Roman Republican: A Tiny Elephant and an Elusive Moneyer

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orielensis, Apr 7, 2021.

  1. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    As I have mentioned in another thread, the latest Artemide auction broke the spell. After loosing on all my previous 2021 auction bids, I bought my first Roman Republican coin this year. It arrived yesterday:

    Römische Republik – RRC 262:1, Metellus, Biga mit Elefantenkopf.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: presumably L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus, or L. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus, AR denarius, 128 BC, Rome mint. Obv: head of Roma r., helmeted; behind, crossed X. Rev: [ROMA]; goddess (Pax or Juno Regina) in biga r., holding sceptre and reins in l. hand and branch in r. hand; below, elephant’s head with bell attached. 17mm, 3.88g. Ref: RRC 262/1. Ex Artemide, e-live auction 17, lot 251.

    I am generally fond of elephants on ancient coins, and this one is no exception. The elephant head is the badge of the Metelli family. I refers to the victory of one of the moneyer's ancestors over Hasdrubal at Panormus in 250, in which the former captured Hasdrubal's elephants.

    It is somewhat unusual that the moneyer is identified only by his family badge on this denarius. According to Crawford, the moneyer probably was L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus (consul in 117 BC) or L. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus (consul in 119 BC). The latter appears a particularly likely candidate since three of his brothers also held a moneyership, which led to somewhat of an abundance of small elephants on denarii from the 120s...

    I particularly like the toning on my example. It seems that these are typically struck on small flans, so part of the reverse design usually is missing. My example has a full goddess and complete horses, thus I can live without most of the chariot's rear wheels and the letters "ROMA."

    Please show your elephant coins and recent Republican purchases!
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
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  3. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    @Orielensis, a beautfiul coin, with a great elephant head. Here's my own example of the type, with my description reaching essentially the same conclusion as yours.

    Roman Republic, Anonymous [probably Caecilius Metellus Diadematus or Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus], AR Denarius 128 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right, wearing winged helmet, * [monogram for value: XVI asses] behind; otherwise anepigraphic / Rev. Pax or Juno driving biga galloping right, holding reins and long scepter in left hand and branch (olive or laurel) in right hand; elephant head under horses, facing right with trunk curving down, wearing bell dangling from neck; ROMA in exergue. Crawford 262/1, RSC I Caecilia 38 (ill.), BMCRR 1044, Sear RCV I 138, Sydenham 496. 18.5 mm., 3.89 g., 11 h.*

    Crawford 262 Caecilius Metullus Roma- biga & elephant head.jpg

    *One of only four anonymous Roman Republican denarii after ca. 154 BCE (see also Crawford 222/1, 287/1, & 350A/2), and the only one of the four that can be identified with near-certainty. See Crawford Vol. I at p. 287, explaining that the elephant head with dangling bell depicted on the reverse signals that the moneyer belonged to the Caecilii Metelli family, and recalls the victory of L. Caecilius Metellus, Cos. 251, over Hasdrubal at Panormus in 250 BCE, and the capture of Hasdrubal’s elephants. (See also the denarii depicting elephants or elephant heads issued by, e.g., M. Metellus Q.f. [127 BCE, Crawford 263/1a-1b], C. Caecilius Metullus Caprarius [125 BCE, Crawford 269/1]; Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius [81 BCE, Crawford 374/1]; and Q. Caecilius Metullus Pius Scipio [47-46 BCE, Crawford 459/1].) Therefore, it is generally accepted that this denarius was issued by either L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus (Cos. 117), or L. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus (Cos. 119), with the authorities seemingly preferring the former, given that his three brothers all held the moneyership. (Id.; see also Sear RCV I at p. 99; Harold B. Mattingly, “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.,” in From Coins to History (2004), pp. 199-226 at p. 219 n. 75.)

    The uncertainty in identifying the goddess in the biga arises from the inability to identify definitively the branch she holds: an olive branch would mean that the goddess is Pax, and a laurel branch would mean that she is Juno Regina. (See Crawford at p. 287.) Grueber (in BMCRR) and Seaby (in RSC) identify the goddess as Pax; Crawford and Sear note both possible identifications.

    I don't want to clutter your thread with lengthy descriptions, so here are a couple more Republican elephants without footnotes, and some Imperial elephants with only brief identifications.

    Roman Republic, M. Caecilius Q.f. Metelllus, AR Denarius, 127 BC (Crawford, RSC, Sear), ca. 126 BCE (Mattingly, op. cit. at p. 258, Table 3), Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Roma right in winged helmet, star on helmet flap, ROMA upwards behind, * (XVI ligature, mark of value = 16 asses) below chin / Rev. Macedonian shield, decorated with elephant head in center wearing bell, M METELLVS Q F around beginning at 6:00, all within laurel wreath. Crawford 263/1(a), Sydenham 480, RSC I Caecilia 29, Russo RBW 1064, Sear RCV I 139 (ill.). 19.5 mm., 3.80 g., 9 hr. [Footnote omitted.]

    M Caecilius Metullus Crawford 263 (Roma- Macedonian shield with elephant at center).jpg

    Roman Republic, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR Denarius, 81 BCE. Obv. Head of Pietas right, wearing diadem; below chin, stork standing right / Rev. Elephant standing left, wearing bell around neck; in exergue, Q•C•M•P•I [Q. Caecilius Metellus Imperator]. Crawford 374/1, RSC I Caecilia 43, Sear RCV I 301 (ill.), Sydenham 750, BMCRR Spain 43. 18 mm., 3.9 g. [Footnote omitted.]

    Q. Cec. Metellus denarius (Pietas-elephant) jpg version.jpg

    Titus denarius:

    Titus - elephant reverse - jpg version.jpg

    Antoninus Pius as:

    COMBINED Ant. Pius elephant, large.jpg

    Septimius Severus denarius:

    Septimius Severus elephant COMBINED.jpg

    Philip I antoninianus:

    Philip I elephant combined image.jpg
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  4. ancientone

    ancientone Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't think you would need a bell on an elephant.

    Recent RR purchace.
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  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't have thought so either, but when I raised that question in another thread, someone said that in fact elephants can be very very quiet, and step very gently, and can sneak up on you without your being aware of it. Hence the practice of putting bells on them, which apparently has its origin in India.
  6. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Splendid coins, @DonnaML ! A Septimius Severus elephant is on my want list, too. Unfortunately, these are often struck much more sloppily than yours. I'm actively looking for an example on which the elephant harness is well visible.

    I like the camel and scorpion on your denarius, @ancientone. Two interesting animals on one coin!

    Concerning the bell, elephants actually have quite soft feet and thus are able to move almost without a sound. It therefore makes a lot of sense to attach a bell to the neck of a tamed animal...

    Here are two more Republican Metelli elephants (same types as Donna has shown above):
    Römische Republik – RRC 263:1a, Denar, M C Metellus, mak. Schild u. Elefant.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: M. Caecilius Metellus, AR denarius, 127 BC, Rome mint. Obv: ROMA; head of Roma, helmeted, r.; before, X. Rev: M·METELLVS·Q·F; Macedonian shield decorated with elephant's head. 18mm, 3.83g. RRC 263/1a. Ex Hommel collection, ex Kölner Münzkabinett.

    Römische Republik – RRC 374:1, Denar, Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, Pietas Elefant.jpg
    Roman Republic, imperatorial issue of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius, AR denarius, 81 BC, Northern Italian mint. Obv: diademed head of Pietas r.; to r., stork standing r. Rev: Q C M P I; elephant standing l., wearing bell around neck. 17mm, 3.55g. Ref: RRC 374/1. Ex JB collection; ex AMCC 2, lot 105 (their picture).
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  7. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    Lovely coin indeed! With many people posting their lovely RR coins, it's becoming more and more tempting to endulge myself in that era and coinage too...
    A question: would you know why the elephant wears a bell around its neck? Was it part of its battle armour? As the elephants neck is quite big, it would have been a big bell i imagine. Or is the bell supposed to mean something else in the context of this coin?

    EDIT: never mind, I now see DonnaML already gave the answer to this question above! Who knew elephants were that quiet.... :)

    Same type as shown by @DonnaML above. I really like this coin. The cuirass is quite clear on this one.
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  8. Scipio

    Scipio Well-Known Member

    BB4E42A0-14FE-4CAC-81C0-CFE8874E4CD8.jpeg 1E31BE13-8C07-4CC6-84B5-2FA8CB6BF94E.jpeg Personification of Africa with elephant headdress...
    Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio and Eppius. Silver Denarius, 47-46 BC.Military mint traveling with Scipio in Africa. Q METELL SCIPIO IMP, head of Africa right, wearing elephant' skin headdress; in right field, grain stalk; below, plow. Reverse:EPPIVS LEG F C, Hercules standing facing, resting hand on hip and leaning on club draped with lion's skin and set on rock. Crawford 461/1;

    Marcus Eppius was a Roman senator, who took an active part in favor of Pompey at the outbreak of the civil war in 49 BC.
    He was one of the legates of Quintus Metellus Scipio in the war of Africa, and was pardoned by Caesar with many others of his party after the battle of Thapsus. Later he seems to have gone to Spain and taken Sextus Pompey's war sides in 46 and 45, perhaps he died in the battle of Munda. The acronym FC is dissolved by Crawford in flandum curavit; another possibility is that it is to be connected to the title of legate, such as Legatus Fisci Castrensi.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
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  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    There's a theory that this sort of cross-hatching on elephants is supposed to represent their wrinkled skin, not any kind of armor.
  10. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  11. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Diademed head of Pietas right; stork standing right before
    REVERSE: Q C M P I beneath elephant walking left w/bell hanging from neck
    Northern Italy, 79 BC-77 BC
    3.75g; 18mm
    Caecilia 43; Crawford 374/1; Syd 750; Sear 301
    Titus 5.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate head right
    REVERSE: TRP IX IMP XV COS VIII PP, elephant walking left
    Struck at Rome, 80 AD
    2.5g, 17mm
    RIC 115
    Septimius Severus 21.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: L SEPT SEV PERT AVG IMP VIIII, laureate head right
    REVERSE: MVNIFICENTIA AVG, Elephant wearing cuirass walking right
    Struck at Rome, 196 197 AD
    3.63g, 17mm
    RIC 100, RSC 349
    Commemorates the games also mentioned in the Historia Augusta that were were given by Severus in mid 197 prior to his departure on his second
    Parthian expedition.
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  12. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    I couldn't find the image of the following coin last night when I posted, but, eureka, I found it this morning.
    OBVERSE: Roma helmeted head right; star behind head
    REVERSE: Pax or Juno in biga to right, elephant's head with bell attached below horses; ROMA in exergue
    Rome, 127 BC
    S.138, Cr.262/1, Syd.496, RSC Caecilia 38
    ex Ryro
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  13. Archeocultura

    Archeocultura Well-Known Member

    Posthumous for Lucius Verus. Not a very good coin, but a very nice scene. III Lucius Verus Divus  1507 Elephants 7a nr 017.jpg
  14. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    I don't know how many different coin types there are showing a quadriga of elephants, but I would very much like to have one!
  15. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    I hadn't heard of this theory before, but it seems fully plausible to me. This late Roman mosaic, excavated in Israel near Tel Aviv (source here), at least appears to support this theory. I don't think the cross-hatched lines here could possibly represent armor:

    Also, I very much like Bing's example of the Septimius Severus type, and looking at @Archeocultura 's coin, I can't help but wonder whether the elephant quadriga has been the Imperial Roman equivalent to driving a Maserati Quattroporte...

    Here is another Roman elephant – maybe meant as propaganda against the Metelli, since the elephant tramples a snake, which often represents Salus:
    Römische Republik – RRC 443:1, Denar, Julius Caesar, Elephant.png
    Roman Republic, Imperatorial Coinage, Julius Caesar, AR denarius, 49–48 BC, military mint moving with Caesar. Obv: [CA]ESAR; elephant walking r., trampling snake. Rev: priestly implements: culullus, aspergillum, axe, apex. 20mm, 3.70g. Ref: RRC 443/1.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
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