Featured The mystery of ACHILLEUS, the Corrector

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Ocatarinetabellatchitchix, Jan 17, 2020.

  1. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Egypt, 290-298 AD
    The Corrector
    Throughout the third century, the power of Egypt declined: supplanted by Africa as Rome's breadbasket, it suffered as much from piracy in the Red Sea as from the agitation of the Blemmyes, a nomadic tribe from northern Nubia, who ruined its trade with the India . The province also suffers from the loss of value of Roman coins, in particular the silver tetradrachm, while the increase in prices leaves the rural populations in great difficulty . Neither the monetary reforms of the Emperor Diocletian, nor the stabilization of the domestic political situation, the premise of a resumption of economic activity, succeeded in reversing the phenomenon and relieving local populations of the burden of taxation. Also, between 290 and 292 AD, a revolt broke out in Upper Egypt. The insurgency spreads quickly since it reaches in particular the region of Fayoum, that of Thebaïde as well as the cities of Busiris and Coptos. This uprising is, if not triggered, at least encouraged by Domitius Domitianus who finally takes the lead. For this, he relies on Aurelius Achilleus, whose precise attributions are not very clearly known. However, we know that he has the title of Corrector and that he has a military command and a civil authority which gives him a role relatively comparable to that of the prefect of Egypt whom he fights . It also seems that it was Achilleus, who, in the service of Domitianus, raised the Egyptian populations , which could explain the confusion that is sometimes made between the two characters.

    Imperial cartouche of the temple of Esneh, “Achilleus the great dominator”.
    Revue Archeologique 1870

    In 296 AD, Domitius Domitianus took control of all of Egypt and usurps the title of Augustus. The emperor Diocletian intervenes personally and makes push back the rebels who must be locked up in Alexandria. It seems that Domitianus died in Alexandria at the end of the year 297 AD, Achilleus therefore finds himself alone at the head of the rebellion. At the same time, Diocletian encircles the city where the insurgents are entrenched and submits it to the seat. To do this, he notably destroyed the aqueducts supplying the city with water. Alexandria finally fell in the spring of 298 AD after almost eight months of siege. Furious at the revolt, Diocletian demanded that the city be sacked and severely repressed the population. If he has not committed suicide before, Achilleus is most certainly killed by order of the emperor in the meantime.

    Diocletian ( Archaeology museum of Istanbul )

    The coinage
    and his master Domitius Domitianus were sometimes considered to be one and the same person , some believing for example that Achilleus was a nickname attributed to Domitius Domitianus after his usurpation. In fact if we found coins minted with the effigy of Domitius Domitianus, there is none of Achilleus. However, this can be explained by the short duration of its usurpation. The coins in the name of Achilleus, described by H. Goltzius in Thesaurus eri antiquariae (1579), and Sestini in Lettere, Series I, vol 4, have been recognized as fake by Eckhel. Around 1790, Christophorus Rasche described in his Universae rei numeriae veterum et praecipue Graecorum ac Romanorum a coin of the famous Corrector : ACHILLEVS IMPERATOR / FIDES MILIT. I have been able to find a specimen of this coin owned by a private collector. What do you think of it ?

    In 1830, M.Hennin, the numismatist, declared in his Manuel de numismatique ancienne : “the pieces that have been published for Achilleus are false”. J.Y.Akerman also wrote in 1834 about the usurper :”No certain coins are known of Achilleus. Those given by Goltz are considered spurious”. Later, G.Dattari in Appunti di numismatica alessandrina, (1902), attempted to "rehabilitate" them, but without providing any references. I found a specimen that is actually for sale on MA SHOPS for 400 EU. I let you judge by yourself if it’s the real thing or just a forgery.
    And if you feel like owning one, there is currently an example for sale by a German’s auction house. Starting bid at 2400 EUR. A bargain from an usurper, a Corrector who did never struck any coins, or did he ?



    Please post your Achilleus coins (!) or give us your opinion about his coinage (?).
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I have never heard of any verified coinage of Achilleus, while both tetradrachms and folles of Domitius are rare but can be acquired. To me it is interesting that Domitius followed the coin reform and started striking folles. I am not sure about the bottom coin - the legend looks a bit weird and may be a tooled tetradrachm of another ruler of that age.

    In my last trip to Egypt a German archaeological team was starting to excavate the ruins of a legionary fort built by Diocletian and adjacent to Luxor temple in Thebes. The site was marked off as the archaeologists were done excavating for the season. Presumably it was erected to guard against unrest in Upper Egypt.
  4. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I wouldn't touch any of those. They all look tooled. Maybe not the third one, but it looks to have had metal added (to a Maximianus coin?) where the obverse legend is. o_O

    Another consideration regarding the first two is that there's no way the Alexandria mint would have produced antoniniani at this time. (Or ever!)

    Here are my three folles issued by Domitianus in the names of the official tetrarchs. I'm still missing Maximian.

    Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 8.58.35 AM.jpg Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 8.58.15 AM.jpg Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 8.58.45 AM.jpg
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
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  5. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    It certainly looks like A Maximianus Herculius Tetradrachm with the reverse of Alexandria holding bust of Serapis and sceptre.
    Very resembling profile :

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  6. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    I'm not a believer in those coins. The idea that Achilleus and Domitius Domitianus could be the same person? Hmmm, interesting. Google Translate is very imperfect, but here's the translation of the auction listing cited in the OP (for the what appears to be tooled Maximianus coin):

    ACHILLES. 297-298, "Egypt, Alexandria." Billontetradrachmon. Fashioned from a tetrarchic coin. A K _E_I_ AXI__EOC CEB Laurel Head r. Rs: L _ Alexandria with wall crown stands r. with serapis bust and scepter. 5.98g, nice brown tint. RRRR ssEx Collection A.W. before 2013. For a coin by Maximianus Herculius with a very similar portrait and the same reverse. cf. SNG Delepierre 3129. Coins of the usurper Achilles from Alexandria were first described in 1579 by H. Goltzius. Until then, he was only known as one of the leaders of the Egyptian uprising by sources like Eutrop or Aurelius Victor. It was suspected that he claimed imperial dignity after or simultaneously with Domitius Domitianus, or that both might be the same person. J.H. Eckhel suspected in the fourth volume of his Doctrina in 1794 that the coins of Achilles were re-cut tetrarchic coins, but conceded that he had never seen one. In 1902, however, G. Dattari defended the authenticity of these coins. Ultimate clarity was brought about by a papyrus that Achilles called as high official of Domitius Domitianus with his gentile name: Aurelius Achilleus. Thus, the coins with the names L. Epidius or Lepidus Achilleus could not be antique. It is not clear why reworked tetrarchic coins already existed in the 16th century.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
  7. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

  8. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Do you think I can withdraw my bid ???
  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    Do you think I could upgrade my coin with a sharp pin and some patience?

    The serious question here is whether the tooled and 'improved' coins are really from the 16th century or 500 years later. I see real value in coins from the Paduan period when collectors were willing to have things made to order to fill holes in their collections when genuine items did not exist. If a writer in late antiquity mentioned a name, someone would make a coin to match and sell it to nobles with more money than sense. The problem is I have no idea how to tell a historical fake from one made last week.

    My tooled coin of only slightly lower level is this bronze tetradrachm of Zenobia tooled from a Flavian Spes as. I paid a novelty price for it as appropriate for a piece of junk. If we could prove that the 'improvements' were 500 years old I believe the fair market value would be 100 times the 'if only 100 year old' price. Look at the prices realized for original, struck Paduans, for Beckers and other 'name' fakers. rs2425bb9999zen.jpg
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  10. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi All,

    Since the tetrarchic issues during the usurpation are shown above, here's my Domitius Domitianus RIC VI Alexandria, 20 (OFF B); Cohen-0001

    This is emission #4b2 in Table 2 of 'Tetrarchic Emissions for Alexandria Mint' (see D. VanHorn's Gold and Silver First Tetrarchic Issues from the Mint of Alexandria). I prefer to use the vanHorn dating instead of RIC VI's 'Series III, ca 295-296 CE'.

    - Broucheion
  11. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    That's a very nice DD, @Broucheion! And thanks for linking the VanHorn article. I agree with the revised dating (I wrote a bit about this here.) Do you know what he means by "short form" and "long form" (4b1 & 4b2)? I'd also be curious to know the reasoning behind the claim that the LIB and B over L control marked folles are the first for the mint.
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  12. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Fascinating thread. My though here is just a hunch – will run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes?

    1579 seems to me way early for people to be creating fake coins of obscure individuals for the market. My guess is that Goltzius had a sophisticated historical knowledge but was less competent as a numismatist, and more likely just misread a genuine coin. Nobles with more money that sense would be thicker on the ground a century or two later, and the fakes seen above were perhaps a consequence rather than a cause of what Goltzius put. His innocent error triggered the later opportunists

    Here is a parallel example of roughly this sort of thing (Bertrand Russell used it as an example before me, but the source is a footnote on p. 358 of the 1936 Oxford History of Roman Britain).

    Since Bede (c. 700 AD) there has been a tradition that two brothers, Hengist and Horta, began the Angles conquest of England: Bede backs this up by suggesting the grave stone of Horta was still to be seen in Kent in his day.

    Oxford History of Roman Britain however suggests Horta never existed - Bede just got carried away having merely seen a damaged Roman memorial, with the letters HORS still showing - ‘from some such word as COHORS’.

    Rob T
  13. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi @Severus Alexander,
    1. Long form = obverse legend: IMP C L VAL DIOCLETIANVS P F AVG (not sure what the shorter form is off hand).
    2. LIB = year 12 of Diocletian = year 2 (LB) of his Caesar. These would be the first cases of using dates on what - in one contemporary papyrus - was called the 'Roman coinage' (ie post-reform of Diocletian) as opposed to the Alexandrian style tetradrachm coinage.
    - Broucheion
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  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    No salute here! If 1579 is too early for this concept then you are denying the existence of Giovanni Cavino and his place as the father of artistic coin fakery a couple decades earlier.

    The highlight of the above piece is the collaboration between the artist Cavino on the coin collector Alessandro Bassiano who is credited in helping with the design and concepts based on his study of the real thing. He was in a position to realize what was needed and could (should, by his standards) be created. Today, the Paduans are not thought of as fakes but as Renaissance art created to fill a desire for things that the marketplace could not provide. He did not 'copy' the ancients as much as he sought to update, complete and improve on them. Denying his place as creator and calling his work 'fakes' is simplistic scholarship.
    However Paduans struck in 16th century Padua by masters have been replicated ever since by casting generation after generation of casts and casts of casts of casts of casts leaving us with what many of us have in our collections today. These are fakes when sold as old and something akin to illustrations one step up from my JPG photos or plaster casts for study when presented as what they are. Mine is the Septimius Severus inspired by an ancient original but never to be confused with one. Every so often the market will see an original, struck piece but we are to the point now that even the early generations of casts and aftercasts have a following.
    Numismatics is a complex subject. In addition to weight standards and items of commerce, most of us have interest in them as 'art'. We must also realize that there is a 'history' aspect to the subject including many shades of grey in the question of fakes.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2020
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  15. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Ah! I should have thought of that interpretation, thanks. Seems quite plausible, but they must be pretty rare. I can't find a single example of a Diocletian LIB follis on acsearch.
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  16. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi @Severus Alexander,

    Never seen one for sale in 30 years of collecting.

    - Broucheion
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  17. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    According to Emmett, year 12 for Diocletian was year 11 for Maximianus and year 4 for the Caesars.
  18. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    Quite a nice coin B. I've been looking for a Domitianus coin for some time. Every time they seem to pop up at auction I lose. Yet, I don't want to overpay for a fixed price example. I suppose I'll eventually have to relent and just go ahead and pull the trigger. I'm down to just a few 3rd century rulers that I don't have. Have a bid currently on Quietus and Quintullus, so that leaves Domitius and the first two Gordians - not including those I will never own (Regalianus, etc.)
  19. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Oh right, of course! That is a problem for the theory...
  20. EWC3

    EWC3 (mood: stubborn)

    Thanks Doug. To show I am definitely wrong, I suppose you would need to find a Cavino/Paduan type version for this Achilleus fellow. Can you? To show I am probably wrong, you would need to find “fake coins of obscure individuals”. Afraid Septimus Severus does not get you out of the starting blocks on that, nor do I notice anything in your links or elsewhere to trouble me, on a quick look. Have I missed something?

    Exactly as you say, this is an accurate description of of what ‘people’ think Today. And for my money that is rather exactly what is wrong about “Today”.

    Around 2000 I was being told exactly this sort of thing about the new generation of Chinese fakes going around. That the Chinese were not like us – they did care that the items were old if they looked nice. But also, I knew enough ethnic Chinese collectors to know the argument was utter codswallop. Chinese collectors were just like us, they wanted the real thing. Their conmen just like ours also, spinning yarns of all sorts to try cover their tracks.

    My guess is that was exactly what went on in 16th century Italy too. In the state of scholarship amongst new collectors, a lot of people fell for these things, and the story that people did not much care if they were really old is a face saving exercise, for both buyers and sellers, only after what was going on was exposed.

    My concern about “Today” is that yes, it is probably easy to find professional academic writers who take what I see as bogus face saving arguments as objective and factually accurate. Writers who dissolve truth itself, and replace truth and falsity with “many shades of grey”.

    By the way, 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum. I judge that work as the best point at which to say that Petrarch's “Dark Age” finished, at least in England. So, for me anyhow, 2020 a good year to point out that replacing truth with shades of grey risks leading us into a new Dark Age.

    Please do not take this the wrong way Doug. Though we disagree here, you are almost the only guy even taking an interest in the matter.

    Many Thanks and All the Best

    Rob T
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
  21. Broucheion

    Broucheion Supporter! Supporter

    Hi @Severus Alexander, @dougsmit,

    Thank you for making me review the references to understand what's really going on here. It reminds me that answering 'from the hip' is not the best way to go (for me at least). It also showed up a typographical error in one of the sources that I never noticed before.

    Doug of course is right to point out that
    Since I remembered the article's argument made sense to me the first time I read it, I went back and looked at it carefully. In VanHorn's article, Table 1 shows Southerland's chronology (RIC VI) and Table 2 shows the author's revised view. In both cases, coins with LIB and LB are placed in 296 or 296/297 CE. My shot from the hip was that "LIB = year 12 of Diocletian = year 2 (LB) of his Caesar."

    The reason for a dated follis coinage is underpinned by the statement "This revolt [by Domitianus] provides a fixed chronological point from which a sequence for the remaining issues may be constructed." Staffierri makes the case that the revolt started in May-June 297 (in Alexandria) after the introduction of a new tax on 27 March 297 [see "Testimonianze sulla fine della monetazione autonoma alessandrina (296-298 d.C.)"] which is a bit after the monetary reform was introduced in late August 296, which puts the revolt in the 13th year of Diocletian.

    Ahh, but here's where I should have double checked by going back to original RIC VI. On page 646 Southerland wrote
    "Tetradrachms of the Greek style were struck as usual with Diocletian's
    regnal date IB, Herculius' IA, and the Caesars' Δ = 29 August 295-
    28 August 296. Only two have been recorded(2) for a later date, with
    Herculius' IB = 29 August 296-28 August 297 - the date of the two
    known Latin-style folles(3) which, by a hybrid anachronism, bear Greek
    dates (IB for Herculius, off A; E for Constantius, off. B

    Footnote (4) is the key, but here are all of them for completeness:

    (2) Voetter, N.Z. 1911, pl. i, after p. 180; Dattari, Numi Augg. Alexandrini, no. 5857.
    (3) See below, p. 650.
    (4) Callu is correct (as against Dattari, R.N. 1904, pp. 395 ff.; Voetter, N.Z. 1911, p. 173; and Thirion, R.B.N. 1961, p. 197) in reading
    L|E as 'year 5, officina 2'.​

    So, these coins are not dated in Diocletian's year 12 or 13 but (Maximian) Herculius' year 12 with his Ceasar's year 5, officina B.

    Now I did mention a typographical error in one of the sources. It's in both of vanHorn's tables where


    is given as


    Bottom line, the coins with "Greek dates" on the Latin follis belong to Maximian Herculius and his Caesar not Doicletian a year earlier. As noted, only two specimens were recorded. I can only wish I had a third one.

    Thanks again for the questions that made me examine all this again!

    - Broucheion
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2020
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