October 30, 2013

Intended or Accidental? Questions surrounding Crawford 480/20

Crawford 480/20

Sometimes in numismatics one needs to go beyond what is listed in a coin catalogue to discover more about the intentions or audience of a particular coin.This was the case this morning when working on a coin series struck just after Julius Caesar's assassination in 44BC, struck by the moneyer P. Sepullius Macer. Three coin issues were released by Macer showing a desultor, or person who leapt from one horse to another; the coins were probably struck in connection a festival held in this year, perhaps the Parilia.

Struck immediately after Caesar's assassination, this particular series has been seen as important evidence of the use of Caesar's memory by Mark Antony. The first in the series (Crawford 480/20, shown right) shows a laureate, veiled head of Julius Caesar, with the legend CAESAR PARENS PATRIAE. The desultor type is then combined with an obverse showing the planned temple to Caesar and his clemency (Crawford 480/21), and finally an obverse showing Mark Antony, veiled and sporting a beard as a sign of mourning (Crawford 480/22).

Crawford 480/22

The traditional interpretation of the coins is that it demonstrates Antony's alignment with the murdered Caesar, since Julius Caesar is initially shown veiled on the coin series, only to be substituted by the veiled Mark Antony. But in trying to find examples of the coin showing the veiled head of Julius Caesar (Crawford 480/20), I soon discovered that there is only one specimen in Paris, and none of the other major numismatic collections (ANS, British Museum), appear to have a specimen of this particular coin. The specimen in Paris, and illustrated by Crawford in his plates, may be the only example known. Given this, one is forced to wonder whether the coin was in fact a mistake or minting error: an accidental combination of the obverse die showing Julius Caesar from one of Macer's other coin issues (e.g. Crawford 480/19), with the new reverse commemorating the games of the Parilia. If it was a mistake perhaps only a few coins were struck before the error was realised, and the desultor type was combined with its 'intended' obverses. If the theory is correct, we should change how we view this particular issue, and the desultor series more generally.

If anyone does know of other examples of Crawford 480/20, I would be grateful for any information!!

(Coin above reproduced courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group Inc., (Auction 190, lot 1395) (www.cngcoins.com)

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Clare Rowan

    I have just discovered that Woytek in his Arma et Nummi (p. 427) has also characterised the piece as a minting error.

    30 Oct 2013, 12:11

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