Featured This is NOT a donkey head!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Mar 31, 2019.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Some of the more popular coins of Trajan Decius are the antoniniani with the DACIA reverse type, such as this example from my collection:

    Trajan Decius DACIA antoninianus.jpg
    Trajan Decius, AD 249-251.
    Roman AR antoninianus, 3.81 g, 21 mm, 6 h.
    Rome, AD 250-251.
    Obv: IMP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG, radiate, draped and cuirassed bust, right.
    Rev: DACIA, Dacia standing left, holding Dacian draco battle standard.
    Refs: RIC 12b; Cohen 16; RCV 9368; Hunter 7; ERIC II 59.

    For centuries, the object in Dacia's hand has been misidentified as an ass's head.

    The oldest reference I can find about this coin is Banduri's catalog, published in 1718.[1]

    Trajan Decius DACIA antoninianus Banduri listing.JPG
    The reverse description, hastam tenet dextra, in cujus summitate caput asininum, is translated, "holding in the right hand a staff, at the top of which is the head of an ass."

    The catalog of Sulzer's collection,[2] published in 1777, makes the same error.

    Trajan Decius DACIA antoninianus Sulzer listing.JPG

    The reverse description, dextra tubam tenet cum capite asinino, is translated, "holding in the right hand a tube with the head of an ass."

    One would think scholarship would have advanced by 1949, when Mattingly, Sydenham, and Sutherland published RIC IV, part 3,[3] but they still propagate the notion that the object depicted is an ass's head.

    Trajan Decius DACIA antoninianus RIC listing.JPG

    The curators of the British Museum -- even to this day -- describe the object as an ass's head!

    I can't blame Banduri and Sulzer; on my coin, for example, it really DOES look like an ass's head!

    Trajan Decius DACIA antoninianus closeup.jpg

    But by the twentieth century, scholarship had advanced enough that Mattingly and his colleagues should have known better, as should the British Museum! The coin depicts the Dacian draco,[4] the existence of which has been well-known for centuries.

    THE DACIAN DRACO

    The Dacian draco was the standard carried by troops of the Dacian people. It has the form of a dragon with a wolf-like head, and was typically made of a hollow metal tube, often with multiple tongues in its jaws, and was attached to a pole so as to be held up high. The hollow head with its tongues would make a howling noise as the wind passed through it in order to strike fear into the enemy. A long fabric dragon tail was typically attached to the head in order to flutter in the wind behind it.[5] It must have been quite a sight!

    Here is a video clip of reenactors using the Dacian draco in a mock battle with Roman troops:



    Another clip (which I can't embed here for technical reasons) shows the recreated Dacian draco up-close: https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-27550747-dacian-draco-standard-ensign-people-who-lived

    Several draco standards are depicted in the hands of the soldiers of Decebalus in battle scenes depicted on Trajan's Column in Rome.

    Dacian Draco 2.jpg
    The wolf-like head of the draco attached to a pole. A fabric tail adorned with ribbons is attached to the head.

    Dacian Draco 4.jpg
    A similar image on Trajan's column showing the wolf-like head of the draco attached to the pole and with a fabric tail attached behind it.

    Dacian Draco 3.jpg
    This scene from Trajan's column depicts the draco in action, its tail fluttering in the wind behind it.

    The draco was known to European scholars in the 18th century, as this book illustration[6] based on the images on Trajan's column demonstrates.

    Dacian Draco 5.JPG

    Post your coins referring to Dacia, coins of Trajan Decius, or anything you feel is relevant!

    ~~~

    1. Bandurius, Anselmus. Numismata Imperatorum Romanorum a Trajano Decio Ad Palaeologos Augustos. Vol. 1, Montalant, 1718. Available online here: Vol. 1, Vol 2.

    2. Sulzer, Johann Caspar, and Jacob Sulzer. Numophylacium Sulzerianum numos antiquos Graecos et Romanos aureos argenteos aereos sis tens olim Iacobi Sulzeri. Ettinger, 1777. Available online here.

    3. Mattingly, Harold, et al. The Roman Imperial Coinage Vol. IV. Part III: Gordian III - Uranius Antoninus, Spink, 1949.

    4. Sear, David R. Roman Coins and Their Values III: The accession of Maximinus to the death of Carinus AD 235 - 285, London, Spink, 2005, p. 197.

    5. Ammianus, et al. The Later Roman Empire (A.D. 354-378). Penguin Books, 2004, book 16, 10:7, notes, "Behind the motley cavalcade that preceded him the emperor's person was surrounded by purple banners woven in the form of dragons and attached to the tops of gilded and jewelled spears; the breeze blew through their gaping jaws so that they seemed to be hissing with rage, and their voluminous tails streamed behind them on the wind."

    6. Michel-François Dandré-Bardon. Costume des anciens peuples, à l'usage des artistes, Paris, 1774.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2019
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  3. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Wow, it seems so obvious once you point it out :). Nice work, Sherlock!

    This is why it is good and appropriate to question the status quo.
     
  4. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks for the writeup, RC. It has always bugged me that numerous dealers and auction houses persist in using the "ass's head" description.

    This DACIA, at least, is unambiguous because she holds a plain ol' standard. :D

    Trajan Decius - Dacia Rare Standard 1957.jpg TRAJAN DECIUS
    AR Antoninianus. 4.26g, 22.8mm. Rome mint, AD 251. RIC 36a (rare); Cohen 25. O: IMP CAE TRA DEC AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right. R: DACIA, Dacia standing left holding military standard.
     
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I'm not the one who discovered this. Sear notes he was set straight by Mr. Alexandru Marian of Romania. And it IS obvious when you look at the images on Trajan's column.
     
    Theodosius, dadams and TIF like this.
  6. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    a bit from Ammianus Marcellinus on the draco-

    "Behind the motley cavalcade that preceded him the emperor's person was surrounded by purple banners woven in the form of dragons and attached to the tops of gilded and jewelled spears; the breeze blew through their gaping jaws so that they seemed to be hissing with rage, and their voluminous tails streamed behind them on the wind." The Later Roman Empire book 16 10:7


    and an example from Aurelian

    tQ6BX3kRdN7RP9owExS4A5qmnk8HrZ.jpg
     
  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Cool! An ancient Roman historian writing about the draco! I'm going to edit my OP and cite that!
     
    octavius likes this.
  8. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Trajan Decius 5.jpg
    TRAJAN DECIUS
    AR Antoninianus
    OBVERSE: IMP C M Q TRAIANUS DECIVS AVG, Radiate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
    REVERSE: DACIA, Dacia standing left, holding draco standard
    Struck at Rome, 249 AD
    4.39g, 22mm
    RIC 12b
    Ex CNG eAuction 328, Lot 761
    Ex. Seaby with handwritten envelope and tag
     
  9. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    Dealers often just copy the description from the reference they are using to look a coin up. I try to make corrections, if I know about them, but otherwise, I rely on my books. Copy and paste is an awesome time-saver but also means mistakes like this will continue (on a side note- I appreciate people messaging me on Vcoins if I have description errors) No dealer can know everything about all the coin types. Plus, there is coin volume...this week I catalogued over one hundred coins; which means I can't go down the research rabbit hole too many times-- though I frequently do get sidetracked.

    I have corrected this listing to the Draco description for years in coin descriptions, but my personal interests really start increasing around this period. If anyone has it, Van Meter's Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins (1991) says this about the type - "Cohen describes the staff as surmounted by the head of an ass. This is actually a draco battle standard indigenous among Dacian troops."
     
  10. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    That Decius guy. I don't have a draco example yet. I believe there is also a reference to draco standards in Maurice's Strategikon from the Byzantine era.

    I found a thorough article on Roman use of dracos starting in the 3rd century.

    http://www.fectio.org.uk/articles/draco.htm

    decius1.jpg

    decius2.jpg
     
  11. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..as i've said, we've got some great detectives in here!^^
     
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  12. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    Trajan Decius. 249-251 AD. AR Antoninianus (3.31 gm). Rome mint, 1st officina. 2nd-3rd emissions, 249-250 AD. Obv: Radiate and cuirassed bust right. Rev: Dacia standing left, holding a Draco-headed staff. RSC 16. Especially lovely depiction of Dacia.

    TrajanDeciusAntDacia.jpg
     
  13. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

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  14. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I recently upgraded my example of this to a coin with a better beard on the draco. Looking again, I like the old one's obverse better. I guess I could keep both but sometimes we have to draw a line somewhere and I prefer my dragons bearded.
    ro1260fd1802.jpg ro1260zz1802.jpg
     
    Plumbata, TheRed, randygeki and 12 others like this.
  15. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    One in bronze:
    Trajan Decius. 249-251 ADE. Æ Sest. (30mm, 22.52 g, 12h). Rome mint, 1st officina. 2nd-3rd emissions, 249-250 AD. Obv: Laur. and cuir bust, r. Rev: Dacia stg. left, holding a Draco-headed staff. RIC IV 112a; Banti 2.
    TrajDeciusSestDacia.jpg
     
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  16. Alegandron

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

    This had always been Draco the Dragon to me...

    Great job with the research @Roman Collector !

    After all, this IS the latter-land of Vlad the Impaler Dracul...later turned into Dracula... which MEANS Dragon...
    upload_2019-3-31_14-58-43.png


    RI Trajan Decius 249-251 CE AR Ant Dacia draco standard.jpg
    RI Trajan Decius 249-251 CE AR Ant Dacia draco standard

    Interesting that DRAGONS were revered all the way from WALES (far west of the Eurasian Continent) to CHINA, far EAST.

    Wales...
    upload_2019-3-31_14-56-46.png

    China...
    upload_2019-3-31_14-57-39.png
     
  17. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Just a guy making his way in the universe

    That proves that dragons existed!
     
  18. Alegandron

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

    As I would say to @TIF : "Yeah, its a TRUE story..."

    I have been binge watchin' Merlin (BBC production) lately. Been purdy good...especially starting in 3rd Season...

    upload_2019-3-31_15-35-50.png
     
  19. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great info & pics Roman Collector, thanks.

    description altered:

    P1160835b.jpg
     
  20. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    While you're correcting that one, you'll want to note it's not a variant of RIC 2, but RIC 12b, RSC 16.
     
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  21. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one step at a time Supporter

    @Roman Collector - a wonderful write-up and great illustrations! and as always a lot of nice coins showing in the replies...Here's my Trajan Decius with Dacian draco battle standard or hound-dragon:

    Trajan_Decius_Dacia.png
    Trajan Decius (AD 249-251)
    AR Antoninianus (21mm, 4.03 gm) Rome AD 249-250
    Obv: IMP C M Q TRAIANVS DECIVS AVG, radiate, cuirassed bust of Trajan Decius right, seen from behind
    Rev: DACIA, Dacia, wearing robe reaching feet, standing left, draco battle standard in right hand.
    Ref: RIC 12b
     
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