A note on the total number of officinae in the Antioch mint during Trajan Decius and Trebonianus Gallus AD 249-253

by Gert Boersema

A quick look at the respective RIC introductions to the eastern coinage of Trajan Decius and Trebonianus Gallus[1] shows that there is some uncertainty about the total number of officinae in the Antioch mint in this period. This is because the mint marks are not alltogether clear from our modern perspective. According to RIC, during the reign of Decius the Antioch mint used the following mint marks to denote its officinae:

•, ••, •••, ••••, IIV, IV

On antoniniani of Gallus we also encounter VI and VII alongside IV and IIV:

•, ••, •••, ••••, IV, VI, IIV and VII

Back in 1936, Karl Pink proposed four marked officinae at Antioch, and this view was followed by LeGentilhomme (1943). Both scholars interpreted mint marks IIV and IV as 3 and 4 respectively. RIC IV, published in 1949, follows Pink’s view on the total number of officinae, reluctantly one might think, in the introduction to Decius’ coinage – ‘at least four’ – but proposes a total number of seven officinae for Gallus – ‘the officinae seem to run from 1 to 7 ...’. But almost immediately the reader is asked if it will ‘eventually turn out that there were four officinae only...’[2]

In 1977 an important paper was published by W.E. Metcalf on a hoard of Antioch mint antoniniani of Trebonianus Gallus.[3] Metcalf takes for granted that there were 7 officinae active at Antioch, and only hints at the evidence supporting this. In the following I will try to show that the mint marks indeed most probably indicate a total of seven officinae at the Antioch mint during the reigns of Decius and Gallus.

i. IV and IIV are retrograde variants of VI and VII (six and seven)

Everything comes down to the interpretation of mint marks IIV and IV. Pink came to his total of four officinae because he read these as 3 and 4 respectively, ‘perhaps because there was no mark for the fifth officina’.[4] This would imply that mint marks VI and VII do not stand for six and seven, but are ‘irregular variants of IV and IIV (four and three)’, something that RIC finds conceivable.[5] But why use IIV and IV alongside the perfectly adequate mint marks ••• and ••••? That seems to be very unpractical and hard to understand, to say the least. Is it not much more likely that it is the other way around: IV and IIV are retrograde variants of VI and VII, six and seven?

ii. Decius’ and Gallus’ tetradrachm coinage at the Antioch mint unmistakenly shows a total number of seven officinae during their reigns

After the emperor Philip’s demise in AD 249, the number of offinae in the Antioch mint was evidently increased from 4 to 7, as is shown by the mint marks on Decius’ tetradrachms:

•, ••, •••, ••••, •••••/E, S, Z

The system of pellets that was introduced on the final issue of tetradrachms of Philip I now proved difficult to maintain, which is why officinae 6 and 7 adopted Greek numerals S and Z in stead of the unpractical mint marks •••••• and •••••••.[6] This system of mint marks ranging from • to Z was continued into the reign of Gallus.

iii. Mint mark VI was used by officina 6 during the reign of Gallus

Two of Gallus’ tetradrachm issues[7] show without question that mint mark VI was used by officina 6. Both obverse and reverse bear the officina mark, and on these coins VI on the obverse is combined with mint mark S on the reverse – Greek numeral S with certainty indicating officina 6. These systems of mint marks had to be logical and easily recognizable within the mint. It is therefore inconceivable that mint mark VI was used by officina 6 on tetradrachms, while at the same time it was used by officina 4 on antoniniani.

iv. The missing officina 5

There are no Antioch mint antoniniani of either Decius or Gallus with an officina 5 mint mark. Metcalf thought, as is stated above, that this fact could well have prompted Pink’s four officina theory. But in fact this missing officina 5 fits a total of 7 officinae perfectly. Once again, the tetradrachm coinage will shine its light on the matter.

There are Decius tetradrachms from officina 5, showing mint marks ••••• and E, but it is interesting to see that there are no known Gallus tetradrachms from officina 5. In other words, Gallus’ provincial coinage at the Antioch mint shows exactly the same structure as his imperial coinage, with a total of 7 officinae, lacking an officina 5. The best explanation for this missing officina, in my opinion, is that it is not missing at all. Officina 5 may have been minting coins that did not feature mint marks: provincial bronze coinage.[8] It could also well be the case that Gallus’ antoniniani without a mint mark were minted in officina 5.



[1] For the sake of clarity I only mention the names Decius and Gallus in this short discussion, but of course these mint marks also appear on coins of their family members – like Herennia Etruscilla, Herennius Etruscus, Hostilianus and Volusianus.

[2] K. Pink ‘Der Aufbau der römischen Münzprägung in der Kaiserzeit’ in: NZ 69 (1936) 14; P. LeGentilhomme, ‘La trouvaille de Nanterre’ in: RN 5, vol. 9 (1946) 67; RIC IV part iii p. 118, 155.

[3] W.E. Metcalf ‘The Antioch Hoard of Antoniniani and the Eastern Coinage of Trebonianus Gallus and Volusian’ in: ANS Museum Notes 22 (1977) p.71-94.

[4] Metcalf, p. 84, n.13.

[5] RIC IV, part iii, in the introduction to the eastern coinage of Gallus, p.155.

[6] Metcalf claims that there are tetradrachms that combine mint marks IV and IIV with S and Z (p.85, n.13). However, I could not find any published coins to support this statement.

[7] Prieur 666 and 667.

[8] I am indebted to Tom Vossen for this idea.