Thursday, December 3, 2015

AES “Money” from Republican Rome and Central Italy

AES “Money” from Republican Rome and Central Italy
EEM 12/2/15
The story of the founding of Rome; April 21, 753 BC; is based on several oral traditions that were put in writing centuries later. Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro chose the date in the first century B.C.
Historians say that a wave of immigrants entered Italy from Asia about 2000 BC and again about 1000 BC. The second wave probably settled around Rome. Archeological records say that central Italy around Rome was populated from the 1000 BC.

The early Romans were primarily subsistence farmers. They did not have significant wealth in the form of gold or silver and made transactions by barter. Early fines were recorded in cows and sheep. In the fifth century, fines were converted to bronze asses.  
1 Cow = 100 Asses
1 Sheep = 10 Asses
1 As = 1 Roman pound of bronze, or
1 As = 330 grams = 11.6 ounces

Coins were invented in the 7th century BC by the Kingdom of Lydia (now western Turkey). They quickly spread to the independent city states of Ionia and Greece (the Aegina turtle, the Athens owl, and others). Coins were used to facilitate trade. It also made it easier to pay mercenary armies. See four examples from Lydia, Ionia, Persia and Athens.

Roman armies were drawn by family or clan. Only men who could afford to buy arms and armor were drafted and allowed to fight. The richest could afford horses and became the cavalry. When an army was needed soldiers left their farms, fought for a short time and returned to their farms. Rome did not pay its armies until 405 BC during the ten year long siege on Vei. In 405BC Rome did not mint coins and would have used barter (bronze by weight) or coins from Greece or Greek colonies in Italy.

AES Rude are irregular shapes of bronze that were traded by weight. In Latin, AES Rude = Rough Bronze. Some of the AES Rude are pieces broken from cast plates or bars. Other pieces look like they were formed individually and have irregular surfaces.

My wife asked how I know they are not just rocks. I said, "faith in the supplier, looks and weight/SpGr.... and there is no way to know for sure."


AES Formatum are bars with no features. They are normally identified in ratios of Roman pounds, or equivalent Asses.
Aes formatum, VIII-IV cent BC, Artemide Aste, 2.5 asses
This lot has a piece of AES Formatum in the upper right corner. The others are pieces of AES Signatum and AES Grave, see below.

AES Signatum are bars with features. Whole bars with features are rare and expensive. A few examples are:

2 chickens / 2 tridents; Crawford 12/1; 270 BC
Sold by NAC in 2009 for $125M

Fragment of "ramo secco" bar, 3rd cent BC
 Sold by NAC in 2003 for $4M

Bull / Bull; Crawford 5/1; 270 BC
Andrew McCabe Collection

Pieces of Ramo Seco bars

AES Grave are cast bronze coins. They were based on an As of one Roman pound of bronze. There were multiples and fractions:
X = Decussis = 10 Asses
V = Quincussis = 5 Asses
III = Tressis = 3 Asses
II = Dupindius = 2 Asses
I = As = 12 unciae = 300 oz. bronze
S = Semis = 6 unciae
4 dots = Triens = 4 unciae
3 dots = Quadrans = 3 unciae
2 dots = Sextans = 2 unciae
1 dot = Uncia
Sigma = Semiuncia, or less than uncia

Roman Republican. Libral standard. Janus/Prow As, 225-217 B.C.
Obv.: Head of Janus. Rev.: Prow right.
Crawford 35/1. TV 51.
AE (bronze); 258 gr; 63mm; gVF
Artemide Aste

Roman Republican. Post Semi Libral standard. Janus/Prow As, 215-212 B.C.
Obv.: Head of Janus. Rev.: Prow right.
Crawford 41/5a. TV .
AE (bronze); 71 gr; 39mm; XF
Artemide Aste

The small coins at the top left of the display are a few Greek coins that predate Roman coinage.
From left to right is a chronological display of AES or bronze “money” from Rome and Central Italy.
The Aes Rude shown here are from central Italy. Some could be Roman at the time they were produced, but more likely were areas outside of the original seven hills that made up the city of Rome. All of these areas eventually became part of Rome. Some of the Aes Rude are broken pieces of bronze. Larger broken pieces are grouped in the AES formatum and signatum section in the middle surrounding a 746 gram cast bar = 2.5 Asses. Two small pieces of Ramo Secco bar are to the right of the largest bar. Cast coins are, from left to right, oldest to newest, and from top to bottom: As, Semis, Triens, Quadrans, Sextans, Uncia and semi-uncia. The set are Crawford 35's, 225 to 217 BC. You can see the weight reduction due to a shortage of bronze in the second Punic war in the As and Semis on the top right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Q. Titius As 90 BC

I picked up an interesting coin recently - Q. Titius Æ As, Cr. 341/4d, 90 BC
Q. Titius AE As, Rome, 90 BC.
Obv - Laureate head of Janus
Rev - Prow of galley right; Q TITI above, control symbol to right.
Crawford 341/4d;
Grueber Rome 2236
Sydenham 694b.
Sear 743
RBW 1279
9.26g, 26mm, 9h.

This one has a control mark in front of the prow that I could not identify, but was advised it is a helmet. That looks correct to me, but it is not on the list. Crawford (and Grueber, Sear and others) list the following control marks:
caps of the Dioscuri
palm branch
Ass's head
Horse's head
A summary of examples I found on the internet:

Where found
1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 14
Palm branch

1, 3
6, 10, 11, 3
Caps of Dioscuri

Ass’s head

Horses’s head




Total found


Location of mark
  1. Above
  2. Behind
  3. Before
  4. Below

Examples found in:
  1. CNG
  2. NAC
  3. British Museum
  4. Kunker
  5. Artemide Aste
  6. Heritage
  7. HD Rauch
  8. Naville
  9. Monaise d’ Antan
  10. Tkalec
  11. Triskles
  12. Old Roman Coins
  13. Ancient Roman Coins
  14. GHN
  15. Roma Num
  16. London Ancient Coins

Total found – 29

NAC73 L99 - Star

CNG88 L1150 - Palm Branch

Tkalec Feb 2008 L382 - Crescent above

Trisk Oct 2013 L86 - Crescent before

CNG79 L888 - Caps of Dioscuri

BM341.4.6 - Cornucopia

Roma E21 L  - helmet

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

L.CENSOR, Roman Republican AR denarius, Rome, 82 BC

L.CENSOR, Roman Republican AR denarius, Rome, 82 BC 

Roman Republican AR denarius, Rome, 82 BC
L.CENSOR - Lusius Marcius Censorinus 
Obv - Laureate head of Apollo right 
Rev - Marsyas walking left, shouldering wine-skin, right arm raised (in a token of freedom), naked except for buckskins, tall column bearing statue (of Minerva, draped figure, Victory or ?) behind. Before L.CENSOR
The seller's attribution -RCV 281; NGC AU 5/5 - 3/5.
My attribution - Cr 363/1d (no control marks);
BMCRR - Rome 2657 - 2659; Syd - 737; Marcia 24; RBW 1372
VF/gVF with environmental damage to obverse, well centered and well struck
I picked this coin because the reverse is well struck and centered. I can almost see the statue on the column that is given several different names. 

I like the story of Marsyas and how it relates to the moneyer Censorinus. In Greek mythology Marsyas was a satyr who challenged Apollo to a music contest. The winner could do as he pleased to the loser. Marsyas lost and Apollo tied him to a tree and killed him. (Those of you who want a more graphic account can google Marsyas.) The Romans considered Marsyas the inventer of augery (interpreting omens), a proponent of free speech and was considered one of the gods who looked after the Plebs (common people). The first Plebe elected as Censor erected a statue of Marsyas in the Forum. This coin shows the statue. L Censorinus issued the coin at the time Sula "recaptured" Rome for the Patricians (aristocrats or old families) from Marius (hero of the new families). Censorinus was killed in the proscriptions that followed.

The Marcia gens (clan) claimed descent from Ancus Marcius, 4th king of Rome and the first to bring water to Rome by aqueduct.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Cr-391/2; 76 BC

Roman Republican AR denarius, 76 BC
C. Egnatius Cn.f. Cn.n. Maximus
Obv - bare-headed and winged bust of cupid; bow and quiver of arrows over shoulder; behind – MAXSVMVS (archaic for MAXIMVS)
Rev - Jupiter with staff and Libertas with outstreached hands in distyle temple; above Jupiter thunderbolt; above Libertas - pileus; in ex and around - C.EGNATIVS.CN.F.C.NN
19.7 mm, 3.90 g, 6 h
Crawford 391/2
Sydenham 788
RSC / Bab Egnatia 3
aVF, off center.

The Egnatio gens was of Samnite origin and moved to Rome after the Social War.
Cicero mentions a Cn. Engatius of somewhat disreputable character who was admitted to the Senate and was subsequently expelled.
Country Roman
Type or era Roman Republican
Coin type Denarius
Mint   Rome
Issued by C.EGANTIVS
Title of issuer moneyer
Mint Date -75
Weight 3.90
Diameter - max 19.8
Diameter - min,
Metal AR
Serrated N
Cr  391/2
BMCRR 3276 - 3284
Sear: #, VF, EF 325
Bab Egnatia 3
CRR 788
Orientation 7
Purchase date
Grade aVF
Grade aVF
Centering obv is 26% off center and part of Cupid's face is off flan, reverse is about 10% off flan. All features but control number are on reverse. 
Strike strike is good where on flan
Flan flaws none
Style good style
Patination light
Damage none
Obverse Cupid
Reverse Jupiter & Libertas
Obverse Cupid with bow and quiver over shoulder; behind - MAXSVMVS
Reverse Jupiter with staff and Libertas with outstreached hands in distyle temple; above Jupiter thunderbolt; above Libertas - pileus; in ex and around - C.EGNATIVS.CN.F.C.NN
Obverse dies 20
Reverse dies 25
Notes:   1 The Egnatio gens was of Samnite origin and moved to Rome after the Social War. 
2 Cicero mentions a Cn. Engatius of somewhat disreputable character who was admitted to the Senate and was subsequently expelled.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Anonymous Quinarius, Cr 47/1. uncertain mint

Roman Republican Anonymous. AR Quinarius. 
after 211 BC. 
Obv. Head of Roma right, V behind. 
Rev. The Dioscuri galloping right; in exergue, ROMA in linear frame. 
Cr 47/1. 
BMCRR Rome 195
Sydenham 192
RBW 183 - 184
on line British Museum 47.1.1-4
AR. g. 2.12 mm. 16.00 Struck with rusty dies. EF.

Country Roman
Type or era Roman Republican
Coin type Quinarius
Mint   Unknown (Crawford) Rome (Grueber)
Issued by Anon
Issued by Anon
Title of issuer moneyer
Mint Date -211
Weight 2.12
Diameter - max 16
Metal AR
Serrated N
Cr  47/1
CRR 192 or 141
Orientation 7
Purchase date
Grade EF
Centering obv well centered, rev 13% off center. Only half of one Dioscuri star is off coin. 
Strike good strike, reverse looks good, obverse looks lightly struck, but Gruber notes these coins are in low relief
Flan flaws die rust, flow lines
Style excellent gryphon, Roma and Dioscuri typical
Patination light
Damage none
Obverse Roma
Reverse Dioscuri
Obverse Roma wearing winged helmet ornameted with gryphon's head, the visor in 3 pieces, straight lines with slight bend at end, single drop ear ring, double necklace; behind V, border dots
Reverse Dioscuri on horseback holding lances with stars above heads, In Ex - ROMA on tablet
Obverse dies 20
Reverse dies 25