All 6 entries tagged Coining In Roman Britain

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November 30, 2014

Coining in Roman Britain Part 6: One Last Hurrah

Over half a century after the closure of the London mint, there is evidence to suggest it may have been opened one last time. Another usurper, Magnus Maximus, rebelled against the legitimate emperor Gratian in AD 383. He took legions from Britain, and ultimately fought and killed Gratian a few months later. One might suspect that he struck coins in Britain to pay his troops. Amazingly, a handful of extremely rare gold solidi and silver siliquae featuring the mint-mark AVGOB and AVGPS have been discovered. It is now believed that these marks refer to London’s new fourth century name – Londinivm Avgvsta, with the OB and PS referring to the pure gold and pure silver of the issues. These coins are so rare that none have yet been recorded on the PAS database. These are the last coins known to have been struck at the London mint. Money would not again be struck in London until the medieval period.

gold_coin

Extremely rare gold solidus of Magnus Maximus, struck at London. The reverse depicts Magnus and his son, Flavius Victor, with the inscription VICTORIA AVGG (the two Gs representing the two emperors). © The Trustees of the British Museum.


Through over 400 years of Roman control, it is clear that large numbers of coins were minted in Britain. Many of these were, however, contemporary copies, struck either for necessity purposes, or less honest uses. It is only by the late third century that coins are struck en-masse in Britain. Around 100 years later the last coins were stuck, by another usurper, and following this short and rare issue of coins, Rome’s London mint would fade into history, its existence forever immortalised through its products.

london_mint_through_time.jpg

Table presenting the mint marks of the London mint over time. © author.


dom

This month's coin series on Roman Britain is written by Dom Chorney, a young numismatist from Glastonbury, Somerset. He studied for his undergraduate degree at Cardiff (in archaeology), and achieved a 2:1. Dom is currently studying for an MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture at the University of Warwick, and intends to undertake a doctorate in 2015. His main areas of interest are coin use in later Roman Britain, counterfeiting in antiquity, coins as site-finds, and the coinage of the Gallic Empire.


November 25, 2014

Coining in Roman Britain Part 5: Constantine and the London Mint

Diocletian and the ‘Tetrarchy’ continued to strike coins in London after the fall of Allectus. These coins came in the form of bronze nummi, which formed part of Diocletian’s reformed currency system. They were struck pretty much uniformly across the empire, featured stylized portraits, indistinguishable from one another, and likely bore virtually no resemblance to the rulers themselves.

constantine_sol

Copper-alloy nummus of Constantine I from the London mint (note the mint-mark PLN).

The reverse depicts Sol standing left holding a globe, surrounded by the inscription SOLI INVICTO COMITI.

Image: Portable Antiquities Scheme, Unique ID: WILT-78C118


After Constantine was declared emperor by the army in Eboracum (modern day York) in AD 306, the London mint began producing coins showing his portrait. Though Constantine would famously convert to Christianity, these early depictions tended to feature his portrait juxtaposed with depictions of the sun god. Sol, a pagan deity, was associated with invincibility and victory, ideal traits for an emperor to associate himself with. In the early years of his reign Constantine also struck in the Gallic and German cities of Lyons and Trier. After Constantine had taken Rome from the emperor Maxentius, all mints across the empire struck coins for him and his family. The House of Constantine coinages are some of the most common found in Britain today, and feature the emperor himself, as well as his sons and extended family.

crispus_coin.jpg constantius_coin

Copper-alloy nummi of the London mint. A coin of Crispus (left) displays a globe on an altar and an issue of Constantius II (right) depicts a camp gate with two turrets. Coins such as these are common finds in Britain. Image: Portable Antiquities Scheme, Unique ID: DUR-E3ADF4, HESH-B1C990


The coinage of Constantine’s family comprise small bronze coins with simple designs. Coin types depicting inscribed altars, camp-gates and votive wreaths were struck at London until around the year AD 326. The reason for the London mint’s closure is unknown. It was certainly one of the smallest mints in the empire at this time, operating with only one officina or mint workshop (the ‘P’ in the mint mark), compared to the three at Trier and two at Lyons. Following the closure of the mint at London, later coin types are imitated in large numbers for decades. This may indicate a lack of fresh coin reaching Britain due to the lack of a mint on the island.


dom

This month's coin series on Roman Britain is written by Dom Chorney, a young numismatist from Glastonbury, Somerset. He studied for his undergraduate degree at Cardiff (in archaeology), and achieved a 2:1. Dom is currently studying for an MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture at the University of Warwick, and intends to undertake a doctorate in 2015. His main areas of interest are coin use in later Roman Britain, counterfeiting in antiquity, coins as site-finds, and the coinage of the Gallic Empire.


November 20, 2014

Coining in Roman Britain Part 4: Carausius and his mints

Carausius is one of the most interesting of the Roman pretenders, mainly because we know so little about him. We do know he usurped power from the emperors Diocletian and Maximian in Gaul in AD 286, and that he fled to Britain where he was subsequently proclaimed emperor. The rest of the evidence stems from his extensive coinage, most of which were struck in his newly established mint at London and mostly communicate messages of peace (with reverse legends such as PAX AVG). Carausius also made the bold move of striking a rare series of coins in almost pure silver. These so-called denarii would have been an unprecedented sight in the third century, a time when a horrendous debasement of the coinage had resulted in the vast majority of circulating coins being reduced from silver to bronze, with virtually no face value. These denarii featured the inscription RSR, interpreted by Guy de la Bedoyere as an abbreviation of Redeunt Saturnia Regna, essentially hailing a new golden age.

coin_carausius

Silver denarius of Carausius, struck at London.

The reverse type depicts the she-wolf and twins, Romulus and Remus. This coin fits with Carausius’ propaganda campaign of promoting a new golden age. Note the RSR in exergue. Image: Portable Antiquities Scheme, Unique ID: DUR-EA5A65


Coins of Carausius bear the mint-mark ML, for London, but some bear the initial ‘C’. Coins such as these have commonly been attributed to a mint at Colchester, though distributions of single finds, and the historical record do not support this. The ‘C’ mint remains an enigma. Carausius’ reign didn’t last long. He was murdered by his finance minister Allectus in AD 293. Allectus continued to mint coins in London and the enigmatic ‘C’ mint until AD 296, when he was killed in the invasion led by Constantius Chlorus, which saw the end of Carausius’ ‘Britannic Empire’. The idea of the first mint in Roman Britain being opened by usurper isn’t particularly surprising. What’s remarkable is that the mint was not abolished, but continued running for another thirty years after the usurper’s overthrow.


domThis month's coin series on Roman Britain is written by Dom Chorney, a young numismatist from Glastonbury, Somerset. He studied for his undergraduate degree at Cardiff (in archaeology), and achieved a 2:1. Dom is currently studying for an MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture at the University of Warwick, and intends to undertake a doctorate in 2015. His main areas of interest are coin use in later Roman Britain, counterfeiting in antiquity, coins as site-finds, and the coinage of the Gallic Empire.






November 14, 2014

Coining in Roman Britain Part 3: Counterfeiting

During the late second and early third centuries AD more evidence has been discovered for the production of Roman coins in Britain. Found almost exclusively on archaeological sites, clay moulds for casting copies of Roman silver denarii have been excavated in their thousands across the country. These double sided disc shaped moulds, made by pressing a coin into clay, would have been arranged in rows, with molten metal poured from above. The moulds would then have been broken apart to gain access to the freshly copied coins. Moulds such as these have been discovered in large quantities in Somerset, London and the Midlands, with sporadic discoveries in Scotland. One might assume these moulds were used for making counterfeit coins, that is, coins intended to deceive the user. However, sites from continental Europe indicate these practises might not have been covert (moulds such as those found in Britain have been discovered surprisingly near to places of Roman establishment), suggesting a much more organised and possibly legitimate use of these tools. In contrast, the flat and open landscape of the Somerset Levels would be a seemingly ideal place for forgers to produce fake coins, and hide the evidence quickly should any figures of Roman authority appear. An in depth study into the context of Romano-British coin moulds may reveal the answer to the enigma.

coin_mould

Coin mould (lead) for casting imitation coins of Tetricus (AD 271-274). This mould was discovered in Nottinghamshire. Note the hole at the top of the mould, through which molten metal would have been poured. Image: Portable Antiquities Scheme, Unique ID: LVPL-0A5332.


domThis month's coin series on Roman Britain is written by Dom Chorney, a young numismatist from Glastonbury, Somerset. He studied for his undergraduate degree at Cardiff (in archaeology), and achieved a 2:1. Dom is currently studying for an MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture at the University of Warwick, and intends to undertake a doctorate in 2015. His main areas of interest are coin use in later Roman Britain, counterfeiting in antiquity, coins as site-finds, and the coinage of the Gallic Empire.




November 07, 2014

Coining in Roman Britain Part 2. After AD 43: British Imitations

imitations.jpg
Local imitations of asses of Claudius. Note the
crude style and wild variety. Not to scale.

In the years following the Roman invasion of Britain, a somewhat unique phenomenon appears in the archaeological record. Crude copper coins bearing portraits of the emperor Claudius on their obverses, and the goddess Minerva on their reverses appear as single and site finds across Britain. To date over 600 of these coins have been recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. These crude copper coins have been interpreted as local imitations of genuine Claudian asses (low value copper denominations) struck in Rome. The local population of Britain, or the Roman army, (nobody’s quite sure yet!) may have struck these coins due to a lack of small-change in the new province of the empire. These copies seem to fade away after the reign of Nero. This is probably due to large numbers of smaller denominations reaching Britain.


domThis month's coin series on Roman Britain is written by Dom Chorney, a young numismatist from Glastonbury, Somerset. He studied for his undergraduate degree at Cardiff (in archaeology), and achieved a 2:1. Dom is currently studying for an MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture at the University of Warwick, and intends to undertake a doctorate in 2015. His main areas of interest are coin use in later Roman Britain, counterfeiting in antiquity, coins as site-finds, and the coinage of the Gallic Empire.


Images from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, PAS HAMP-4F9392, BERK-BEF2B0, NARC-146308


November 01, 2014

Coining in Roman Britain Part 1: Before the Romans

This month the blog will run a series of posts about coinage in Britain, written by Dom Chorney. We kick the month off by looking at the coinage that existed in Britain before the Romans!

map_mints_4th_century

Map showing Rome's mints in the fourth century.

The Romans didn’t just strike coins in their capitol, far from it. In fact by the 4th Century AD over a dozen official mints operated in the provinces of the empire, producing massive numbers of coins (see map). These mints tended to stem from provincial cities who struck their own coins in earlier periods of history, such as Alexandria in Egypt. Some however, were entirely new creations, in particular the mint at Londinum, modern day London. This series of posts will provide a very brief history on the subject of coin minting in Roman Britain, from the decades following the invasion in AD 43, to so called ‘decree’ of Honorius in AD 410, the date (though somewhat unreliable) believed by many to pinpoint the end of Britain as a Roman province.


Before the Romans: Celtic Coinage

celtic_coin

Silver uninscribed stater struck in the south-west of Britain (50-20 BC).

Despite the controversial use of the term ‘Celtic’, many scholars still refer to the coins minted in the last two centuries of Britain’s Iron Age as Celtic coins. The so called ‘tribes’ of Iron Age Britain struck coins, many deriving from gold staters produced in Greece by Philip II of Macedon, but with highly stylised designs. The iconography varies from region to region, but most Iron Age coins depict horses and stylized heads in a very abstract form. Through time, the coins of many Iron Age ‘tribes’ such as the Atrebates and the Catuvellauni become more Roman in style, indicating increasing contact with Rome. Some tribe’s coins show defiance, such as those minted in the South-West, where, rather than designs becoming more classical in nature, the coins become more abstract (see the coin pictured: coins like these are believed to indicate a strong refusal to adopt Roman style. Note the storngly stylised horse). Iron Age coins were minted in gold, silver and bronze, and are a complicated and highly theoretical topic in their own right. Mints of the Iceni (famously the tribe of the warrior queen, Boudicca) continued to produce coins in the years following the Roman invasion.


domThis month's coin series on Roman Britain is written by Dom Chorney, a young numismatist from Glastonbury, Somerset. He studied for his undergraduate degree at Cardiff (in archaeology), and achieved a 2:1. Dom is currently studying for an MA in Ancient Visual and Material Culture at the University of Warwick, and intends to undertake a doctorate in 2015. His main areas of interest are coin use in later Roman Britain, counterfeiting in antiquity, coins as site-finds, and the coinage of the Gallic Empire.


Image credits: Map from Late Roman Bronze Coinage, inside cover. Coin image from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, PAS IOW-035588.


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