Featured The legend (?) of SPONSIANUS

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Jul 26, 2020.

  1. fomovore

    fomovore Supporter! Supporter

    Is a fake squared (a fake of a fake?) a thing? If so, I can contribute to this conversation

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    Last edited: Jul 29, 2020
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  3. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    It looks identical to the “known” one so I’d say that unless the same dies were struck multiple times with the same off centering, then it’s fake
    Pellinore likes this.
  4. Trebellianus

    Trebellianus VOT II MVLT III

    Very very interesting, thank you.

    My inclination (based on no reading beyond this thread) would be to believe that the aurei found in Transylvania were genuinely ancient, but were "barbaric imitations" and not the production of any real usurper. I.e., the conclusion originally drawn by Neumann in 1779.

    I suspect they cannot be a forgery of the 18th Century. Presumably numismatics was a rather less advanced science then than it is now. Nevertheless, I assume somebody enterprising enough to create a new 3rd Century usurper would have done enough reading to know that the standard obverse formulation of the period was IMP C SPONSIANVS P F AVG (etc.), and that the typical reverse was some blundered and die-worn allegorical figure. A faker would draw enough attention to himself simply by creating this coin -- to make it even more conspicuous by giving it a bizarre obverse legend and elaborate Republican reverse feels implausible.

    The same strangeness, I think, prevents it from being the emission of a real usurper. Look at the coins of other ephemeral usurpers like Regalian or Pacatian or Silbannacus. Those coins are trying their best (with varying degrees of success) to copy the style and imagery of the legitimate emperor's coinage. It's not impossible a usurper could wish to strike out and do something different, but it goes against precedent.

    Meanwhile, we know that the inhabitants of Transylvania in the Republican era had the ability and inclination to copy Roman Republican coinage. And barbarian quasi-Roman aurei of the 3rd Century are known. So perhaps the Sponsianus aurei are an eye-catching overlap of these two currents? Though I have no knowledge whatsoever of barbarian imitation and this is entirely just me recalling things I've read before. If this is the case, then the legend I suppose must, by elimination, be an accidentally credible blundering.

    Interesting to note though, how on the Sponsianus coins we have a "complete" titulature, albeit one arranged oddly, in the dative case and spread out over both faces of the coin: IMP SPONSIANI C AVG just needs a light reordering to become IMP C SPONSIANI AVG. Quite a coincidence if that's all it is.
  5. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

  6. Trebellianus

    Trebellianus VOT II MVLT III

    The rest of the paragraph finishes my point. Cavino lacked the excellent references we moderns have, but when he came to create new imaginary types (like the Julius Caesar in that link) he had enough knowledge of coins and history to produce something credible. The same must surely be true of a hypothetical forger of the 1700s. I assume the best corpus of 3rd Century coinage available to him would be crude by today's standards, but it would presumably still be enough to offer a general picture of what coins of this era did and didn't look like. If the coin was supposed to "blend in", and be taken for authentic, the forger should have had good enough references to know what an unobtrusive period-appropriate reverse should look like. Giving it this off-road Republican reverse does nothing but draw attention to it, which feels counter-productive.
  7. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    I didn't mention it in the write-up but Cohen was also talking about a denarius of the same "Emperor" he even had in hand. Another document I found (1831) is refering to those denarii and specifies "
    these pieces are found quite frequently in ancient Dace ". But the mystery is still complete...
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  8. Odysseos

    Odysseos New Member

    A few additional approaches and clues to this mysterious coin type may deserve consideration. First, why would the name SPONSIANVS end on the coin type with not with NVS but NI? A lack of space? An intent to represent (NV) in combination or ligature, with the I intended to be a narrow S but lacking sufficient curves? A random error, even though all of the other lettering on both obverse and reverse is conventional and correct for the coin type represented? Also with regard to the name Sponsianus, it may be related to the Latin word Sponsum which refers to a promise, vow, or engagement. If an aspiring emperor Sponsianus did exist, it does seem likely that he would have made promises or taken vows of service to achieve his aim, and thus may have adopted such a name as Sponsianus. Second, though most sources cite a relationship to Gordian III and Philip I, Eckhel is said to mention the earlier time of Caracalla (based on the Sponsianus design rather than recovery with better-known coins or other datable items?). We may note that Sponsorinus silver "denarii" are reported but the image on that denomination shown here is radiate, as on a "double denarius" or "antoninianus" created under Caracalla but not minted then in large quantity. The denarius was made into the reign of Gordian III, though in less quantity than his abundant antoniniani. Under Philip, there was only an insignificant minting of denarii, awash in a sea of antoniniani. Therefore, the Sponsianus type existed from the time of Caracalla but did not become plentiful until the time of Gordian, Philip, and beyond. Third, what was the purpose of resurrecting a Roman Republican prototype with a statue of Lucius Minucius Esquilinus Augurinus on a column on the reverse, including the family name of Augurinus shown as C. AVG on a 135 BC coin type apparently of the moneyer Caius (Gaius) Augurinus? This is the moneyer's name written in abbreviated form, and any idea about a relationship to Roman Imperial Titles such as Caesar or Augustus must be limited to the (remote?) possibility that an alternative alternate interpretation was intended. The monument shown was near the Servian Wall's gate called Porta Trigemina and commemorates C. Augurinus' service to the Republic by reporting a planned takeover of the government in time for it to be prevented. As described in Wikipedia, "In 440 BC, a great famine had reached Rome. Given the urgency of the situation, the consuls had quickly elected a praefectus annonae crearetur ("Prefect of the Corn-market"), some sort of prefect of the Republic's corn supply, whose purpose it was to secure the grain supply. It was probably this year that the aedile of the plebs, Manius Marcius, organized a distribution of grain for the plebs, where each individual was given one-third of a Roman bushel (modius).
    The example of Manius Marcius was soon followed by Spurius Maelius, a rich member of the Equestrian order, who had acquired great quantities of fresh wheat in Etruria, and then distributed it to the people for free. His popularity became such that the Patricians were convinced that he was only trying to gain support in order to become king. He had already taken measures for a coup. In the meantime, Lucius Minucius [Esquilinus Augurinus had reported the threat to the authorities, who] had Spurius Maelius assassinated... According to ancient authors, Lucius Minucius was rewarded with the erection of a statue for having alerted the patricians to the danger that Spurius Maelius posed." Perhaps any real Sponsianus would have furthered his ambition and popularity by warning (truly or falsely) of or opposing some rival's usurpation of power (perhaps Philip's usurpation of Gordian?), and been likening himself to the celebrated Lucius Minucius Augurinus. Whether ancient or modern, the Sponsorinus pieces stem from and stimulate much imagination.
  9. Alegandron

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


    Roman Republic
    AR Denarius
    18mm 3.9g
    Rome mint
    134 BCE
    * = 16 Asses
    Spiral column corn-ears togate figure holding loaves modius lituus
    Craw 243-1 Sear 120
    Bing and TIF like this.
  10. Odysseos

    Odysseos New Member

    Yes, this reverse is similar to the Sponsianus type (Sear 119 and RSC Minucia 3 by moneyer C. Minucius Augurinus in 135 BC) but by moneyer Ti. Minucius C.f. Augurinus in 134 BC as indicated by the inscribed TI MINVCI C F upward on the left and AVGVRINI downward on the right (also with ROMA across the top instead to the Sponsianus coin moneyer's name there as C. A-VG with no inscriptions at the left or right). Although the later type differs from Sponsianus' there could be some relevance of its using not Minucius and Augurinus, but Minuci and Augurini, as the Sponsianus obverse also appears have his name inscribed as Sponsiani, a form not seen on the relevant Roman Imperial coin obverses such as those of Gordianus (not named as Gordiani) or Philippus (not named as Philippi). Could the unorthodox form Sponsiani have been adopted for consistency with the reverse of the later Republican type not copied, but perhaps previously considered as an alternative? The choice of Sponsianus obverse and reverse details, whether ancient or modern, does not appear to reflect casual or meaningless choices but rather deep understanding and consideration. It was a good idea to show the later coin, Alegandron! By the way, in response to a question about the RIC (Volume IV, Part III, 1949) opinion of Sponsianus, on page 67 is "No Emperor of this name is known to history, and the strange barbarous aurei found in Transylvania, that combine the radiate head, IMP. SPONSIANI, on obverse, with an imitation of the reverse of a Roman Republican denarius, remain an unsolved mystery;" and on page 106 under the detailed coin description a note is "A strange and barbarous coin. The rev. is that of the Republican denarius described in B.B.C. Rep. i, p. 135, no. 952. For a discussion, see Bl. f. Mzfr., 1923, pp. 425 ff. See also Introduction." Newer references for the Republican denarius such as Sear are provided above. A more complete reference for the discussion and introduction of 1923 is Blätter für Münzfreunde, Numismatischer Verein zu Dresden. In any case, the RIC inclusion of a Sponsianus coin type listing seems to provide the coin with some measure of credibility.
  11. erebos

    erebos New Member

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  12. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, I'm Autism spectrum, so Please Help. Was that intentional irony? ...No, Be Honest. ...Except, if not, I'm scared of you!
  13. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    A few years ago, me, my wife and the children followed with interest the series "Finding Big Foot". We were amazed to see the team finding evidences of Big Foot presence in every forest in every US state. We are still waiting for a photo or a hair of the terrible beast. The best part was when Matt was asked why no Big Foot corpses had ever been found. The specialist's answered: because they bury the members of the hordes when one of theirs dies ... Next time, I'll tell you about the time I was abducted by Aliens in 1991.:android:
    +VGO.DVCKS likes this.
  14. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your remarkably cogent answer to my question!!! ...Watch this. You are about to make a recovering English major say (......) LOL.
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