Roman Coin Question

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Coin Pedant, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. Coin Pedant

    Coin Pedant Member

    Since Rome's imperial history produced many coins, it is quite easy to create a timeline of emperors using denarii. But are there any emperors who did not mint coins? Or perhaps emperors who minted coins but have little/no written history?

    Many thanks
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Khnum-Hotep

    There are many examples. Sponsianus come to mind, a third century usurper who is known only from 1 aureus found (which could be a forgery) and is not mentioned in the historical record.

    Another is Regalianus, who is mentioned briefly in the famously inaccurate Historia Augusta but is otherwise unknown except for coins struck in his name and Dryantilla, his wife.

    Another is Achilleus, pretender in Alexandria at the end of the third century and successor of Domitius Domitianus, who led a revolt against Diocletian in Egypt. Achilleus struck no coins but Domitius did.

    Others can point out more examples I'm sure.
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  5. Coin Pedant

    Coin Pedant Member

    This is really cool! Cheers guys!!!!!
  6. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Several years ago, I started a collection that had at least one coin for each British king from Edward the Confessor to Queen Elizabeth II. There are a few kings and queens who did not issue any coins, or their coins are so rare that I won't be acquiring. Edward VIII, who abdicated before any coins with his portrait on them were issued officially, is the most recent example. Another was Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days. The fantasy pieces don’t count in my opinion.

    I have now working on a set of pieces, mostly denarii, of the 12 Caesars plus the adoptive Caesars. This collection covers from 49 BC to 192 AD. I was shocked when I looked at the list of emperors from 193 to 305. From my count there were 30 emperors during that period. Out of that group, there has to be some rare or uncollectable examples.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  7. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Every "real" emperor minted coins.

    In the imperial order of succession, the heir apparent was usually given the title "Caesar" - this was formalized in the Flavian period. Many people who were Caesar died before they could become emperor; famously Gaius & Lucius, Germanicus, Drusus, Britannacus, and Aelius. As a general rule, these men are scarce to rare, and there are a lot of caveats; e.g. Gaius and Lucius only appear (at least in portrait form, and by name) on provincial coins; Nero Claudius Drusus did not appear on any coins at all until decades after his death; Germanicus did not appear on imperial coins until Caligula took power--and so on.

    I'd estimate that maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of usurpers minted coins.

    With the famous exceptions of Vindex and Clodius Macer (both ruled during the 68-69 civil war) none of the early usurpers issued coins until after Commodus.

    Usurpers of the early 3rd century generally did not control major mints, so their coins are very rare, e.g. Jotapian and Pacatian to name a few. Very little is mentioned of them in history, and several are mentioned who didn't mint coins.

    History gets pretty shaky around the time of Gallienus, and many emperors are only described by the Historia Augusta, a sensationalist piece that contains demonstrably false "facts" and was written during Constantine's later years (320's/30s) about events the author likely wasn't alive for. Notably, the Historia Augusta is the only source that mentions Claudius II's brother, Quintillus, although his reign is given as 17 days - Clearly impossible as Quintillus minted many thousands of coins from numerous mints, and most of his portraits show facial features distinct from those of Claudius II, indicating that he had time to at least commission a bust for the mint workers to use as a reference.
    Claudius II
    Claudius ii victory milan.jpg
    Quintillus - Always has curly hair, usually skinnier, more sharp, jutting chin, sometimes has a thick moustache and neatly trimmed or even shaved beard

    Likewise, it is claimed that Marius (a sort-of official emperor in the Gallic Empire splinter state) ruled only 4 days, when he not only controlled two mints more than 4 days' travel apart, but also commissioned a bust that was unique and not just a re-engraved Postumus.
    Postumus Victoria Avg.jpg
    Marius - Usually a relaxed/jolly expressuon, always a short beard, often a button nose, usually fatter
    Marius antoninianus saec felicitas.jpg

    Which also raises a bit of a conundrum - some rebels or "usurpers" minted coins, but not for themselves. A prime example is Aureolus, a disgraced general who rebelled against Gallienus and declared loyalty to Postumus, hoping the latter would invade and reunify the Roman empire. These were minted in Postumus' name and image, but at Milan, which was never part of the Gallic Empire.
    Aureolus for postumus antoninianus.jpg

    Later in the empire, Carausius minted coins for Diocletian and Maximian in a bid to gain legitimacy from his seat in London, and Vetranio minted coins for Constantius II to demonstrate his loyalty in the struggle against Magnentius.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
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  8. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Khnum-Hotep

    The Historia Augusta styles these ephemeral usurpers as the "30 tyrants". I agree with the above post that both Marius and Quintillus must have ruled more than a few days or a few weeks in order to be able to strike coins with their own likenesses. Also, DIVO CLAVDIO coins were apparently struck in great numbers by Quintillus trumpeting Claudius II's deification.
  9. Coin Pedant

    Coin Pedant Member

    The Historia Augusta has been criticised for centuries as fraudulent and/or containing inaccurate details and characters. So to find numismatic evidence of certain emperors must suggest some interesting credibility to the document (albeit very small).
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  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    On any history we have to address the possibility of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. HA and a bunch of Roman sources have faults but they remain all we have in some cases. Major works like Cassius Dio have definite prejudices and major lacunae which we must consider when studying. When you read any writer from the fourth century it is usually easy to separate the Christians from the Pagans. In another 2000 years imagine the situation if the only works that survive are the Tweets of Donald Trump and the emails of Hillary Clinton. We do what we can do with what we have.
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