Roman Republican No. 54

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by DonnaML, May 7, 2021.

  1. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    It's been more than a month since I've done one of these, and with new coins both arrived and expected, I'm starting to have a backlog of posts to put together. Here's the first (because it's the simplest, despite the four footnotes!) of at least four that I need to write. It's difficult to believe, but I haven't been able to find any previous posts about this type.

    Roman Republic, P. [Publius] Sulpicius Galba, AR Denarius, 69 BCE. Obv. Veiled head of Vesta right, S•C• [Senatus consulto] downwards behind / Rev. Sacrificial implements (Long knife [secespita], short-handled simpulum or culullus,* and single-bladed axe [securis] ornamented with lion’s head**, left to right), AE in left field, CVR in right field [together = Aedilis Curulis]; in exergue, P•GALB.*** Crawford 406/1, RSC I [Babelon] Sulpicia 7, Sear RCV I 345, BMCRR 3517, Harlan, RRM I Ch. 28 at pp. 160-163 [Harlan, Michael, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (2012)], Sydenham 839, RBW Collection 1454.**** 18 mm., 3.97 g. Purchased from Kölner Münzkabinett, April 2021; ex. Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Auction 347, Lot 918, March 22, 2021. (With 19th[?]-Century handwritten French-language coin ticket, citing Babelon Sulpicia 6 [bearing the reverse legend AED-CVR] on one side, and Babelon Sulpicia 7 [this coin-type, bearing the reverse legend AE-CVR] on the other.)

    Sulpicius Galba 69 BCE Vesta - Priestly implements jpg version revised.jpg

    The ticket that came with the coin; the dealer thinks it's 19th century but I have a feeling it's a bit more recent than that (one side appears to be in pencil, and the other in ink):

    Sulpicius Galba Vesta old ticket Front Babelon 6 cropped.jpg

    Sulpicius Galba Vesta old ticket Back Babelon 7 cropped.jpg

    * “Culullus: The Culullus is a horn-shaped vessel like the rhython held aloft by the Penates, holding milk or wine. This was an emblem of the Vestales Virgines as well as of the pontifices.” But see Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) (entry for “Culillus or culullus” at pp. 78-79): “This is said to have been the name of a drinking cup used in religious ceremonies by the Roman pontifices and Vestal Virgins. For this reason the digger or scoop which appears on the reverse of a denarius of P. Sulpicius Galba issued in 69 BC, with a head of Vesta on the obverse, has been identified as a culillus. It seems, however, to be only a simpulum, perhaps with a slightly shorter handle than usual.” See also Jones, entry for “Simpulum” at p. 290: “the name for a ladle made of earthenware which was one of the traditional implements of the pontifices at Rome. It should be distinguished from a culullus, which was a drinking vessel.”

    ** If I'm interpreting it correctly, the "lion's head" at the top of the axe (according to BMCRR) is facing upwards, with his mane at the bottom, his open mouth at the top with a tooth protruding from his lower jaw on the left, and his ear to the right. Oddly, neither Crawford nor Harlan nor RSC nor Sear mentions the lion's head. I don't have access to Sydenham.

    ***The moneyer is known to have been “appointed one of the judges in the trial against Verres in B.C. 70 [for extortion and corruption as provincial governor of Sicily, prosecuted by Cicero; see] but was rejected by Verres on account of his reputation for severity. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the consulship in B.C. 63, and he is mentioned as pontifex in B.C. 57, and augur in B.C. 49.” (BMCRR Vol. I at p. 433 n. 1.) See also Harlan, RRM I at 160 (quoting Cicero’s characterization of Sulpicius Galba, in a letter to his brother Atticus in July 65 BCE, as “sobrius et sanctus”). Crawford states at Vol. I p. 418 that the moneyer was already a pontifex (i.e., a member of the senior college of priests) at the time of his term as moneyer in 69 BCE -- as is demonstrated by the head of Vesta on the obverse of this coin (given that the pontiffs had oversight of the ceremonies of Vesta, trials of delinquent Vestal Virgins, etc.; see Harlan, RRM I at p. 161), as well as by the depiction of sacrificial implements on the reverse.

    The moneyer’s position as curule aedile in 69 BCE, expressly mentioned in the coin’s reverse legend (AE - CVR), was separate from his status as a pontifex. At any given time in Rome, there were two curule aediles -- i.e., patrician aediles entitled to use the sella curulis (curule chair). They were the magistrates charged with “the general administration of the city and its buildings and the organizing of public games and spectacles.” (See Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins, supra, entry for “Aedile” at p. 5.) See also the NumisWiki entry for “Aediles Curules,” from Stevenson’s A Dictionary of Roman Coins (1889), at Curules: “To the curule ediles were entrusted the care of the sacred edifices (especially the temple of Jupiter), the tribunals of justice, the city walls, and the theatres; in short, all that was essential to the religion, defence, and embellishment of the city, came under their cognizance.” According to Harlan (RRM I at p. 163), this coin represents “the first time under the Sullan constitution that an aedile minted” as moneyer. The specific special purpose for the Senate’s authorization of this issue (as signified by the “S•C” on the obverse) is unknown, although Harlan suggests (id.) that the purpose may have been related to the need to purchase extra grain from Sicily to alleviate the severe grain shortages during that period, exacerbated by Verres’s peculations as provincial governor. Cf. the Stevenson entry on Aediles Curules quoted in NumisWiki at the link above, citing various coin issues expressly depicting corn ears, and noting that “[t]he addition of EX. S. C. denotes that those Curule Ediles purchased wheat for the supply of the Roman population, with the public money, by authority of the Senate.”

    ****The coin pictured as RBW Collection 1454 (at p. 301 of the book) is actually the same type as my coin ([RSC I] Babelon Sulpicia 7, bearing the reverse legend AE - CVR), even though the book’s text (at p. 300) erroneously identifies it as [RSC I] Babelon Sulpicia 6, mistakenly characterizing it as bearing the reverse legend AED-CVR. (Both types have the same Crawford number, namely 406/1.) Here is the text:

    RBW Collection 1454 Sulpicius Galba text p.  300 cropped with Paint.jpg

    And here is the RBW Collection photo, in which it's clear that the reverse legend says AE - CVR rather than AED-CVR, meaning that the coin should properly have been identified as Babelon Sulpicia 7 rather than Babelon Sulpicius 6:

    RBW Collection 1454 Sulpicius Galba photos p. 301 cropped with Paint.jpg

    The RBW Collection coin was sold by Numismatic Ars Classica (NAC) with that erroneous identification on May 17, 2012. Here's the photo of the same coin from ACSearch, as listed by NAC. Like on mine, there's obviously no "D." (Note that it sold for about four times as much as mine, despite the missing lion's head! That's a very beautiful, luminous portrait of Vesta, though.)

    NAC (RBW)17.05.2012 NAC Sulpicius Galba AE misidentified as AED.jpg

    For comparison purposes, here's an example from the British Museum which does have AED-CVR on the reverse (with a ligate AE):

    Crawford 406 Sulpicius Galba AED British Museum example.jpg

    And an example sold by Roma on Dec. 17, 2020:

    Roma example 2020 of Sulpicius Galba AED-CVR.jpg

    Interestingly, NAC proceeded to sell at least two other Sulpicius Galba AE-CVR examples in 2015, and another in 2016, all with the exact same erroneous identification as purportedly bearing the AED-CVR legend. Making the mistake once is odd; I don't know what to say about four times! Here are two of the three others, all I can fit in this post. (Note the very clear lion's head on the second one):

    NAC 20.05.15 (2) Sulpicius Galba AE misidentified as AED.jpg

    NAC 20.05.16 Sulpicius Galba AE misidentified as AED.jpg

    The mis-identification of the RBW Collection coin is hardly a major error, of course, but it still surprises me that both NAC (repeatedly) and the authors of the book could have missed it. The distinction isn't exactly obscure. It just goes to show that nobody's perfect, no matter how esteemed or reputable, and that one should always try to double-check and confirm the identifications of one's coins when it's possible.

    Please post any or all of the following: (1) coins depicting Vesta, (2) coins depicting sacrificial implements, (3) coins that came with very old coin tickets, and/or (4) anything else you think is relevant.
    Last edited: May 7, 2021
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Thats an in depth study of the coin you bought, good research detective Donna.

    P1160287cleaned (2).jpg
    Sabina VESTA stephane b.jpg
  4. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Very nice @DonnaML . This denarius of Octavian shows some of the implements of his office as Pontifex (though he was not yet Pontifex Maximus):
    Octavian priest.jpg
  5. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    BEAuuuutiful example! This type has a style that has always drawn me in. And I always just love it when I get little tags, tickets, flips and identifiers along with the coin.
    Big coingrats!
    Mine is embarrassing for more than one reason, it is not only not the bell of any ball, but it is the longest that any single coin ever took to arrive to me. I kept meaning to make a post simply due to the amount of time that past from purchase to recieving, but I've not wanted to think about it.
    Less than a week shy of an entire year. I received this coin 361 days after purchasing it!
    (As you can imagine, it's a whole story):
    P Sulpicius Galba
    - Emblems Denarius. 69 BC. Rome mint. Obv: veiled head of Vesta right; SC behind. Rev: knife, simpulum and axe dividing AE - CVR legend across fields; P GALB in exergue (off flan"). Craw. 406/1; Syd. 839; RSC Sulpicia 7; Sear 345.3.53 grams.Found Romney Marsh, Kent area, 2000s.
    Fine. Ex Timeline
  6. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Donna, Excellent researched article about a fascinating coin :happy:!
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  7. Antonius Britannia

    Antonius Britannia Well-Known Member

    Fantastic article! Well written with choice examples.
    DonnaML likes this.
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Great detective work, @DonnaML, and a lovely coin!

    How about a Vesta coin with an old ticket? This one came from the collection of Dr. Walter Stoecklin:


    Here is the collection tag:


    Faustina I, Augusta AD 138-140.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.50 g, 17.5 mm, 5 h.
    Rome, AD 145.
    Obv: DIVA FAVSTINA, draped bust right.
    Rev: AVGVSTA, Vesta, veiled, standing left, holding simpulum and palladium held in left arm.
    Refs: RIC 368; BMC 436; Cohen 108; RSC 108b; RCV 4587; Strack 480; CRE 153.
  9. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    @Ryro, I'd love to hear the story of how your coin took almost a year to arrive! And @Roman Collector, that's some provenance, for a beautiful coin. I could swear that I just saw some coins from the Stoecklin Collection for sale within the last week or so, but perhaps I'm imagining things.

    For the record, as much as I like this new coin, my own favorite Roman Republican portrait of Vesta is probably still this one, issued about 6-9 years later (my Roman Republican No. 45), which I wrote about three months ago at

    Roman Republic, L. Cassius Longinus, AR Denarius, 63 or 60 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Veiled and diademed head of Vesta left, control-letter “A” before her, kylix (two-handled cup) behind her / Rev. Togate figure standing left, dropping a voting tablet favorable to proposed legislation, inscribed “V” (Vti Rogas [= “as you propose”]) into a cista before him, LONGIN III•V downwards behind him. Crawford 413/1, RSC I Cassia 10 (ill.), Sear RCV I 364 (ill.), Sydenham 935, Harlan, RRM II Ch. 6 at pp.49-53, BMCRR 3929 (control-letter “A”); see also id. 3930-3936 (other control letters). 3.96 g., 19 mm., 6 h. Formerly in NGC slab, Cert. No.4280866-009, Graded Ch. XF, Strike: 4/5, Surface 4/5.) [Footnote omitted.)

    Dealer's photo:

    Cassius Longinus - Vesta - Voting scene jpg version.jpg

    My photo of obverse:

    Cassius Longinus - Vesta - voting scene Obverse 2.jpg
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  10. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Wonderful coin and interesting write-up @DonnaML!
    DonnaML likes this.
  11. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    I don't have any coins with old tags unfortunately, I would like some.
    But I have some Vesta coins. Last one I got - I find this one attractive, nice patina, honest wear but the elements are visible.

    Antoninus Pius AD 138-161. Rome
    Denarius AR
    17 mm, 3,21 g
    RIC III Antoninus Pius 203
    Obverse Legend: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P XV
    Type: Head of Antoninus Pius, laureate, right
    Reverse Legend: COS IIII
    Type: Vesta, veiled, draped, standing left, holding simpulum lowered in right hand and palladium at shoulder in left

    My only coin of Julia Mamaea also depicts Vesta

    Julia Mamaea. Augusta AD 225-235. Rome
    Denarius AR 20 mm., 2,26 g.
    RIC IV Severus Alexander 360
    Date Range: AD 225 - AD 235
    Obverse Legend: IVLIA MAMAEA AVG; Type: Bust of Julia Mamaea, diademed, right
    Reverse Legend: VESTA; Type: Vesta, veiled, draped, standing left, holding palladium in right hand and up-right sceptre in left hand
  12. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    One of mine, with some comments about it I made awhile back.
    (Originally posted here:

    Phil (79).JPG

    "One more artistic obverse, although you may need some familiarity with the issue to see just how remarkable this coin is. Most dies of the type are, shall we say, 'uninspired', depicting Vesta wearing her plucked chicken Halloween outfit, but this die is a real portrait of a real person. We'll never know who she is, but I like to imagine that the moneyer's favorite aunt or older cousin was a Vestal Virgin and he chose this route to secretly honor her. (An aside: this coin perfectly illustrates the truism that even the best photo can never substitute for viewing a coin in person. This appeared in NAC 33, lot 263, in 2006. I skipped right by it in both the print and online catalogues, paid it no attention at all, since I had a perfectly acceptable example of the normal scrawny chicken version. When I saw her in person though, in all her well-rounded high-relief wonder, she absolutely screamed 'Buy me!' So I did. There's no arguing with an imperious Vestal Virgin!)"

    Phil Davis
    Last edited: May 8, 2021
  13. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Beautiful. Although I think calling the average example a "scrawny chicken" is a bit uncharitable!
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  14. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML........Really attractive looking coin to add to your impressive RR collection!...I do enjoy your write ups and find them very informative thanks!

    I have one bronze with an old ticket..
    Galerius Maximianus as Caesar AE Follis minted 297 AD....11,46 g. 25 mm.
    Obv: GAL VAL MAXIMIANVS NOB CAES. Laureate Head right
    Rev: GENIO POPVLI ROMANI/ (crescent)/ D// ANT. Genius standing left, holding cornucopiae and patera.......RIC VI 49b Antioch
    From an old collection formed in the 1920s. Ex Münzhandlung Kallai, Vienna.

    galerius ticket.JPG
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  15. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

  16. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Congrats, @DonnaML, #54 is another nice one - and I always like a yellowed, hand written ink tag. Here is mine of the type - which has an ancient scuff mark on the obverse, but a portrait that I think is very nice otherwise. Sydenham on 839 (with AED) - 839 (only AE) just mentioned "Knife, simpulum, and ornamented axe" - mine looks more eagle-like than leonine to me, but looking at Schaefer, lion seems to be the intent, and I am writing off mine as a combination of die sloppiness, strike and wear.
    The destined victim 'mid the snows
    Of Algidus in oakwoods fed,
    Or where the Alban herbage grows,
    Shall dye the pontiff's axes (Pontificum secures) red
    -Horace, Odes 3.23

    while dark blood spurts over the earth, from the throat
    of the bright sacrifice, struck by the axe-blow (percussa securi),
    the gifts promised to the temples of the benign gods,
    are being prepared for offering by both victorious Caesars,
    -Ovid, Sorrows, Book TIV.II:1-74 Tiberius’s Triumph

    Illustrations of Laurentio Begero (Lorenz Beger), aka Daphnaeus Arcuarius, Roman librarian, art historian and archaeologist (1653-1705). Published in AD 1696-1701

    and for completeness a simpulum
    from the collection of Hans von Rossum
    Sulpicia Denarius.jpg
    P. Galba, 69 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint
    Obv: Veiled and draped bust of Vesta right, S•C Behind
    Rev: AE - CVR, emblems of the pontificate: secespita, simpulum, and securis, P GALB in exergue
    Ref: Crawford 406/1; Sydenham 839; Sulpicia 7
    a couple of examples with same dies in Schaefer
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
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  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Great illustrations. I wonder what the reason is for the sacrificial axe being ornamented with a lion -- apparently a general feature, not limited to this coin-type?

    I have not yet looked for die-matches in Schaefer. I find that I rarely have patience to go through pages and pages of clippings in those binders, except when there are specific control-marks I can look for to narrow down the field. Absent that, there isn't always a distinctive feature about the particular die that allows me to recognize it while scrolling past at the rate of a couple per second! Although I suppose in this case I could look for the distinctive shape of the lion's head, at least for the reverse. For the obverse, I see nothing remarkably distinctive, so I'd have to look for things like the shape of the S in the S•C. (I have no reason to believe that the same obverse and reverse dies were always matched together, so I'd have to look at both sides of every example. I admire your patience if you can do that on a regular basis!)
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  18. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Our banned friend is harassing me with extremely vulgar posts under new user names. I don't want him to think he's getting to me, or allow him to ruin this thread, but I don't appreciate it. Of course I've put him on ignore -- as tempted as I am to respond -- but it doesn't do much good when every time he's banned he comes back under a new name.
    Last edited: May 9, 2021
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  19. desertgem

    desertgem MODERATOR Senior Errer Collecktor Moderator

    It's our old buddy again, went off of meds again or something. Jim
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  20. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for deleting his posts. I wish there were something you could do to prevent him from repeatedly signing up again under new names, but I guess you can't ban his IP address or anything like that?
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  21. desertgem

    desertgem MODERATOR Senior Errer Collecktor Moderator

    There are several ways a person can change their IP constantly either using a VPN or a wireless device app. I was online setting my class up for next week , so I wasn't on CT for several hours.
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