Featured Roman Imperial - Coins that ought to exist, but don't

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Finn235, Nov 9, 2019.

  1. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    While working on my Roman Imperial set of each individual as Caesar / Augustus / Divus, I came to realize that despite the impressive historical record that Roman coins leave for us, sometimes the pages of history and the pieces of metal in our trays don't always match up. Without going into the esoterics of history, I noticed that there were many holes in my set that history tells us shouldn't be holes.

    A few off the top of my head:

    - Given that Augustus allowed his BFF provincial governors to strike coins, and that so many provincial coins were made for Gaius and Lucius, why were none made for Nero Claudius Drusus while he was Caesar?

    - With the sole exceptions of Vindex and Clodius Macer, how come no usurpers struck coins until the 193-197 AD civil wars? Avidius Cassius, in particular, seems like he should have issued coins?

    - Even though Lucius Verus clearly took a back seat to Marcus Aurelius, I was surprised to learn that there is not a single extant coin of Verus struck while Pius was still alive, not even provincial as far as I can tell.

    - Given their popularity, it seems a bit strange that Gordian I and II were never honored on posthumous coins by Balbinus, Pupienus, or Gordian III?

    - History tells us that Philip I had Gordian III deified, but no coins exist compared to Philip's otherwise extensive series of commemoratives?

    - Decius' "Best Emperors" set likewise has its own mysteries...
    -- If Commodus made the cut, why no Claudius?
    -- Severus Alexander and Commodus made the cut, but none of the three Gordians, all three of whom Decius was a dedicated supporter of?

    - Considering the trouble that Gallus went to in order to adopt Hostilian and ensure a smooth transfer of power, Decius wasn't honored with a posthumous coin?

    - Gallienus was supposedly made Caesar briefly before being raised to the purple in 253, yet no coins exist?

    - There are Saloninus coins muled with the posthumous Valerian II reverses, but I have yet to see any photographic evidence of a posthumous Saloninus minted after 260.

    - After all the "Restitutor Orbis" hoopla, Tacitus didn't think Aurelian deserved a consecration coinage?

    - Maximian was Caesar under Diocletian for almost a year (summer 285 to spring 286) yet no coins exist? (This has me wonder if the antoninianii of "Galerius" without GAL VAL could be a Maximian caesar?)

    - Constantine allowed himself to be declared Augustus after his father's death in 306, and he at least controlled the London mint at this time, yet no coins? Perhaps that was too big of a risk?

    - Constantius, Maximian, and even Galerius were all honored on consecration coins, but not Diocletian, who was arguably the only member of the Tetrarchy that everyone liked?

    - I know that it became the standard practice to elevate kids and even toddlers to the purple, but it struck me as odd that Julian is the last person to strike coins as Caesar.

    Conversely, I did learn some surprising facts about coins I *didn't* think should exist, but do:

    - Coins of Diadumenian as Augustus do exist, even four from Rome:

    - Coins of Herennius Etruscus as Augustus exist, but are much more rare than I initially thought:

    - Coins of Volusian as Caesar exist, and are much more rare than those of Hostilian as Augustus

    - There is supposedly a single coin of Quintus Julius Gallienus Caesar, a younger brother of Valerian II and Saloninus, who maybe died in infancy:

    - There is an entry for DIVO QVINTILLO - but who would have consecrated him?

    - Tetricus consecrated Victorinus?

    - Tetricus II as Augustus is known from many barbarous coins, and supposedly from at least one official. I managed to snag a barb:
    Tetricus ii augustus pax.jpg

    - Maxentius, who never considered himself anything less than full Augustus, has a small issue of coins of MAXENTIVS NOB CAES from Carthage:
    Maxentius caesar carthage.jpg

    Please share any insights on my aimless musings above, or other historical curiosities!
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  3. Alegandron

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

    WOW, fantastic observations. Nice job.
  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Absolutely fantastic topic, Finn! I've vaguely wondered the same thing but in a general way... the depth and breadth of your knowledge is far greater than mine :D. I'd like to make some faux ancient coins in this vein-- coins that should exist but don't.

    I'm in the process of a big move and life change. When things get settled I hope to have time for a project like this.
  5. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I wonder why the Great Sphinx of Giza isn't depicted on ancient coins. Maybe it is shown on some coins of Roman Egypt such as the ones shown below, but perhaps that is wishful thinking.

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Marcus Aurelius as Caesar
    AE obol, 20.5 mm, 6.0 gm. Alexandria.
    Year 15 (CE 151/2)
    Obv: MAVPHΛICKAICAP; bust right, bare head
    Rev: Sphinx reclining right; LIE (date) above in left field
    Ref: Emmett 1919.15, R5; Dattari 3221; RPC IV online 15684

    EGYPT, Alexandria. Antoninus Pius
    year 20, CE 156/7
    AE obol, 18 mm, 4.36 gm
    Obv: laureate head right
    Rev: sphinx crouched/reclining left; L K above
    Ref: Emmett 1782.20 (unlisted reverse for year 20); unlisted in Geissen and Dattari
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  6. Alegandron

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

    I agree.

    One reason I snared this Scarab was for the Sphinx. I ensured that It came from a reputable resource and from excellent Provenance:

    Egypt SCARAB Middle Kingdom 2065-1650 BCE Scarabaeus Sphinx ex Gustave Mustaki collection.jpg
    Egypt SCARAB Middle Kingdom 2065-1650 BCE Scarabaeus Sphinx ex Gustave Mustaki collection
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great topic. I have had thoughts on this before but never in an organized thread. With regard to Roman Egypt, why did the number of reverse types shrink as time passed, so that by the time of Diocletian we have just a few reverse types, whereas in the 2nd century there was a wide variety of coins with "Egyptian" themes - Canopic jars, Sphinxes, etc. If one goes to the country you will see a huge number of monuments, tombs, temples, and other impressive things that could have been on the coinage. For example Trajan did a large retrofit of the temple of Esna (dedicated to the ram-headed god Khnum) and had his name emblazoned within a cartouche (the emblem of kingship). Similar examples exist for other emperors down through the third century, but not after that.

    A couple of other penultimate events are the disappearance of the provincial coinage after the time of Valerian and Gallienus (except Egypt).

    Also, who was the mastermind behind the huge artistic change which occurred during the reign of Diocletian? Statues changed to the new ethereal style, as well as the coinage, and also the court ritual. It's like someone flipped a switch and everything was different the next day. Anyway, thanks for the thread.
  8. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    There is a little AE naming Decentius as Augustus, perhaps a unique unofficial issue, that I have seen in 2014 from a French collector. Decentius was never Augustus though.

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  9. The Eidolon

    The Eidolon Well-Known Member

    Wasn't the Sphinx buried up to the shoulders until the 1800s? The Romans may not
    have even known what it looked like except for the head. I think several Pharaohs partially excavated it, including Thutmose IV who put in a slab with an inscription. But it would have been mostly reburied by Roman times.
  10. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    But when exactly did it become buried? Its existence was recorded during Roman times.

    Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) mentions the Great Sphinx of Giza in Natural History, XXXVI, Chapter 17:

    Speaking of pyramids... why don't any coins of Roman Egypt depict pyramids? Zeus knows they show all kinds of other deities and venerated objects. Perhaps there is some reason for the omission but I don't know what it would be.
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  11. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    It took a looong time before the pyramids finally showed up on coins:

    egypt 1, 2, 5 piasters 1984.jpg
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  12. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the replies, all!

    There were a handful of provincial coins with pyramids on them, but IIRC the only ones that look like the Giza pyramids are from Caesarea.

    That is very cool and one I haven't seen before! I agree it does look barbarous, although from a historical sense I could also see it being official. Magnentius fell almost a week before Decentius did, and although history tells us that both usurpers took their own lives, history from the mid 4th century is also notorious for its bias. Perhaps he could have declared himself emperor - after all, he clearly had nothing to lose by doing so.

    Which reminds me of another that I had forgotten in my list - Saloninus as Augustus!


    I bid on the lesser of the two and was in the lead until about two hours before the auction ended. These were struck by a desperate Saloninus who was under siege by Postumus in Cologne; apparently the only coins that were not destroyed when Cologne gave up the teenaged emperor were those that were very well hidden. Only about 60 exist of all types.
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  13. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Probably barbarous... but Tetricus II as Augustus. Where you at Aurelian!?
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  14. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Spontaneous answer for which I have no evidence : could it be that they wouldn't want to disturb the dead Pharaos ?

  15. Ken Dorney

    Ken Dorney Yea, I'm Cool That Way...

    I like to think someone of importance (maybe the emperor himself) simple wondered one day "how about we just all the the same money?" and that was the end of local provincial issues.
    TIF and ancient coin hunter like this.
  16. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Something about the spells put on mummies discouraged disturbing them. :eek: ;)
  17. Alegandron

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

    Very much agreed. I am not aware, but am amazed, that very few coins depict the God / Religion of MITHRA (the Son). Later in the CE period of the Empire, many Legionaires were a memeber of this religion, effectively spreading Mithraism all accross the Empire. I understand that it competed with Christianity as to which religion was to become the STATE Religion for the Roman Empire.

    I searched for and finally found a coin depicting Mithra. But much earlier, and generally from where the religion started in Asia:

    Bithynia Kios 250 BCE AE11 1.06g Laureate hd Mithra r Kantharos 2 grape bunches hanging K-I below within a wreath SNG Cop 382
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  18. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    Or perhaps the antoninianus was so totally beyond recovery that it no longer made sense for the provinces to keep on making their own bronze coins that were nominally worth 1/X of a sestertius or 1/Y of an antoninianus? I struggle to think of a perfect example, but in the early 1900s when the US colonized the Philippines and took over the money supply for Panama, both currencies had their "real" intrinsic value in silver, despite being pegged against the USD which remained static despite the silver crash of 1893. When silver prices began to recover in the early 20th century, both the PHP and PAB became worth much more than their nominal face value in USD.

    The United States' solution was to halve the silver content of both currencies, but Rome under Valerian through Aurelian opted to close the overwhelmingly vast majority of provincial mints and converted a choice few of them into large scale Roman mints.

    Also, although the official provincial coinage ended when Diocletian closed the mint as punishment for the rebellion of Domitianus, the Bosporan kingdom continued to mint until Rhescuporus IV, who minted under Constantine and Licinius.
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  19. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Looks like the Pius coin does feature a sphinx, but not the great sphinx - it has breasts, whereas the great sphinx does not have breasts as far as I know.

    Hatshepsut has sphinxes with her face and female chest, but the great sphinx was a masculine one.

    Of course, there's the conspiracy that Napoleon not only built the great pyramids, but created the modern shape of the sphinx...
  20. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    It's obvious.
    Napoleon built the pyramids
  21. Alegandron

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

    SPHINX in Iberia (Spain)

    Iberia Castulo Late 2nd C BC AE As 25mm Bust Nose Hand Sphinx
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