who was taken to the underworld by Hades. Demeter was received hospitably by Triptolemus, Eleusian prince (hence Eleusis personified). When Persephone returned, Demeter in gratitude taught agriculture to Triptolemus and gave him a chariot pulled by serpents/dragons to share her gift with the world.[*] Which I suppose is a good reason to bring up this coin from a few years earlier with Ceres (Demeter) in a snake/dragon biga.
    M Volteius Snake biga.jpg
    M. Volteius M.f., 75 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint
    Obv: Head of Bacchus (or Liber) right, wearing ivy wreath
    Rev: Ceres, standing in chariot, holding lighted torches, driving biga of snakes right; pileus to left
    Ref: Crawford 385/3; Sydenham 776; Volteia 3

    “New” Hoard evidence
    In 1984, Charles Hersh and Alan Walker published information on the Mesagne hoard which was found in Calabria ~1980. The information on this hoard can now be found online at CHRR Online (Coin Hoards of the Roman Republic Online). Containing 5861 denarii (861 serratus), the date that this hoard was buried is 58 BC based on the coins that it contains and dates defined by Crawford.

    One of the surprises from this new evidence: two common issues are missing: the Ex S.C. coins of M. Plaetorius Cestianus (C. 405 dated to 69 BC), and those of Q. Pomponius Musa (C. 410 dated to 66 BC).

    Hersh and Walker propose a new ordering of coins for this period base on the Mesagne hoard. While the shift is greatest for these two issues (Plaetorius and Musa) there are 53 moneyers listing with Hersh-Walker dates in the article many of whom shift dates a bit based on this new evidence.

    In the title for this section, I put "New" in quotes - as this is >35 years ago - not a time period that I would usually apply "new" to describe. What I find most surprising is that this new evidence is not used more consistently today. RRC online seems to ignore the new dates and lists 69 BC as the date for this coin, and auction houses are mixed with some using 69 BC, some 57 BC and others listing both.

    The evidence of Masagne, also suggests that this coin from M. Plaetorius might not be the same M. Plaetorius. There are more than 100 recent coins of type 409/1 labeled by auction houses as 57 BC - this would contradict both Crawford and Hersh Walker - is there some other evidence that I am not aware of?
    M Plaetorius Caestianus.jpg
    M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus, 67 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint
    Obv: CESTIANVS - S.C, bust of female deity to right, draped and wearing the helmet of Minerva, the laurel wreath of Apollo, the crown of Isis, the wings of Victory and with the bow and quiver of Diana on her back and with a cornucopia before
    Rev: M PLAET-ORIVS M F - AED - CVR, eagle standing right on thunderbolt, head left, wings spread
    Ref: Crawford 409/1; Sydenham 809; Plaetoria 4

    Mattingly describes this implication of the Mesagne hoard in a 1995 article. He suggests that there were two contemporary M. Plaetorii the aedile and the moneyer were perhaps father and son and that L.Plaetorius Cestianus, who minted with Brutus, may have been the brother of the younger M. Plaetorius Cestianus. A Plaetorius Cestianus died with Pompeian leaders in Africa in 46 (in Mattingly's view this was a good candidate for the moneyer of the Proserpina coin of 57 BC).

    As always, comments, references and corrections are appreciated. Post your coins of M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus, coins you are glad to have in any condition or anything else that you find interesting or entertaining.

    Key References (others linked in context above):
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
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  3. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    Thanks for this thorough and well-informed presentation of these attractive types! Some examples from my collection:

    Crawford 405/3a

    Phil (78).JPG
    Crawford 405/3b

    Phil (80).JPG
    Crawford 405/4b

    Phil Davis
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  4. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    I would not recommend dating Proserpina. If her jealous husband finds out, you’ll have hell to pay. My two cents.
  5. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    @Sulla80 Thanks so much for the detailed information concerning your coin. I love write-ups such as this.
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  6. Alegandron

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

    I am enjoying this, @Sulla80 ... very interesting. Although, I knew I did not have the Proserpina issue, I remembered that I had this Moneyer. However, VERY interesting if it is the same Moneyer or the Aedile...

    RR Plaetorius Cest 67 BC AR Den Helmtd Vacuna Sabine goddess quiv cornuc S-C Eagle tbolt S 349 Cr 409-1 VF

    RR Plaetorius Cest 67 BC AR Den Helmeted Vacuna Sabine goddess quivr cornu S-C Eagle tbolt S 349 Cr 409-1
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  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Very informative post.

    I have two Plaetoria, which I attributed to 67 B.C. probably from Crawford.

    RR - Plaetoria - Eagle denarius (0).jpg

    Roman Republic Denarius
    M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus
    (67 B.C.)

    CESTIANVS S•C, Vacuna bust right, quiver & bow on shoulder / M PLAETORIVS M F AED CVR Eagle on thunderbolt, head left.
    Crawford 409/1; Syd. 809; RSC Plaetoria 4.
    (3.71 grams / 19 mm)

    RR - Plaetoria Curule Chair denarius (0).jpg

    Republic Denarius
    M. Plaetorius M.f. Cestianus
    (67 B.C.)

    CESTIANVS turreted Cybele forepart of lion, globe beneath / M•PLAETORIVS•AED
    •CVR•EX•S•C curule chair, poppy head with one leaf
    Crawford 409/2; Syd 808; Plaetoria 3.
    (3.82 grams / 18 mm)
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  8. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  9. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    Thanks for this penetrating presentation of the evidence!

    Aren't you making a mistake, however, in saying that 100 auction houses date Crawford 409 to 57 BC, contradicting both Crawford and H/W?

    According to my RCC, Crawford's date is 67 BC, and Hersh/Walker propose the same date, according to the record of their results that I wrote in to my copy of RRC.

    But I see you are right: 57 BC for this issue in many catalogues. Heritage in one catalogue writes "57 or 67 BC". Presumably somebody has proposed 57, though the preference of so many catalogues for that date is very surprising.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
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  10. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks @Bing, @Alegandron, @Marsyas Mike and @Volodya for the nice additions to thread - I guess I need some new words to describe the coins of @Volodya - as usual in a league of their own. I might be satisfied just collecting photographs of these coins :)
    Thanks @curtislclay, your date is right, and OP not a mistake (however, 100 coins - not 100 auction houses) - if you search ACSearch for "plaetorius eagle 57" you find >100 coins dated 57 BC that should be dated 67 BC to align with both Crawford and Hersh-Walker date of 67 BC. My assumption is this is from some bad cut & paste around the dates for M. Plaetorius coins.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
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  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Interestingly, Michael Harlan, in the volume of Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins 81 BCE-64 BCE (2012) dated all these coins as issued in 68/67 BCE. (See Ch. 30 at pp. 167-168.)

    However, in the second edition of his book Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins 63 BCE-49 BCE (2nd ed, 2015), he explains why he changed his view and now dates the "non-AED CVR" coins as issued in 57 BCE, while leaving the "AED CVR" coins at 67 BCE. (See Ch.14 at p. 112.)

    Harlan RRM II re dating of M. Plaetorius Cestianus.jpg
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
  12. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    So Crawford 409 would remain at 67, whereas Crawford 405/1-5 would be dated 57 under this theory.
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  13. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the clarification! I was thinking that the date 57 might be due to Harlan, but wasn't able to find our copy of his second study in order to check.
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  14. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    The 57 call for Crawford 405/1-5 comes from the Hersh-Walker paper on Mesagne, buried in 58 BC and lacking the 405 coins.
    And the AED-CUR date of 67 BC also comes from this 1984 paper where
    Harlan in 2012? eventually came around to the hoard evidence .
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
  15. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    M. Plaetorius Cestianus. 67 BC. AR Denarius (3.69 gm, 5h,
    18mm). Rome mint. Obv: CESTIANVS behind, S. C. before, draped bust of Vacuna right, hair falling in ringlets, wearing crested helmet, encircled with wreath of laurel, corn, poppy, and lotus; bow and quiver on shoulder, cornucopiae below chin. Rev: M. PLAET-ORIVS M F AED. CVR counter-clockwise around, eagle standing right on thunderbolt with wings spread, head left; all within bead and reed border. Crawford 409/1; Syd. 809; Kestner 3366-3367; BMCRR Rome 3596-3601; Plaetoria 4.
  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    2015. See the page I attached.
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  17. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks @DonnaML, 2012 and 2015 both well after a lot of compelling evidence available. Here are a couple other relevant references for those interested:

    Hollstein, W (1993), “Die stadtrömische Münzprägung der Jahre 78-50 v. Chr. zwischen politischer Aktualität und Familienthematik. Kommentar und Bibliographie.”, München 1993.

    Crawford, M. (1990). The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 150, 268-269.

    Also interested to read Andrew Burnett's article in Survey of Numismatic Research 1979-1984 London(1986) p.34-36
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
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  18. Blake Davis

    Blake Davis Well-Known Member

    A write-up worthy of a Celator front page article! Thanks!
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  19. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    Is there nothing more interesting in numismatics than interpreting coin hoards.
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  20. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks, and glad you enjoyed it.

    as a collector - I would say sifting through the coins from a recent hoard sounds more fun. That said, it is interesting to see the various types of evidence that help us understand the history of these coins and differentiate observable fact from working hypothesis.:)
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2021
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