Volume 10 Issue 11                                         INTERNET EDITION - Established 1996                           November 2005


The name 'Tasmanian Numismatist' is used with the permission  of the Executive Committee of the 'Tasmanian Numismatic Society' however, any comments published in this privately produced newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of the 'Tasmanian Numismatic Society', its Executive Committee or its members. Bearing in mind our public disclaimers,  the Internet links selected by the authors of this  newsletter are usually provided as a complimentary source of reference to the featured article in regard to: (1) Illustrations and, (2) to provide additional important information. 

Any notices of concern or direct interest  to 'Tasmanian Numismatic Society' members will be included in the 'Society Snippets' section.

We trust that this issue of the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) newsletter will continue to provide interesting reading.

 

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TASMANIAN NUMISMATIC SOCIETY

Anyone who wishes to apply for membership to the non-profit making organization, and who is prepared to abide by the rules of the Society and its aim of promoting the study and enjoyment of the hobby of numismatics, should contact the following address for an application form and details of subscriptions: 

 

THE SECRETARY.

Tasmanian Numismatic Society.

G. P. O. Box 884J

Hobart. 7001.

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SOCIETY SNIPPETS

The 'Tasmanian Numismatic Society', Committee and members, remember those who sacrificed so much during the World Wars of 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1945

 as well as the subsequent conflicts in Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Flanders Fields

('We Shall not Sleep')

by Lt. Col. John McCrae MD. Canadian Army.

30-11-1872 to 28-1-1918

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

Artillery Surgeon John McCrae did not survive the Great War. He fell, as so many others thousands did, a victim of illness and did not recover.

 

During the summer of 1917, John McCrae was troubled by severe asthma attacks and occasional bouts of bronchitis. He became very ill in January 1918 and diagnosed his condition as pneumonia. He was moved to Number 14 British General Hospital for Officers where he continued to grow weak.

On January 28, after an illness of five days, he died of pneumonia and meningitis. The day he fell ill, he learned he had been appointed consulting physician to the First British Army, the first Canadian so honoured.

John McCrae was buried with full military honours in Wimereux Cemetery, just north of Boulogne, not far from the fields of Flanders.

His horse, Bonfire, led the procession, McCrae's riding boots reversed in the stirrups. His death was met with great grief among his friends and contemporaries. A friend wrote of the funeral:

"The day of the funeral was a beautiful spring day; none of us wore overcoats. You know the haze that comes over the hills at Wimereux. I felt so thankful that the poet of `In Flanders Fields' was lying out there in the bright sunshine in the open space he loved so well.... "

 

LEST WE FORGET

The Remembrance Poppy was introduced to the public by Miss Moina Belle Michael on November 9th. 1918 as a symbol inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields" written by the late Lt. Col. John McCrae. The poem made a lasting impression and she pledged not to forget the sacrifices of those who fought and wrote her own poem, "We Shall Keep the Faith" in November 1918. She resolved always to wear red silk poppies - like the poppies of Flanders fields -- and began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute and support for veterans. Through her efforts, this idea was adopted in the United States and spread to England, France, Australia and more than 50 other countries.

 

WE SHALL KEEP THE FAITH

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

 

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

 

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

It is now 87 years since the 'Great War to end all Wars' finished and the Armistace was declared, commencing at 11.00a.m. on the 11th November 1918, and it is also now over 60 years since WWII ground to a bloody halt. Over the generations, we Australians have paid an awful price for our patriotism.

Australians had just cause to celebrate when the long-prayed-for Peace came to the world once more on both occasions - and now we continue to honour those who participated and sometimes died in Service to their Country.

At 11.00 a.m. on 11th. November each year, most of this nation and others come to a halt for a brief time of contemplation.

Wherever you are, please join that moment and buy and wear the Red Poppy of Remembrance to aid Legacy efforts in supporting those families who still need help.

We still see the Victoria Crosses, and the other pieces of be-ribboned metal that signify the sacrifice these Service men and women made - and we must also remember two other rarely seen medals issued during each of the World Wars that were called badges for they were attached near the heart with a pin - but, they are just as important as those rows of medals that glint on the chests of those who honour Remembrance Day and its comradeship in the more public arenas.

These badges are the poignant reminders for those thousands of Australian Wives and Mothers who saw their loved ones sent off to war.

 

     

WWI and WWII Mothers and Widows badges - each Gold Star represented an Australian Service person - FOR AUSTRALIA

 WWI and WWII Female Relatives Badges - TO THE WOMEN OF AUSTRALIA.  Extra gold stars and silver bars were added where necessary.

 

References

Australian War Memorial Encyclopaedia. Refer: http://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/badges/mothers_widows.htm

The Flanders Fields Poppy. The story of Moina Michael. Refer: http://www.greatwar.co.uk/umbrella/ffpopmoina.htm

Lt. Col. John McCrae MD - Canadian Army Artillery Surgeon. Refer: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/flanders.htm

International War Veterans' Poetry Archives. Refer: http://iwvpa.net/michaelm/

 

T.N.S. Members' EMAIL ADDRESSES

In an effort to save duplication of effort, as well as reduce production and mailing costs, we again request those local T.N.S. members who have Internet access to advise our Secretary and register your email address for electronic delivery of correspondence, including the newsletter. Thank You.

T.N.S. Secretary’s official contact address:

Tasmanian Numismatic Society.

G. P. O. Box 884J

Hobart. 7001.

Email: misteeth@bigpond.net.au

 

 

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INTERNET EDITION

by Graeme Petterwood © 2005

Remember - be astute when you are handed change - not all the wonders of numismatics have been discovered yet - and they don't have to be shiny and new!

This  edition again features an assortment that I think is of interest and I trust it will prove educational and entertaining to you as well. 

All or any prices quoted in articles in this newsletter, unless stipulated, are my estimates only and they should not be considered to be an offer to sell or purchase the items mentioned or used as illustrations. 

Please note that the photoscans of numismatic items are not to size or scale but - wherever possible - they are from the editor's or authors' own collections.

 

ENCORE!

Due to the threat of computer viruses that were forecast to hit the Internet system on January 1st. 2000, the 'Tasmanian Numismatist - Internet Edition' felt obliged to purge its archives from 1996 - 1999 and placed them on disc for safe-keeping prior to the arrival of the dreaded 'Millennium Bug'.

Whilst we felt that the decision was a very wise one at the time, the information contained in that 4 years of newsletter issues became inaccessible to readers, except by request. Even though Internet links are still directed to the old newsletter pages from various Search Engines they will turn up blank..

In an effort to satisfy those readers and new collectors who have requested that some of the articles be again made available for research, we have decided to update and re-illustrate a selection of the most popular stories and re-publish them and get them back into the current system. If there are other articles that you remember and consider worth reprising and/or updating, please let us know.

 

BLASTS FROM THE PAST.

It is always intriguing to read old newspapers and see what made the headlines over a hundred years ago, and the manner in which it was reported!

The discovery of gold in New South Wales and Victoria, saw the emergence of many additional banking establishments in those states and in Tasmania, however the precious metal was not discovered in any quantity in the island state until March 1st.1857, when a few concentrated, but small, alluvial deposits were found by a Mr. Wilkie, a tailor by trade - turned prospector and bushman - at the Third Basin on the South Esk River near the Northern city of Launceston and reported in the 'Launceston Examiner' (14th. March 1857.)

DISCOVERY OF GOLD AT THE THIRD BASIN!!

"The locality was visited...... and the existence of the precious metal was established by the best of all proof - ocular demonstration.

Nearly every dish of stuff yielded some specks of gold, and in one case a few pieces of the size of small shot were found; in another the pieces were the size of flattened pins' heads.' The gold consisted of small specks of fine laminated or flaky-worn gold, resembling that generally found in the beds of rivers."

 

 

The sort of gold that the part-time fossickers at Launceston's Third Basin expected - and what they got!

Small 2.5 - 3 gram gold nuggets (approx 1.5 - 2 cms) from Australian mainland diggings.

Two tiny specks of Tasmanian white quartz reef gold (with toothpick end for scale) recovered from local river catchments.

 

A detailed description of the area followed, which started a local gold-rush the following day, and within a short time all traces of the alluvial metal had vanished with some of the diggers making a modest profit.  Mr. E. Ackerman, a storekeeper of Launceston- who sold 'gold-digger's tents, cradles, picks, shovels, and stretchers' - probably made a small fortune from this bout of gold-fever!

By April 2nd., a committee had been organised and were offering a 1000 Pounds reward for a payable gold-field, but the source of the local gold was never found.

Experts, who had mined in the rich Victorian and Californian gold-fields, presumed it to be somewhere between the Trevallyn Hills and Hadspen or possibly even towards the Meander River, but stated - 'that they would not go a step towards the place' - as it would not be worth the effort.

The initial discovery area is now covered by the Trevallyn Dam and the waters of Lake Trevallyn, and the thick bushland of the 1850's is now turning into suburbia.

It was also noted by the newspaper's Southern correspondent :- ' that specimens of gold had been obtained by two young men, recently from Melbourne, about 4 feet from the surface on Mr Piguinet's farm at Little Oyster Cove' and another committee had been formed and was seeking funds for- 'an expedition that was being contemplated to the Denison Ranges (Westward of Hobart Town)' - but it took another twenty years before the searchers made their rich strikes at Beaconsfield, Lefroy, Lisle and Mathinna.

The South Esk's Third Basin now inundated by Lake Trevallyn

 

BEACONSFIELD GOLD.

Mineral-bearing White Quartz sample with iron and copper pyrites. (Fool's Gold).

Pyrites is a mineral with very wide distribution, it occurs under varied conditions and originates in various ways.

In its fixed state it is common in mineral-veins usually associated with quartz, and is often an indicator of gold.

 Streams, which originate in the highlands - such as St. Patricks River - in N.E. Tasmania., are often rich with pyrite specks.

 

It is with interest of an old prospector - with still a touch of gold-fever - that the editor of the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' is still following the mining developments that have now been established at, and under, the township of  Beaconsfield, site of one of Tasmania's premier goldmines of a century ago!

The area on and around Salisbury Hill, for instance, is littered with sunken ground that clearly indicates collapsed tunnels metres under ground and other dark forbidding entrances with old rotten wood-capped main shafts in sides of hills - but most dangerous are the half-hidden, man-sized, fern-covered air-shafts.

Dropped pebbles are barely heard as they hit the bottom - so upmost caution should be exercised if people wish to bush-walk and explore outside the town boundaries as a result of this brief article.

 

Old map showing mining operations within and under the township of Beaconsfield (Brandy Creek)

 

Starting with Beaconsfield Gold N.L.in 1997 - which has since changed hands or been re-organized several times - and after spending $39 million and investing nine years of time in exploration - the new venturers were confident that there was still a fortune of attainable gold in the old mining site and that, with modern equipment, they could overcome the water problems that had been noted in the 'Launceston Examiner' (February 20th.1879).

Many of the smaller mining companies of the era had to sell out to the few large enterprises because they couldn't cope with the cost of pumping out the thousands of gallons that were inundating their shafts every hour of the day.

The following extracts from the 'Mining Intelligence' section of the newspaper of that day, highlighted the difficulties being experienced by the miners :-

'Ophir Mine - 'Water making at the rate of 2000 gallons an hour.'

'Our Native Land Mine - 'Flooded out; extra men put on, but could not keep the water under.'

'Florence Nightingale Mine - '....water still heavy.'

'Tasmania Mine - 'The water in the underground gushed out from the face in a foaming cataract.......... .....the water spouted from a crevice in the hanging wall in a jet the size of a man's leg.'

The problem at Beaconsfield - formerly known as Brandy Creek - worsened and, in time, even caused the surviving major gold producer, Tasmania Gold Mine Ltd., which had started life as the Tasmanian Gold Mining and Quartz Crushing Company on October 26th. 1877, to finally close on November 21st. 1914 -  even though they had been using the biggest and most efficient steam-driven pumping systems in the world from 1906 onwards.

 

(Top) The massive compressor used to supply fresh air into the shafts 1000 feet down.

(Bottom) One of the steam-operated Hathorn Davy water pumps which were in continual use to de-water the mine.

 

The enormous costs involved in pumping out 8 - 9 million gallons of water per day, from over a 1000 feet below the surface, had been outweighing the profit of the ore mined and, with increasing labour costs and union agitation for safer conditions, the major English shareholders demanded that management take the necessary steps to cut losses even though evidence of another lode, running parallel to the main lode, was given to them at the time.

The original 5 Pound share price in the mine had increased to 82 Pounds by 1881, and the Company had paid excellent dividends for some years, but these had gradually been eroded by the increases in costs, and suggestions of poor management, down to 4 Shillings and sixpence by 1909 with no relief in sight - and, after hearing the report of an expert engineer, Arthur Llewellyn, who had stated that :- 'for every foot of shaft sunk there would be 21 million gallons of water to be pumped' - the hard commercial decision to close the mine was taken- much to the disquiet of the residents of the town and the Tasmanian Government which had offered some financial support.

Several 'stop-gap' measures were taken by local groups of 'tributers' (who worked on a commission basis) to prolong the life of the mine, but all was eventually in vain when the Company persisted with their decision and quickly removed, or closed down, all the essential equipment including the massive pumping system and air compressors.

The low recovery rate of gold from the ore that was brought up by the tributers, and processed for them by the Company at their crusher- then the apparent sabotage of the machinery at that plant, and major breakdowns elsewhere- sealed the end of the salvage efforts.

(Chairman W. H. Allison's report to the Tributers, a few years later, highlighted several instances of suspicious dealings in regard to the low amount of gold recovered at the crusher, and the malicious damage to essential gear, by 'someone with connections to the Company' who apparently didn't want to see the tributers make a profit!)

The town of Beaconsfield slowly faded away to become a shadow of its former glory, which, in its heyday, had included 7 hotels, 8 boarding houses, 5 bakers, 4 blacksmiths, 6 bootmakers, 5 barbers, 2 doctors, 2 watchmakers, a solicitor and a tailor, 15 general stores, 6 greengrocers, 5 drapers, 4 private schools as well as a state school, and a population of nearly 3000 permanent residents.

As the experienced miners and their families made their exodus away to employment on the more stable Victorian gold-fields, the commercial interests also closed shops and re-located to the mainland, or the major cities, and Beaconsfield only survived, as a semi-rural township, by catering for the growing agricultural and orcharding interests of the district and its proximity to the port of Beauty Point.

An attempt was made, in 1938, to raise capital to re-open the mine, but the twin spectres of drowned mineshafts and the tales of the horrendous costs of the failed pumping operations, were too much for the potential investors and the venture proved to be a non-starter.

Many of the old-timers often said that there was more gold still under their feet than was ever pulled out - and perhaps they just might be proved right!

The old Tasmania Gold Mine, with all its problems, had produced over 836,556 (52,285 pounds or 26 U.S. tons) of the 854,600 ounces of gold to come out of the area during its 37 years of operation, and now, with modern technology, the new developers hope to add considerably to that total!

In 1987, the new company began preparing to re-open the old Hart Shaft of the Tasmania Mine which was located just behind the old Mining Museum. The first thing that had to be done was the massive job of pumping out the shafts and inspecting the tunnels for deterioration.

The new operators were astounded to find that, as the water receded, the old tunnels were still perfectly preserved to at least the 160 metre level.

The two pumps initially installed were pumping at the rate of 200 litres per second and with the commissioning of a third pump the water level is being maintained at 157 litres per second. They have now drained down to the 375 metre level and will start excavating a decline down to the ore body as soon as preparations are completed.  Actual mining operations re-commenced in mid 1998 - and the production estimate is for at least 100,000 ounces of gold a year over the ten year life-span of the existing vein.

 

The old Tasmania Gold Mine Ltd. engine-houses dwarfed by the re-opened Hart Shaft head-winding gear.

The brick buildings now house the Grubb Shaft Museum with working displays.

 

Footnote

While clearing the last of the debris from the base of the Hart Shaft, 415 metres below surface, in preparation for the excavation of the permanent loading pocket, a pumping installation from the original mine was uncovered intact. The installation consisted of two single piston plunger pumps. The pumps are approximately 14 metres long, with pistons (and stroke) of 4.5 metres and weigh approximately 10 tonnes each. Each pump was driven from the surface (415 metres above) by a single counterbalanced pump rod (each pump rod weighing some 250 tonnes) which in turn was connected to a steam driven Hathorn Davy pump engine.

The pumping arrangement was installed in 1905, having been supplied from England by the Hathorn Davy Company. The two pumps were carefully removed from underground after unbolting separate sections and an archaeologist had completed a recording of the installation.

One of the pistons and all of the clacker valves were still moveable.

The pumps recovered from the Hart Shaft are believed to be the only such intact Cornish plunger pumps recovered in the world. Several are known to be located in abandoned mines in England but none are known to have been recovered intact to date. The two pumps have been presented to the adjoining Grubb Shaft Museum where they will be restored for permanent display. One of the Museum's most popular exhibits to date has been a working scale model of the Hathorn Davy pumping equipment.

 

Major Reference (& Recommended Reading).

Town With a History - Beaconsfield Tasmania. - by Coultman Smith 1978 (Revised Reprint 1985)

'Beaconsfield Gold.' - by Janet Kerrison B.A.(Hons.) 1963. (4th.Reprint 1981.)

(This small, but extremely informative, illustrated booklet is available from the Beaconsfield Gold Mining Museum. It was prepared by the author, with the assistance of the Rotary Club of Beaconsfield, as a community project..)

Additional Reference. - Beaconsfield Gold N.L. Information Sheet.(18/1/1997.)

 

 

THE ÆGIS of PONTOS?

In my numismatic 'childhood', over 15 years ago, I came into possession of a rather beat up and corroded 7.5 gram 'lump' of bronze that appeared to be a very old coin. It was mixed in with a small handful of unidentified Roman coins that I had purchased just so I had some Ancients in my collection of world coins.

They were probably the cheapest of the cheap! The story of the path they led me on is told in my second article. (see below)

After eventually 'buying - (by chance) - the books' and doing my homework I had successfully put a name on all of them - except the 'lump'.

In those days, I was as green as that particular piece of metal in regard to preservation and cleaning methods but I had heeded the words of wiser collectors.

However, this coin was so badly affected by the green evil that I threw caution to the winds and cleaned it rather more harshly than I knew I should - just to see what it actually was. 

The pencil rubbings I tried to make of the designs were inconclusive, so it was back to work this time with even more vigour and a calculated measure of real nastiness. I now shudder at my sin - but an abrasive paste cleaner, steel wool soap pads and a flat blade scraper worked wonders, when used judiciously.

Eventually, a few more decipherable marks started to emerge from within the 'green grott' and, by using my most powerful magnifier - and a bit of vivid imagination - I realised the coin was just possibly early Greek.

When I had started working my way through the handful of bronze coins and found this heavy piece I had virtually discarded that idea because, from my meagre knowledge at that time, all Greek coins were supposed to be beautiful and made of silver or gold - and this was absolutely none of those!

 

The bronze lump found amongst a small purchase of un-named Roman coins.

 

I had used several good Roman catalogues and some not-so-comprehensive Greek booklets - which were the only ones at my disposal at that time - but none gave me any joy in identifying the 'lump' so it was consigned to the too hard section and thrown into my little blackwood junk coin box with others of its ilk and there it languished for years until it started to lose some of its steel-wool acquired shine.

They say the Lord moves in mysterious ways -  about 10 years ago, I was visited by a friendly local missionary who proved to be interested in ancient history and artefacts and, the next time he was in the area, he dropped in with an auction catalogue of Ancient coins that he had sent for because of the inclusion of Biblical era oil lamps. I suppose I always seemed a lost cause to him in that respect, however, the catalogue he gave me certainly wasn't  wasted, because -  lo and behold - one of the lot descriptions seemed to ring a little bell in the back of my mind.

Did I have an ancient Colonial Greek bronze coin - minted well before the birth of Christ - in my possession? 

The auction lot description read something like this:

Ancient Greece, Amisos (Pontos), time of Mithradates VI Eupator (121-63 BC), bronze AE21

Obv.: Aegis with Gorgoneion at center
Rev.: Nike advancing to right, carrying palm branch, Greek legend AMI - SOU across, monograms.

 

My 21mm. bronze coin certainly appeared to have a Gorgon type head as the obverse, and a striding winged figure that could be the goddess of victory, Nike, carrying a palm branch over her shoulder and a bit of hard to decipher lettering on the reverse, so perhaps the question had been partly answered after all those years.

It could be that my coin may have been minted somewhere near Amisos (modern Samsun, Northern Turkey) on the southern shores of the Pontos Euxinos (the Black Sea) - but I could not reconcile the very worn lettering with the legend as stated (on the auction lot coin) even though it filled nearly all the other criteria.

I also presumed that my enthusiastic cleaning effort to remove most of the verdigris had probably destroyed any real value that the coin may have had plus a little more of its detail - but at least I knew a little more about what it might be - perhaps, one day I would know more!

Resurrected, from amongst its peers in my little blackwood junk box, the 'lump' was then studied intently for a day or so, recorded as possibly being a Pontian ægis, and then tucked away in a slightly more appropriate place at the end of my tiny collection of modern era Greek coins.

 

The advent of the Internet and all of its wonderful Search aids has been a godsend to amateur numismatic detectives like myself and, as I have developed my hobby interests more as a writer/researcher than as an avid accumulator, I have started to revisit some of my own older coins as a source of inspiration for articles and to provide knowledge about the past.  It is always hard to picture or identify  a coin from a very brief written description in an Auction catalogue, so recently on a whim I hunted up a bit of Pontian history (which I knew absolutely nothing about prior to the search) and then pottered around trying to find an adequate Internet scan of a 'Pontian ægis' - just to confirm the classification of my coin.

Whilst I was about 99.99% sure of the origins of my bronze 'lump', I had not been able to nail down a really good picture from any source, including previous visits to the Internet. However, this time by sheer perseverence, I discovered several newer and extremely interesting sites that provided extra enlightenment - and a few more better quality scans for me to look at - as well as maps where the Pontian mints were located.

 

The Black Sea - Pontos Euxinos - with Amisos (now known as Samsun) on the southern coast

 

A Brief History of Pontos B.C.

During the period around 1000 BC, the first exploratory adventures by the Greeks, in the area of the Pontos Euxinos (the Black Sea), took place primarily searching for gold and other minerals and, by the 8th century BC, the trading posts that had been established were beginning to develop into more permanent settlements. 

The real start of colonisation was when the traders from the town of Miletus founded another trading city at Sinope (Sinop) because of its harbour and its accessibility to the inland areas. In the course of time, other centres with important trade influences started to emerge and grow; the political relations with the other colonial cities, with other Greek cities, and also with indigenous people also started to sow the seeds towards the creation a new cultural group. In the first centuries of their existence the colonies had remained true to the social and political ideals as their founding towns, but the influence of the Greek cities in the region was too alluring to the local people who willingly adopted Greek culture and Greek thinking. The impact of the Greek culture on the indigenous people in the area was tremendous and must have had a huge impact on their own social and cultural systems

This was the period of Alexander the Great and his successors, and the economic and political power of the Greek cities was at its highest level. Later, during the reign of the King Mithridates VI Eupator of Pontos, - and at the time of the issue of my ægis - the Greek language had even become the official language of many people in Asia Minor.

 

Recommended reading - Main References.

http://www.rudnik.com/greece/mythical/gorgon/htmls/G1137.html

http://www.ancientimports.com/greekbronze/?page=3

http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/greece/pontos/amisos/i.html

 

 

 

 

 

  R - STANDS FOR ROMANS

  •  

    As previously mentioned, I first became vaguely interested in Roman coins quite a few years ago when I bought a handful of battered 'cheapies' from M.R. Roberts' Wynyard Coin Centre in Sydney. I then struggled through the devilish process of trying to identify them with the aid of an old MCMXLVIII edition of Seaby's Catalogue of Roman Coins - found in a market box of assorted books - and a very large magnifying glass.

    The later acquisition of David R. Sears "Roman Coins and their Values - 4th Edition 1988" has also added a little more to the Roman library.

    As promised in our October issue of the 'Tasmanian Numismatist', I will endeavour to give a simple history and a bit of Imperial gossip of this second great part of Ancient coinage. Again, I will need to draw heavily on works that have already been published - so forgive me if my interpretation of events sounds a little familiar. I have also endeavoured to give details of the original birth names of the emperors and the other figures in brackets after the name are the years that the emperor actually reigned. Most of all I beg your indulgence, in advance , for any errors I have made as a very amateur scholar.
    Like Greek coins, the names and terms used are quite daunting to the beginner so I will start by giving a brief run-down of the most common types before we get to the nitty-gritty - and just a few of the juicy bits! If your collecting habits include Roman coins you will already know that all the ingredients that create Adults Only 'R' restrictions also encompass your hobby - in abundance! 

    Violence, Murder, Sex and other Adult Themes are all part of the story of Roman Coins.

    Like other early civilisations the Romans' first currency consisted of crude lumps of cast metal, mainly bronze and of various weights based on the libra (lb.) that were designed to facilitate the Italian tribes' trade with their near neighbours. Today, these lumps of metal are known as 'Aes Rude' and a larger cast oblong block of bronze with different types of relief is known as 'Aes Signatum'. Some 'Aes Signatum' were cut into smaller ingots, if required, and it is from these early attempts, dating from c.500 B.C. - 311 B.C. there emerged the more familiar round shape, with recognisable designs, now known as 'Aes Grave' and which are the first official Roman coins.

    c. 290 - 240 B.C. cast bronze Ingot (Aes Signatum) Eagle obverse - Pegasus reverse

    The letters Æ often used to signify bronze or copper, come from the Latin word 'Aes'.
    The Italian tribes were also quick to notice that their neighbours, the Etruscans, had followed the Greek innovation of producing silver (often shown as AR - for Argentum ) and gold (shown as AU or sometimes AV - for Aurum) coinage as well as bronze (Æ) and of marking their coinage with values.
    The 'Aes Grave' or As was divided into 12 units known as 'unica'. A brief description of the common types and obverse design is included for collectors who just may run across this very early bronze coinage. The reverse is always the prow of a galley.

    As. Head of Janus mark of value  I  12 uncia
    Semis Head of Jupiter mark of value S 6     "
    Triens Head of Minerva mark of value 4 pellets 4     "
    Quadrans Head of Hercules mark of value 3 pellets 3     "
    Sextans Head of Mercury mark of value 2 pellets 2    "
    Uncia Head of Roma or Bellona mark of value 1 pellet 1    "

     

         

    c.280 - 276 B.C. Silver Didrachm with bearded Mars obverse - Horse head reverse

    c. 211 - 207 B.C. Silver Denarius with helmeted Roma obverse -  galloping horsemen reverse

     

    As trade with the more sophisticated Greek settlements became more frequent the need for a silver coinage that was acceptable elsewhere in the Mediterranean became imperative and, in the 3rd century B.C., various imitations of the Greek didrachms started to appear bearing the name ROMA or ROMANO.

    These silver 'Romano-Campaniam didrachms', as they are commonly called, were superseded by a more uniform coin we now call a 'quadrigati' during the later part of the 3rd century B.C. and these, in turn, were replaced by the 'victoriate' which first appeared during the Second Punic War.

    The next major change was c.211 B.C. when the silver 'denarius' was introduced.
    In the meantime, the bronze As coinage still lingered on, but it had been radically reduced in size and weight with 10 asses to a denarius. In a sign of loyalty to their old coinage the Roman denarius was very frequently marked with the Latin symbol X for the 10 asses it now represented.

     

     

    c. 225 - 212 B.C. Gold Stater with Laureted head of Janus obverse - youth kneeling (with a pig) between a soldier and a warrior reverse

    Gold staters and half-staters were not given a fixed value but remained as bullion coins and could vary in size and weight.

     

    The denarius was the main silver coin issued during the early Roman Republican period, although a silver quinarius (5 asses) and a silver sestertius , marked IIS (2½ asses) were produced at infrequent intervals. Gold denarius sized coins such as the 'aureus' were also produced - not as part of the normal coinage issues - but at times of civil strife or emergency when military usage was required and mercenaries or foreign allies needed something more universally acceptable than bronze or silver. Gold bullion coins were often called Staters - which, broadly speaking, signifies the most important coin produced at the time. Gold 'Half-staters' were also specially made. The gold 'aureus' and 'quinarius' - which had fixed values against silver coinage - could fall into this category, but gold coins classified as 'staters' could take precendence (just as some Australian Non-Circulating Legal Tender gold bullion coins with nominal values that bear little relationship to their weight as bullion and even less against the inflated issue prices.)

    During the remainder of the Republican period and from about c 80 B.C. no further copper coinage was issued except for a brief emission in 45 - 44B.C. by Caius Julius Caesar just prior to his assassination on the 15th  March 44 B.C.  (The halfway point in the Roman month was known as the Ides).

     

        

    c. 27 - 14 B.C. Silver Denarii with Augustus Caesaer (Octavian) obverses

    Soldiers presenting olive branches to Augustus as the reverse - and another with crossed banners reverse.

    Under the control of Caius Octavius Caepias, later known as Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus, the era of Emperor was firmly established. Proclaimed Emperor and then Augustus between 29 - 27 B.C. he re-organised the coinage by keeping the gold and silver issues under his control but, after 23 B.C., he was allowing the Senate to issue other coins with the inscription S.C. (Senatus Consulto) and, up until 4 B.C., the responsible moneyers' names were also included in the legends.
    Gold also became part of the regular issue as the Empire prospered under Augustus Caesar and values were set at:                                                 

    Gold.  Aureus 25 silver denarii
    Gold. Quinarius 12½ silver denarii
    Silver Denarius 16 asses
    Silver Quinarius 8 asses
    Orichalcum* Sestertius 4 asses
    Orichalcum* Dupondius 2 asses
    Copper As 4 quadrantes
    Copper Quadrans ¼ as

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The sestertii of this time are very well executed, as are the smaller dupondii and asses, and are considered amongst the most attractive and desirable of Roman coins. Roman coin names ending in the singular 'ius' are seen as plural if 'ii' (double i) is adopted.
    *Orichalcum was a yellow bronze that differentiated the dupondius from the reddish copper as, but, during the reign of the artistic and decidedly murderous Emperor Nero (Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus) (54 - 68 A.D.), a short series of As, Semis and Quadrans were designed and issued by him in both copper and orichalcum.

    c. 54 - 68 A.D. Bronze Sestertius with Nero Claudius Caesar Obverse - Triumphal Arch with 4 horse chariot (quadriga) on top as the reverse

    Nero was also responsible for the introduction of a new coin, the silver antoninianus, which had a nominated value of 2 denarii but, in fact, only weighed the equivalent of 1½ denarii.
    As well as 'fiddling as Rome burned', Nero also fiddled the Roman coinage by lowering the weight of gold and silver and, in doing so, started the trend by subsequent emperors of debasing the latter metal until, eventually, the circulating money was nearly completely replaced by bronze. Gordian III (238 - 244 A.D.) produced the last of the better quality silver denarii of the times.
    During the reign of the soldier emperor, Aurelian (270 - 275 A.D.), a serious attempt was made to reform domestic affairs including the basic coinage, but like others before him, the emperor ignored the silver coinage and the few denarii he issued had, by then, deteriorated to pure bronze. The silver antoninianus coin had also been gradually debased until it was basically a bronze or copper coin with a silver wash but, even so, it drove the bronze denarii out of circulation and became the main circulating coin by the rule of Tacitus (275 - 276 A.D.).
    As the fortunes of the Roman Empire expanded and fluctuated throughout the Mediterranean area and Asia it spawned a number of unofficial mints. With the seat of government so far away, many of the areas under Roman control started to churn out poor, and usually smaller copies, of the antoninianus to meet their coinage needs.
    These rough, sometimes even hideous, copies of antoniniani are normally referred to as 'barbarous radiates' and normally depict a caricature of a face, with the radiated crown of the emperor, as the only indication of purpose.

    In major provincial and colonial centres such as Alexandria, tetradrachms produced in silver-washed Billon (a low-grade mixture of copper and silver) were quite common. A hang-over from the Greek settlement days, coins such as (debased) silver drachms and other associated silver coin denominations, plus various small-sized bronze coins, had been in circulation for generations and would continue to do so until the western Roman Empire crumbled. (Apparently, little is known about the denominations that these small bronze coins - which vary from 15 - 25 mm. in diameter- represented.)
    The amount of gold coins issued became very limited but, because of their strategic importance in time of emergency, the quality remained fine

    The reign of certain emperors brought innovations - some as short lived as their innovators - but several are worth the mention because of their interest to numismatists.
    Trajan Decius (C. Messius Quintas Traianus Decius) (249 - 251 A.D.) introduced a bronze double sestertius - which in fact was only a little heavier than the sestertius of previous emperors - but it died when he was killed at a battle with the Goths.

    c. 284 - 305 A.D. silver-washed bronze Folis with Diocletian obverse -  figure of Genius holding head of Serapis reverse.

    In 284 A.D. the coinage was regularised by the very astute Emperor Diocletian (C. Valerius Diocletianus) (284 - 304 A.D.) who, though he was a capable military commander, was also a very good statesman - and managed to live to retirement and old age.
    Diocletian issued reasonably good quality silver coins - similar to Nero's denarii in size and weight - and also introduced the follis, a largish thin bronze coin with a silver wash. He also continued with the antoninianus which was similar to the new coin - the comparison of values is still not certain between these two coins - but, before long, the follis declined in size and weight but it appears that this may have been done to save user confusion.

    A radical change occurred in 312 A.D. when Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Constantinus) (306 - 337 A.D.) instituted a new coinage system based upon the gold solidus and the silver siliqua as well as bronzes of various weights and sizes - some very small - and with denominations we are still guessing at.
    It took another 36 years or so before the three heirs of Constantine I (The Great) - Constantine II (Flavius Claudius Julius Constantinus) (317 - 340 A.D.), Constantius II (Flavius Julius Constantius) (323 - 361 A.D.) and his youngest brother Constans (Flavius Julius Constans) (333 - 350 A.D.) - issued a few more substantial sized coins. Before the eldest and youngest brothers argued, and met dire fates within 10 years of each other, the older brother was responsible for a bronze 18 mm coin whilst Constans introduced the larger bronze centenionales which was carried on by the survivor, Constantius. It was also about this time that a silver double siliqua coin known as miliarense made its appearance.
    As with other Roman coins the centenionales was destined to shrink in size as time went on and even the efforts by a usurper, Magnentius (Flavuis Magnus Magnentius) (350 - 353 A.D.) - who rebelled and killed his benefactor, Constans, and then unsuccessfully led an army against Constantius II - to bring back a large 30 mm fine bronze follis style coin (thought to be called pecunia maiorina) was not very well received. He also issued a silver argenteus of 20mm.
    Another attempt to introduce the larger bronze coin was made by Julian II (Flavius Claudius Julianus) (355 - 363 A.D.) who was a nephew of Constantine the Great and who inherited the divided empire after the timely death of his cousin, Constantius II in 361A.D.

    During all this time nepotism was alive and well, and the proof is in the number of Roman coins that feature the wives, sons and daughters of the rulers of the day - but the empire was also starting to crumble away as rebellions against Roman rule erupted in various far away provinces. Gold was still being used to pay the armies and for use by the hierarchy, but the basic bronzes had been reduced to wafer thin or hard-to-handle little coins and silver money such as the seliqua were in short supply and always of dubious quality.

    Various Bronze, Copper and Orichalcum Roman coins

    By the start of the end of the Western Roman Empire - with the deposition of the infant emperor Romulus Augustus, (nicknamed Augustulus) (475 - 476 A.D.) by supporters of Odovacar who in turn surrendered the empire to Emperor Zeno of Constantinople - the main coins being used were the solidus and its divisions, semisses and tremisses, very little silver and large quantities of various weight bronzes.
    As with Greek coinage, the number of gods, celebrations of victories, animals, architecture and other associated designs - including blatant propaganda featured by the Roman emperors - warrants a greater amount of space than we have available. We thoroughly recommend that interested readers go out and buy any of the newer specialised books that give so much more intimate detail of the lives, the times and the coinage of the Romans - you will find them fascinating.

    For the record I have decided to include a very short list, stretching over 160 years or so, of the most prominent of the early coin issuing Emperors - plus a few usurpers - and their fate which, in many cases, was ultimately shared by their families and friends.                     

    Pompey the Great Murdered in Egypt 48B.C. after splitting with Julius Caesar
    Julius Caesar Assassinated in Rome 44 B.C.
    Brutus Suicided at Philippi 42 B.C. after his army was defeated.
    Sextus Pompey Taken prisoner and put to death by orders from Octavianus (Augustus) 35 B.C.
    Mark Antony Suicided in Alexandria 30 B.C. after defeat by Octavianus.
    Lepidus Became power hungry and was stripped of most titles and exiled. Died 13 B.C.
    Augustus Died peacefully in 14 A.D.
    Drusus Junior Son of Tiberius - poisoned by his wife, Livilla 23 A.D.
    Tiberius Murdered while in retirement 37 A.D. - probably under orders from Caligula.
    Antonia Daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia. Poisoned by her grandson, Caligula 38 A.D.
    Caligula Assassinated 41 A.D. with his wife Caesonia, after years of personal depravity
    Claudius Poisoned by his wife, Agrippina Junior (Caligula's sister and mother of Nero) 54 A.D.
    Britannicus Son and heir apparent of Claudius, poisoned by Agrippina and Nero's orders 55 A.D.
    Agrippina Junior Murdered by the orders of her son, Nero, 59 A.D.
    Nero Killed off all his relatives, including his wives, Octavia and Poppaea, he suicided 68 A.D.
    Galba A strict disciplinarian, he became unpopular and was assassinated 69 A.D. by Otho.
    Otho Suicided after defeat by Vitellius 69 A.D.
    Vitellius Killed by a mob in the streets of Rome after defeat by the army of Vespasian. 69 A.D.
    Vespasian Of humble origin and an industrious ruler, he died peacefully in 79 A.D.
    Titus Son of Vespasian, he took Jerusalem and subjugated the Jews. Died 81 A.D.
    Domitian Oppressive, younger son of Vespasian. Murdered - with the aid of his wife, Domitia. 96 A.D.
    Nerva Appointed as emperor he was a just ruler making many improvements. Died 98 A.D.
    Trajan Adopted by Nerva and made his heir, Trajan was another good ruler and died in 117 A.D.

    For 70 years or so - a long period by Roman standards - the emperors died reasonably peacefully until the megalomaniac, Commodus (L. Aelius Aurelius Commodus) (180 - 192 A.D.), came to power and the rot set in again. (See next article)
    From then on the position was virtually a death sentence as, over the next two hundred and eighty years, events such as murder, execution, accidents, 'killed in battle', deposition and intrigue quickly claimed most of the Roman emperors.
    The Western Empire finally unravelled in violent fragmentation and the era of the Byzantine rulers commenced - but that is another story!

    COINS OF COMMODUS

    A few yeaars ago, I sat down to watch a group of fine actors portray, on film, a story set in the times of the Roman Emperor Commodus. The film was, of course, 'Gladiator' starring Russell Crowe as General Maximus Decimus Meridius, the late Richard Harris as Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Joaquin Phoenix as the mad Emperor Commodus, Connie Nielsen as Lucilla and the late Robert Oliver Reed - who died during production on 2nd may, 1999 - as Antoninius Proximo the gladiator trainer.

    The roles of the Gladiator General Maximus and his mentor Proximo, however, are totally fictitious or, at best, composites of other people of this era. The blend of fact and fiction was so well presented that many people who viewed the movie were convinced that most of the characterisations were historically accurate.

    As with any movie made to entertain, a certain amount of artistic licence is expected and although some of the events portrayed in the movie did actually take place - many did not, and the fates of the major historical characters as depicted in the movie all varied from the actual facts.

    An interest in the coins and the times of Commodus has provided me with an opportunity to bring a few compiled facts to our Internet Edition readers.

     

    Russell Crowe       (late) R. Oliver Reed          (late) Richard Harris            Joaquin Phoenix          Connie Nielsen

     

    As history has shown, the Emperors of Rome were a fairly homicidal collection of rulers to be in charge of such a powerful and far-reaching Empire, and, if ever there was a nastier and madder piece of work than Emperor Caligula (A.D. 12 - 41) it would have to be the blonde-haired tyrant, Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (A.D. 161 - 192)

     

    The story started in A.D. 145 when the 24 year old future emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninius married Faustina Junior.

    Commodus, and his twin brother Antoninus, were born at Lanuviam on 31st August A.D. 161 and they were the tenth and eleventh children of the fourteen sired by Marcus Aurelius Antoninius, and Faustina Junior. 

    In that era, the Roman child mortality rate was over 60% and Antoninus, died in A.D. 165 aged 4 years old.

    The other known siblings were Domitia Faustina b. November 30th A.D. 147 who also died young - probably before A.D. 151, twin boys Titus Aurelius Antoninus and Titus Aelius Aurelius b. A.D. 149 who died later in that same year, Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla b. A.D. 150 - 182, Titus Aelius Antoninus b. A.D. 152, Annius Verus A.D. 162 - 169, Sabina A.D. c 170.

    Many of the names used by the Romans are combinations of traditional family names, so it is not unusual for similar groupings of names to appear more than once, particularly if a previous child bearing these family names has died.

     Marcus Aurelius Antoninius

     

    After the death of Faustina - who died in A.D. 175 - it is known that Marcus Aurelius took as a mistress the daughter of one of Faustina's retinue, and it is believed an illegitimate son was born from the union. The boy, named Junius Maximus, was sent into the army at an appropriate age and records show that he was a very competent leader and, after winning  important battles in Parthia (modern Iran, Iraq), he was rewarded with lavish military decorations and a special cash bounty. Little other is known about him except that a statue in Ephesus (Asian Turkey) gives some details of his military accomplishments. 

    His distance from the intrigues of Rome may have saved his life as a young man.

    Roman Map: http://www.dalton.org/groups/Rome/RMap.html

     

    Commodus had held the position of Caesar (junior emperor) since AD 166 and at the age of 16, he accompanied his illustrious father to the 2nd Germanic War.

    As the only surviving legitimate son in the family to reach manhood, Commodus' appointment as co-emperor in mid December A.D. 176 - was an honour that signified his ultimate succession to the throne of Rome - and in A.D. 177 the Emperor officially declared him Augustus. At this point in time, Commodus legally changed his name to Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus.

    Even earlier, there were some signs that a sense of alarm was spreading through the influential people in Rome at the thought of Commodus taking full control when the influence of his father would no longer be there to control him.

    An attempted coup d'etat by Avidius Cassius which was aborted in late A.D. 175, prior to Commodus' appointment as Augustus, was perhaps the strongest sign that it was more than just a casual concern about the young man's suitability to rule.

    Commodus had actually led the troops against the Germans and Samartians from A.D. 178, and when M. Aurelius died on 17th February, A.D. 180 at Vindobona or Sirmium in Pannonia, it was he who was instrumental in concluding a rather inglorious peace with them before returning in haste to Rome to claim his position as Emperor.  

    The rumours of plots on his life had made Commodus even more paranoiac than when he first realised he was a target in A.D. 177 and he wanted the security that Rome offered. However, the forlorn hope of a continuance of the fine, traditional stoic philosophy, rule of his father was soon shattered, and he lived up to the expectations of his critics - and proved to be totally unworthy of the position.

    Bronze Sestertius - A.D. 189 - 181

    Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus

     

    He appointed a series of toady administrators to the highest positions - and then went out of public life for some years to pursue all sorts of depravities. 

    His harem mainly consisted of hundreds of young women and boys.

    During this time, while affairs of government were allowed to languish under the control of corrupt officials who were helping him to feed his excesses and to bleed the Treasury dry, Commodus ordered the withdrawal of Roman troops from areas that his father had conquered in an attempt to save money that he could use for his own means. The obvious corruption was bad enough, but this relinquishing of territory was perceived as betrayal of the Roman ideal of conquest and this became the catalyst that was needed to firm the resolve of those who wanted Commodus either removed or dead. 

     

    With his mental stability now nearing the full bloom of insanity - and his excesses becoming even greater, another series of plots against his life were attempted - including one by his eldest sister, Lucilla, who had been once married to Marcus Aurelius' co- ruler, Lucius Verus, prior to his death in A.D. 169. 

    Aged 14 at the time of the marriage, Lucilla bore Lucius Verus 3 children, but only one girl survived infancy and that child eventually became betrothed to one her step-brothers from Lucilla's second marriage.

    Later the same year - soon after Lucius' death, Lucilla remarried the much older former general, Tiberius Claudius Pompeianus of Antioch, and it is known she bore him only one son in A.D. 177, Aurelius Commodus Pompeianus - who would become Consul of Rome in the year A.D. 209. 

    Gold Aureus 

    Lucillae Augusta Antonini Augustus F. (Lucilla Aug. daughter of Antonini Aug.)

    struck during the reign of Marcus Aurelius

     

    Even though he was of humble birth, Pompeianus was a possible rival to the throne as he had held the office of consul twice, and was probably whom the plotters sought to make emperor.  Lucilla was aided by her cousin, former consul Marcus Ummidius Quadratus and Quintianus, her second husband's nephew. 

    Quintianus, who was chosen to be the one who tried to stab Commodus to death in his bed, was caught and overpowered by the guards before achieving the plotters' ends - and both he and Quadratus met horrible deaths. A bloodbath followed as Commodus used the plot as an excuse to murder off those who he feared as conspirators or possible rivals.

    Banished to the isle of Capreae (Capri) in A.D. 182, Lucilla was executed - on orders from Commodus - soon afterwards.

    Commodus added three more titles to his name at this time - Pius (to signify loyalty to Rome), Felix (to show how lucky he was) and Britannicus - to take the honour of rebuilding the Antonine Wall even though it was done by one of his generals, Ulpius Marcellus, who had been sent to quell an uprising of the Barbarians (Scots) in Britain.

     Bronze Sestertius - A.D. 186

    Marcus Commodus Antoninus Pius Felix Augustus Britannicus

     

    Commodus' wife, Bruttia Crispina - the daughter of Lucius Fulvius Bruttius Praesens - whom he had married in A.D. 177, was also banished to Capreae (c. A.D. 187) after she was accused of multiple adultery and the rumours that she may have been involved with plotters. It appeared obvious that the kettle was calling the pot black - but who could argue with a homicidal Emperor who was tying up loose ends to ensure his own safety.

    It had earlier been believed that both Crispina and Lucilla were on the island at the same time but later evidence appears to support the theory that Crispina held the Emperor's favour for a little longer. No matter - she soon met the same fate as Lucilla.  

    The beautiful isle of Capreae was not a good place to be sent by Commodus.

    Bronze Sestertius A.D. 180 - 182

    (Bruttia) Crispina Augusta

     

    Commodus will also always be remembered as the mad Emperor who believed himself to be a reincarnation of Hercules and tried to prove it by entering the amphitheatre in Rome to fight wild beasts and gladiators. It didn't worry him that the beasts were tethered for him to spear and the gladiators were only armed with wooden swords. He also charged a special huge fee when he appeared and had an orchestrated audience at his disposal to cheer him on.

    To save him the worry of government, he had appointed Marcus Aurelius Cleander as his chief administrator - but this worthy then began to establish the biggest graft-ridden and corrupt government in Roman history. Other administrators had come and gone to gory fates - but M. Aurelius Cleander was a little more astute. 

    When the money started to run low, plots were made to accuse influential people of treason against the emperor and their properties and assets were seized on his behalf. Cleander was cunning enough to share his ill-gotten gains with Commodus to keep his position safe, but eventually he was killed by an angry mob who thought he was working a swindle with Rome's grain and food supplies. It was a scheme devised by a rival - but, if the truth be known, Cleander probably was in it!

     

    In A.D. 191, a disastrous fire in the centre of Rome created the need for a re-building programme and, when the plans were announced in November A.D. 192 for it's opening in January of the following year - along with a few other ideas the emperor was also envisaging became known - this was the final straw to a population who had been watching the wealth and prestige of Rome being squandered by a depraved madman. 

    Commodus had decided to drop the name of Rome and replace it with something in keeping with his own megalomaniac ideas. Colonia Commodiana was going to be the new city name, the Roman Army was to be known as the Commodian Army and the Senate was also going to bear his name.

    The following extracts are from: Illustrated History of THE ROMAN EMPIRE. 

    "He even intended to march to the Senate from a gladiatorial school within the city - dressed as a gladiator.

    It appears to have been the Praetorian prefect Quintus Aemilius Laetus who decided it was time to act against the madman on the throne. Carefully a plot was crafted against the emperor. 

    The court chamberlain Eclectus, and the emperor's favourite concubine Marcia added their support to the undertaking. 

    People who supported the plot were quietly placed into key positions. 

    Septimius Severus and Clodius Albinus, African allies of Laetus, were given the governorships of Upper Pannonia and Britain. Pescennius Niger, another friend of Laetus, was put in charge of Syria and, as the future emperor, the conspirators agreed on Publius Hevlius Pertinax, the city prefect of Rome. 

    The initial plan appeared to be that Marcia should poison Commodus on the evening of 31 December AD 192.

    However, Commodus merely became nauseous and vomited, ridding himself unwittingly of the poison - so the plotters used their back-up plan - an athlete called Narcissus.

    Narcissus, who was employed as Commodus' wrestling partner, overpowered and strangled Commodus in either his bed or his bath on the same night."

     

    Thus ended the era of the 31 year old Emperor Commodus - but the legacy of greed he had established carried on to envelop his successor Pertinax (A.D. 126 - A.D.193) who, it is believed, was not even an active participant in the murder plot. 

    Pertinax hesitated from accepting the position when it was first offered on January 1st. A.D. 193 but he relented under pressure from the Praetorians and other influential citizens and, tragically, events would prove him right to have been wary.

    His necessarily strict reforms to try and get the shattered economy back on track made him immensely unpopular amongst certain corrupt sections of the Praetorian Guard and he was murdered by them after 86 days in office and his head was carried through the streets on a spear.

     

    "The Praetorians then offered the imperial throne to the highest bidder.

    Pertinax reign might have been a short one, but it set an enormously important precedent as he was the first 'Soldier Emperor' or 'Praetorian Emperor'. These emperors were raised to the throne by the provincial legions which they commanded and ruled only till ejected and killed by another soldier who seized the succession."

     

    Between A.D. 193 - 194 a total of 4 competing emperors held the power in Rome and even when some stability was imposed by the elderly Septimius Severus from A.D.194 - 211 , the inevitable decline of the Roman Empire had commenced.

     

    The reign of Commodus is numismatically remarkable in that, for all his own greed and the pilfering of Rome's wealth by his appointed cronies, he still managed to produce quite a reasonable range of bronze coinage in Sestertius, Dupondius and As, as well as debased silver Denarius and Quinarius and a few Gold issues during his own time.  

    According to David R. Sear in his book 'Roman Coins and their values', during Commodus' term as Caesar, Emperor Marcus Aurelius had issued on his behalf, at least:- a gold aureus, 4 silver denarius, 3 bronze sestertius, a bronze dupondius and 2 bronze as

    After his appointment as Augustus and while still co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius, the coins issued included, at least:- a gold aureus and a quinarius, a silver denarius, 4 bronze sestertius, 3 bronze dupondius and 2 bronze as. 

    When he eventually became sole emperor, Commodus issued, on his own behalf, at least another gold aureus and a quinarius, about 20 different silver denarius as well as a silver quinarius, about 18 or so bronze sestertius, 4 bronze dupondius and 5 bronze as.  A few colonial and provincial pieces were also struck mainly in the small 19 - 21 mm. bronze sizes and a series of billon tetradrachm were produced for the Roman colony at Alexandra in Egypt.

    At least 2 commemorative silver antoninianus to Commodus' memory were struck during the short two year reign of the Christian persecuting emperor, Trajan Decius (A.D. 201 - 251). The reason why these were struck is a mystery.      

     

    Main References and Highly recommended sites:

    Greek and Roman Coins. - by J.G. Milne. Published by Methuen & Co. Ltd. 1939.
    Seaby's Catalogue of Roman Coins. - Compiled by Gilbert Askew. Published by B.A. Seaby Ltd. 1948.

    Illustrated History of THE ROMAN EMPIRE.  http://www.roman-empire.net/index.html

    'ROMAN COINS and their values' by David R. Sear - Seaby Publication - 4th. Edition 1988.

    A Dictionary of the Roman Empire. by Matthew Bunson, New York: Oxford University Press 1994.

    'Marcus Aurelius - A Biography' by Anthony R. Birley, 1966. Republished Routledge 2000.

    Anthony Richard Birley: http://www.routledge.com/rcenters/classics/features/anthonybirley.html

    The Roman World 44 BC-AD 180; Martin GOODMAN with Jane Sherwood. Routledge, 1997.

    Routledge Books: http://www.routledge.com/default.html

    Museum of London.: http://www.museum-london.org.uk/MOLsite/exhibits/coins/emps13.htm


     

    A Frequently Asked Question and a Simple Answer!

    One of the most frequently asked questions that come across my desk is: "Where do I find a list of reputable Australian dealers!"

    My usual reply is that the inquirer should invest AUD$7.00 per month - or, better still, take out the annual (11 month) subscription (which works out AUD$10.00 p.a. cheaper) -  in Australia's premier numismatic magazine 'Australasian Coin & Banknote Magazine'  (known affectionately as 'CAB') and check the list of advertisers.

    There is also an added bonus - readers can air their own views and check on numismatic club meetings nationwide or within their own state. The articles featured are always absolutely informative and make wonderful references - and, copies of the magazine dating back to 2000 (a few even earlier) are also available if required..

     

     

     

    Over the years, I have met many of Australia's leading dealers, who are listed within the 'CAB' magazine, and I have been able to put faces to their names - I have found them to be just as human as we are -  and they are able to be approached with confidence about all sorts of numismatic problems and requests.

     

    For those interested in subscribing to 'CAB'  to get Australia's latest numismatic news from authorative correspondents, as well as the list of professional dealers, the following information will be of great use. Remember the old numismatic saying, "Buy the book!"  It also holds true for a great magazine....

    The 'CAB' also regularly features the contact details of members of the Australasian Numismatic Dealers Association Inc. (ANDA)  Refer: www.anda.com.au

    A subscription would make a wonderful Christmas present for a budding collector - of any age - so don't just think about it. - DO IT!  You will never regret it!

    International enquirers should contact the editor by email regarding overseas rates and postage.

    The Australasian Coin & Banknote Magazine.

    P.O.Box. 6313, North Ryde, N.S.W. 2113

    email: bixlives@nsw.bigpond.net.au

    Phone: (02) 9889 3755    Fax: (02) 9889 3766

     

     

     

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    'TASMANIAN NUMISMATIST'

    (INTERNET EDITION)

    The ‘Tasmanian Numismatist’ newsletter is the only official newsletter of the ‘Tasmanian Numismatic Society’ and it is published periodically and distributed by post, or hand delivered, directly to members of the Tasmanian Numismatic Society and selected associates and institutions.

    The ‘Tasmanian Numismatist’ (Internet Edition) newsletter is a separate entity and has been provided with space on this privately maintained Internet site and is currently presented free on a monthly basis  with the aim of promoting the hobby of numismatics. All matters pertaining to the T.N.S. are re-published with the permission of the current Executive Committee of the  ‘Tasmanian Numismatic Society. The 'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) newsletter abides by the same basic guidelines suggested for the official 'Tasmanian Numismatist' newsletter. Any literary contributions or relevant and constructive comments regarding numismatics are always welcome.

    Please note that all opinions expressed in material published in the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) newsletter are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of the ‘Tasmanian Numismatic Society or the Editor. 

     

    PRIVACY PROTECTION

    The 'Tasmanian Numismatist '(Internet Edition) newsletter complies with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act.

    Under this act, information about individuals can be stored and published only if: the information is already contained in a publicly available document or if personal information has been provided by the individual to whom the information relates, and if that individual is aware of the purposes for which the information is being collected.

    All information published by the'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) newsletter is either publicly available, or has been voluntarily provided by writers, or members of the 'Tasmanian Numismatic Society', on request from the Editor of the 'Tasmanian Numismatist'  (Internet Edition) newsletter.

    While the 'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition) newsletter may hold writers' addresses and other details for the purposes of communication and copyright protection, it will never make such addresses or details available to any member of the public without the permission of those involved.

    The 'Tasmanian Numismatist '(Internet Edition) newsletter also respects the privacy of our readers. When you write to us with comments, queries or suggestions, you may provide us with personal information including your contact address or other relevant information. Your personal information will never be made available to a third party without permission.

     

    DISCLAIMER

    All details of a commercial nature, organisations, items or individual arrangement to buy, sell or trade are provided in good faith as information only, and any consequent dealings are between the parties concerned. 

    The ‘Tasmanian Numismatist’ (Internet Edition) newsletter takes no responsibility for disagreements between parties, and also reserves the right to only feature information that it considers suitable in promoting the hobby to our readers. Deadline for any literary contributions or amendment to copy is 7 Days prior to the beginning of the month of publication.

    The contents of this Internet newsletter, and all prior issues, are copyrighted ©, but anything herein can be fairly used to promote the great hobby of numismatics; however, we do like to be asked by commercial interests if they wish to use any of our copy. 

    This permission, however, does not extend to any article specifically marked as copyrighted © by the author of the article. Explicit permission from the author or the Editor of the  ‘Tasmanian Numismatist ' (Internet Edition) newsletter is required prior to use of that material.

     

    The Editor,

    'Tasmanian Numismatist' (Internet Edition). 

    P.O. Box 10,

    Ravenswood. 7250. Tasmania.

    Australia.

    Internet Page: http://www.vision.net.au/~pwood/tns.html

    Email: pwood@vision.net.au

     

     

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