Ancient Greek & Roman Coins


Silvered Antoniniani of Probus

Marcus Aurelius Probus was Emperor of Rome from 276 to 282 AD. Probus is, perhaps, the perfect example of the soldier emperors that ruled Rome during the last half of the Third Century AD. The army proclaimed Probus Emperor in opposition to Florian who was soon murdered by his own troops. He spent most of his reign involved in military affairs, surpressed several bids for power by usurpers and died at the hands of his own disgruntled soldiers. The fatal error seems to have been a statement by Probus that the time was coming when a state of peace would make the armies unnecessary. It is never a good management technique to tell the workers that you don't need or appreciate them. When your workers carry swords, this could be a big mistake.

Recent hoard finds have placed many silvered bronze antoniniani of Probus on the market at reasonable prices. Of all the Roman series, the coins of Probus show the greatest variety of obverse styles. Several earlier Emperors issued ocassional special issues but under Probus fancy bust styles usually reserved for medallions found their way onto the everyday coinage. Coins were struck from at least nine mints so the collector is presented with quite a variety of material.

This is very much a work in progress. As this is being written, I simply do not know enough about the coins of Probus to publish this page. For the present, I will show photos of examples of coins that show some point of interest and hope that these pieces will fall into place. Probus also issued coins in gold and magnificent large bronze medallions which are totally beyond the scope of this site.

Few of the mints used by Probus used a mint mark as such but there are characteristics that allow most coins to be assigned. One distinction is the use of a numeral '21' used on many coins to express the 20 to one ratio of silver contained in these coins. The following chart may help assign coins to the correct mint. Not all coins follow even these general rules.

Mints of Probus
Mint Mintmark '21' expressed Officina Comment
Rome R followed by symbol in exergue not used letter right of symbol in exergue Symbol often thunderbolt or crescent
Lugdunum none not used Roman numeral in exergue Frequently heavier silvering than other mints
Ticinum sometimes T XXI anything goes? Sometimes the 'I' of XXI is replaced by 'T'
Siscia none XXI Letter following XXI or in field
Serdica none KA Letter following KA
Cyzicus CM or MC in field or in exergue XXI Letter in field or in exergue
Antioch none XXI in exergue Greek numeral in field Uses two number systems on same coin!
Tripolis sometimes T in field KA numeral or symbol in field

Minor variations of portrait and designs abound on these coins. Probus is shown with an extensive and varied wardrobe and is equiped with many different shields and helmets. A few of these are mentioned below but the reader should, in no way, take these examples to be a complete listing. A wide variety of obverse legends were used including some that departed greatly from the established norm. These range from rare varieties like the DEO ET DOMINO titles to the almost common VIRTVS PROBI AVG. The samples shown here make no attempt to show the range of legends.

Reverse types were almost boring compared to the obverse variations but there are certainly exceptions. Included in the issues of Probus is the famous Calliope type, the only time a muse was named on a Roman coin. Common types are the Adventus series recording the emperor's arrivals in various parts of the empire and the popular Sun god in facing four horse chariot.

A note on the photographs: The coins of Probus were issued with a thin layer of silvering that has worn away on many examples. Fully silvered or full de-silvered coins frequently present a more pleasing appearance than found on coins which have lost only part of this layer. This photographer is only beginning to learn how to cope with these irregularly colored coins to produce an image that is both accurate and pleasing. Some of the photographs below are more successful at this task than are others. For this, I apologize and hope to be able to correct the poor images in the future.

Rome mint
Rome mintmarks often separate the city initial and officina with a symbol. Here is a thunderbolt. Note medallion on chest. The temple of Roma is a common type from this mint.
Here we see the temple of Roma, crescent symbol and a fine military bust with a shield composed of small knobs. Here the shield bears the head of Medusa. There is no symbol in the mintmark.

Lugdunum Mint
Lugdunum Mint - 2nd officina (II in exergue) Lugdunum? Mint - mintmark off flan

Ticinum Mint
Shield covered with small knobs. Emperor wears chain mail? 3rd officina - 'T' before XXI; code 'V' (EQVITI series) in field. What is the star? Strap crosses bust. Reverse spelling ERCVLI (no H). Officina letter ('S' for secunda) is followed by XXT combination.
Extra armor (chain?) is shown on left shoulder. QXXT in exergue = Officina 4 + XX(i) + T mintmark Is this the back of a shield or the same chain mail?? TXXT (Officina 3) mm - Note INVICTI obverse legend
Another TXXT but with obverse dated CONSII for second consulship VITI in exergue is officina 6 + TI mintmark. This early portrait resembles Florian.

Siscia Mint
Consular bust - Officina 4 - delta in field Consular bust - Officina 2 - XXIB in exergue
Consular bust - Officina 1 - XXIP in exergue
'Action' scene with foe on ground
This plain draped bust has abnormally large shoulders.
Obverse legend includes INVictus - Rx: PROVIDENTIA AVG N Shield held in front has decorated edge but plain (mirrored?) center.
Shield decorated with horseman and other figures in foreground? Officina 3 Another shield held in front decorated with horseman and other figures? Note indication of fire under horses on reverse.
Shield with Pegasus design. The KA mintmark was rarely used at Siscia. This coin was previously displayed in the Serdica section of this page. Sorry for the error.

A Few Shields More Closely
Detail of above left Detail of above right - Figure at right appears to be a Persian enemy wearing a curved hat? Detail from Pegasus above

Serdica Mint
Shield has large central boss. Emperor wears chain mail? Shield has spearing horseman scene. This coin was discussed at length as a Featured Coin.

Cyzicus Mint
Officina 7 - Z in field - XXIMC mintmark Officina 1 (XXIP) with mintmark moved to field and order of letters reversed

Antioch Mint
Antioch Mint - officina 7 (Z in field). The XXI in exergue is strangely divided 'X - XI' Antioch Mint - officina 9 avoided using the unlucky numeral 'theta' by adding up 5+4 or E+delta

Tripolis Mint
T (mintmark?) in field above KA in exergue Officina mark is crescent in field


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(c) 1997 Doug Smith