KLIO 91 2009 1 144 –– 161 M artin B eckmann (London/Ontario)
What did Roman coin types mean? In a recent article in this journal, Richard Duncan Jones used statistical evidence to argue that although some coin types did have news content, the low percentage of „news types“ on Trajan’s coinage overall and their uneven distribution over the three coinage metals makes a propaganda function for the coinage as a whole unlikely. The high percentage of „traditional religious types“, Duncan-Jones suggests, supports the theory that the main function of coin types was to assist the monitoring of production within the mint (for example, by assigning particular types to a particular workshop).
1 This interpretation, if valid, is a sober corrective to the optimistic opinions of Harold Mattingly and Edward Sydenham, who argued that the function of coin types was „to disseminate knowledge of current events and propaganda of various kinds,“ and who saw coins as „the newspapers of the day.“ 2 It may also explain the surprise expressed by Sir Ronald Syme that „the rich vocabulary of politics was not more frequently drawn upon“ by the authority in charge of producing the coinage.
3 Perhaps historians should adopt the viewpoint of A. H. M. Jones, who suggested, that „it would be better if numismatists took the coin types and legends less seriously.“ 4 But is this pessimistic interpretation of the news content of Roman coin types entirely correct? Certainly, when all types across all metals are considered, the iconographic re 2 3 1 4 R. P. Duncan-Jones, Implications of Roman Coinage: debates and differences, Klio 87, 2005, 459 –– 487, espe cially 485.
RIC I, 22.
R. Syme, The Roman Revolution, Oxford 1939, 470. A thorough summary of the development of coin types from Greece to Rome and the modern debate over their significance can be found in C. H. V. Suther land’s article The Intelligibility of Roman Coin Types, JRS 49, 1959, 46 tichthon 16, 1982, 104 94 –– 34, 1984, 41 –– 54.
–– –– 55, which also includes a detailed critique of Jones’ pessimistic arguments. Other important contributions to the debate include Barbara Le vick’s suggestion that the choice of types did not stem from the Princeps but rather from mint officials who were trying to impress and flatter the ruler (B. M. Levick, Propaganda and the Imperial Coinage, An 116, especially 108) and Bergmann’s identification of three features of the imperial coinage, which she feels speak against the role of coins as part of „gezielter berzeugungskampagnen“: lack of a systematic relationship between coin types, frequent use of dative case in coin legends, and the possibil ity that coin images were derived from other sources (M. Bergmann, Die Strahlen der Herrscher. Theomor phes Herrscherbild und politische Symbolik im Hellenismus und in der ro¨mischen Kaiserzeit, Mainz 1998, 95). For a survey of other opinions, see C. Ehrhardt, Roman Coin Types and the Roman Public, JNG A. H. M. Jones, Numismatics and History, in: R. A. G. Carson/C. H. V. Sutherland (eds.), Essays in Roman Coinage presented to Harold Mattingly, Oxford 1956, 13 –– 33; reprinted in P. A. Brunt (ed.), The Roman Economy, Oxford 1974, 61 –– 81 (whence the quotes here, p. 62). Jones saw „a fairly obvious propaganda value“ in the types and legends of some imperial coins, but nonetheless questioned whether coins were real ly intended to convey the complex messages some scholars supposed.
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KLIO 91 (2009) 1 145 pertoire of the imperial coinage often appears generic. Explicit references to historical or political events are in general rare, while gods and personifications so common that it is difficult to believe that each had a specific meaning. In this article, I wish to suggest that this view is misleading, because the placement of types on different metals was governed by different needs and requirements in the Roman mint. This article begins by examining the detailed evidence for the production of coins of one specific metal –– gold –– in the Trajanic mint. The results indicate that most types used on the gold coinage, even reli gious ones, were in fact highly topical. The types of the gold coinage are then compared with the types used on bronze and silver. This comparison suggests that both gold and bronze coinage was dominated by types that may be interpreted as news, even in some cases as propaganda. Silver coins, on the other hand, are dominated by what might right ly be called generic types. This situation appears, on the surface, somewhat strange: the most and least valuable coins carried news types, while the mid-value coins, which were also those produced in the greatest numbers, generally did not. But this need not be seen as contradictory: instead, this phenomenon is directly connected to practical factors in volved in the mass-production of coins by the Roman mint.
The basis of this argument is a die-study of the gold coinage of the last seven years of the reign of Trajan (AD 112 –– 117), which covers a portion of the period discussed by Duncan-Jones.
5 The original dies used to strike these coins are, of course, now lost (some very few exceptions serve to tell us what they looked like –– generally, like tapered punches, usually of iron), but their mirror images are preserved in the finest detail by each and every ancient coin that they were used to strike. This would be of no more than casual interest were it not for the fact that dies were produced in large numbers, were hand-carved and therefore unique, and frequently wore out. These dies can be in dividually identified through careful study of the coins they produced. Two dies, an ob verse and a reverse, were used to strike each coin. When one of the two dies wore out it was replaced with a new die, and thus a link was formed between an old and new die through a common obverse (or reverse) die. Where enough dies and links between them can be identified, it is possible to draft a die link chart that records the exact sequence of die use by a mint over a period of time. Using die study it is possible to establish a relative chronology of coin types, determine how long each type was in use, reveal which other types were struck along with which others, and obtain a clear indication of the relative importance of types through the total number of dies used for each.
The key utility of die study is that it allows questions about numismatic iconography to be approached from the viewpoint of production. This has a number of marked be nefits, the most important of which is that it greatly reduces and in some cases elimina tes entirely the problems caused by the sometimes uneven nature of hoard evidence. The main problems with hoards are that they are formed some or many years after the coins were produced (after they have been affected by the mechanics of circulation) and that the composition of hoards is strongly influenced by uneven regional distribution of new ly minted coin.
6 But the advantages go beyond merely avoiding problems. By focussing on the very first stage of coin production, die study can reveal the precise sequence of 5 6 M. Beckmann, Trajan’s Gold Coinage, AD 112 –– 117, AJN 19, 2007, 77 –– 130 and id., The early gold coinage of Trajan’s 6 th consulship, AJN 12, 2000, 119 –– 156. These articles present the die lists and the complete coin catalogues, on which the remarks in this article are based.
On the problems of hoard evidence, see Duncan-Jones (n. 1) 471 –– 476; on type distribution, see id., The monetization of the Roman empire: regional variations of the supply of coin types, in: G. Paul/M. Ierardi Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
146 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types how and when new coin types were introduced, and in what quantity (based on die counts). If a complete sequence can be reconstructed, the production lifetime of types can be precisely determined and the exact point of their withdrawal from the mint reper toire pinpointed. These advantages not only make die study a powerful tool for organiz ing and dating coin types; they also bring the numismatist very close to the actual point of decision-making, shedding light on when and why new types were introduced and old ones withdrawn.
Material and Method All gold coinage in the time of Trajan, in addition to most of the silver and all the bronze intended for western circulation, was produced in the mint at Rome. Silver coins were struck by some eastern cities and bronze coinage (intended for local circulation only) by many more, but this study focuses exclusively on the coinage of the capital. The coins struck in Rome under Trajan between the years 112 and 117 show more than forty different types. These include gods and personifications, members of the Imperial family dead and living, historical scenes involving the emperor, statues, trophies and buildings.
Some, like the personifications Felicitas or Pax, appear throughout the period; others, such as a depiction of Trajan receiving his 7 th Imperial acclamation (Fig. 21), are short lived. Some types, such as the Column of Trajan (Fig. 17), appeared on coins of all me tals, while others, for example busts of Divus Nerva and Divus Pater Traianus (Figs. 10 and 11), appeared only on coins of a single denomination (in this case, gold A die study was made of 947 gold aurei of this period (AD 112 –– aurei ).
117), representing the contents of public collections, the major known hoards (both published and unpu blished, listed in Appendix 2), some archaeological finds and many more specimens sold as part of the antiquities trade. Gold was chosen because it was the only part of the coinage for which a die study seemed practical, silver having been struck from too many dies, and bronze often too poorly preserved. The results showed that these coins were struck by 254 obverse dies and 202 reverse dies. This yields a respectable ratio of 4.7
coins for each obverse die identified.
7 The results also suggest that the sample represents a majority of the dies used to strike the gold coinage. The clearest evidence for this is that the resulting die link sequence from January AD 112 to early AD 113 is continuous, with very few outlying coins that cannot be linked in. This indicates that the coins as sembled represent almost every die actually used in this period. The sequence from AD 113 to 117 is more fragmentary, most likely as a result of many of these coins having been sent to the eastern part of the empire to finance the Parthian war, a geographical area from which few hoards have been published or preserved in museums or public collections.
7 (eds.), Roman Coins and Public Life under the Empire, Ann Arbor 1999, 61 –– 82; some problems with Duncan-Jones’ analysis are noted by T. V. Buttrey in his review of the same in JRA 13, 2000, 591 –– 592.
To put this in perspective, the ratio of coins to obverse dies in one of the most thorough Roman die studies to date, von Kaenel’s study of the coinage of Claudius, was 1.4 coins per die. H.-M. von Kaenel, Mu¨nzpra¨ gung und Mu¨nzbildnis des Claudius, Berlin 1986. It is important to note that the ratio in von Kaenel’s study was low mainly because the dies used to strike gold coins under Claudius were also used to strike silver coins, which are much more numerous and harder to assemble in a sufficiently large sample. Trajan’s coinage does not suffer from this problem: separate dies were cut for striking gold and silver, making it possible to focus study on production in a single metal.
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KLIO 91 (2009) 1 147 The Precise Chronology of the Gold Coin Types Between January of 112 and August of 114 (that is, coins bearing the title C os VI, but not yet O ptimus , Fig. 5), fourteen types (Figs. 6 –– 19) appeared on the gold coinage: Via Traiana, Pater Traianus, Nerva and Pater Traianus, the Equus Traianus, Basilica Ulpia and Forum Traiani, Trajan’s Column, Military Standards, Jupiter Conservator, Bonus Eventus, Fortuna Redux, Rex Parthus, Profectio, and Mars Victor. All of these types, with the exception of the personification Via Traiana, were new –– that is, they did not continue the types used in the last issues of Trajan’s C os V coinage.
Die study reveals that this coinage actually consists of two distinct groups, with no sharing of dies between them, and that these two groups are chronologically distinct, one earlier and the other later. The earlier group is identifiable because it contains the Via Traiana type (which carries over from Trajan’s earlier C os V coinage), while the later group is marked out by the types Rex Parthus and Profectio, which carry over to Trajan’s later C os VI O ptimus issues. The first group is dominated by types showing structures in Rome (all associated with Trajan’s Forum) and types honouring Trajan’s adoptive and birth fathers. The second group, on the other hand, is dominated by types with military connections or ones dealing with the safety of the emperor, including Jupiter Conserva tor with his protective arm raised over the emperor. The army, uncertain times and some dangerous undertaking by the emperor are all indicated. The occasion for this dramatic change in types seems to have been a war, and the only war known of at this time is the war against Parthia.
Using die links, it is possible to define the chronology of types more precisely within these groups. Fig. 1 shows the die sequence for the first, pre-war group. The reverse dies are identified by the capital letters V (Via Traiana), P (Pater Traianus), N (Nerva and Pater Traianus), ET (Equus Traianus), F (Trajan’s Forum), B (Basilica Ulpia) and M (Mars a4 N4 N5 P8 a9 a10 a11 a1 a2 a3 a6 b3 b5 b1 b7 a7 a8 N6 P4 P1 P2 N1 P3 N2 P7 P6 N3 B1 M1 a30 c4 a29 a20 a19 c3 a18 c2 a23 a24 a25 a17 a16 b4 b2 a5 b6 a15 b8 a14 a13 a12 V2 ET1 F8 F7 V1 B3 B4 F6 B2 F5 F4 F3 F2 F1 B5 P5 a21 a22 a26 a27 a28 c1 F9 Fig. 1. Die link chart of gold coinage from January AD112 to early 113 Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
148 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types Victor), followed by numbers identifying the individual dies (the sequence of numbers is not significant, reflecting nothing more than the order in which the dies were identified during research). The obverse dies are identified by lower-case letters followed by num bers, different letters indicating different bust variants (a and b cuirassed and draped, c draped only), underlined if legend is in the dative case (otherwise it is nominative). The lines between the obverse and reverse dies represent links.
The die sequence is linear and proceeds from left to right. The beginning can be iden tified by two Via Traiana dies (V) that appear only at one end of the sequence. This type was in use before AD 112, and in fact is the only type in the gold coinage that was carried over from the previous period. It was used only briefly (just two dies) and then disappeared from the repertoire. The end of the sequence is identified by the single Mars Ultor die (M), that links to one of the very last obverse dies used. This type continues to be used in AD 114 and later (albeit in silver rather than gold), confirming that the right hand end of the sequence is chronologically later than the left. Within these two termini lies the main bulk of the coinage, made up of types celebrating Trajan’s new Forum complex and types honouring Nerva and Trajan Senior.
Not all coin types were employed to an equal extent. Trajan’s Forum and Basilica Ulpia types were struck over the entire period, from beginning to end. The Equus Traianus however is represented by only one single die and appeared only at the begin ning of the sequence. Nerva and Trajan Senior types were struck from the very begin ning (suggesting that January AD 112 saw the deification of the latter, an event not attested in historical sources), but they ceased to be struck just before the end of the sequence. Finally, the appearance of Mars Victor at the very end of the sequence is unusual –– it does not fit the predominantly peaceful theme of Roman monuments and honoured relatives that otherwise dominates the series. It may be understood as fore shadowing the militaristic character of the new series of coin types, which immediately followed.
These results, and those for the die study of the remaining five years of Trajan’s reign, are summarized on a timeline in Fig. 2. The main dotted vertical line is marked in inter vals of one year; diamond symbols indicate the dates when the titles Optimus and Parthicus were awarded to Trajan (Figs. 20 and 27). The solid lines connected to the names of specific coin types indicate when each type appeared, how long it remained in use, and when it ceased being struck. Lines in bold identify types which are known from more than five dies, an attempt to visually differentiate common types from rarer ones (the actual count of dies per coin type is given in Appendix 1). Types linked by simple straight lines indicate those that are either known only from a single die or, in the case of Trajan’s Column, that were struck in a very short period.
Early in AD 113 an entirely new set of types appeared on the gold coinage (Figs. 13 –– 19), replacing all of the types used since January 112. The most important of these new types were Bonus Eventus (15 dies), Jupiter Conservator (11 dies) and a type showing three military standards (10 dies). The Column of Trajan, dedicated in May 113, is also part of this series, but was struck for only a short period using only three dies.
This issue seems to have occurred at the same time as the ceremony of dedication. For tuna Redux (Fig. 17) appears later in the sequence, shown seated on a throne, holding a rudder, representing vows for the emperor’s safe return. Although Fortuna Redux be comes a massively popular type in Trajan’s O ptimus series, it is represented here by only 4 dies.
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KLIO 91 (2009) 1
Divus Trajan Sr.
Jupiter Conservator Fortuna Redux Bonus Eventus AD 113 AD 114
Rex Parthus Profectio Salus Vota Suscepta
Sol AD 115 AD 116 AD 117
Column of Trajan
Trajan OPTIMUS Imperator VII Trajan PARTHICUS
149 Hadrian Caesar
Fig. 2. Summary of date ranges of gold coin types at the end of Trajan’s reign. Types in types, with more than 5 dies known bold are the major Immediately before Trajan’s reception of the title Optimus late in AD 114, two new types appeared on the coinage: Profectio and Rex Parthus (Figs. 18 and 19). Both coins are represented by a single die in the pre-O ptimus ther in the die sequence. One of these dies –– coinage, and both appear close toge Rex Parthus –– was used to strike not only with C os VI obverse dies but also with C os VI O ptimus dies. The occasion for striking Rex Parthus seems to have been the submission of Parthamasiris in Armenia (see below).
The Latin label on the coins points out the king and the nominative case distinguishes him from Trajan, referred to in the dative on the reverse. The king is shown in a sub missive pose before Trajan, who is seated upon a platform and accompanied by his ar my.
The O ptimus period saw the continued popularity of Jupiter, Fortuna and Bonus Eventus (they account for 48 of the 60 reverse dies used between late 114 and early Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
150 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types 116), along with (for a short while) Rex Parthus, Profectio and a new type (Fig. 21) sho wing Trajan seated on a platform and being saluted by his soldiers, labelled I mperator VII. Dio records that Trajan’s 7 th Imperial acclamation took place while Trajan was in Armenia, the occasion being the submission of Parthamasiris at Elegeia (Cass. Dio 68.19). I mperator VII has a short life as a coin type and it soon disappeared from the repertoire, along with Profectio and Rex Parthus.
Two new types appear in 115: Salus Augusti (Fig. 22), showing the goddess seated on a throne, holding a patera over an altar around which a snake is coiled, and Vota Suscep ta (Fig. 23), showing the Genii Populi and Senatus making a sacrifice over an altar. Salus is specifically labeled as S alvs the emperor’s health. The V ota A vgvsti , a direct invocation of the goddess on behalf of coins record „vows undertaken“ (Vota Suscepta) by the senate and the People (identified by their personifications), presumably after the example of those made for Augustus 16 BC and commemorated on his coinage (showing inscri bed in an oak wreath: I ovi O ptimo M aximo senatus populusque R omanus vota sus cepta pro salute I mperatoris C aesaris ).
8 The appeal to Salus and the record of vows both point to a decline in the emperor’s health. Cassius Dio (68.31
–– 33) puts the first instance of the illness that was to end Trajan’s life in the fall of 116, but the position of these coins in the die sequence indicates that the emperor’s health troubles actually be gan much earlier.
Next to appear were Regna Adsignata (Fig. 24, showing Trajan on a podium with three eastern dignitaries –– presumably kings –– standing before him), Providentia (Fig. 25, show ing the goddess standing with arm over a globe) and Sol (Fig. 26, with a bust of the god). Die links place them at the very end of the O ptimus sequence: one of the three Regna Adsignata dies and the single Sol die also link to later obverses bearing the title P arthicus .
Trajan became Parthicus (Fig. 27), records the Fasti Ostienses , in February 116, as an immediate result of the arrival in Rome of the emperor’s laureatae missae from the eastern front. The award of this title triggered a substantial change in the makeup of the coin type repertoire. Trajan’s P arthicus aurei were dominated by two types: Sol and Parthia Capta (Fig. 28, showing a trophy with two captives seated at its base). Four types used in the O ptimus coinage –– Salus, Vota Suscepta, Regna Adsignata and Providentia –– conti nued for a short time after February 116, but soon fell out of use. Of these, only Regna Adsignata, known from 4 dies, seems to have been particularly significant. Thereafter the gold coinage was dominated by only two types: Sol and Parthia Capta. These continue right up to the end of Trajan’s coinage, when a final new type appeared: Hadrian Caesar (Fig. 29, showing a bust of the Caesar with the inscription H adriano T raiano C aesari ).
Hadrian Caesar is represented by only one die, which does not link into the overall se quence of Trajan’s P arthicus coinage, but it can only have come at the very end of the sequence.
To summarize: the gold coinage struck under Trajan between AD 112 and 117 had two distinctive characteristics. First, it was intensely topical. It is possible to connect nearly every type to an historical event, not by means of wishful thinking but either through the evidence of inscriptions on the coins themselves (e.g., Forum Traiani, Parthia Capta) or through die links to contemporary types that can be directly connected to events in the capital or abroad (e.g., Divus Pater Traianus indicating the deification of 8 BMC Augustus 92; RIC 358.
KLIO 91 (2009) 1 151 Trajan senior in January 112 through its link to the earliest dies of the Forum series, or Regna Adsignata indicating an assignment of new kings early in 116 through its link to Sol and Parthia Capta types). Second, the gold coinage was overwhelmingly current. New events frequently triggered a partial or total revamping of the repertoire of types. A total remodelling occurred in early 113, near-total overhauls in January 112 and in February 116, and a partial renovation late in 114. Only a few types remained in use much more than a year, and some (Trajan’s Column, for instance, or Mars Victor or Regna Adsigna ta) seem to have been struck only for a very short time. Jupiter Conservator, Fortuna Redux and Bonus Eventus on the other hand were used for three years, between early 113 and February 116, and Sol and Parthia Capta for about nineteen months, between February 116 and August 117. But this long use did not mean that the types ceased to be current: the first three reflected a continued desire for the emperor’s protection while he was out of Rome on campaign, while the last two celebrated his Parthian victory in anticipation of his triumphant return to the capital.
Silver, Bronze, and the Character of the Coinage as a whole Gold did not, of course, constitute the entire coinage. How do conclusions drawn from the die study of the gold coinage relate to Trajan’s coinage as a whole? Practical conside rations –– particularly the sheer volume of the surviving silver coinage and frequently poor preservation of the bronze –– rule out complete die study of these metals. Fortuna tely, a very good impression of their typological makeup can be gained simply by organizing them in three broad periods according to the emperor’s titles (C os VI, O ptimus and P arthicus ) and comparing this to the pattern of the gold types. The chart in Fig. 3 lists all coin types in use between AD 112 and 117, divided into these three periods. The letters G, S and B indicate whether the types appear in gold, silver or bronze. The first fourteen types in the list, marked with an upward-pointing arrow, are types which were also used on coinage of AD 111 and earlier. These carry-over types were mainly struck in silver, less often in bronze and only in one case (Via Traiana) in gold. The remaining types in the list, 27 in number, were new. Five of these new types appear only in gold, two only in silver (Divus Pater Traianus seated and Virtus with spear) and three only in bronze (Regna Adsignata, Rex Parthis Datus and Armenia et Mesopotamia).
This suggests that new types were most often introduced in gold. Silver on the other hand tended to retain earlier types. Even more interesting is the ratio of new types to old types for each metal in each period. The chart in Fig. 4 summarizes the number of new types appearing in each metal in each period, expressed as a percentage of the total number of types in that metal struck in each period. Gold and bronze were the chosen metals for the lion’s share of new types. Fully 93% of gold types for the period AD 112 –– 114 were new, while only 45% of the silver types were new. In the period between early AD 116 and August 117, no denarii were struck using types that had not appeared in earlier periods, and more than half (5 of 9) of the denarius types of this period had been in use since AD 112 –– 114. In contrast, none of the gold or bronze P arthicus types extend farther back than the O ptimus issues of late AD 114 to early 116. Silver types were generally repetitive, gold and bronze on the other hand tended to be novel.
Why were new types so much more common in gold and bronze than in silver? The reason seems at least partly connected to the nature of the types themselves. Types of Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
152 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types TYPES in order of appearance Arabia Adquisita Alimenta Italia Aeternitas Victory DACICA Victory with wreath Spes Vesta Pietas Pax with torch Dacia Provincia Aqua Traiana Via Traiana Felicitas Pax with cornucopiae Divus Pater Traianus seated Bust of Divus Pater Traianus Divus Pater Traianus and Nerva Equus Traiani Basilica Ulpia Forum Traiani Virtus and Felicitas Mars with trophy Standards Jupiter Conservator Fortuna Redux Bonus Eventus Column of Trajan Rex Parthus Profectio Virtus with spear Imperator VII Providentia Salus Augusti Vota Suscepta Sol Regna Adsignata Heap of arms Parthia Capta Rex Parthis Datus Armenia et Mesopotamia Hadrian Caesar AD 112–114 G G G G S B S B S S S S S S S B S S B B G S B S B G S B B B B G S B G S G S B G S B G S G S B G G S B B OPTIMUS G G S B S B S G S B G S B G S S B G G B B S G B G S B G S G B B PARTHICUS G S B G S G G G S S S S S S G S G B B B Fig. 3. All coin types in use from AD 112 to 117 (G ¼ gold, S ¼ silver, B ¼ bronze) Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
KLIO 91 (2009) 1 153 AD 112–114 OPTIMUS PARTHICUS Gold 93% 55% 30% Silver 45% 30% 0% Bronze 64% 45% 50% Fig. 4. New types: the proportion of new types in each metal in each main period, expressed as a percentage of total types in that metal in use in each period different classes (gods, personifications, historical scenes, etc.) are not evenly distributed across the different metals. As Duncan-Jones has pointed out, there is a general and striking absence from the silver coinage of types depicting historical events: here, the Profectio, Rex Parthus, Imperator, Vota Suscepta, Regna Adsignata, Parthia Capta, Rex Parthis Datus, and Armenia and Mesopotamia types appear only on gold and/or bronze, never on silver. Why do historical types not appear in the denarius repertoire? Certainly space was not an issue, for although historical types are often complex and detailed, did not offer appreciably more space than denarius dies.
aureus dies Most denarius dies employed simple, single-figure types. This suggests that one possible reason for the exclusion of explicitly historical types from the denarius repertoire was, that they were simply considered too time-consuming to cut. The number of human figures involved in historical types range from two on the Vota Suscepta and Parthia Capta dies to eight or more on the Imperator dies. These figures had to be carefully arranged and in many cases cut in different planes.
Denarii were produced in vast numbers from a very large pool of dies. Duncan-Jones has estimated that the average ratio of dies in the early 2 nd denarius to aureus century AD was between 40 : 1 and 80 : 1, meaning that for every aureus die cut, between forty and eighty denarius dies also had to be produced.
9 For the period under consideration here, where 202 reverse dies have been identified for the gold coinage, this would mean that between 8,000 and 16,000 denarius reverse dies would have had to have been cut. These dies had to be quickly produced, and many denarius dies clearly show poor workmanship in comparison to dies used to strike gold coins (e.g., Fig. 30). With this in mind, it would have been natural for mint workers to select simpler types that were easy to execute –– especially single standing figures –– for denarius dies.
Another possible reason for the difference in choice of types between metals may be that it was thought that gold and bronze coins would be more closely inspected by the public than silver; gold because of its much greater intrinsic value (one aureus was worth twenty-five denarii ), bronze coins because of their much greater size. This could also ac count for the different standards of care that are clearly visible in the minting process: gold and bronze are almost always well struck, carefully centred and on flans of even thickness; silver on the other hand is often struck off-centre, on flans that are too small or of uneven thickness.
These two explanations are by no means mutually exclusive, and in fact it would make sense to see both working together in influencing the allotment of types to the different metals. The necessity of mass production would have led to the selection of simple types for the thousands of denarius dies that needed to be cut each year –– using Duncan-Jones’ 9 R. Duncan-Jones, Money and Government in the Roman Empire, Cambridge 1994, 115 –– 120. The figures are for the reign of Hadrian. Duncan-Jones estimated a total number of ca. 2000 each year, compared to only 25 –– 50 aureus dies.
denarius dies were used Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
154 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types figures and assuming even production, it would have been necessary for mint engravers to cut as many as five or six denarius dies each day, but only one or two aureus dies each week in the years between 112 and 117. The lower quality of the denarii resulting from this scale of mass production would have encouraged mint officials to reserve the more complex types for gold and bronze issues, where their details could be better appreciated.
All of this implies that, for the most part, there was no attempt to determine what types were struck in what metal based on concepts of potential audience or issuing au thority. The supposedly senatorial bronze coinage (the senate’s authority expressed by the addition of „SC“ for senatus consulto ) did not have its own distinct repertoire of types, but rather shared most of them with gold and silver. In fact it is most often silver that this the „odd man out,“ being the least current, tending to retain old types long after they disappear from the gold and bronze, and making use of far fewer historical images.
The comparison of types over the different metals suggests that it is possible to view the gold, silver and bronze coinage as a single unit, with differences in type repertoire between the metals largely to be explained by practical considerations of production at the mint. Gold and bronze, because they were struck from fewer dies and because those dies were as a rule executed with much more care, were most often chosen for the introduction of new types, particularly complex historical ones. In the rare cases where new types appear in silver alone (Pater Traianus seated and Virtus with spear), they are always simple, single-figure affairs. Particular metals were chosen based on the considera tion of which would offer the most practical medium (the large flan for bronze, or the small but finely executed dies of the gold, versus the mass produced silver). Some types were shared by silver and gold, some by gold and bronze, some by all metals. The dis tribution of types between the metals shows that the minting of different metals was not under the control of different authorities who determined their types independently.
Conclusions Two important factors appear to have governed coin type usage in Trajan’s mint: the desire to select topical images, and the need to maintain an uninterrupted process of mass-production. The officials in charge of the mint appear to have reached a compro mise between these two requirements. As a result, the lower-volume portions of the coin age were adorned with more up-to-date types, and these were changed often. Gold and bronze coin types were topical, frequently changed, and almost always clearly connected to the most important events in the developing history of the Empire. As such, most of them can be identified as news types. These coins generally had clear messages, and in some cases these messages were propagandistic: for example, Parthia was described on the coinage of 116 –– 117 as Capta , when it was actually in a state of revolt.
But the same cannot be argued for silver coins: their ,coverage‘ of news events was not nearly as thorough as the gold and bronze, and they frequently employed out-dated types. The reason for the use of a great number of out-of-date types on the silver coin age was that the mint was constrained by the necessity of fulfilling its role as a primary engine of the Roman economy by producing (by hand) millions of silver coins. Thus in some cases, practical considerations imposed by the need to produce very many coins, and very quickly, imposed limits on the expressiveness of what otherwise was a timely and relevant medium of visual communication.
KLIO 91 (2009) 1 155 Summary Did Roman Imperial coin types have significant news or propaganda content, or were they generic? This article (focussing on the coinage of Trajan) argues that this depends on what part of the coinage is considered. The gold and bronze coins had substantial news content, but the silver coinage generally did not. This situation arose because two factors, sometimes conflicting, governed the choice of coin types in Trajan’s mint: first, the desire to select topical images; second, the need to maintain uninterrupted the mass-production of coins. As a result, the lower-volume portions of the coinage were adorned with more up-to-date types, and these were changed often; the higher-volume coinage on the other hand –– especially the silver denarii –– tended to employ generic and outdated types.
Key word: Trajan, 2. Jh. n. Chr. Adoptivkaiser, Numismatik Appendix 1: Die Counts January AD 112 to early AD 113: Obv. I mp T raianvs/o A vg G er D ac Rev. Various descriptive legends.
Via Traiana (2 dies) Forum of Trajan (10 dies) Basilica Ulpia (5 dies) Equus Traianus (1 die) Pater Traianus (8 dies) Nerva and Pater Traianus (6 dies) Mars Victor (1 die) P M T r P C os VI P P.
Early AD 113 to late AD 114: Obv. as above.
Rev. S P Q R O ptimo P rincipi or descriptive legend.
Jupiter Conservator (10 dies) Legionary Eagle and Standards (10 dies) Bonus Eventus with or without altar (15 dies) Column of Trajan (3 dies) Fortuna Redux (4 dies) Profectio (1 die) Rex Parthus (1 die, which links to the following group) Late AD 114 to early AD 115: Obv. I mp T raiano O ptimo A vg G er D ac P M T r P.
Rev. C os VI P P S P Q R or descriptive legend.
Rex Parthus (1 die, which links to pre-O ptimus coinage Group 3) Fortuna Redux (2 dies) Jupiter Conservator (4 dies) Bonus Eventus (3 dies) Imperator VII (1 die) Augusti Profectio (2 dies, one of which die links to the following group) Early AD 115 to late February AD 116: Obv. I mp C aes N er T raiano O ptimo A vg G er D ac .
Rev. P M T r P C os VI P P S P Q R or descriptive legend.
Augusti Profectio (1 dies, which links to the preceding group) Fortuna Redux (23 dies) Jupiter Conservator (10 dies) Bonus Eventus (14 dies) Salus Augusti (5 dies) Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
156 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types Vota Suscepta (2 dies) Providentia (1 die) Regna Adsignata (3 dies, one of which die links to the group below) Sol (1 die, which links to the group below) March AD 116 to August AD 117: Obv. I mp C aes N er T raian O ptim Rev. P M T Sol (2 dies) Obv. I mp C r P C os Regna Adsignata (4 dies, one of which links to the group above) Providentia (1 die) Vota Suscepta (1 die) Parthia Capta (12 dies) aes N er VI P P S P Q R or descriptive legend.
T raian O ptim A vg G erm D ac .
Rev. P arthico P M T Sol (23 dies) Hadrian Caesar (1 die) r P C os A vg G er D ac P arthico .
VI P P S P Q R (in one case, H adriano T raiano C aesari ) Appendix 2: Main Collections and Hoards Consulted Arquennes: Arquennes hoard, Belgium (unpublished, photographic record kept in Cabinet des Me´dailles, Brus sels).
Augsburg: L. Weber, Ein Schatzfund ro¨mischer Aurei in Augsburg, JRGZ 28, 1981, 133 –– 170.
Milan: G. G. Belloni, Le monete di Traiano, Milan 1973.
Berlin: Bode Museum, Berlin.
BM: British Museum, London.
Braga: R. M. S. Centeno, Un Tesouro de Aurei do Norte de Portugal, Nummus 2a1, 1978, 37 –– 98.
Brigetio: L. Barko´czi/K. Biro-Sey, Brigetioi aranylelet, Numizmatikai Ko¨zlo¨ny 62 –– 63, 1963 –– 1964, 3 –– 8.
Brussels: Cabinet des Me´dailles, Bibliothe`que Royale, Brussels.
Capitoline: Medagliere del Museo Capitolino, Rome.
Corbridge: H. H. E. Craster, Second and fourth century hoards found at Corbridge, 1908 –– 11, NC 4.12, 1912, 265 –– 312.
Diarbekir: K. Regling, Der Schatz ro¨mischer Goldmu¨nzen von Diarbekir (Madrin), Bla¨tter fu¨r Mu¨nzfreunde 11, Nov. 1931, 353 –– 365.
Didcot: R. Bland/J. Orna-Ornstein, Didcot, Oxfordshire: 126 91 –– 100.
aurei to AD 160, Coin Hoards 10, 1997, Erla: H. Jungwirth, Der Mu¨nzschatzfund von Erla, NZ 82, 1967, 26 –– 48.
Florence: Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence.
Hermitage: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
Kestner: F. Berger, Die antiken Goldmu¨nzen im Kestner-Museum Hannover, Hannover 1991.
Liberchies: M. Thirion, Le Tre´sor de Liberchies Brussels, Brussels 1972.
London: Plantation Place hoard, London.
Madrid: C. Alfaro Asins, Catalogo de las monedas antiguas de oro del Museo Arqueologico Nacional, Madrid 1993.
Trier: Trier Feldstraße hoard, 1993, currently in Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Trier. Preliminary report: K.-J.
Gilles, Der große ro¨mische Goldmu¨nzfund aus Trier, Funde und Ausgrabungen im Bezirk Trier 26, 1993, 9 –– 24.
Trier Leostraße: G. Elmer/P. Steiner, Ein Schatz flavischer und antoninischer Goldmu¨nzen aus Trier, TZ 11, 1936, 170 –– 175.
Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Medagliere.
Vienna: Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Via Po: S. L. Cesano, Ripostiglio di aurei imperiali rinvenuto a Roma, BCAR 57, 1929, 1 –– 119.
Villach: F. Dick, in: Die Fundmu¨nzen der Ro¨mischen Zeit in sterreich: Ka¨rnten, II/3 B, Vienna 1989, 35 –– 41.
KLIO 91 (2009) 1 Fig. 5. Trajan AD 112 to 114 Fig. 6. Via Traiana 157 Fig. 7. Forum Traiani Fig. 8. Basilica Ulpia Fig. 9. Equus Traiani Fig. 10. Nerva and Pater Traianus Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
158 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types Fig. 11. Pater Traianus Fig. 12. Mars Victor Fig. 13. Bonus Eventus Fig. 14. Jupiter Conservator Fig. 15. Standards Fig. 16. Column of Trajan Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
KLIO 91 (2009) 1 Fig. 17. Fortuna Redux Fig. 18. Rex Parthus 159 Fig. 19. Profectio Fig. 20. Trajan AD 114 to 116 O ptimus Fig. 21. Imperator VII Fig. 22. Salus Augusti Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
160 M. B eckmann , The Significance of Roman Imperial Coin Types Fig. 23. Vota Suscepta Fig. 24. Regna Adsignata Fig. 25. Providentia Fig. 26. Sol Fig. 27. Trajan AD 116 to 117 P arthicus Fig. 28. Parthia Capta Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM
KLIO 91 (2009) 1 Fig. 29. Hadrian Caesar 161 Fig. 30. The rendering of Trajan’s Column on an aureus compared to its rendering on a denarius Brought to you by | University of California - Los Angeles - UCLA Library Authenticated Download Date | 1/5/17 8:02 AM