Scarce issue of Scipio

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by RichardT, May 10, 2019.

  1. RichardT

    RichardT Well-Known Member

    Hello all,

    Admiring the recent super rare fleet coinage made me want to share this scarce coin of mine. It's a denarius issued by the Pompeian faction from Utica in 47-46 BCE, as they continued the struggle against Caesar after their defeat at Pharsalus. Crawford 460/2, Sear Imperators 41.

    The reverse has a head of Jupiter which is supposed to evoke memories of Pompey's own issue in the early stages of the Civil War. The reverse is very enigmatic and full of symbolism... there are scales, a cornucopia, an ear of corn, curule chair. There's also supposed to be a dragon's head in the lower right field but unfortunately it's missing here.

    The overall theme of the reverse seems to allude in various subtle ways to the fertility of Africa.

    I think I was only able to afford this example because others suspected it's plated... it weighs just 3.00g. However I think it's an official issue, and the light weight is due to the corrosion. Certainly the style seems to be correct. Any opinions are welcome!

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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  4. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    "Oh, if that could only talk."

    (Of course I'd have to have to have subtitles, since I'm not too good with conversational Latin.) ;)
  5. RichardT

    RichardT Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your kind words everyone! Really a pity the dragon's head isn't present. I thought that was the most interesting part of the reverse. But I doubt if I could afford a better example of this issue.
  6. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Great coin! What are the legends on the obverse and reverse?
  7. RichardT

    RichardT Well-Known Member


    The obverse legend should read SCIP•IMP upwards to left, METEL•PIVS downward to the right. It refers to Scipio Metellus Pius, one of the most senior Pompeian commanders. He's not described favorably by the historical sources.

    The reverse legend reads LEG•PRO•PR to left, CRASS•IVN downwards to right. The full name of this person is not known as far as I can tell. What's known is P. Licinius Crassus.
    Orange Julius likes this.

    PMONNEY Flaminivs

    Congratulation, right choice, right coin !
  9. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Well-Known Member

    Mine is the more common Cr459/1 CRI 45. I think the elephant looks a bit juvenile 459-c.jpg
    Alegandron, Jwt708, randygeki and 5 others like this.
  10. RichardT

    RichardT Well-Known Member

    That's a very sharp denarius, Terence. It may be a common issue but yours is a really nice example!
  11. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  12. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    I don’t know much about the coinage of Pompey’s side in the war against J Caesar. Did his army mint much coinage while they were maneuvering against Caesar? Can you trace him by his coinage from leaving Rome to his assassination in Egypt? Or did his army just carry funds mostly without minting many new coins?
  13. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member

    Rare not scarce as is this entire issue. You are being too modest.

    So I have a question that CT may be able to help me on another coin from this issue in my collection:

    Untitled 1.jpg
    My provenance for this coin is as follows:
    1. NAC92 (23 May 2016) lot 387 (CHF5000) ex
    2. NAC72 (16 May 2013) lot 485 (CHF6500) ex
    3. NAC Autumn 95 (26 Oct. 1995) lot 402 (est. CHF800) ex
    4. Münzen Medaillen Basel 17 (2 Dec.1957) lot 180 ex
    5. Karl Kress (Otto Helbing) 102 (7 Dec. 1956) lot 174 ex
    6. Karl Kress (Otto Helbing) 92 (31 Mar. 1952) lot 321
    7. = Banti, Corpus Nummorum Romanorum, LICINIA 24/2 (this coin)
    8. = Alföldi - Redeunt Saturnia Regna 1997 p.131,pl.41,no.9 (this coin)
    9. = Alföldi , "Sulla, Ruler by the Grace of God", Chiron 6, 1976, pp.142-158, pls.7-10, this coin cited and illustrated [to be verified, and original German title needed]
    Provenances 8 and 9 come from discovering this in the collected Alföldi works (volume 3 of the Green Julius Caesar books, called Redeunt Saturnia Regna and published posthumously in 1997 in English translation):

    Untitled 2.jpg

    So number 9 is my coin. The chapter that this coin appears in was apparently taken from the 1976 Chiron 3 article. Chiron, which is the short name for "Mitteilungen der Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts", is a German language publication and is not available online through my normal academic resources before c.1995. I don't know what the Chiron 3 article is actually named, only the name of the English chapter in the 1997 book, "Sulla, Ruler by the Grace of God". And I haven't verified my coin is illustrated in Chiron 6.

    But most significantly, this illustration, number 9, DIFFERS from the actual illustration in M&M Basel 17 in that the latter is lower quality than the 1997 image; the 1957 image is shown here at left (#180) beside the 1997 (#9):

    Untitled 5.jpg

    It seems counterintuitive that the image at right could be a derivative of the image at left. Clearly the righthand image looks better, and you can't get better than the original. So where did Alfoeldi's ancestors get the excellent photo used to illustrate the 1997 book? What photo did he use for the 1976 article? Was Alfoeldi a coin collector - might this have been his coin? But on the other hand the shading and light seem similar.

    One possible easy answer is that he was in touch with M&M Basel and they had the original photo in high resolution from the 1957 sale which he used for the 1976 article. But I haven't seen the article. Maybe someone here has some views or has access to Chiron 6.

    Last edited: May 13, 2019
    Bing likes this.
  14. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member

    You are right. Not plated. Corrosion, weight within normal limits given condition. Possibly crystallised. Don't drop it on a hard surface.

    Below is my other coin from the same series, the Sekhmet type. I do not have the Jupiter type Richard has in my collection.

    3351290733_e9c1659cde_b (1).jpg
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
  15. RichardT

    RichardT Well-Known Member

    Generally speaking Pompey and his followers minted lots of coins during Caesar's Civil War from 49-45 BCE. However as a whole their denarii are much scarcer as compared to the corresponding issues of Caesar. Some Pompeian issues are in fact very scarce.

    As for tracing the Pompeians by their coinage, it's actually not difficult because they tended to strike the coinage with the names of their imperators as the issuing authority. And the imperators changed after major engagements (Pharsalus in 48 BCE, Thapsus in 46 BCE and Munda in 45 BCE) as they were slain.

    For example you can find Pompey the Great was mentioned in the coinage before Pharsalus. Metellus Scipio before Thapsus. Gnaeus Pompey before Munda. It's these kind of details which makes the Imperatorial coinage so interesting.

    Thanks Andrew for the confirmation that the coin isn't plated. I'm quite surprised you don't have an example of the Jupiter type. I could I have sworn I saw one listed as ex Andrew McCabe collection before.
  16. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member

    "ex Andrew McCabe" means I sold whatever example I had. Doesn't always mean I've already replaced - often it can take 10 years or more to find the right example for me, and when a coin isn't right for me then I may sell the type before I've a better one.
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