Lucilla RIC 789 is not "common"; it doesn't exist at all!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I have written in the past about dubious listings in RIC for Faustina I, Faustina II, Julia Soaemias and Julia Mamaea, in which RIC lists coins -- almost always citing Cohen -- that don't really exist, are misidentified examples of known coins, or represent ancient counterfeits. This post concerns a denarius of Lucilla listed in RIC but which doesn't exist as described. I have made no attempt to comb through all the listings in RIC for this empress to identify every dubious entry; this is just one I happened to notice while researching a new acquisition to my collection.

    Here is RIC 788:

    Lucilla VESTA denarius.jpg

    Here is the relevant listing in RIC:


    RIC 789 is listed as "similar" to 788, but instead of a palladium, Vesta holds a torch. The listing cites Cohen 93 and states (as per Cohen) the issue is "common," marked by an italicized C under the reverse description.

    Although the British museum does not have a copy of Cohen 93 in their collection (How could they? I will argue it doesn't exist), it does cite Cohen in the footnote to BMCRE 325. Here's the listing in BMCRE4:

    Capture 3.JPG

    So, both RIC and BMC (both largely authored by Mattingly) each cite Cohen 93 uncritically.

    Let's look at the listing in Cohen:

    Capture 2.JPG

    Cohen lists two denarii, 92 and 93 (corresponding to RIC 788 and 789, which cite Cohen). The description of 93 is translated "the same coin with a torch instead of palladium." Both coins are listed with a lower-case c following the description, indicating they are "common."

    Note, however that three bronze coins follow: 94, a sestertius (G.B.) described as "the same coin (as 93 -- with a torch, not a palladium) with S. C."; 95, a middle bronze (M.B.) described as "the same coin" (as 94); and 96, a middle bronze described as "same reverse (as 95), but without altar." In other words, Cohen implies that ALL THREE of these bronze issues depict vesta holding a TORCH, not a palladium. But what do these coins actually look like? Well, here's Cohen 95, the middle bronze:

    Lucilla Vesta As.jpg

    That's clearly a palladium, not a torch, in the goddess's hand. Here's what RIC has to say about these bronze issues. See the note to RIC 1779 at the bottom:

    Capture 1.JPG

    In other words, Mattingly notices that Cohen has misidentified the palladium as a torch for the bronze issues but never thought to consider that Cohen might have done so for the denarius!

    I have looked at all the online databases for a denarius of Lucilla with the VESTA reverse on which the goddess holds a torch. I have used as search terms "Lucilla VESTA" and "Lucilla 789." I have examined the British Museum collection, acsearchinfo, CoinArchives, CNG's archives, Wildwinds, OCRE, Coryssa, The Coin Project, and Tantalus. I have examined Sear and Temeryazev & Makarenko as well.

    The Wildwinds specimen is misidentified; it's really RIC 786 (not 789), with a Venus reverse type. The OCRE specimen labeled as RIC 789, a coin in the Münzkabinett der Universität Göttingen, is actually RIC 788. Despite its worn state, the goddess is clearly holding a palladium. Pallas faces right; you can see her upraised arm pointing toward Vesta's head and her shield, which faces the T in VESTA:

    Capture 4.JPG

    After examining several dozen photographs of denarii with this reverse type, I have not been able to find a single example -- despite it being "common" -- that depicts Vesta holding a torch instead of a palladium.

    I am convinced that the coin in the French national collection (Marked by an F before the denomination in the Cohen listing) was worn or unclear and that Cohen misidentified the object in Vesta's hand as a torch. Moreover, I am convinced that Mattingly (in both RIC and BMCRE) accepted its existence, citing Cohen uncritically, even though he noticed the error in Cohen's listing for the bronze coins with the VESTA reverse type.

    I have demonstrated before that Cohen often misidentifies reverse types, which are then cited by RIC (Mattingly) in an uncritical fashion. When using these older references, even though they are considered the vade mecum for collecting Roman Imperial coins, it's important not to use them uncritically.

    Please post any comments or coins that you feel are relevant!
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  3. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    no denarius of the woman, but i do have the garroted Lucilla sestertius..she must have been very purdy... Lucilla Sestertius 001.JPG Lucilla Sestertius 002.JPG
  4. Alegandron

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

    I solve this problem by not collecting Roman Imperial Coins, and focusing on Roman Republic Coins. Ergo, I eliminate the RIC problem. :D :D :D

    Oh! And here is my Lucilla...

    RI Lucilla AR denarius Juno seated flower child in swaddling clothes Seaby 36
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    But then you have to deal with the Sydenham problem! :D:D:D

    Very nice coin, btw, with a delightful portrait!
    Pellinore and Alegandron like this.
  6. Alegandron

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

    I get around Syd by sticking with Sear and Crawford. :)

    And, thank you. My Lucilla Denarius does have a nice portrait. I am surprised that Greg hasn’t proposed to her yet. :D :D :D
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  7. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..haha bro, you sure have a lot of imperials for not collecting any :p
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  8. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..she's on the list :D
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  9. arizonarobin

    arizonarobin Well-Known Member Supporter

    I can see how some of the poorly rendered palladium (especially when worn) could be mistaken for a torch. I have not seen an actual torch on these and I have seen some described as torch, that are definitely palladium.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  10. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Update: I notified Dane over at Wildwinds, who corrected the error.
  11. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    A very interesting, and thorough approach to this problem. Over the past year or so, when trying to attribute coins in my collection, I find some OCRE and Wildwinds errors similar to the ones Roman Collector discovered, but lacking the experience, resources (i.e. books) and patience, I just try to "triangulate" attributions using auction data and other sites. It is admittedly a sloppy approach, but then I'm a pretty sloppy guy. :rolleyes:

    Thanks, RC for taking the time to do this work.
    Orfew and Roman Collector like this.
  12. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @Roman Collector, impressive detective work, and clear illustration of the imperfect state of our knowledge.

    I don't have a Vesta to share from Lucilla, I will share these two Lucillae (coins of Lucilla).
    Lucilla Diana Lucifera.jpg
    Lucilla Augusta, AD 164-182, AR Denarius, Rome
    Obv: LVCILLAE AVG ANTONINI AVG F, Draped bust of Lucilla right
    Rev: DIANA LVCIFERA, Diana standing left, holding torch in both hands.
    Size: 3.29g, 18.0mm
    Ref: RIC 762 (Aurelius)
    Lucilla Venus.jpg Lucilla Augusta, AR Denarius, AD 161-169, Rome
    Obv: LVCILLAE AVG ANTONINI AVG F, draped bust right
    Rev: VENVS, Venus standing on the left, holding an apple in the right hand and in the left, a long scepter
    Size: 3.30g, 12mm
    Ref: RIC 784

    There is debate about the period in which her coins were issued, when she was made Augusta, and whether the longer title LVCILLAE AVG ANTONINI AVG F stressing her relation to Marcus Aurelius is earlier or later. Sear in RC&TV II holds: no evidence for AUGVSTA as early as 161, the longer legends are earlier and unlikely that she would have been issued coins after marrying a commoner in 169.

    Lucilla, born ~149, was the third child of Marcus Aurelius, who arranged for her marriage to Lucius Verus in 161. In 164, when she was ~15 years old she married Lucius Verus ~34 years old in Ephesus. Lucius Verus died about 5 years later in 169, returning from war in the Danube.

    After the death of Lucius Verus, Lucilla, against her will, married Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus Quintianus, a general who had distinguished himself against the Parthians, a senator, and old friend of Marcus Aurelius who was more than twice her age (she was ~21 and he more than 50). When her brother Commodus succeeded his father, Lucilla had some difficulty getting along with Crispina. She plotted against her brother ~182. He had her exiled to Capri, and in the same year executed.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  13. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Thanks @Roman Collector for the thorough write-up, I am convinced. Lucilla seems to have been a real beauty, if we believe her coins:
    Lucilla denarius.jpg
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  14. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Nice work @Roman Collector . I must say I really enjoyed your writeup. I find that I get a lot of satisfaction from tracking down numismatic mysteries. It is a lot of fun. This is part of why I have gone down the rabbit hole of the Flavian coins-there is still so much to know.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  15. Topcat7

    Topcat7 Still Learning

    It doesn't matter how attractive a person is when they are young, the ravages of time can take it's toll. Here is my not so 'attractive' coin of Lucilla, (wrinkles and all).
    After all, she IS 1869 years old.
    Magical Snap - 2016.05.27 17.10 - 009.jpg
    OBV; LVCILLA AVGVSTA -Draped bust right
    REV; VENVS -Venus standing left, holding apple and sceptre.
    REF: RIC 785 (Marcus Aurelius)
    Mint: Rome
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