Roman Empire Nerva (AD 96-98) AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck October AD 97 Dia.: 17 mm Wt.: 3.47 g Obv.: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P II COS III PP; Laureate bust right Rev.: SALVS PVBLICA; Salus, seated left, holding grain ears Ref.: RIC II 20 Ex Naville Numismatic Live Auction 44 (Nov. 2018) A Tale of Two Dies Even a casual inspection of this coin is enough to see that the obverse is in a much better die state than the reverse. The reverse shows signs of reaching the end of its usefulness while the obverse is relatively fresh. Doing a little research leads me to believe that there is an interesting story here. RIC lists Nerva coins with this reverse type as follows: Denarius with SALVS PVBLICA reverse + TR P on obverse = common Aureus with SALVS PVBLICA reverse + TR P II on obverse = common Denarius with SALVS PVBLICA reverse + TR P II on obverse = not listed What are we to make of this? My guess is that that the SALVS type denarii issue was reaching its end, with most of the reverse dies being used up by the time Nerva accepted his second tribunista potestae in October 97. Dies with new types were made along with new obverse dies to reflect his new titulature. ...this is where Kevin from quality control’s lazy brother Stan enters the story. Fresh off a bender with Kevin the night before and sporting an impressive hangover, Stan was NOT feeling up to standing in line to get a fresh new die with the approved reverse type. With a quick rummage through the junk heap Stan pulls out a SALVS whose figure is starting to look more like a poltergeist than a person. “That’ll do” says Stan disinterestedly as he lumbers back to his anvil, hammer in hand. In all seriousness, it does seem that this particular reverse design was reaching the end of its issue for silver around October of AD 97 and someone made the decision to continue striking with a handful of mostly worn dies. A look through ACSearch shows that this reverse is fairly scarcely coupled with the TR P II legend. Many of the examples that come up are misattributed to RIC 20 or listed as a RIC 33 variant with a note that they are “rare.” So perhaps this is a rare common coin struck by Kevin’s brother? Some Notes on Nerva’s Coins Nerva was only emperor for about 16 months. Most of his coins are also dated which means that in many cases we can pinpoint the date a coin was struck to a remarkably narrow window. My coin is just such a case. Nerva started using TR P II in October 97 and started using the title GERM after he adopted Trajan in late October. Therefore my coin was likely struck in mid-October of AD 97. Nerva also seems to have adopted the “warts and all” style of portraiture (holy nose-beak batman!). According to RIC this is a noticeable departure from the later coins ofDomitian, which had increasingly artistically idealized portraits. I took both of these photos at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence when I was there in 2018. The portrait is thought to date from Nerva’s lifetime. While on the trip I got in the habit of taking pictures of statues in the profile view so I could compare to the coin portraits later. I did this even when it was sometimes awkward to do so... some people looked at me funny. Some Notes on Nerva and his Legacy For those interested in a summary of Nerva’s life see here. Because Nerva was emperor for such a short period of time there are very few physical remains that are associated with him or his reign. One exception is the so called “Forum of Nerva” started under Domitian but completed during Nerva’s principate. This was the last of the imperial fora in Rome and connected the old republican forum to the neighborhood of the Sabura. He probably would have been happy to know that even though he is a lesser known emperor today his name still lives on in one of the surviving spaces of the ancient city. This is an engraving by Luigi Canina made in the early to mid 1800s. The Royal Academy website says it may be based on an original drawing by Palladio from the mid 1500s. At that time Rome was in one of its cycles of architectural cannibalism where ancient structures were being destroyed for building materials. Therefore, it is possible some of the drawings details are based on remnants of the structure that no longer exist. In fact if you read through the link posted below you will note there was a lot more of the forum left even in the late 16th century. Here is a picture I took in 2018 from a similar vantage point as the above drawing. As you can see, other than the two columns (far right), there is not much left of the forum. Another fun fact about the Forum of Nerva is that the interior open space was used for the construction of small domestic buildings in the early Middle Ages. There were some fabulous drawings in the museum attached to Trajan’s market that were reconstructed from the archeological remains. I have always found this period of the city fascinating. A tiny population of people living in the ruins of the giant, deserted city, building modest houses surrounded by some of the greatest buildings that had ever been constructed. In the foreground of my above photo (to the left of the column) you can still see the remains of the portico of a house that was built in the 9th century. Between the column and the portico you can see ruts in the stone where wagon wheels made indentions in the early Middle Ages before the house was built. This shows this was a relatively busy street. What those people must have thought about the state of the world! Check out this fascinating link and scroll to the bottom for a more in depth overview on the forum in the Middle Ages. http://fori-imperiali.info/en/006-2/ Please post your Nerva-Antonine silvers! Coins of Nerva Giant noses (come on, I had to) Any other thing!