Domna denarius minted in Antioch? What happened to the Laodicea theory?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    In the course of looking up a coin in the British Museum collection, I noticed the museum gives as "production place" the following: "Minted in: Antiochia ad Orontem (formerly attributed to Laodicea ad Mare)." On what basis has this change in paradigm been made? What new evidence has come to light to identify Antioch as the mint? @dougsmit ?

    Anyway, here's the coin. I'd love to hear your comments or see your "Laodicea mint" coins of the Severan dynasty or anything you deem relevant.

    Domna LAETITIA standing denarius Laodicaea.jpg
    Julia Domna, AD 193-217.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.44 g, 18.6 mm, 11 h.
    Antioch? Laodicea? AD 196-202 (or later).
    Obv: IVLIA AVGVSTA, bare-headed and draped bust, right.
    Rev: LAETITIA, Laetitia standing left, holding wreath and rudder.
    Refs: RIC 641; BMCRE 604-610; Cohen/RSC 101; RCV 6590; CRE 364.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
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  3. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    I am not sure on what basis that they have made this re-attribution but they have applied the same change of location to the IMP II, early IMP VIII, late IMP VIII and later issues all previously given to Laodicea. I am not aware of any published work in this area.
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  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    The mint city attributions for Septimius were always just guesses. I believe most of the reasoning was based on the theory that Antioch was punished for being loyal to Pescennius Niger in the civil war and they had to find other cities where Septimius would have assigned mints to supply coins while Antioch was out of favor. I don't know what they are thinking now and whether they have any reason better than it is fashionable to throw out old guesses and replace them with new.

    Sometimes we get clues from style comparison with Provincial coins. This AE26 is Laodicea.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's a lovely coin, @dougsmit , and you are absolutely correct when you state, "most of the reasoning was based on the theory that Antioch was punished for being loyal to Pescennius Niger in the civil war and they had to find other cities where Septimius would have assigned mints to supply coins while Antioch was out of favor." That theory apparently goes back to Mattingly. I learned of this when I queried the curator of the coin cabinet at the British Museum, Richard Abdy, about this issue in an email yesterday. I woke this morning to his kind and very informative reply:

    Dear RC:

    Thank you for your email. Off the top of my head I suspect it was a figment of Harold Mattingly’s imagination (I hope I’m not taking his name in vain – could be one of his contemporaries in the early to mid-century, e.g. maybe Mattingly mooted the ideas and R. A. G. Carson ran with them – I think Carson was the one that confidently proclaimed denarius minting returned to Rome from Lyon under Caligula when modern metallurgy now shows the move was part of Nero’s mint reforms of AD 64). The three largest mint centres of silver coinage in the east were Cappadocia in Caesarea, Antioch and Alexandria. Alex is very easy to recognise when they produce Roman format denarii as their style is so distinct (they have protuberant eyes like the Garfield cartoon characters!). The bilingual pieces of Pescennius Niger link Latin-legend obverses of the style Mattingly described under the Severans as ‘Emesa’ with their Greek legend reverses (some with the typical design of their holy mountain Argeus amongst others). As for the bulk of Niger’s denarii – that was agreed as Antioch (his capital).

    So the denarius mints in the East at the dawn of the Severan period seem quite straightforward now. See:

    The problem comes with the Mattingly / Carson mentality to weave coins into history more than the evidence can support it. Thus the Niger-supporting cites (such as Antioch) as we all know were subsequently disgraced and degraded in status – so surely the mints must have been transferred to the new political capitals? Well there isn’t any corroborating evidence so it seems silly to build ‘facts’ on such supposition. It’s a good lesson to learn not to get creative with the evidence – no matter how tempting! (Thus nowadays one might say ‘minted in Syria’ to be on the safe side.) A good place to confirm my unreliable memory is Kevin Butcher’s book: Coinage in Roman Syria.

    Kind regards,

    Richard Abdy

    Duty Curator, 3.10.18,

    British Museum,


    See the British Museum collections online

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  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    What a wonderfully detailed reply!

    I am sometimes guilty of this. :sorry:
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  7. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

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  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I see nothing straightforward about any of this. The people that see Mattingly as a dreamer put forth their own dream that (1) Antioch was definitely the mint city before, (2) that it was not moved and (3) that there has to be an answer suitable for writing a thesis since no one publishes works entitled "things I assume with scanty evidence". With no concrete evidence either way, nothing is proven. We have decent evidence for the mints at Alexandria and Caesarea. The others could have been wherever the power placed them including a travelling mint staff that worked out of a tent or used furnaces in a dozen one horse shops along the way. OK, Antioch was the biggest city in the region. Rome was the capital of the Empire in the First Century. Where were the denarii struck then?

    Do all the 'Emesa' coins show relation in fabric and metal that proves they were one and not several operation(s)? Are the IMP dated coins distinct from the COS dated coins to the point that they must have been produced in different places (one each or several???). I see our use of "Emesa" as rather like "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince". Perhaps bits of data will accumulate over time and allow a better guess than either Mattingly or his more recent detractors. Meanwhile, I would love to have a better feeling about how many mints were included in the ones we now call 'Syrian'. That question itself assumes that the concept of a travelling 'court' mint is ridiculous. I don't know. That is OK with me. The problem comes when those who don't know feel obligated to present their 'best guess' as dogmatic fact. The study material to shed light on this exists but I am unaware of anyone with proper access/credentials making a serious study. Of course, there would be no reason such a person would tell me about it if they were. I'd be happy to give up 'Emesa' for 'Syrian' but some one would have to point out (correctly) that Syrian Antioch (ad Orontes) is now in Turkey. Must we say "The Mint Formerly Known as Emesa"?
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  9. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    Are all coins with COS II from the same mint? There is a sub-series of COS II that seems to stylistically align more with the IMP II issue. This could lead to many alternative scenarios. We simply don't have the evidence in the coins to know.....yet. Are the IMP II and old IMP VIII from the same mint? Are old IMP VIII and new IMP VIII from the same mint?
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    I suspect we could write a book on the matter and us a question mark at the end of every sentence. Ancient coins in general hardly seems a good hobby for anyone who wants concrete answers about everything. Some of the backwaters of the hobby like our little specialty seems really bad in this respect.
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  11. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    I'm quite happy to have lots of questions. It leads me to hope that some day we might find (or propose) some answers through studying the coins.
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  12. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Wow, sounds like a fairly comprehensive rewrite of the whole mint, rather than a matter of the first couple of years of issue. Interesting, at least.
  13. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    This is Just Great! I went from collecting cheap Roman as a kid to being deeply stuck in Medieval, for the most part. But it's equally bracing and fun to see Roman numismatists "going into the weeds" like this, in a way reminiscent of what can happen with, for instance, French feudal. Sounds like with Romans, no less than medieval, it's still very much a narrative in progress. Even when it amounts to "two steps forward, one step back."
    And Yes, especially given all that --and at acute risk of stating the obvious-- your (and Abdy's) insistence on methodological integrity is as admirable as it is necessary.
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  14. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Teacher, I Raise My Hand.
  15. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

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  16. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Dang, where you are methodologically is truly amazing. Which is the most intelligent reply you're likely to get from here.
  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    I'm not quite a novice anymore -- I've been actively collecting and reading about ancient coins for the last three years or so, and participating here since January -- but it's overwhelming for me as well! I've never posted on Forvm, although I do read the threads occasionally. I find it way too intimidating. There seems to be very little room between the "is this coin fake?"/"should this seller be added to the fake seller list?" questions on the one hand, and the extremely erudite discussions of abstruse numismatic issues on the other hand, for the sort of casual, "fun" discussions we have here all the time. For example, I don't see on Forvm anything like the many threads here in which people simply post photos of their ancient coins of a particular kind, often coins they've just purchased, and ask questions designed to provoke discussion, and/or ask others to post their similar examples.
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  18. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    To everything you said, it's like, 'Teacher, I raise my hand.' But what I can't not like about this forum, especially for ancients, is the balance between the two sides of the operant spectrum. ...Guess that was where you were going in the first place. But it's Great!
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  19. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    For the record: I still believe that the situation included at least one travelling mint (either with Septimius or his army when they were moving without him) that used a mix of travelling staff and local talent as seemed necessary any given day. This staff quite possibly included people who had once works for a mint of Pescennius Niger but that does not mean that they worked in the same city used by PN or any fixed place.

    I see no reason to believe that all coins of a certain reading (especially COSI) were struck in the same place in the same short period of time. Some COSI coins are obviously bad readings of other numbers but there are several dies that are pretty well documented as having COSI correctly read. That does not mean that the coins were struck in 193 or that the die engraver had a 'handle' on the Roman system of numbering appellations.

    Metal was quite likely obtained wherever possible and recycled either by melting or overstriking old coins. This would make it very hard to track trends in trace elements. I have no good confidence in where to draw a line between official branch mints, mints of short term necessity and unofficial mints. There are more variant style coins than there are plated which suggests to me greed was not responsible for all the 'strange' coins but I see no pattern that allows an easy answer.

    Is there any evidence from any period how a Consulship assumed early would be numbered? If Pescennius assumed COS II in Summer/Fall 193 (his first being years before all this), am I wrong to expect his to use COSIII if he remained Consul after January 194? Since we have no COSIII coins, do we assume he had appointed alternate Consuls from his supporters to serve in 194? Who, if anyone, was his co-consul in his COSII period? The more I study this, the less I 'know'.
    I stand by this usage as less problematic than the other options for mint naming.

    To add a coin to these words I have a few coins that strike me as somewhere short of normal but I am unwilling to write off as barbarous. I propose no answer.
    rg2140bb1660.jpg re3300fd1294.jpg
  20. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Hi Doug,
    This is brilliant. Not because I said so. The sheer profusion of empirical criteria that you summon --informed by documentary evidence, but ultimately in a subordinate role-- is the best methodological antidote to the problem you no less cogently identified.
  21. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    The consulship was assumed for a calendar year or, under the empire, often for just part of a year. So if Niger indeed assumed his second consulship in the course of 193, he wouldn't automatically have become COS III on 1 Jan. 194, but would have had to be elected / selected again to fill that office in the new year.

    Niger would presumably have been consul alone in 193; I don't think we hear of any colleague for Nero in 68, and Pompey was certainly sole consul in 52 BC. Niger, postulating that he became COS II in the course of 193, would probably have had two of his supporters serve as consuls in Syria from 1 Jan. 194 on, but I don't believe we know who they were. Presumably Septimius would have had them put to death after defeating Niger at Issus later in 194.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
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