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The first age of Roman coinage / by Harold Mattingly

The first age of Roman coinage / by Harold Mattingly

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Digital Library Numis (DLN) -

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Published by: Digital Library Numis (DLN) on Dec 09, 2011
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THIEFIRST AGEOFROMAN COINAGE.'
By HAROLDMATTINGLY.
(Plates
-iii).
The Romansoflatertimes knewvery little about the origins of their coinage.Thus, Pliny theElder could assignthe first issue ofbronze to ServiusTullius,2 andthe mint-masterof Trajan couldmistake denariiof somewhere near
200 B.C.
for issuesof HoratiusCoclesand Decius Mus.3Apart fromisolated notices inmetrological andother writers,we have a limitedamount of coherenttradition,notably in Plinythe Elder, Varroand Festus, whichincreases in valueasit approachesthe Empire. But,even here, wedo not find thesure ground onwhich we shouldchoose to constructour system.Thetradition,we all agree, has somerelation tofacts, andthereforesome value:but it is impossibleto trust it blindly-itmust bechecked and criticizedand, if needbe, adapted to fitthe evidence ofthecoins themselves.Howfarhasmodern scholarship succeededinfillingthegapleftby our ancientauthorities ? Muchgroundhas unquestionablybeenwon. Haeberlin, carryingon theworkof Mommsen, has establishedastately'Systematik
'
4
ofearlyRoman coinage, conceivedonbroadlines andinterpretedinmasterlyfashion in the light ofhistory.Ifwemay believetheclaims advancedby him and hisschool,no seriouschangeinthe generalplanremains to be made:allthatwe havestilltodois toworkout thedetail alongthelines whichhe has indicated.ThesystemofHaeberlinrests on thatconceptionof theearlyRoman silver-coinagewhich weowe to Mommsen,5modifiedandimprovedin thelightoftheresearches of SamwerandBahrfeldt,6and onHaeberlin's own magnificentstudies ofthe RomanandItalian aes
grave.7
It is asolidandimposingstructure:ifits
1
I oweavery greatdebtofgratitudetomycolleague, Mr. E. S. G. Robinson, for constant helpaind advice during the writing of this paper. As theapproach to the subject is definitely from the Romanside, he has not wished his name to appear as joint-author: but hiscontribution, particularlyonthe im-portant questionofover-strikes, hasbeenmost valu-able. We hope shortly to publishin theNuiss.Chron.somecloseranalysesof thenumismatic evidence.
2
Hist. Nat. xxxiii,
42
ff.
3
Cp. Nuns. Chron.
I926,
pp. 233-5, 275.
4
Die Systematik des dltesten rdnsischen Miinz-zwesens,
Berlin,
1905.
5Mommsen, GeschichtedesrdmnischenMiinz-wesens,
pp.21
if.
6
Geschichte desdlterenr61itischenMiinzwesens,Vienna,
1883.
7
Aes Grave.Twovols. (textandplates),Frankfurt,
I9I6.
Grueber(followingDe Salis),inB.M.C.Republic,doesnotdiffer very seriouslyfromHaeberlinin hisgeneralplan:the maindifferenceis thathe dates the'Mars gold'and thesextantalas c.
240
instead of
269
B.c.
The peculiarmerit of Grueberis his studyofstyles.Babelon,Descr. historiquedesmonnaiesde larip.romn.,p.
IO,
assignsthe coinage to'Romangeneralschargedwithwars againstthe Samnites,Pyrrhus andCarthage,'-limitsof date
342-21I.
This is trueenough,but too vaguetohelp very much.Giesecke'sItaliaNumismaticais full of newthoughtandsug-gestionbut,inthejudgmentof thepresentwriter,reliesfar toomuch onunprovedmetrologicaltheories.
 
20 THE FIRST AGE OF ROMAN COINAGE.
foundations are sound, it must stand unshaken. If it is true that thedenariusand thesextantal as were introduced together in
269
(or
268)
B.C.,
then wehavenochoice but to reconstructtheearliercoinage by Haeberlin's plan.Research, however,does not standstill. Over twenty years agoSambon,in hisvaluable bookon thecoinageofItaly, gavevoice toserious doubts about the dating of the'Romano-Campanian'didrachms1:histrained eye sawinthe later series the style, not of
c.
300
B.C.,
but of the Pyrrhic War. These doubts, cautiously andhesitatinglyexpressed,did not command much attention. Theauthor of the present paper,inan article published intheNumismaticChronicleof
1924
(pp.
I8I
ff.), reopenedthequestionandadducedarguments, drawn both from history and numismatics, in favour ofaPyrrhic date for the Romano-Campanian silver. But, though theviews there proposed have attracted much interest and won somesupport among numismatists of reputation, they have not yet madeany real impression on the general bodyofRoman scholars. ThestructureofHaeberlinhas seemedtostandtoosurelybasedtobeseriouslyshaken.Yet,test andre-test hisown conclusions ashemay,thepresentwriter has been unabletodetectanyseriouserror in them. Hehas,however, arrived attheconviction that the reconstruction required isfarmoreextensivethan hehadatfirstimagined.
2
He hasalso, hebelieves,detectedthefault in thefoundationsofHaeberlin,onwhichthewholeerrordepends. Althoughtheworking-outof thenewresultsin detailwillstill demand much time andstudy,itshould not beprematuretostate them ingeneraloutline.Untilsomeagreementongeneral principlesisattained,itishopelesstoexpect agreementovercloserdetails. Itishardly necessaryto add thatthisattempttomoveforwardarguesno lackofappreciationof theworkofourgreatpioneers;noone,infact,canappreciatethatworksofullyas thescholar whosets himself the task ofcarryingit on.It willhelpto clear ourpath throughan intricatediscussion,ifweputforwardatonce the mainprincipleswhichwehopetoestablish. These willrunasfollows:
(i)
TheoriginofRomancoinageislater thanc.300
B.C.
Ourfirstclearviewof it isobtained in thewar with Pyrrhus,towhichtheearliest issuesofRomano-Campaniansilverbelong.
(2)
The aesgraveofRome andItaly represents onlyashortstageoftransitionfrom theearlyuse of uncoinedbronze,as ameasureofvalue,to theGreekuse ofsilvermoney.It canonlyhaveoriginatedtowardsthe end of theestablishmentofRoman dominationinItaly.
(3)
The mainseries ofRoman aesgrave,withtheprowon
1
Lesmonnaiesantiquesdel'Italie,Paris,
1903,
pP-
42I
ff.
2
Mattingly,RomtanCoins,Methuen,
I928,
pp.3 ff.: the view giventhererepresents, tosome extent, a compromise between old and newviews.
 
THEFIRST AGEOF ROMAN COINAGE. 21
reverse,datesfromtheearly yearsofthe firstPunicWar:thefirstreductionof itsweightis directlydueto thestressof thatcolossalstruggle.(4)UntilthesecondPunicWarRomehadno silvercoinageotherthanthe so-calledRomano-Campaniandidrachms,includingthequadrigatus.Thecoin thatweknowas thedenariuswasfirststruckduringthestrugglewithHannibal.Inall probabilitythefirstRomancointo bearthename denariuswas adidrachm.(5)As the'sextantal'and'uncial'reductionsof theas mustac-cordinglyboth fallin thesecondPunicWar,we canno longeracceptPliny'saccount ofthem.We arenowat libertyto accepttheevidenceofthe coinsthemselvesand recognisethatboth insilverand bronzetherewasnotasecondsuddenchange,buta gradual'de facto'decline. WecanfinallydiscardPliny'serroraboutthe re-tariffingofthedenariusatsixteenasses,whichhe hasdatednearlya centurytooearly.(6)Theearly goldcoinageofRomeis in partcloselyassociatedwithearlydenariiandisof thesecondPunicWar:inpart,itmaybeearlier.(7)Thechangein thedatingof Roman coinswillinvolveare-datingofanumberofItalianissues.(8)The victoriatewasessentiallyacreationof Rome's warsinGreece,followingthewar withHannibal.Thereis,therefore,agrainoftruthinPliny'sstatementthatitwas'exIllyricoadvectus.'Thedenomination,however,is nomorenorlessthana drachmofthequadrigatus-didrachm,andservedRome'spurposesin trade intheWestaswellasin theEast.
1
Thereis muchherethatwill,andshould,challengecontradictionfor,if thesepremisesarecorrect,wearecommittedtoa drasticre-considerationof manyproblemsofnumismaticswhichaffect,notonlymetrologyand attributiontomints,butgeneralhistoryaswell.Itis not desirable,evenif itwerepossible,thattheyshouldbeacceptedwithoutveryserious criticism.Thattheyrest on astrongbasisoffact-notonmerehypothesis--andthattheylendsupportto,andderivesupportfrom,oneanother thesucceedingstatement,Itrust,
willshow.
(i)
Mommsen's viewof theRomano-Campaniansilver-issues(plate
i,
nos.
2,
4,6-io),ascoinagestruckforRomeatCapuafrom atime soonafteritsadherencetoRome,hasneverbeenmorethan aplausiblehypothesis.Theargumentsagainstit,assummedupinNum.Chron.
1924,
pp.181ff.,havenotyetbeensatisfactorilyanswered.Thetypeofhorse'shead-perhapsthat of free horse also-hasevery appear-ance ofbeingCarthaginianinorigin.Ridgeway,inaninteresting paper,haspointedoutpossibleRoman connexionsbetweentheMars,who
Thisviewis takendirectfromHaeberlin,who states it withconvincing precision.All thatisaltered hereis thedatingofthecoin.

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