Featured From Roman Alexandria: Trajan Drachm with Elephant Quadriga

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

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks to all of you for your good wishes. I've been feeling better the last couple of days.

    I still have to write up the three new Roman Republican denarii I've bought in the last two months, but this new coin arrived in the mail yesterday, so I'll post it first. It's quite worn, but the design is still clear, and I couldn't resist buying it! It's my first elephant quadriga (or biga) from any issuer -- and anyone who knows me at all knows how much I like coins with animal reverses, with a special fondness for elephants! -- as well as my first Roman Alexandrian coin of Trajan, and my first Roman Alexandrian bronze drachm. Most of the Roman Alexandrian coins I already had were from Hadrian (7) and Antoninus Pius (3) (along with a scattering of individual coins from Claudius, Nero, and later emperors like Elagabalus, Claudius II, and Probus), and all were tetradrachms, diobols, or obols. I've wanted to buy at least one drachm for some time -- I've always found it a bit odd that the drachms were larger than the tetradrachms despite the latter being worth 4 times as much, and having so little silver content -- but drachms really aren't all that easy to find in nice condition. This one was good enough for me!

    Trajan, AE Drachm, Year 15 (111/112 AD), Alexandria, Egypt Mint. Obv. Laureate bust right, nude and with aegis on left shoulder, ΑΥΤ ΤΡΑΙΑΝ ϹЄΒ ΓЄΡΜ ΔΑΚΙΚ / Rev. Emperor (Trajan), laureate and togate, standing in elephant quadriga, right. holding eagle-tipped sceptre and branch; first three elephants with trunks turned down at end and fourth elephant with trunk turned up; in exergue, L IE (Year 15). RPC [Roman Provincial Coinage] Vol. III 4605.4 (2015); RPC Online at https://rpc.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/coins/3/4605.4 ; Emmett 462.15 [Emmett, Keith, Alexandrian Coins (Lodi, WI, 2001)]; Dattari (Savio) 769 [Savio, A. ed., Catalogo completo della collezione Dattari Numi Augg. Alexandrini (Trieste, 2007)]; BMC 16 Alexandria 512 at p. 61 [Pool, Reginald Stuart, A Catalog of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, Vol. 16, Alexandria (London, 1892)]; Milne 669 [Milne, J., A Catalogue of the Alexandrian Coins in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1933, reprint with supplement by Colin M. Kraay)]; K&G 27.389 [Kampmann, Ursula & Granschow, Thomas, Die Münzen der römischen Münzstätte Alexandria (2008)]. 33.5 mm., 21.26 g. Purchased from Odysseus-Numismatique, Montpellier, France, June 2021.


    The year in the reverse exergue is almost completely worn off, so it was a bit difficult to identify, given that the elephant quadriga design was issued for Trajan in ten different years -- with several different varieties for some of those years, including whether the year appears in the reverse exergue or in the reverse right field, how many of the elephants' trunks are pointed down or up, whether Trajan appears draped or nude and whether or not he has an aegis, and so on. Not even to mention the varieties that have a flying Nike on the reverse above the elephants!

    But, after looking at all the possibilities as carefully as I could, and examining many examples on acsearch and elsewhere, i believe that L IE -- Year 15 -- is the only reasonable possibility. If anyone disagrees, please let me know.

    I'm mildly concerned that there seem to be a few green spots in the small scraped or chipped area at 6 o'clock on the obverse. (There's nothing like that in the parallel area on the reverse.) The spots don't seem to be flaky when I poke at them with a toothpick, but do I assume correctly that it couldn't do any harm to put the coin in distilled water for 24 hours or so?

    Given that we've had several excellent threads in the fairly recent past about elephant and other non-equine bigas and quadrigas among Republican and Imperial coins, please post (1) your Roman Provincial coins with non-equine bigas or quadrigas, and/or (2) your Roman Alexandrian drachms of any type.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2021
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  3. Inspector43

    Inspector43 73 Year Collector Supporter

    Very nice. I would be more than content with one like this.
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  4. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    ..very nice & unique Donna! :)
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  5. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    A splendid coin, @DonnaML!
    The green spots seem stable….to my old eyes.
    Soaking it in DW for 30 minutes or so should cause no harm.
    Leave it out to dry, or pat it very lightly with an absorbent cloth, but do not rub it in the least.
    Let us know.
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  6. robinjojo

    robinjojo Well-Known Member

    Interesting coin! I've always found reverses with four elephants drawing a biga odd, stylistically, since the elephants need to be drastically downsized to pigmy range, or smaller, in order to fit them into the design. But, I guess, its the symbolism that counts in this case.

    Practically speaking, elephants would make terrible draft animals since 1) they are highly intelligent animals and they would greatly resent, I think, being tied to a biga; 2) the harnesses would be enormous and the view ahead totally obstructed; and 3) imagine the indignity and mess that one would experience if one or more elephants decide to relieve themselves while undertaking such an onerous task, in their view. I'm not sure if there were rain coats available back then.

    Those tiny greens spots seem to be benign. You can try the distilled water bath, but these green deposits can be quite stubborn, so if they persist, it would probably best to leave well enough alone. They don't seem to be at all distracting.

    Alas, no elephants here attached to a wheeled means of conveyance. Actually, no elephants whatsoever. I do have a mule, though.

    Messana, 480-460 BCE

    D-Camera Messana Tetradrachm,  480-461 BC, Roma Sale 55  6-6-20.jpg
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2021
  7. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    Very nice example with a good obverse @DonnaML!

    Phrygia, Cotiaeum. Philip I AE26 Kyble.
    Kyble on stool being pulled by biga of lions. Polos / Tympanon
    C. Julius Ponticus, Archiereus
  8. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML......Nice to see you back and feeling better!
    Great looking coin!...Love the chocolate brown colouring and although a bit worn (Very common for these type coins) has really nice detail!...Sweet coin!
    I only have one Drachm.....
    Antoninus Pius, 138 - 161 AD, AE Drachm, Egypt, Alexandria Mint, 34mm, 29.55 grams
    Obverse: Laureate head of Antoninus right.
    Reverse: L DEKATOV, Zeus holding patera and scetpre reclining left on open wings of eagle.
    Emmett1699 // Dattari2933 // Koln1560 // Milne1905
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  9. Mammothtooth

    Mammothtooth Stand up Philosopher, Vodka Taster

    Beautiful, glad you are feeling better
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  10. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Glad you are feeling better, Donna. Nice elephant quadriga coin!
    I like the reverse design.
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  11. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    So good to see you back @DonnaML. I was wondering where you were. Didn't know you were not feeling well; must have missed a post referring to your absence.

    That is a really gorgeous coin. Apparently these Drachms are the only evidence for Trajan's presence in Alexandria after the battles in Arabia.

    Wonder if Trajan actually rode an Elephant quadriga or if it is just a representation of an ancient Egyptian tradition that goes back to Ptolemy I; the Ptolemaic kings even used in their festive processions huge statues drawn by elephants.

    Don't have any elephant coins to share - maybe some day:D
  12. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great coin Donna, love that reverse! Here’s my only Alexandrian drachm...a Hadrian with Nilus reverse.

    Hadrian, Alexandria, AE Drachm, (34mm, 24.38 g). Dated RY 16 (131-132 AD). Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Nilus seated left on pile of rocks, holding reed and cornucopia; crocodile below; L Iς (date) in left field; RPC III 5791.
  13. Alegandron

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

    RI URBS ROMA 223-336 CE Romulus Remus She-wolf S R Alexandria mint AE 15mm 1.5g RIC VIII 8 C2 R
  14. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML, like @cmezner, I missed the health news, but am glad it's over with.
    Meanwhile, your drachm threw me for a minute; the profile looked like Hadrian. But, No, the obverse legend, celebrating the victories over the Germans and Dacians, kind of nailed it. ...Maybe I was thinking in the wrong direction, and early depictions of Hadrian are that much nearer to later ones of Trajan.
    ...But what instantly registers is the reverse. The detail of the elephants' faces is magnificent. ...No, they Don't look happy! Reminiscent of ones from the circus.
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  15. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    I do have a Hadrian Nilus Drachm very worn, which I got at ANA 2019 Chicago for just $10. It was in Berk's pick bin and I just felt I had to rescue it:D
    Probably many collectors would frown at such a coin. The legend on the obverse is gone and the reverse is missing the first three letters

    Æ Drachm, Alexandria, 125 - 126 AD
    32 x 33 mm, 14.152 g
    Not sure if my attribution is right:
    RPC III 5601 or 6017; Emmett 1014

    Ob.: (ΑΥΤ ΚΑΙ ΤΡΑΙ - ΑΔΡΙΑ ϹƐΒ) laureate, draped, cuirassed bust to right
    Rev.: (L ΔΕ)ΚΑΤΟΥ Nilus reclining to l., holding papyrus reed in r. hand and cornucopia in left; below, crocodile

    upload_2021-7-4_20-39-17.png upload_2021-7-4_20-39-31.png
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  16. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Very cool coin, @DonnaML!

    I'm so glad you're feeling better, too!

    Here's a stag biga on a provincial.

    Julia Mamaea, AD 222-235.
    Roman provincial Æ 28.5 mm, 11.90 g, 5 h.
    Ionia, Ephesus, AD 222-235.
    Obv: IOVΛIA MAMAIA CЄB, draped bust, right, wearing stephane.
    Rev: EΦЄCIΩN ΠΡΩTΩN ACIAC, Artemis driving biga of stags right, holding bow and drawing arrow from quiver.
    Refs: RPC VI, 4975 (temporary); Karwiese 804; SNG von Aulock --; SNG Copenhagen --.
    Notes: Ex-Plankenhorn Collection of Ionian Coins, ex-Naumann Auction 91, lot 927, 7 May, 2020.
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  17. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    That is a beautiful, smooth specimen. Those are common with a lot of wear. Few have more wear than my Hadrian but the location of the date made ID easier. It came to me in 1991.
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  18. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    That is a beauty, Donna!! And you can see every single elephant's face. Great coin!

    This is by far my favourite that fits the bill. Note that the snakes pulling the biga are also depicted on the front of the biga itself!
    elagab triptolemos.jpg
    Nikopolis: Elagabalus / Triptolemos driving winged serpent biga, scattering seeds
  19. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you! I haven't read about these drachms constituting evidence of Trajan's presence in Alexandria. Do you remember where you saw that? I checked Emmett, and apparently only three emperors used the "emperor standing in elephant quadriga" reverse: Domitian, Trajan, and Hadrian. I know that Hadrian visited Egypt; did Domitian?
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  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thank you, and to all of you. I don't know if it's exactly over with -- it's something chronic that I've had to deal with since I was 22 -- but hopefully this episode is in the past now. I felt quite ill for a couple of weeks.

    Alexandrian portraits of emperors aren't exactly well-known in general for their fidelity to Imperial models or for being easily recognizable, but I've seen quite a few Trajan portraits from Alexandria that look especially unlike what one might expect. With Hadrian, at least there's the beard to set him apart from his predecessors!

    I agree that one can see the elephants' faces quite well, and that they don't look happy!
  21. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    That's a gorgeous coin! I was very much hoping that someone would post a serpent biga, and have had my eye out for one for quite a while. I can't say that I ever heard of Triptolemos before starting to collect Roman Alexandrian coins, but now I think of him as "the serpent biga guy."
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