Trajan Decius' tetradrachm : an unusual bust with Balteus & Trabea

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Cucumbor, Nov 20, 2020.

  1. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Hi CT folks,

    Among the huge quantity of syro-phoenician tetradrachms available on the market, a vast majority has what we might call « regular busts », i.e. laureate (or radiate), draped and cuirassed bust of the Emperor right (or left), such as the following example :

    Trajan Decius (09/249 - 07 or 08/251) – Billon Tetradrachm, Antioch mint - 5° officina
    Ref : Prieur # 585

    Occasionnally will be encountered something a bit different (@Al Kowsky knows) : an unusual bust, showing a hand, a sword, a spear, a decorated shield, or a piece of clothing. They are of course scarcer, sometimes rare to very rare. All the examples below, with a white background are not mine (unfortunately) but taken from the CGB archives database


    Elagabal - Prieur 253 (4 ex.) - McAlee 773 – R3


    Gordian III - Prieur 299 (11 ex. this example illustrated) - McAlee 884. From the McAlee collection – R1

    Philip the Arab - Prieur 427 (6 ex) - McAlee 946 – R3


    Philip the Arab - Prieur 435 (2 ex) - McAlee 954(b) – R3

    I was lucky a few days ago to put my hands on such an unusual bust for Trajan Decius, and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger, even though the metal looked a bit porous from the sellers pictures. Anyway, I felt it was rare enough to take the plunge, a lesser example I saw elsewhere being currently for sale at three times what I paid for mine. I’m pretty sure that one will make its way to my 2020 top list…

    Trajan Decius (09/249 - 07or08/251) – Billon Tetradrachm, Antioch mint - 7° officina
    AYT K Γ ME KY TPAIANOC ΔEKIOC CEB Radiate bust right, cuirassed with trabea on right shoulder, and balteus on chest, seen from front. Z under bust.
    ΔHMAPX EΞOYCIAC Eagle standing right on a palm branch, head right holding wreath in beak, and wings spread. At exergue SC
    27 mm - 12,35 gr - 6h
    Ref : Prieur # 558 (2), McAlee # 1140 (very rare)

    As suspected from the pictures, the metal of the coin is somewhat porous and the planchet was not of the better quality, but the overall aspect is OK, and in hand the coin is pleasant with not much wear to it.

    Now, I can hear you folks, screaming from the back of the room « Sir, what are a trabea and a balteus, please ? »

    To be honest, I had to check and do some homework, as I don’t usually dress as an Emperor when at work.

    TRABEA, or TOGA TRABEA : Trabea (plural trabeae) is the name of various pieces of Roman clothing. A distinct feature of all trabeae was their color - usually red or purple. They were formed like a toga and possibly in some cases like a mantle and worn by more distinguished members of Roman society.

    A garment known as the trabea triumphalis was commonly worn by consuls in Late Antiquity. When Emperor Justinian II abolished the office of 'consul as a separate entity from the Emperor himself, the trabea triumphalis developed into the loros, which was the worn only by the imperial family and senior administrative officials. Although Emperor Leo VI abolished the ancient title of consul altogether, the loros persisted until the end of the empire as the formal, ceremonial dress of the emperors (©

    What we see here on the right shoulder of the emperor is the knot of the trabea, possibly hold with a fibula

    BALTEUS : During ancient Roman times the balteus (plural baltei) was a type of baldric commonly used to suspend a sword. It was a belt generally worn over the shoulder, passing obliquely down to the side, typically made of leather, often ornamented with precious stones, metals or both (©


    Comments and corrections are welcome. Please post any trabeae or baltei you might have on your coins, or anything you feel relevant,

    Thanks for reading

    Resources :
    1 - Prieur M & K, The syro-phoenician tetradrachms and their fractions from 57 BC to AD 253 – CNG, London – 2000
    2 - McAlee R, The coins of roman Antioch – CNG, London - 2007

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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Pretty sweet find. Not a bust I have seen either but I usually skim past his Antioch tets since they are common & the same in many ways.
    Cucumbor likes this.
  4. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish)

    Fantastic coin Q! One of the coolest things about the coins of the later empire in general is the emphasis on the armor / clothing of the obverse portrait. Your example is really neat and I especially enjoyed the write-up and additional information.

    I’ll pile on with my only Antioch tetradrachm.
    Syria, Seleucis and Pieria, Antioch
    Trebonianus Gallus
    AR tetradrachm, struck ca. 251-253, 1st officina
    Obv.: Laureate draped and cuirassed bust right
    Rev.: Eagle standing facing, head and tail right, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; A between legs. SC in exergue
    Ref.: McAlee 1173a; Prieur 657
    Ex Tenbobbit Collection; Purchased privately from the collection of an English gentleman in 2005; Ex AMCC 2, Lot 434 (Nov. 9, 2019)
    singig, Spaniard, zumbly and 7 others like this.
  5. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    A nice balteus on Hadrian:
    Hadrian. 117-138 AD. AR Denarius (20mm; 3.09 gm; 6h). Rome mint. Struck circa 119-125 AD. Obv: Laureate "heroic" bust right, wearing balteus over shoulder and chest, slight drapery. Rev: Salus seated left on throne, feeding out of patera snake coiled around and rising from altar to left. RIC II 98 var. (no mention of balteus); RSC 1151 var. (same)
    DonnaML, singig, Spaniard and 8 others like this.
  6. Alegandron

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

    Very nice find, Cuke! Congratulations! And, thank you for the cool write-up.

    I need to run out and get myself one of those Toga Trabea... start a new fashion. :D

    Here is his son...

    RI Volusian 251-253 CE AR Tet Antioch mint Eagle - son of Treb Gallus

    And a rusty-nosed Treb...

    RI Trebonianus Gallus 251-253 CE Ant 20mm 3.0g Apollo Lyre RIC 32 RSC 20
    DonnaML, randygeki, singig and 6 others like this.
  7. Shea19

    Shea19 Well-Known Member

    Great write-up Q. Here is a left-facing Decius tet from Antioch with a balteus:

    Trajan Decius, tetradrachm, Antioch, Radiate and cuirassed bust of Decius to left, with balteus/ Rev. Eagle with spread wings standing right on palm, holding wreath in beak. RPC IX 1628, Prieur 513.
    randygeki, singig, Spaniard and 8 others like this.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana

    Nice pickup, Q. Very stylish!

    No trabea, but here's Hadrian wearing a balteus...

    Hadrian - Den Concordia ex Kelly 2990.jpg
    AR Denarius. 3.38g, 18.8mm. Rome mint, AD 117. RIC 9; RSC 248a. O: IMP CAES TRAIAN HADRIANO AVG DIVI TRA, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right wearing balteus (sword-belt) across chest. R: PARTH F DIVI NER NEP P M TRP COS, Concordia seated left on throne, holding patera, arms rested on figure of Spes; CONCORD below.
    DonnaML, randygeki, singig and 9 others like this.
  9. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Thanks for posting these folks, they sure are some nice baltei !!

  10. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Hopefully, he will not stay alone for too long :)

    Curtisimo likes this.
  11. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great coin Q and a nice pick-up. I wasn't aware of these ornaments on coins and will seek to find an Antiochene tet with some of these features. The Gordian III example you show is interesting in that the shield he holds features the Gorgon Medusa.
  12. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    And in addition, it's pedigreed to the McAlee collection !

    ancient coin hunter likes this.
  13. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    Great score Q & interesting article :D! You & I aren't the only ones looking for rare varieties in the Syria - Antioch series :smuggrin:. The books by Prieur & McAlee have created a storm of interest in these coins & rare varieties are fetching big money at auction now. On rare occasions you can still find a sleeper :happy:. Of course high grade rarities (MS or Ch AU) fetch the highest prices. Pictured below are two coins of Septimius Severus, Prieur 1140 & 1141. Prieur 1140 is a common coin & my example would probably fetch $300 - 500 at auction. I've seen inferior examples to my 1141 sell for over $2,000.
    4531309-003, AK Collection.jpg 4531309-004, AK Collection.jpg
  14. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    I was hopping you would post your Prieur #1141 example, it's gorgeous !!

  15. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Well-Known Member

    One sleeper Tet of Philip II that should rank in my top !0 scores of 2020 is pictured below. I snagged this coin in a Heritage auction in early February for $156. The coin is an unpublished rarity, & I have yet to see another example of this type. The coin has an unusually fine portrait from the Antioch Mint too :cool:.

    4885363-048, AK Collection.jpg
    DonnaML, randygeki, Curtisimo and 3 others like this.
  16. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Well-Known Member

    Wow !

  17. PeteB

    PeteB Well-Known Member

    A steal, Al.
  18. singig

    singig Well-Known Member

    impressive bust, very nice ! @Cucumbor

    my only Decius Tetradrachm :
    Trajan Decius AR Tetradrachm of Antioch, Syria. AD 250-251. Prieur 526.
    AYT K Γ ME KY TΡAIANOC ΔEKIOC CEB, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. seen from the back, three dots beneath the bust (Officina 3) /
    ΔHMAΡX EΞOYCIAC, eagle standing left on palm branch, head left, tail right, wings spread, holding wreath in beak. SC in exergue.
    decius44 v2.jpg
  19. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

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