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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Roman coins minted during Caesars reign 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Roman coins minted during Caesars reign  (Read 10087 times)
nin
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« on: July 08, 2008, 06:53:49 pm »

Dumb question re:  the "elephant" caesar coins.  I understand these are considered by many to be the first coins minted in caesars honor, but I'm confused why these coins are given a 48/49BC first strike date.

No moneyer, simply CAESAR.  How does one know for sure the year it was introduced?

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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2008, 06:59:17 pm »

Hoard evidence. 

"The status of no. 443 as the first military issue of Caesar is established beyond all possible doubt by its occurrence as the only military issue of Caesar not only in the Cadriano and San Cesario hoards, but also in the Carbonara and San Giuliano hoards and by the greater degree of wear which it displays in later hoards, compared with other military issues of Caesar."

Crawford p89.

Steve
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nin
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« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2008, 08:31:28 pm »

I like the idea of using hoards to date, but it proves only that it wasn't minted in the 50s and I'm guessing it doesn't rule out 45/46BC.  I agree this coin was clearly the first military issue coin honoring Caesar, but 49 BC? Do these hoards rule out 48/47/47/46BC?   Caesar crossed the Rubicon Jan 10, 49 BC right?  He marched Legion XIII to Rome, his enemies fled to GreeceCaesar raided the treasury and headed west to Spain to regroup with two additional legions before proceeding to Greece.  Did he have the coins minted in his name depicting an elephant in the very short time he was in Rome?

What exactly is the symbolism of the elephant and the snake exactly?  Does it represent Caesar crushing his enemies?  If so, who is the snake?  The Gaul or Pompeii/Cato/Scipio?

Let me throw something else into the equation.  During the battle of Thapsus in 46 BC, Caesar's Legion V stood their ground against 60 charging war elephants and their standard symbol for Legion V was changed to the elephant because of their valor.  Shortly after Thapsus, I believe Caesar was awarded a triumph for his four recent victories at Zela, the Nile, Thapsus and somewhere else, Greece?  He didn't finish off his optimate enemies until the battle of Munda in 45 BC.  According to the writings of Cicero, Volume 3, it was after the Battle of Munda that Caesar really pushed the inflation of his image with propaganda.  Coins were definitely propaganda of their day and the heroics of Legion V was still very very fresh.  I lean toward the period of his Triumph in 46 or after his victory at Munda.

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« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2008, 09:06:35 pm »

I don't think that theory holds water - it requires you to place all of Caesar's military coinage to 46 BC and later, leaving far too little coinage for the previous three years.

A footnote on the same page I quoted addresses an attempt by A. Alföldi to date the issue later, to 47/46, referring to the hoard evidence as already mentioned, and pointing in particular to a 2-year gap in hoards which would then go unexplained.  And none of the books published since Crawford that I know of have declined to use his date for this issue.

The significance of the elephant is one of those mysteries that will probably never be solved: I have read lots of suggestions, including
1. A reference to elephants Caesar took to Britain.
2. A supposed rebus where the latin word Caesar was phonetically similar to an African word for rebus.
3. A reference to Metellus Scipio, the nominal commander of the Republican forces in Africa: his family adopted elephants as coin type after an ancestor captured some during the Punic wars.  Personally I find this theory rather ridiculous, you wouldn't depict your enemy as being so powerful, it defies common sense.
4. A general type of good v evil, which seems most satisfactory - the good in this case (Caesar and his army), being extremely powerful, like an elephant.

Steve
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nin
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« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2008, 09:48:59 pm »

I'll accept that I guess.  But the Gallic theory, I've heard two of em.  Re:  British bound elephants, Caesar mentions elephant only once in his entire Commentarii de Bello Gallico, when he referred to the size of an elephant as a comparison in size when describing the size of an animal he encountered that was comparible in size to an elephant, but ithat animal was not an elephant.

I've also read somewhere that Caesar paraded 40 elephants in a grand triumph for his victory in Gaul, but I'm pretty sure Caesar didn't receive a triumph for his victory in Gaul, he was given a choice of office or triumph from Pompeii, Caesar reluctantly chose the office over a triumph, if my history is accurate, which he served in Gaul.  Also, the senate in 50+BC would have most likely refused to issue such a coin. 

Caesar came into rome with a legion, but he made sure not to make situations there any worse than they already were.  The senate continued to convene and bestow offices and titles upon Caesar during his civil war, he needed them at this point, and he likely kept relations as friendly as possible with the Senate during this time.  Had caesar issued that coin in 49BC, I'm not so convinced that he would have had the senate's support.  According to Cicero, it wasn't until after Munda that the power really went to his head and the propaganda movement really began.

Then again, I could be wrong, but its worthy of discussion anyhow.  Thanks for your insight Steve, I value it.
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Andrew Brozyna
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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2008, 02:59:10 pm »

It's quite a coincidence that you are posting on this subject! I am currently working on an illustration for the next issue of Ancient Warfare Magazine (Vol II, issue 4). I'm using this elephant denarius as evidence of Caesar's use of an elephant in Britain. Caesar does not mention it in his own writings. However, the Greek historian, Polyaenus a scene in one of his strategems (from Strategemata 8.23.5). He states that Caesar was encountering stiff resistance in crossing the Thames.He then sent an armored elephant across the river, which frightened the British warriors away. The serpent being trampled on the coin is thought to be a symbol of Oceanus—lands beyond the ocean (Britain).

Murray Dahm's article gives additional evidence for and against the truth of this story. You can also read about this British elephant debate in two books: War Elephants, by John Kistler and Caesar Against the Celts, by Ramon Jiménez.
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« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2008, 03:39:12 pm »

... Caesar mentions elephant only once in his entire Commentarii de Bello Gallico, when he referred to the size of an elephant as a comparison in size when describing the size of an animal he encountered that was comparible in size to an elephant, but that animal was not an elephant.
what animal would Caesar have encountered in Gaul that was the size of an elephant?!!!
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« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2008, 04:06:44 pm »

*
 
    ‘Caesar Against the Celts’ gets a scathing review from Octavius at Amazon – and, agree or disagree, one worth considering.  His demand for a certain qualified level of scholarship is hardly trivial or unduly-biased, and one I share in toto.
  It is worth reflecting on the reasons for his saying –
 
  “This book should be shunned as an authoritative text as to anything dealing with Rome: the only thing it's clearly authoritative on is its author's ignorance of the subject matter. Indeed, this book does a gross disservice to all true scholars who have committed years of schooling and dilligent [sic] work to the study of antiquity to dispel the very same misconceptions Mr. Jimenez ignorantly propagates as sound research in this poor work.
 
 That said, I haven’t read the book: I might if someone were to give it to me, but neither would I buy it.
 
  Best,
  Tia
 
*
 
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2008, 04:33:58 pm »

... Caesar mentions elephant only once in his entire Commentarii de Bello Gallico, when he referred to the size of an elephant as a comparison in size when describing the size of an animal he encountered that was comparible in size to an elephant, but that animal was not an elephant.
what animal would Caesar have encountered in Gaul that was the size of an elephant?!!!

Although there would have been no elephant-sized animals in Europe, that doesn't mean that Caesar couldn't have described something as being as big as an elephant.  Surely hyperbole isn't a modern invention.
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4to2CentBCphilia
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« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2008, 04:37:29 pm »


I've also read somewhere that Caesar paraded 40 elephants in a grand triumph for his victory in Gaul, but I'm pretty sure Caesar didn't receive a triumph for his victory in Gaul, he was given a choice of office or triumph from Pompeii, Caesar reluctantly chose the office over a triumph, if my history is accurate, which he served in Gaul.  Also, the senate in 50+BC would have most likely refused to issue such a coin. 


I am currently reading "Augustus, The Life of Romes first Emperor" by Anthony Everitt. On the first page of Chapter 4, he states that in Sept of 46BC Caesar held four triumphs in four days. One of them was a triumph for the conquest of Gaul (the others were his Egyptian war, his Asian war and Numidia...which was really his triumph over Cato)

Perhaps this triumph is the occasion for the 40 elephants you recollect.

BR

Mark
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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2008, 05:08:12 pm »

The triumph Caesar never celebrated was the one he earned as praetor in SpainHis political opponents denied him the right to stand for the consulship in absentia so he had to cross the boundary of Rome to enter his candidacy, an act which surrendered his imperium and his right to hold a triumph.

Steve
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Andrew Brozyna
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2008, 11:58:28 pm »

Wow! That IS an awful review! The information we pulled from Jimenez's book are theories he relates from C. E. Stevens. We have since found Stevens' original article,  "Julius Caesar's Elephant," in History Today Vol IX (1959).

If you don't have an account with JSTOR, then Jimenez' book is at least a good way to get to Stevens ideas.
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nin
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« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2008, 01:18:21 am »

Upon reading C. Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Caesars, I came upon a short detailed account of Caesar's triumphs.  Four in 46BC and the fifth after Pompey's sons as seen here

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Suet.+Jul.+37

Even more interesting was the next chapter where payment of Caesars troops is described in detail.  It appears Caesar only paid his troops once in the beginning of the war, motivating them with promises of future payment, land, etc. .. link attached..

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Suet.+Jul.+38
I wonder what is meant by "To every foot soldier in his veteran legions, besides the two thousand sesterces paid him in the beginning of the civil war, he gave twenty thousand more, in the shape of prize-money. He likewise allotted them lands, but not in contiguity..."

As for the initial funding of the war, I refer to Appian's account of the Civil Wars, Book 2, Ch. VI, paragraph #41

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=App.+BC+2.6.38

Appian also mentions mutiny among Caesars troops in Placentia (for prolonging the war and not being paid as promised) paragraph 47

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=App.+BC+2.7.44

And mutiny again in Rome by Legion 10, again for not making good on his promises made at Pharsalus.  (par. 92-94)
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=App.+BC+2.13.88

If the troops are being paid regularly using a travelling mint, why are his troops starving, unpaid and getting mutinous?  I believe some legions resorted to eating bread made from native plant roots or quite possibly anything that crawled.
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nin
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« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2008, 04:46:36 pm »

Here is a link to the only elephant reference I could find in Caesar's Gallic War (Commentarii de bello Gallico)

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?lookup=Caes.+Gal.+6.28

If you check my last post, I have a link to Caesar's triumphs.  One of the triumphs did use elephants.  Can't help you with the elephants in Britt.  Nothing I have read so far supports Caesar employing elephants in England.  Perhaps Hadrian made use of them to build that large wall thingy.
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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2008, 07:01:20 pm »

I don't claim to have the sort of knowledge to answer your questions comprehensively, but I can offer some insight:

1st of all, starving does not mean broke.  In the Pharsalus campaign it meant for Caesar that his supply lines were non-existent, and he was in a poor strategic position for living off the land.  His opponents had naval superiority, and he simply couldn't send supplies across the Adriatic, and using the land route was untenable.

This is no argument that he had no money with which to pay them - after all, his opponents had famously neglected to take with them the contents of Rome's treasury when they fled East.  The "root bread" story comes from this campaign - Caesar's troops, apparently, baked a horrible kind of bread made out of barely edible roots.  Caesar was said to have sent some to Pompey, as an example of the privations his troops would endure, and Pompey suppressed it.

For the other point I have, bear in mind that I haven't researched this point, but I will think you will find that the allegations of breach of promise came not from withholding the legions' regular pay, but the continual postponement of Caesar's triumphs, at which time they themselves expected to be demobbed, and would become entitle to their cut of the massive amount of booty the army had obtained in Gaul.

Steve
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« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2008, 02:13:33 am »

*
 
   Steve lays out the gist of Caesar’s logistical issues in Epirus vetus and Thessaly, further aggravated (according to Caesar) by his inferiority in horse.
  I’ll say though that Caesar was ever resourceful and his logistical ‘troubles’ weren’t nearly so desperate as some of his language may impress in his Civil Wars.
  Pompey was already out of Italy, his already assembled force vastly greater in numbers than Caesar's (hence, for this and manifold other reasons, slower and less-maneuverable); Caesar wasn’t exactly racing against Time to deal with Pompey (he’d already taken the time to secure Spain and his ‘rear’ anticipating the Eastward movement) and I find it impossible to believe Caesar would ever have undertaken his pursuit of Pompey absent perfectly viable logistic supports to provision his troops.
  He may have let them feed on motivational root-bread, but they weren’t going to perish of starvation in the field.
 
  At Pharsalus, as earlier at Dyrrachium, it seems fairly clear that it was no small part of his approach to impress on his Legions that their mountainous stores of provisions were already there – all nicely, neatly and conveniently collected in Pompey’s camp.
  ..Or so my understanding and reading of Caesar.  In his mind he wasn’t in logistical straights, but in a particular, well-grasped strategic situation – which he was very keen to exploit to greatest advantage.  &nd decisively did (albeit with a close call at Dyrrachium).
 
*
 
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nin
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« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2008, 06:44:14 pm »

I fully agree with both of you on many, if not all of your points and thanks to both of you for your input.  Yes, it is known that Pompey controlled the waters from the very get-go, making supply lines more difficult for Caesar's troops to conduct a war.  The real point I was attempting to make isn't starvation of troops, logistical difficulties, or even mutinous troops.  I just threw in those historical accounts to emphasize my original point that it is improbable for the coins in question to have been minted any earlier than 46BC.  If I had found any evidence to the contrary while reading the various Roman authors' historical accounts of the civil war, I would have corrected myself and made it known.  To my surprise, all evidence instead suggests that I am right on the money (pun intended).

Yes, I agree with Steve that the treasury contained Gaul booty.  According to Appian, Caesar cut the bolts of the treasury... his troops were paid with these coins at the beginning. 

Two questions:

1) Do we agree or disagree that Caesar looted the treasury in 49BC, paying each foot soldier their initial 2,000 Sest?
2) Do we agree or disagree that Caesar did not pay his troops again until years later during or following the triumphs in 46 or 45BC as Seutonius has written in detail? (Read Seutonius' words, linked in my earlier post)

For lack of finding any evidence to the contrary, I am forced to accept Seutonius' written word at face value.  If there are any conflicting accounts made by any Roman author, I would love to read them because I could find none.

According to Seutonius, the second payment made to Caesar's troops was quite large.  20,000 Sest per foot soldier plus land!  This would explain the great abundance of this coin when introduced, even the citizens of Rome apparently received 400 Sest at this time (precursor stimulus payment).  Perhaps the great abundance of this coin was mistaken as de facto evidence of an earlier mint year.  I would almost bet my first born that this 20,000 Sest payment included these elephant coins. 

If anyone has any evidence to prove me wrong about my theory regarding the first strike year for this coin, please provide a link to it.  Personally, I didn't think my theory would be quite so controversial.  The more I read, the more evidence supports my theory.

I have found absolutely no historical evidence to support a 49, 48 or 47BC first strike for this coin.
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