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Volume 1, Issue 3

Michael Crawford's Table XI listing of Roman coin hoards covers the mint magistrates ca.124-92 BC.1 The division of this group from the mint officials of the preceding Table X period (142-125 BC) is securely established by two big hoards buried very close together in time, Riccia (3,235 Roman coins) and Maserà (1,204). The latter is missing only three denarius types back as far as C.CVR.TRIGE (Cr223), and Riccia just one.  Riccia ends with N. Fabius Pictor (Cr268), while Maserà includes two further types, C. Metellus (Cr269) and Porcius Laeca (Cr270).  Many stylistic features also unite the Table X group, and especially the later half (discussed by Crawford RRC, 62-65). Among the most important of  these is the use of the denarius stamp with cross-bar (), which is common to all but one of the 27 denarius types from Ti. Minucius Augurinus (Cr243, ca.135 BC) to Porcius Laeca (Cr270). The single exception, T.CLOVLI (Cr260), has no denarius mark at all. The  stamp is also present on the first type missing from both Riccia and Maserà, the very small  Acilius Balbus issue (Cr271, 20 obverse dies), while the simple X mark returns on the big emission struck by Q. Fabius Labeo  (Cr273),2 annotated by Crawford as represented by 300 different obverse dies. The fine and homogenous style of the Table X group also first degenerates during the big Fabius Labeo emission (RRC, 65) and this inferior style further unites the Table XI group already firmly distinguished by the hoard evidence of Riccia and Maserà.

To this point there can hardly be much quibble with Crawford's thorough work on the hoard and stylistic evidence for the types of the 130s-120s BC, above all the fundamental division of the type listings in Tables X and XI.  Fabius Labeo is also very well dated by Crawford to 124 BC, since his large silver production is properly aligned with the censura of 125-24 BC, when the great public works and services contracts were issued and had to be paid for. But problems arise where the hoard evidence thins out or ceases.

For the Table XI lists the comprehensive or unifying duties of Riccia and Maserà are taken over by the smaller but still substantial Otiva and Sierra Morena Hoards (1,315 and 617 Roman silver coins respectively).  The first hoard in Table XI, Lucoli (184 coins) adds only Fabius Labeo (2 pieces) to the Table X types, confirming the earlier hoard and stylistic evidence.

But it notably omits Acilius Balbus who is fixed before Labeo by his use of the stamp. That illustrates an important matter about hoard evidence:  the smaller emissions (in this case 20 obverse dies) often get left out.  In Crawford's earlier  Hoards book, as mentioned, Acilius Balbus is registered at the top of Table XI with single pieces in 8 of the 27 hoards (including Sierra Morena), and two coins in Otiva and Maddaloni. The sole type  absent from the really big Riccia hoard, Q.MAX, is known with only 17 obverse dies (Cr265). Maserà included one Q.MAX coin but lacked any of the similar and even  smaller emissions of C.SERVEIL (Cr264, 22 obverse dies; 1 coin in Riccia), M.AVF RVS (Cr227, 6 obverse dies, 2 pieces in Riccia), and L.ATILI NOM (Cr225, 5 obverse dies, 1 coin in Riccia).

So when an issue gets as small as about 20 extant obverse dies its appearance in hoards becomes irregular and flukey. It need not appear at all among thousands of coins in many different hoards, even up to the individual magnitudes of Riccia and Otiva. These are relevant matters regarding two of the most problematic types of the Table XI (post-125 BC) period:



A. Manlius (Cr309), legends: ROMA SER / A.MANLI.Q.F.  X  (20 obverse dies)







Cn. Sisenna  (Cr310), legends: ROMA SISENA  X  /  CN.CORNEL.L.F.
(<10 obverse dies)

These very small denarius emissions are intimately linked by style and design: their use of the rare Sol imagery with stars and crescent moon (placed the same), and the distribution and placement of each component of their legends, including even filiation.



As mentioned, the use of ROMA legend with the stamp is all the rage in the 130s and 120s.  Acilius Balbus' predecessor Porcius Laeca (Cr270), shifted ROMA to the reverse in company with M.PORC, while the cognomen LAECA appears on the obverse.  With Acilius Balbus himself ROMA rejoins the cognomen on the obverse. The legend distribution is (Cr271):

Acilius' successor Fabius Labeo is the same, changing only the denarius marker to the simplified form (Cr273):  

The tiny issue of Cn. Sisenna conforms with the Fabius Labeo legend distribution and shares the placement of the X beneath Roma's chin. Manlius differs only in transferring the X to the reverse field.  Between them they are represented in all the Table XI hoards by a single Manlius piece in Sierra Morena, a remarkable cache for its modest size, containing almost every silver type from Acilius Balbus (125 BC) to its burial ca.105 (Cr311 L. Scipio Asiagenus is the latest).  Crawford (RRC, 318) put them together any time 118-107 BC, which is about as non-commital a date as may be found in his catalogue after the mid 2nd century. This modifies his parameters of the contents of Sierra Morena according to a belief that the “general style” of 309 and 310 “seems derived from that of the Narbo issue (rather than being the model for it)” (RRC, 70).  Although the Narbo Martius serrati (Cr282) are certainly fixed to 118 BC by the foundation date of the colony,3 there seems no similarity between them and the Manlius and Sisenna pairing emphatic enough to justify such a comment, one way or the other. The Fabius Labeo type would appear to be equally similar to the Narbo serrati, arguably more so, yet it is fixed six or seven years earlier.  Perhaps Crawford really set more store by his identification of A. Manlius the mint master with  A. Manlius the Marian legatus in Numidia 107-05 BC.4

However the significance of such an identification, even if correct, is obscured by the lack of precise chronologic detail. Judging by his senior position in Marius' army, the legate seems to have been an established vir praetorius well advanced in his career by 107 (and so born as early as the 150s BC, like Marius himself), but this remains uncertain. Further evidence for it (Pliny HN 33.21 = Fenestella fr.12) includes the complication of attesting the legate's clan name as Manilius, an authentic nomen which the literary manuscripts only rarely preserve as against simplification to Manlius. Its existence at all strongly urges that Manilius is correct. Although this may seem to exclude identification with the mint magistrate at first sight, closer inspection of the actual legend of Cr309 shows that the nomen traditionally resolved as Manlius is constructed around an N-monogram which subsumes the A and L. Perhaps then an iota could be understood as part of this N-monogram, and the nomen read as Manilius.

Better career evidence is provided by Greek inscriptions of 112 BC, recording the history of a dispute between competing guilds of performing artists. They mention the hearings held at Pella by the Roman proconsul Cn. Cornelius Sisenna in Makedonian Hyperberetaios of year 30 (Aug/Sept 118 BC) and the Athenian month of Maimakterion (Oct/Nov) of a year lost in a lacuna.5 Therefore a Cn. Sisenna was praetor 119, or perhaps 120 if 118 was his second year in command.6 Fabius Labeo's provincial command following a praetura is also attested epigraphically in the same period from the opposite side of the empire. These brief texts are not dated, consisting of short Latin formulas on milestones from far NW Spain, attesting Q. Fabius Labeo with filiation and proconsular title.7 The find area indicates a via Fabia built to link Tarraco with the Pyrenees. The timing of such an extension of the Spanish road system, in conjunction with the fixed date of Labeo's mint magistracy (125/24) admits of little doubt:  closely subsequent to the completion of the via Domitia (marked out and paved 121-119 BC) which connected Alps and Pyrennees through the new permanent province of Gallia Transalpina. Most likely Fabius Labeo built his road in the year the citizen colony was led out to Narbo Martius on the via Domitia (118 BC). Crawford claims that the mint master of type 309 “is to be distinguished from Cn. Cornelius Sisenna, Pr. ?119”  (RRC, 319).  While this conforms with his date range for the coinage, in the evidential circumstances sustaining the latter it is surprisingly arbitrary. Rather there is every reason to identify the commander of Macedonia province with the mint master of the same name, as a close contemporary of Fabius Labeo holding the same offices together or in close succession. Both Labeo and Sisenna will have been in their mid or late thirties at the mint, a normal age in the pre-Sullan period when the mint magistracy was normally held between quaestura and praetura.8 The same may safely be assumed of A. Manlius Q. f., whether the Marian legate or not. He was manifestly a novus homo to the top end of the social hierarchy, using his tribe, Ser(gia), in his legends in place of the cognomen he lacked. Non-nobles of the period could hold the mint magistracy even later than the age for a praetura (39 turning 40 in office), as demonstrated by the career of L. Iulius aed.cur.146 (born 183 or earlier) and mint master ca.140 (Cr224).

There is nothing in the hoard evidence to support Crawford's date range (118-107 BC) for the 309 and 310 types to the exclusion of the earlier period covered by Table XI (124-119 BC).  The second cache of Table XI,  Zasiok, groups Crawford's types 274-280 early in the sequence (all of them known from denarius issues of well over 100 obverse dies). Even the most cursory inspection of these issues (conveniently together in RRC Pl.XXXIX) shows their close stylistic similarity to Manlius and Sisenna (who are badly out of place in Pl.XLI), while very few of them (most notably Cr275 M. Fannius, who also exhibits filiation, and Cr277 Q. Minucius Rufus) share the connections of the Manlius and Sisenna legend arrangements both with one another and with Fabius Labeo and his immediate predecessors. So the independent career evidence and the style, images and organization on the coins themselves favour the earlier period covered by Table XI, and indeed its initial years.

Finally, there is an enormous disparity between their representation by a single piece (not even one of Sisenna) among all the thousands of silver coins in the Table X and XI hoards and the “large numbers” of both types (RRC, 70 n.1) in the single Berchidda hoard from Sardinia.9 Crawford was surely right that this does not mean they were minted in the island province. But it surely does indicate that they were used to pay the troops of one of the two major military commitments there in the period: the consular army taken out by L. Aurelius Orestes in 126 and brought home for his triumph in 122,10 or the similar war of  M. Metellus (cos.115) in 114-112.11 This limits the dates considerably and is the last piece of evidence which fixes Manlius and Sisenna to 124/22 BC without much doubt.

Some Republican types are significantly rarer still. One of the more engaging mini-issue dating (and context) problems concerns the isolated CN.LENTVL gold (Cr549). When Crawford's great catalogue was published in 1974 this issue was only known from two pieces apparently struck from the same die pair, with a mean weight of  7.84 gr. The basic description is:

Laureate head of Jupiter right  /   eagle left on thunderbolt with outstretched wings.
Reel-and-bead (fillet) border on both faces, legend (Lentulus' name only) on the reverse below the eagle.

The old British Museum catalogue of Republican coins assigned it to a Spanish mint (as with its equally dubious attribution of the CN.LEN.Q. and CN.LENT. CVR. FL. silver, Cr393).  In his earlier Hoards book Crawford suggested (p.41) that it belonged to his Table XIV or early Table XV period listings (49-ca.44 BC). In RRC he made a solid case for the main Seleukid mint of Antioch on Orontes during the two-year Syrian command of Cn. Lentulus Marcellinus (tr.pl.70, pr.60, cos.56), 59-57 BC. This is still acknowledged among serious numismatic specialists, albeit without conviction and apparently faute de mieux.12  But problems persist. The argument for associating with Cn. Marcellinus is good, however the context and mint are surely very uncertain.  There is no indication of command or imperium in the legend, and hardly any precedent (still less any reason) for regular provincial commanders to issue gold coinage. It might be better to conceive of it as a brief commemoration issue in the politically heated context of 49-48 BC, and connect it with Pompeius' Africa-type MAGNVS /  PRO COS. gold (Cr402, also a tiny issue with only two identified obverse dies and apparently absent from all hoards). Crawford dated that to 71 BC. It probably belongs better in 49, along with the hoard-dated MAGN. PRO COS. silver struck by the viri pro quaestore Cn. Piso (Cr446) and Varro (Cr447). This is about the time that Cn. Marcellinus died (certainly before 46 BC as he is included in Cicero's register of deceased orators in the Brutus). He was intimately related to key families on both sides of the civil wars, indeed a first cousin of Metellus Scipio who took the legions out of Syria in 49 BC, and struck AR eagle coinage in his own name at Pergamon in winter 49-8.

According to Crawford the weight standard  of 549 is closest to the Triumviral Imp. Caesar gold issues in the late 40s and 30s, but (RRC, 545):

"it can hardly be of the same period - a non-Triumviral gold issue so late as this would take a lot of explaining. Otherwise the issue has no point of contact, in style, fabric or weight standard, with any other Roman gold issue, a fact which excludes all attributions so far suggested." 

Hence his preference for Antioch 59-7 BC between the last silver of Tigranes (69) and the beginning of the Antiochene Roman governor coins commenced by Marcus Crassus (54). Apparently no other Roman gold issue has the fillet border and the lack of command or office titles makes the occasion of the issue a real mystery. No monogram appears, and the absence of any portrait, such as on the famous T.QVINCTI commemoration gold (Cr548), weakens the notion of  commemoration following Marcellinus' death, perhaps fatally.  Where to next?

The combination of laureate Zeus obverse and eagle on thunderbolt reverse common on Lagid coins looks like a compelling connection, whether to Egypt or a colony on the Phoenician coast like Ptolemais, but fillet   borders would seem to be extremely rare or non-existent on the money of the Ptolemies, which generally exhibits simple dotted borders. The major clue in this enquiry was suggested to me by Oliver Hoover, a Seleukid expert.  This is really odd since Crawford is one of the great Roman coinage specialists and prefers a Syrian mint (THE Syrian mint), whereas Oliver knew that Roman denarii sometimes feature the reel-and-pellet border. Perhaps the most notable example is one of the M. Plaetorius Cestianus issues as curulis aedilis (Cr409/1), fixed to 67 BC (or just possibly 68) by independent evidence dating his magistracy (Cicero pro Cluentio 126, 147). This combines fillet border with an eagle on thunderbolt reverse, as on the 549 gold.  There are earlier examples of Roman silver with fillet borders probably not from the Rome mint, e. g.  Crawford's type 97/1a  (victoriatus, perhaps Luceria), type 366/2a  C. Annius pro cos.  (northern Italy or perhaps Massilia in Gallia Transalpina).  But L. Papius (Cr384/1) certainly struck denarii in Rome with fillet borders, and earlier still there are occasional obverse fillet borders on some of the L. Piso Frugi denarii (Cr340/1) with the horseman to left (an example is illustrated in RRC,  Pl.XLIV.2).

The cumulative advantages of the Rome mint look good:

*  No need for a monogram, the name being sufficient signature and typical of normal usage at Rome:
the annual IIIviri a.a.a.f.f. only very rarely included their title of office in the legend;
*  there is an exceptionally good candidate official  - Cn. Lentulus (Clodianus) (Cr345), fixed to 88 BC by good sequencing and hoard evidence;
*  this Lentulus abbreviates his name on his denarii in much the same way as appears on the 549 gold, and in the same position;
*  the same man's silver included an abnormally big issue of quinarii (Cr345/2,  400 extant obverse dies), the obverse type of which is laureate Jupiter r.,  as on the 549 gold;
*  the quinarius designs point back to the Punic War with Hannibal since they adopted both faces from the old victoriatus silver which began at that time;
*   one of the earliest victoriatus issues (Cr44/1) was struck in conjunction with the beginning of the second series of Punic War Roman gold (Cr44/2-4);
*   this gold series, although well over a century earlier than the issues of Cn. Lentulus (both type 345 and 549), exhibits an eagle on thunderbolt reverse (Cr44/2-4, 50/1, 72/2, 88/1, 105/2 and 106/2).

There is also a recorded opportunity for coining some gold bullion in the year of Lentulus' mint magistracy.  In wake of the catastrophic expenses of the Italic War, recourse was had to the ultimate Treasury reserves to fund Sulla's armies for the Mithradatic War: the great cache named after King Numa, supposed to be set aside for religious expenses. We are told that part of this treasure was hastily sold off and realized 9,000 librae of gold (Appian Mith.22). 

If Cn. Lentulus did strike gold in 88, it would be the first such Roman issue since the Hannibal War second series, with the eagle on thunderbolt reverses.  Although the style and some of the details of the Punic War reverses are different from those of the 549 gold, they are essentially the same symbolism on both (the favoured creature of Jupiter or Zeus), and it would be appropriate enough for the resumption of gold coinage in Rome to adopt some of the features of the previous issue, even though the hiatus endured for the entire 2nd century and longer13

Therefore every main feature of the Cr549 Cn. Lentulus gold had precedent or contemporary usage at the Rome mint in the time of Cn. Lentulus of the Cr345 silver and bronze coinage. The long gap between the two great crises of the Roman Republic in the Punic War and the bellum Italicum would adequately account for the relative isolation of the weight standard of the 549 gold. Crawford must have been aware of all this, but seems to have been strongly influenced by that weight, regarding it as puzzling and anomalous. In his chapter devoted to the weight standards (RRC, 590-97), he calls it “mysterious” and clearly indicates this as one of the main reasons for his separating the type from the Rome mint (RRC, 593 n.6). However the same (excellent) discussion of the weights seems to provide ample meaning for 7.84gr. gold pieces at the Rome mint.

Firstly there is the basic unit of the Roman scruple (1.125gr.), especially prevalent as the standard of gold and silver coinage in the Punic War period. 7.84gr. as the mean weight of only two extant coins is probably close enough to exactly 7 scripula (7.875gr.) to demonstrate that the Lentulus gold was struck with this old system in mind.  Second, Crawford himself is at pains to emphasize the occasional nature and absence of uniformity in the weights of 1st century BC Roman aurei until they eventually settled down on a Julio-Claudian standard of 8.10gr. (RRC, 593). That figure is alien to the old system, representing 7⅕ scruples. But it makes sense enough from the perspective, attested in the literature (Pliny HN 33.47) of 40 aurei struck from each libra of gold. In other words, within a reasonable and identifiable range, weight variation is no argument whatsoever for dissociating a type from the Rome mint when other factors are also in favour. The criterion of that range is that 1st century BC Roman gold was struck at approximately half as many aurei to the libra as silver denarii. The Julio-Claudian aureus weight obviously developed from this. Several sources attest a Republican standard of 84 denarii struck to the pound (cited at RRC, 594 n.1, including Pliny HN 12.62 and 33.132), which at 3.86gr. per coin also represents a departure from the whole scripula standard. This  is supported by a detailed weight study of 55 almost uncirculated M. Volteius denarii found in a hoard (Cr385, dated ca.78 BC), whereas most Punic War silver coinage was struck on the whole scripula standard, including denarii at 72 to the pound (or 4 scripula apiece, see RRC, 595). While the mean result of the study of the Volteius silver conforms to the 84 per libra standard, the details included one variety (of four) with a mean weight of 3.89gr. peaking to 4.00 (RRC, 594). This shows that as few as 82 could be struck from a silver pound in practice. The weight of the Cn. Lentulus gold represents 41 aurei to the pound, one more than the later Julio-Claudian standard.  Thus the weight uniquely combines both old and new Roman gold standards because it represents whole scripula (7) and half as many aurei struck to the pound (41) as one of the current denarius striking rates (82). When tied to the Cr345 mint magistrate and dated to 88 BC it is positioned chronologically as the first gold emission of the 1st century, simultaneously influenced by the previous gold standard and the current approach to minting denarii.  Such a date and the Rome mint also lends a different perspective to the fillet border denarii struck with eagle-on-thunderbolt reverse by the aedilis M. Plaetorius in 67 BC (Cr409). His design may be viewed as influenced by the denarii of L. Cotta (Cr314) and the Cn. Lentulus gold.

* The author wishes to thank Phil Davis and Alfredo De La Fe for their assistance and their remarkable accomplishments locating quality images of the Roman coinage, unperturbed by demands for the greatest rarities, so easily made and so difficult to meet.

These are the dates of Table XI in Roman Republican Coinage (Cambridge, 1974), 66-67. The earlier major work Roman Republican Coin Hoards (London, 1969) defines the same Table number as ca.125-92 BC and has Mn. Acilius Balbus (Cr271) first in the list, with specimens in 10 of the 27 hoards. In RRC there is also one more hoard in Table XI, while Acilius Balbus finds himself transferred to the bottom of Table X (p.61). His type is absent from all the hoards listed in that Table.

2 Cr272, missing from all the silver hoards in Tables X and XI, is an anonymous bronze issue.

3 Velleius II 7.8, Eutropius IV 23, dated by the consuls in both texts.

4 Sallust Iugurth.86, 90, 100, 102;  Appian Num.4. In the Ahlberg/Kurfess Teubner text of Sallust (1954), there are also manuscripts giving Manilius instead of Manlius at 90.2 (p.127). Sallust's text famously concludes with the reference to the Roman catastrophe at Orange in autumn 105 BC, under the command of Q. Caepio and Cn. Mallius (Iugurth.114). The latter's nomen is certain from contemporary epigraphy (CIL I² 698). The Sallust manuscripts have him as Manlius, without variation.

5 W. Dittenberger et al. (eds.) SIG³ 704-705; 705 has been handsomely re-edited with commentary by R. K. Sherk,  RDGE 15.

6SIG³ 700 attests the death in battle of the Macedonian commander Sextus Pompeius and the ensuing exploits of his quaestor M. Annius against the invading Maedi and Scordisci.  Annius had already handed over his interim command to unnamed successors by the time the Makedones honoured him in  a public decree dated year 29, Panemos 20 (June 119 BC).

7 A. Degrassi (ed.)  ILLRP 461 = CIL I²  823-4  (from Lerida in the vicinity of Barcelona).

8 As in the career elogium of a patrician Claudius, consul in 130 or 92 BC - H. Dessau (ed.) ILS 45.

9 Hoards no.249 (p.96): 1,399 denarii down to Q. Antonius Balbus (Cr364), the Marian praetor defeated in Sardinia by Sulla's legate Marcius Philippus in 82 BC.

10 Liv.Per.60, and the triumphal lists of the fasti Capitolini, ed. A. Degrassi (1947) 560, which date the procession to 8 December in the contemporary calendar. The latter was closely aligned to Julian solar at the time.

11 Although M. Metellus did not triumph until 111, he evidently delayed his procession (by up to a year) to coordinate it with that of his brother Gaius Metellus (cos.113), who only returned from his Macedonian command in 111. Both triumphed on the same day (Velleius II 8.2, Degrassi 1947: 561), the Ides of Quintilis, summer 111 BC.

12 A. Burnett, M. Amandry & P. Ripollès Roman Provincial Coinage, vol.I: From the death of Caesar to the death of Vitellius (44 BC – AD 69)  (1992; reprint with corrections 1998), p.6: “perhaps”.

13There is also an eagle-on-thunderbolt reverse design on the denarii of L. Cotta (Cr314/1), struck some two decades before Cn. Lentulus was in charge of the mint in 88 BC, yet closer in style to the Punic War gold eagle.  Although the Cotta type does not have fillet borders, it does have equally unusual and eye-catching wreaths conjoining traditional dotted borders on both faces.


Copyright notices: Article and text Copyright 2009 by Mark Passehl. Photograph copyright owned by respective owners and used with permission

Copyright 2008-2014 Alfredo De La Fé