The VIRTVTI antoniniani of Claudius II

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Claudius_Gothicus, Apr 7, 2021.

  1. Claudius_Gothicus

    Claudius_Gothicus Well-Known Member

    I haven't picked up many coins in the last couple of months, unfortunately, but amongst those I purchased, this one was without a doubt the most interesting, as it belongs to a small subgroup of antoniniani struck as part of Claudius II's Smyrna issue in late 268 AD, before the mint was moved to Cyzicus:
    Claudius II (268-270), Antoninianus, Smyrna mint, second officina.
    Obverse: IMP C M AVR CLAVDIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; two dots beneath;
    Reverse: VIRTV-TI AVG, Mars standing right, holding spear pointing up in right hand and shield which rests on ground in left hand; SPQR in exergue;
    RIC - , RIC V Online 825

    The VIRTVTI antoniniani from this mint come with four different reverses that, however, all feature the same reverse legend; the reverse types are:
    - Trophy and arms flanked by two captives;
    - Mars standing right;
    - Mars standing left;
    - Mars walking right;
    Now, these coins are more interesting than they seem like at first glance, and I'd like to analyze them by talking about a few points, the first one being the context in which they were struck: Claudius II's issue from Smyrna used most of the reverses that had already been introduced under Gallienus, and as such it's no surprise that the most common reverse of the four is known for both emperors:
    Claudius II (268-270), Antoninianus, Smyrna mint.
    Obverse: IMP C M AVR CLAVDIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind;
    Reverse: VIRTV-TI AVG, trophy and arms flanked by two captives, SPQR in exergue;
    RIC 255, RIC V online 822.

    I am unfortunately lacking an example of Gallienus', but I can show you this one of Claudius II; this type, while scarce, is still far more common than the other three that share this reverse legend, which are all unknown for Gallienus, suggesting that they were introduced for his successor; the question that arises, then, is: why? Why did the staff at the Smyrna mint create three new reverses, while all the others were recycled from the previous emperor's emission? Was there an explicit, intentional effort from the mint to portray the new emperor as a saviour from the turmoil that the Roman Empire was suffering from, or were these reverses also struck for Gallienus, and we simply haven't found them yet? Maybe time will tell.

    Now, let's analyze these three rarer reverse types, which are by far more interesting than the generic trophy type; as far as I known, only Gysen, in his 1999 article "À propos des ateliers de Smyrne et de Cyzique sous Claude II le Gothique", published in BCEN 2, wrote about these coins, where he classified them like this, taking into account both the reverse and the bust type (The Cercle d'Études Numismatiques was kind enough to send me a scan of the whole article):
    Numérisation_20210330 (6).jpg
    You will instantly notice that something's not right, as there are three types listed instead of four; it seems like this was caused by an error on Gysen's part, who listed together the "Mars standing right" type (, which is the one I have just received, together with the "Mars walking right type" ( and - of this second one Gysen didn't show any photos and didn't write any references, so its actual existance is uncertain). The doubts aren't over yet, however, because, if you check the RIC V Online pages, you will notice that the figure on the reverse is identified as Virtus, and not as Mars; now, telling them apart is not always easy on Roman coins, but I believe that in this instance it's possible and, personally, I agree with Gysen's interpretation, since, as you can see from the unique antoninianus in Vienna, the figure is shown in the "propugnator" stance, with spear and shield, which would be typical for Mars but unheard of for Virtus, suggesting that the coin is portraying the god of war himself; however, if anyone has a different opinion, I'd like to hear it :)!

    That's all for now; I must admit that I really enjoyed researching this little-known group of coins, and I'd definitely like to build a full set of them with all four reverses, although I doubt it might be truly attainable, due to the rarity of the "walking right" type. Post your coins featuring Mars or Virtus, your coins of Gallienus or Claudius II from Smyrna, or anything else you believe might be relevant!

    - RIC V;
    - RIC V Online;
    - "À propos des ateliers de Smyrne et de Cyzique sous Claude II le Gothique", BCEN 2, P. Gysen, 1999;
    - "L'ouverture de l'atelier impérial de Cyzique sous le règne de Claude II le Gothique", RN 163, J. Mairat, 2007;
    - "Metal analyses of Roman Coins minted under the Empire", British Museum Occasional Paper 120, Cope et al., 1997;
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  3. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Thanks Claudius, nice write up.

    Mars & Virtus Caracalla

    P1170772 209ADbest.jpg P1170772 207 AD Mars (2).JPG
  4. John Conduitt

    John Conduitt Well-Known Member

    Very nice coins. There always seems to be a deeper story even when you don't expect it.

    I don't have any from Smyra or with Virtus, but I do have Gallienus with a VIRTVS reverse. It doesn't feature Virtus but Roma, who also happens have have a spear and shield.

    Gallienus Antoninianus, 259
    Samosata. Billion, 22mm, 2.62g. IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS P F AVG. VIRTVS AVG, emperor standing to right, holding spear, receiving wreath from Roma standing to left, holding spear and shield, wreath in field above (RIC V.1 (joint reign) 457 var).
  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    It's not unheard of at all for Virtus to be depicted with spear and shield; here's an example from Valerian on which she carries both (but note that the spear is reversed). The most obvious "tell" is that Virtus is always (or almost always) portrayed with her right breast bare (presumably so you can be sure of her sex), and/or, as here, at least with her chiton off her right shoulder -- although the image is admittedly a bit unclear, she looks like she's wearing a bra, or the Roman equivalent.

    Valerian I - Virtus AVGG - jpg version.jpg
    Here are other examples of Virtus from Hadrian and Caracalla. Note that on both, she not only has her right breast bare but has her left foot on a helmet and holds a parazonium (in a rather suggestive location and at an equally suggestive angle), two other common features for Virtus.

    Hadrian dupondius, Virtus reverse with parazonium.jpg

    Caracalla - Virtus denarius (scowling).jpg As for your Claudius II coin, I can't really tell because the reverse is so worn, but there's certainly no indication of a bare right breast. It's pretty well accepted at this point that when a "Virtvs" legend is accompanied by a male figure (or a figure that's not obviously female), the image is of either Mars or the emperor displaying the attributes of "Virtus," rather than the actual (female) personification of Virtus.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2021
  6. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    I don't have VIRTVTI, but I have a few VIRTVS:
    Claudius Gothicus
  7. Claudius_Gothicus

    Claudius_Gothicus Well-Known Member

    Maybe I didn't explain myself very well, but what I wanted to say is that, while showing Virtus standing with spear and shield is normal, showing her walking while carrying spear and shield would be unusual, as that is a stance that is associated with Mars Propugnator.
  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    That certainly makes sense.
  9. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    Claudius_Gothicus likes this.
  10. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Great coins, both with characteristic (though different) Smyrna portraits. Wonderful writeup, too! (Folks: do you realize this YN is in high school and that he is also a non-native English speaker? :wideyed:)

    Question: is it possible to tell, just by looking, whether a particular SPQR coin is a Smyrna issue vs. a Cyzicus? I take it portrait style is indicative (as on your coin) but there are a few (allegedly) Smyrna issues where the portrait looks awfully similar to later Cyzicus, at least to me.

    I don't have a CII from Smyrna, but here's a later Cyzicus (RIC online 983):
    CII Cyzicus.jpg

    Early Aurelian coins from the mint basically copied the CII portrait:
    aurelian cyzicus.jpg
    (Note the cool double die clash on the reverse!)
  11. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Wow. I had no idea. That's amazing!
  12. Claudius_Gothicus

    Claudius_Gothicus Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the kind words @Severus Alexander, I try to do my best in my writeups, and I'm glad you appreciate them :happy:. Cool coins too! I never get tired of seeing your Aurelian with a double die clash.

    As for your question, I personally have never found it hard to distinguish the two mints from each other; firstly, you can get pretty far in the identification process just by looking at the obverse legend, as Smyrna only used CLAVDIVS AVG and IMP C M AVR CLAVDIVS AVG, while Cyzicus used IMP C M AVR CLAVDIVS AVG, IMP CLAVDIVS P F AVG, IMP CLAVDIVS AVG and VIRTVS CLAVDI AVG. If your coin has the legend shared by both, then you need to look at the lettering (letters from Cyzicus are usually rounder and thicker) and at the portrait (Smyrna portraits have a clear Eastern influence that is usually less noticeable in Cyzicus'). With that having been said, I'd be curious to see the coins you have doubts about, maybe I can learn something new as well :).

    In the meantime, here's my only Claudius II from Cyzicus:
    Claudius II (268-270), antoninianus, Cyzicus mint, second officina.
    Obverse: IMP C M AVR CLAVDIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust with paludamentum left, seen from behind, two dots beneath;
    Reverse: VICTORI-A-E GOTHIC, trophy and arms flanked by two captives, SPQR in exergue;
    RIC 251 (unlisted variant), RIC V online 926.
  13. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Nice coins and very interesting write-up. I can share a Claudius Gothicus with a Virtus reverse from the Rome mint:


    Claudius II Gothicus, (24 mm, 4.00 g), Rome, 268-269 A.D., Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust of Claudius II to right, seen from behind/. Rev. VIRTVS AVG Virtus standing front, head to l., holding olive-branch in r. hand and scepter in l.; shield set on ground at feet. RIC 109.
  14. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    There are distinctive types for Smyrna that are not carried over to Cyzicus:



    And VIRTVS AVG for both -- with Hercules (from Smyrna) and with Virtus from Cyzicus. The tropaeum and VIRTVS AVG types were probably the most popular types at Smyrna when the mint relocated probably in December 268.

    Here's the change in the tropaeum type from VIRTVTI AVG (Smyrna) to VICTORIAE GOTHIC (Cyzicus):





    The VICTORIAE GOTHIC was allegedly bought from the Royal Ontario Museum together with the 1903/5 Ihnasyah Hoard, but I doubt it.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
  15. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    I was hoping for a method that didn't require my small brain to memorize a bunch of types. :D

    Those tips are helpful, thanks! For the sort of thing I had in mind, using the new RIC attributions, compare this coin attributed to Smyrna:

    Screen Shot 2021-04-17 at 3.46.01 PM.jpg

    To this first-issue coin attributed to Cyzicus:
    Screen Shot 2021-04-17 at 3.47.58 PM.jpg

    Very similar style, I'd say! Which is of course what you'd expect if the mint was transferred.
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  16. hotwheelsearl

    hotwheelsearl Well-Known Member

    Not at all related, but a "matched set" of Arcadius and Honorius's Virtvs Exerciti.

    Arcadius RIC X Cyzicus 66B.JPG
    Honorius RIC X Constantinople 61.JPG
  17. Orange Julius

    Orange Julius Well-Known Member

    Great coins! I really like Claudius II coins too.

    While I don't have a VIRTVTI AVG coin of CII, I have a Gallienus that is similar to your trophy coin but... I think from an Eastern mint usually described as Antioch.
    Gallienus AE Antoninianus, Antioch. Sole reign. AD 265. GALLIENVS AVG, radiate, draped, cuirassed bust right / PAX FVNDATA, Trophy with a captive on each side. Mintmark: branch right. RIC 652; RSC 770; Goebl 1635i; Sear 10306.

    and a Claudius II trophy coin of Cyzicus:
    Claudius II Antoninianus. Cyzicus. IMP CLAVDIVS PF AVG, radiate, draped, cuirassed bust right, two dots beneath bust / VICTORIAE GOTHIC, Two captives bound and seated back to back at the base of a trophy. Alföldi 32/3; Normanby hoard 1108A; RIC V-1, 252 Cyzicus var (no mintmark).
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  18. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    No, it's no need to remember all those types, just the common ones from Cyzicus, which are a few - VICTORIAE GOTHIC, PAX AETERNA and FORTVNA REDVX and using them as a reference point you will be able to extrapolate and asses other types. As a matter of fact, most of the many types from Smyrna are rare to very rare and there are possibly more that still wait to be discovered.
  19. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Cool coin and writeup @Claudius_Gothicus

    Yeah, I knew that from when I sent him a prize after the last Guess the CTer contest : impressive knowledge in History, numismatics and english. I bet the dude is brilliant at everything he puts his eye/hands on !

    Some Virtvs of mine

    Caracalla, Denarius - Rome mint, AD 210
    ANTONINVS PIVS AVG BRIT, Laureate head of Caracalla right
    PONTIF TRP XIII COS III, Virtus standing right, left foot on helmet
    3.42 gr
    Ref : RCV #6872 var, Cohen #478

    Gordian III, Antoninianus - Rome mint, 3rd emission, AD 02-05/239
    IMP CAES M ANT GORDIANVS AVG, Draped and radiate bust of Gordian right
    VIRTVS AVG, Virtus standing facing, head left, holding branch and spear; shield resting at his side.
    4,54 gr
    Ref : RCV # 8668, RIC # 39, Cohen # 381, Michaux #322

    Gallienus, Antoninianus - Cologne mint, AD 257-258
    GALLIENVS PF AVG, Radiate and cuirassed bust of Gallienus, seen from front
    VIRTVS AVGG, Virtus, standing right, holding spear and standard
    3,93 gr
    Ref : RCV #10413, Cohen #1309, Göbl # 8821

    Constantine the Great, Follis - Nicomedia mint, 2nd officina, c. AD 311
    IMP C FL VAL CONSTANTINVS P F AVG; Laureate head right
    VIRTVTIE-XERCITVS Mars/Virtus advancing right in military dress, holding transverse spear and shield ; trophy over shoulder. B in right field. SMN in exergue.
    4.88 gr, 22 mm
    RIC-, C-, Roman coins -
    RIC lists this type only for Licinius and Maximinus . "Iovi Conservatori and Virtuti Exercitus both appear for Licinius and Maximinus, emissions for the former being the more scarce: coinage for Constantine is extremely rare. Date, c. 311". Coin should be listed after NICOMEDIA 70c.
    Please see @Victor_Clark's website for further information at :

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  20. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Here is a Claudius II VIRTVS AVG. It is like the one of @Shea19 above.

    20 mm. 3.05 grams.
    I got it because of the silvering, which is uncommon on coins of Claudius II.
  21. cmezner

    cmezner do ut des Supporter

    A Fides Militum from Rome; the letter M is written as IIII a sure sign of being from the Rome mint.

    Rome, 269 AD, 5th officina. 4th emission.
    19 x 20 mm, 2.450 g
    RIC V Claudius Gothicus 38 var. (ϵ on rev. r. field); Cohen 92; RCV.11336

    Could not find this issue with ϵ in RIC. Any help here, please?

    Ob.: IMP CLAVDIVS AVG head of Claudius Gothicus, radiate, right
    Rev.: FIDES MILITVM, Fides, draped, standing l., holding standard in r. and spear in l. hand; Є in r. field

    upload_2021-4-19_0-13-19.png upload_2021-4-19_0-13-28.png

    and one from Panonia:
    Siscia, 269 AD, mintmark * | II

    19 x 20 mm, 3.669 g
    RIC V Claudius Gothicus 195; Cohen 314;

    Ob.: IMP CLAVDIVS AVG Bust of Claudius Gothicus, radiate, cuirassed, right
    Rev.: VIRTVS AVG Soldier, helmeted, in military attire, standing l., leaning on shield and holding spear in l. hand; * | II
    upload_2021-4-19_0-16-36.png upload_2021-4-19_0-17-12.png
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