First Coin arrivals of 2021: Roman Republican Denarii Nos. 43 & 44

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, Jan 4, 2021.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    My interest in the first of these was inspired by the wonderful example in @finny's Top 10 for 2020 thread. The second is one I've wanted for a long time, but it's rather notorious for the prevalence of poor examples. Neither is close to perfect, and the second is quite off-center, but I still like them a lot, and they're plenty good enough for me!

    As usual, my apologies in advance for the lengthy footnotes!

    1. Roman Republic, L. [Lucius] Julius L.f. Caesar, 103 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Mars left wearing helmet with long crest, feather on side, and peaked visor; behind, CAESAR upwards; above, control-mark (retrograde open “P” with two dots, one above and one below) / Rev. Venus Genetrix driving biga of cupids left, holding scepter in right hand and reins with both hands; above reins, control-mark (same as on obverse); beneath cupids to left, lyre; in exergue, L•IVLI•L•F. Crawford 320/1, RSC I Julia 4 (ill.), Sydenham 593, Sear RCV I 198 (ill.), BMCRR 1405-1434 [this control-mark not included; cf. 1430-1431, each with retrograde open “P” with only one dot as control-mark, one with dot above and the other with dot below.] 16 mm., 3.83 g., 9 h.*

    The coin is extremely shiny in hand, and in the dealer's photo, it's a bit hard to distinguish the two cupids. So I'm also adding my own photo, with the shadows adjusted as much as possible. You can actually see the nearer cupid's face -- he appears to be wearing a hood, pretty much like some sort of comic book superhero, except with wings, and except for being a bit plump.

    L. Julius L.f. Caesar (Mars-Venus Genetrix in Biga of Cupids) jpg version.jpg
    COMBINED Lucius Julius L.f. Caesar (Mars-Biga of Cupids).jpg

    *The moneyer, Lucius Julius Caesar, son of Lucius, was Consul in 90 BCE. (Crawford Vol. I p. 325.) Through his daughter Julia, he was Mark Antony’s maternal grandfather. (See Wikipedia; cf. Grueber, BMCRR p. 210 n. 1.) In addition, the moneyer was either the second cousin or the second cousin once removed of Julius Caesar: his grandfather, Sextus Julius Caesar, was either a brother or uncle of Julius Caesar’s grandfather, Gaius Julius Caesar. This was the first Roman coin on which the name CAESAR appeared. (However, in 129 BCE, another relative, named Sextus Julius Caesar, issued a coin [Crawford 258] on which the name CAISAR appeared, i.e., the same name with a different spelling.)

    The reverse type, depicting Venus, “alludes to the descent of the Iuli from Venus by way of Aeneas and Ascanius-Iulus" (Crawford p. 325): Iulus, the legendary ancestor of the Iuli, was the son of Aeneas, who, in turn, was the son of Venus. The figure of Venus on the reverse is identified in RSC and BMCRR (but not in Crawford or Sear) as Venus Genetrix, i.e., Venus in her capacity as goddess of motherhood and as a generative force, specifically as ancestress of the gens Iulia and generally with respect to the Roman people. (Query, however, whether that term was commonly used at the time this coin was issued, as opposed to more than 50 years later after Julius Caesar’s dedication of the temple of Venus Genetrix in 46 BCE and the sculpting of a cult statue to her. The concept was also poeticized by Lucretius, long after the issuance of this coin. See

    According to Crawford, the lyre “is presumably explained by the links of the Iuli with Apollo.” (Id.) Similarly, according to Grueber, “the head of Mars on the obverse may point to past military successes gained by members of the family as well as to the mythical connection between that divinity and Venus.” (BMCRR p. 210 n. 1.)

    Crawford also explains at p. 325 that the control-marks are the letters of the Latin alphabet as far as S, either normally disposed or retrograde, alone or accompanied by one or two dots above, below, to the sides, and/or within the letters. The control marks are “invariably” the same on the obverse and reverse, and “[n]o pair of control-marks has more than one pair of dies.” In total, there are 92 obverse and 93 reverse dies. The two examples in the Schaefer Roman Republican die project of Crawford 320 with a retrograde open “P” with two dots, one above and one below -- and it took me a while to realize that the control-marks on mine were supposed to be reversed P's -- do appear to be die matches with this coin. They're at p. 11 of the Crawford 320 die clippings.

    RRDP Cr. 320 p. 11, L. Julius L.f. Caesar. retrogade P w. 2 dots (above & below) example 1.jpg
    RRDP Cr. 320 p. 11, L. Julius L.f. Caesar. retrogade P w. 2 dots (above & below) example 2.jpg

    2. Roman Republic, T. Carisius, AR Denarius, 46 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Head of Sibyl right, her hair elaborately decorated with jewels and enclosed in a sling, tied with bands / Rev. Human-headed Sphinx seated right with open wings, T•CARISIVS above,; in exergue, III•VIR. Crawford 464/1, RSC I Carisia 11 (ill.), Sear RCV I 446 (ill.), Sydenham 983a, BMCRR 4061. 19 mm., 3.87 g.*

    T. Carisius sphinx jpg version.jpg

    *The Sibyl on the obverse is described simply as “Sibyl” in Crawford, “Sibyl Herophile” in Sear, and “Aphrodisian Sibyl” (i.e., Sibyl relating to Aphrodite/Venus) in RSC and BMCRR. The Sibyl Herophile was the name of a Sibyl at Erythae in Ionia opposite Chios, also associated with Samos. Crawford notes at p. 476 that the combination of a Sibyl on the obverse and a sphinx on the reverse “recall
    those of Gergis in the Troad [citing BMC Troas, pp. xxx and 55], perhaps allud[ing] to Caesar’s Trojan origin,” the moneyer being a supporter of Caesar. See the examples of these coins of Gergis at and . On each such coin, the Sibyl is characterized as “Sibyl Herophile.” Characterizing her as the “Aphrodisian” Sibyl would relate to the gens Julia’s legendary descent from Venus.

    The “IIIVIR” in the exergue on the reverse refers to the moneyer’s position at the mint. See, defining the term as a “Latin abbreviation: Triumvir. On coins of the Roman Republic IIIVIR is used as a shortened abbreviation for IIIVIR AAAFF, which abbreviates ‘III viri aere argento auro flando feiundo’ or ‘Three men for the casting and striking of bronze, silver and gold,’ a moneyer or mint magistrate.”

    I should also note that the Sphinx on my coin is clearly wearing dark sunglasses!
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
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  3. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I have to add: please post your own sphinxes and cupids and anything else you think is appropriate.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
  4. furryfrog02

    furryfrog02 Well-Known Member

    Great start to the year!
    DonnaML likes this.
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Nice coins to start the year! Here are my poor mans examples:

    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: CAESAR Head of Mars left in crested helmet
    REVERSE: Venus Genettris with scepter, in biga drawn by two Cupids left, lyre in field, contolmark above, L IVLI L F in ex.
    Struck at Rome, 103BC
    3.85g, 17mm
    Cr320/1, Syd 593a.

    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Head of the Aphrodisian Sibyl right, back hair in sling
    REVERSE: T. CARISIVS above sphinx sitting right; III.VIR below
    Rome 46 BC
    19mm, 3.49 g
    Cr464/1; Syd 983a; Carisia 11
    ex. Doug Smith Collection
  6. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member


    Ex NAC 120, Triton XVI & Knobloch.

    I've nothing to add to Donna's excellent write-up, but I do want to lure @TIF to this thread. She'll know why when she gets here.

    Phil Davis
  7. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Splendid new additions! I LOVE your RRs:woot::wideyed:
    My slightly sad little chubby falling cupids:
  8. Clavdivs

    Clavdivs Supporter! Supporter

    That is a great coin.... but that cupid....:)
  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I think they're cute! In a Pillsbury Doughboy kind of way.
    rrdenarius and Ryro like this.
  10. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    That's a really beautiful example. Wow.

    I don't expect you to answer, but I'm going to guess that @TIF must have done one of those wonderful animations of hers for one of these coins. If I'm right, I very much look forward to seeing it!
    Volodya and TIF like this.
  11. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    I really like both of these types. Your Carisius sphinx is particularly nice. And, yes, @TIF really has to drop in on this thread. :D

    RR - L Julius Caesar.jpg
    ROMAN REPUBLIC. L. Julius Caesar
    AR Denarius. 3.91g, 16.8mm. Rome mint, 103 BC. Crawford 320/1; Sydenham 593. O: Helmeted head of Mars left; above visor, Q and pellet, and behind, CAESAR. R: Venus in biga of Cupids left; Q and pellet above, lyre below, L•IVLI•L•F in exergue.

    RR - T Carisius Sphinx Mikey Zee.jpg ROMAN REPUBLIC. T. Carisius
    AR Denarius. 3.93g, 18mm. Rome mint, 46 BC. T. Carisius, moneyer. Crawford 464/1; Sydenham 983. O: Female head (Sibyl Herophile or Sphinx) right, hair elaborately decorated with jewels and enclosed in a sling and tied with bands. R: T•CARISIVS, Sphinx seated right; III•VIR in exergue.
    Ex "Mikey Zee" Collection; ex Agora Auctions 31 (28 April 2015), lot 129; ex PBJI Ancient Coins and Antiquities; ex HD Rauch Mail Bid 11 (19 Sep 2006), lot 522
  12. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Donna, The Sibyl / Sphinx denarius is one of my favorites from the Republican denarii series :happy:. My Alexandrian drachm with Sphinx will be auctioned off tomorrow at CNG 438 :(.

    The Morris (Philip Peck) Collection.jpg
  13. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Congrats Donna, great start for 2021

    little cupid on Venus her shoulder:

    P1160694 (2).JPG
  14. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Donna, those are two fantastic coins. I'd like to get a T. Carisius human-headed sphinx someday. Your cupid biga is wonderfully struck.

    I love these cupid bigas. Some time ago I proved they were mere fancy rather than fact via this study of cupid aerodynamics. Their wingspan is inadequate to support flight. The biga designer clearly didn't understand the function of wheels either.



    Roman Republic
    moneyer L. Julius L. f. Caesar, 103 BC

    AR denarius, 17mm, 3.9 gm
    Obv: Helmeted head of Mars left; CAESAR; ・C (retrograde)
    Rev: Venus Genetrix in chariot left, drawn by two Cupids; lyre to left; ・C (retrograde) above
    Ref: Crawford 320/1
    ex RBW Collection
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin; it actually looks more like a gryphon to me. And why is it playing with a wheel?
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2021
  16. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    A beautiful coin and I love the animation!
    TIF likes this.
  17. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter


    The opening says it all...more

    Curtisimo and DonnaML like this.
  18. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Fascinating. But this seems to treat the L. Julius Caesar who was consul in 90 BCE as the same person of that name who was consul about 25 years later in 64 BCE. In fact, they were father and son. One was Marc Antony's grandfather (the moneyer of my coin); the other was Antony's uncle. So I am confused, and will have to read it again. Which one is the excerpt actually talking about? If the latter, then he was not the moneyer of my coin.
  19. Alegandron

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

    Gorgeous start to the new year, @DonnaML ! Great Denarii... I want them both.

    Cupid Above:

    RR L and C Memmius L F Galeria 87 BCE AR Denarius Saturn harpa EX S C Venus Biga Cupid Sear 262 Craw 349-1 Left


    Iberia Castulo Late 2nd C BC AE As 25mm Bust Nose Hand Sphinx
    Multatuli, singig, Deacon Ray and 8 others like this.
  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Just out of curiosity, is there a particular source for the idea that the obverse of the T. Carisius denarius might represent the head of the Sphinx herself rather than a Sibyl? If that were the case, it would seem rather odd to me that the Sphinx would be portrayed on the obverse with such an elaborate, jeweled hairstyle, but be portrayed on the reverse wearing some sort of cap with no hair showing at all, as is evident from my coin and a number of others posted in this thread.
  21. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    uhm? Mattingley is the coin expert on that.The Aesillas coinage is fascinating and a huge die study was conducted by Bauslaugh in 2000. He wrote a bit about the various Romans associated with this coinage. I don't know anything else. De Callatay did an earlier study in the 1990's. One Caesar is enough for me!
    panzerman likes this.
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