Roman Republican coin artistry

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Valentinian, Oct 7, 2019.

  1. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Let's admit it. Many dies for Roman Republican denarii are not particularly well engraved. I could show some that are close to cartoonish. But, while recently re-photographing some Republican coins I found some that seemed to me to be artistic, at least on one side.

    I am distinguishing between the condition of the coin and the artistry of the die. An EF+ coin can be very impressive without its die being engraved artistically. On the other hand, a coin can be in lesser grade and yet display some artistic excellence.


    78 BC. 19 mm. 3.95 grams.
    L. Cassius Q.F. Longinus
    Head of Liber right, wearing ivy wreath and with thyrsus over shoulder
    Head of Libera (Proserpina) left, wearing vine wreath, behind L CASSI Q F
    Crawford 386. Sear 317.


    46 BC. 18-17 mm. 4.07 grams.
    T. Carisius
    Head of Sibyl Herophile right
    Sphinx seated right. T CARISIVS II VIR
    Crawford 464/1. Sear 446.


    46 BC. 20-19 mm. 4.03 grams.
    C. Considius Paetus
    Head of Venus left, PA[ETI] behind
    Victory driving quadriga left, C CONSIDI
    Crawford 465/4. Sear 456.


    42 BC. 21-10 mm. 3.83 grams.
    P. Clodius M F
    Laureate head of Apollo right, lyre behind
    Diana Lucifera standing right holding long lighted torch in each hand
    Crawford 494/23. Sear 492.

    Show us some Republican denarii struck from artistic dies!
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  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    There is a lot of variety in the Roma heads on so many of these coins. I always liked this one of C, Claudius Pulcher. I'd like the reverse better if the horses didn't have such knobby knees.
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  4. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..indeed!..those are works of art:) octavian(augustus) denarius 002.JPG octavian(augustus) denarius 003.JPG denarius of Octavian
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  5. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    I find the portrait of Hercules on this quadrans unusually artistic for a Roman Republican bronze coin:

    Römische Republik – Quadrans, M ATILI, Heracles Prow .png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: M. Atilius Serranus, AE quadrans, 148 BC, Rome mint. Obv: Head of Hercules r.; behind, three pellets. Rev: Prow r., above, M . ATILI (die break); below, [ROMA]. 17mm, 4.16g. Ref: Crawford 214/5a. Ex Savoca, Blue Auction 16, lot 913.
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  6. TIF

    TIF Well that didn't last long :D Supporter

    When I first got into ancients I thought all Roman republican coins were cartoonish and un-artistic (and repetitive!). Eventually I saw some of the more interesting coins, although as a whole I don't think the Republican series is in the same league as Greek coins and first century Roman imperial coins in terms of artistry or workmanship. I find it hard to call any Republican coins "artistic" without adding the qualifying phrase, "for the type (Republican)".

    This does not mean I don't love them though :D.

    The obverse of this coin is relatively artistic:
    ROMAN REPUBLIC, M. Piso M.f. Frugi
    58 BCE (redated from Crawford's 61 BCE by Hersh and Walker, 1984)
    AR denarius, 20 mm, 3.94 gm
    Obv: terminal bust of Mercury right, wearing winged diadem; calix below chin; to left, star above wreath; dotted border
    Rev: M·PISO·M·F / FRVGI above secespita (sacrificial knife) and patera; all within laurel wreath
    Ref: Crawford 418/2b; Sydenham 825; Calpurnia 23
    formerly slabbed, NGC

    This one isn't particularly artistic nor fine style, but it is a visually interesting design:
    Roman Republic, the Pompeians
    L. Cornelius Lentulus and C. Claudius Marcellus

    Military mint in the East (Apollonia and Asia), 49 BC
    AR denarius, 19 mm, 3.8 gm
    Obv: Triskeles, with winged head of Medusa facing at center; stalk of grain between each leg
    Rev: Jupiter standing facing, head right, holding thunderbolt in right hand and eagle on left; LE(NT) (MAR) upward to left, COS upward to right
    Ref: Crawford 445/1b; Sydenham 1029a

    Since lettering is often sloppy and detractive, anepigraphic (or minimally epigraphic) Republicans are more appealing to me. This coin below is one of my favorite Republicans, although I still have to use the phrase "for the type" to qualify its good artistry. The composition is artistic; the rendering of the scene is sloppy and borders on cartoonish.

    Roman Republic, Anonymous
    Rome, 115-114 BCE
    AR denarius, 20 mm, 3.91 g, 10 h
    Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right, X behind, ROMA below
    Rev: Roma, helmeted, seated on two shields, holding spear before her, she-wolf standing right at her feet, head turned back, sucking Romulus and Remus. In left and right fields, two birds flying towards her.
    Ref: Crawford 287/1

    Here's one that is definitely not artistic, at least the obverse. The reverse is reasonably well rendered. Roma is often cartoonish and ugly on RR coins.

    Roman Republic, L. Postumius Albinus
    131 BCE
    AR denarius, 19 x 21 mm, 3.8 gm
    Obv: helmeted head of Roma right; flamen's cap behind
    Rev: Mars in quadriga right; L POST (AL)B; ROMA in exergue
    Ref: Crawford 252/1
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  7. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Let's face it. There are coins of each ancient sub-group that are better or worse than others. Some Greek coins are embarrassingly bad. Some late Romans show artistic merit. Sometimes we see a reason for poor work. Usually the worst coins come from times the mint was especially rushed due to wars or unstable economy. Some collectors place a lot of importance in 'fine style' while others would rather have MS grade no matter how bad the engraving was. My collection is not typical but I'd say half of my Republicans border on embarassing. There was a dealer in the 90's tht I avoided because he regularly seemed to have coin of poor style in high grade. We all differ.
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  8. Alegandron

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

    First Denarius produced by Rome:

    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius - Didrachm 310-300 BCE Mars-Horse FIRST Denarius - tarriffed at 10 Asses

    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius - Didrachm 275-270 BCE ROMANO Apollo-Galloping Horse Obv-Rev Sear23

    RR 265-242 BCE AR Heavy Denarius - Didrachm Roma-Victory Crawford 22-1 Sear 25

    RR 234-231 BCE AR Heavy Denarius - Didrachm Apollo-Horse prancing Crawford 26-1 Sear 28

    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius Quadrigatus Didrachm 225-215 BCE Craw 28-3 Sear 31 early 2nd Punic War
  9. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Nice assortment Valentinian, I especially like the T. Carisius, I often look at my C.MINUCIUS AUGURINUS reverse and think of the artistry that's gone into that. 7YqyGz23cA8X5kCziR842nQREFy69J (1).jpg
    C.MINUCIUS AUGURINUS AR Denarius. Rome 135 BC, column between two togate figures. 3.86gm, 19mm, Cr 242/1
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  10. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    I'm a sucker for Medusa on denarii of Plautius. Here are a few RR that I would consider artistic...

    3eEYF7wS8ZZkJ5qebi4GY6Sm9PnjiP.jpg 9808LG.jpg 661318.jpg zJP85cXMZCn6K9HtqW2YL7om7kC4r3.jpg 320D.jpg 160220.jpg 001801LG.jpg
  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    If your stunning T. Carisius, @TIF's amazing L. Cornelius Lentulus and C. Claudius Marcellus or @Alegandron's elegant Didrachm Roma-Victory Crawford 22-1, and the coins of @octavius didn't already make the case that many RR dies are beautifully and artistically engraved, here are a few I submit as evidence:
    Faces 2.0.jpg A few faces of the Republic

    Albinus Hands.jpg Albinus Bruti f. 48 BC, AR Denarius,
    Obv: PIETAS, head of Pietas right
    Rev: ALBINVS BRVTI F, two clasped hands holding winged caduceus
    Ref: Crawford 450/2, Postumia 10

    C Marius Capito 81.jpg
    C. Marius C. f. Capito, 81 BC, AR Denarius
    Obv: CAPIT. behind, draped bust of Ceres right, wearing grain-ear wreath and earring; LXXXXVIII above, ? control mark below chin
    Rev: C. MARI. C. F. / S. C in two lines in exergue, husbandman plowing left with a yoke of oxen; LXXXXVIII above
    Ref: Crawford 378/1c

    Cassia Blu.jpg
    L. Cassius Q.f. Longinus, 75 BC, AR Denarius
    Obv: Head of Bacchus (or Liber) right, wearing ivy wreath; thyrsus over shoulder
    Rev: Head of Libera left, wearing vine wreath, L•CASSI•Q•F upwards behind.
    Ref: Crawford 386/1;

    and even the ones that are more "cartoon" look, can be nicely engraved - and what better way to advertise your support for games in the circus than with a little cartoon flair.
    Ahenobarbus 128BC.jpg Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, 128 BC, AR Denarius
    Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right; grain ear behind
    Rev: Victory in biga right; man fighting lion below
    Ref: Crawford 261/1; Sydenham 514; Domitia 14
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2019
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  12. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!

    This is a close as I can get to artistic in the classic Greek type of way, at least the obverse is pretty good.


    Roman Republic. L. Scipio Asiagenus, AR serrate Denarius, Rome 106 BC

    O: Laureate head of Jupiter left R: Jupiter driving galloping quadriga right, hurling thunderbolt and holding reins and scepter; L SCIP ASIAG and C• in ex. Crawford 311/1e; 19mm, 3.6 g
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  13. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    While I might agree that Greek coins seem more artistic than Roman in general, I think there are some very artistically done dies during the early Roman period where the Romans were influenced by the Greeks. Now cartoonish I reserve for later Roman Imperial coins. ANONYMOUS_ROMAN_REPUBLICAN_3.jpg Anonymous Roman Republic.jpg M SERGIUS SILUS.jpg TI QUINCTIUS.jpg L VALERIUS FLACCUS.jpg L Censorinus a.jpg
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  14. Alegandron

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

    I am still stunned by the incredible deal that you got on that Mars/Horse first Heavy Denarius / DiDrachm! Congrats, JW!
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  15. Carthago

    Carthago Does this look infected to you?

    A great idea for a thread, Valentinian.

    This is one of my favorites in terms of artistry. Very high relief too that can only be fully appreciated in hand.

    M. Aemilius Lepidus. Denarius 61, AR (4.05g, 19mm, 6h). Female head r., wearing turreted diadem; below, ALEXANDREA. Rev. PONF·MAX· – TVTOR·REG Togate figure on r. crowning smaller figure, holding staff; above, S·C. In exergue, M LEPIDVS. Babelon Aemilia 24. Sydenham 831. RBW –. Crawford 419/2.

    M Aemilius Lepidus 419-2 NAC 2015.jpg
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  16. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    Hopefully I'm not going to jinx myself but here's a recent auction win that I fell in love with due to the style and artistry, especially of the obverse. This denarius has one of the best depictions of Janus I've ever seen on any RR coin. I was willing to put up with some (in my opinion) minor scratches and marks for that excellent engraving:

    Most of the Victoriati of this series and related series are in my opinion relatively poorly engraved. They're interesting coins historically but not terribly artistic except for one or two well engraved obverses with a detailed, expressive portrait of Jupiter that seems to be from a very different hand than the others. I was very happy to find this particular coin partially for that reason. I'd have taken a lesser engraved example but it's always nice to find one from what you feel is the best die of the series:
    Cr106.1-1YrToning-1200px (1).JPG
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  17. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I really love the reverse on this coin. C Hostidius Geta Ar Denarius. 68 B.C. Obv Bust of Diana right. Rv Calydonian boar right being harried by dog. Crawford 407/1 3.99 grms 19 mm 407-b.jpg
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  18. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Not showing anything that hasn't already been shown upthread, but I really love the artistry on the two coins below.

    RR - Plautius Plancus 31Jan17.jpg ROMAN REPUBLIC
    AR Denarius. 4.03g, 18mm. Rome mint, 47 BC, L. Plautius Plancus, moneyer. Crawford 453/1c; CRI 29a; Sydenham 959b. O: L.PLAVTIVS, facing mask of Medusa with disheveled hair. R: Aurora flying right, holding a palm branch and conducting the four horses of the Sun; PLANCVS below.

    RR - C Hosidius Geta Lot New 384.jpg ROMAN REPUBLIC
    AR Denarius. 4.03g, 18.8mm. Rome mint, 64 BC. C. Hosidius C.f. Geta, moneyer. Crawford 407/2. O: Draped bust of Diana right, wearing stephane, earring, and double necklace of pendants; bow and quiver over shoulder; III VIR down left, GETA down right. R: Calydonian Boar standing right, pierced by spear and harried by hound below; C•HOSIDI•C•F in exergue.
    From the Collection of a Swiss Gentleman Whose Wife Wouldn't Let Him Keep His Coins When They Moved
  19. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    Anonymous Ar Didrachm of Rome 241-235 B.C. Obv Helmeted head of Mars.r Rv Horse head r. Cr 25/1 6.49 grms 20 mm 25-b.png
  20. Alegandron

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

    Cool, @Terence Cheesman , I have the Heavy Quinarius / DRACHM version of that series:

    These seem hard to get...
    RR Anon Ca 240 BCE AR Heavy Quinarius Drachm 16mm 3.0g Rome Helmet Hd Mars r - Horse’s hd sickle Cr 25-2 Syd 25 RSC 34a Rare
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  21. AncientJoe

    AncientJoe Supporter! Supporter

    It is harder to find Republican coinage with Greek-tier artistry but it does exist:

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