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"As de Nîmes" or "crocodile" Ӕ dupondius of Nemausus (9 - 3 BC), honoring Augustus and Agrippa29 viewsIMP DIVI F , Heads of Agrippa (left) and Augustus (right) back to back, Agrippa wearing rostral crown and Augustus the oak-wreath / COL NEM, crocodile right chained to palm-shoot with short dense fronds and tip right; two short palm offshoots left and right below, above on left a wreath with two long ties streaming right.

Ӕ, 24.5 x 3+ mm, 13.23g, die axis 3h; on both sides there are remains of what appears to be gold plating, perhaps it was a votive offering? Rough edges and slight scrapes on flan typical for this kind of coin, due to primitive technology (filing) of flan preparation.

IMPerator DIVI Filius. Mint of COLonia NEMausus (currently Nîmes, France). Known as "As de Nîmes", it is actually a dupontius (lit. "two-pounder") = 2 ases (sometimes cut in halves to get change). Dupondii were often made out of a golden-colored copper alloy (type of brass) "orichalcum" and this appears to be such case.

Key ID points: oak-wreath (microphotography shows that at least one leaf has a complicated shape, although distinguishing oak from laurel is very difficult) – earlier versions have Augustus bareheaded, no PP on obverse as in later versions, no NE ligature, palm with short fronds with tip right (later versions have tip left and sometimes long fronds). Not typical: no clear laurel wreath together with the rostral crown, gold plating (!), both features really buffling.

But still clearly a "middle" kind of the croc dupondius, known as "type III": RIC I 158, RPC I 524, Sear 1730. It is often conservatively dated to 10 BC - 10 AD, but these days it is usually narrowed to 9/8 - 3 BC.

It is a commemorative issue, honoring the victory over Mark Antony and conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. The heads of Augustus and Agrippa were probably positioned to remind familiar obverses of Roman republican coins with two-faced Janus. Palm branch was a common symbol of victory, in this case grown into a tree, like the victories of Augustus and Agrippa grown into the empire. The two offshoots at the bottom may mean two sons of Agrippa, Gaius and Lucius, who were supposed to be Augustus' heirs and were patrons of the colony. Palm may also be a symbol of the local Nemausian deity, which was probably worshiped in a sacred grove. When these coins were minted, the colony was mostly populated by the settled veterans of Augustus' campaigns, hence the reminiscence of the most famous victory, but some of the original Celtic culture probably survived and was assimilated by Romans. The crocodile is not only the symbol of Egypt, like in the famous Octavian's coins AEGYPTO CAPTA. It is also a representation of Mark Antony, powerful and scary both in water and on land, but a bit slow and stupid. The shape of the crocodile with tail up was specifically chosen to remind of the shape of ship on very common "legionary" denarius series, which Mark Antony minted to pay his armies just before Actium. It is probably also related to the popular contemporary caricature of Cleopatra, riding on and simultaneously copulating with a crocodile, holding a palm branch in her hand as if in triumph. There the crocodile also symbolized Mark Antony.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was born c. 64-62 BC somewhere in rural Italy. His family was of humble and plebeian origins, but rich, of equestrian rank. Agrippa was about the same age as Octavian, and the two were educated together and became close friends. He probably first served in Caesar's Spanish campaign of 46–45 BC. Caesar regarded him highly enough to send him with Octavius in 45 BC to train in Illyria. When Octavian returned to Rome after Caesar's assassination, Agrippa became his close lieutenant, performing many tasks. He probably started his political career in 43 BC as a tribune of the people and then a member of the Senate. Then he was one of the leading Octavian's generals, finally becoming THE leading general and admiral in the civil wars of the subsequent years.

In 38 as a governor of Transalpine Gaul Agrippa undertook an expedition to Germania, thus becoming the first Roman general since Julius Caesar to cross the Rhine. During this foray he helped the Germanic tribe of Ubii (who previously allied themselves with Caesar in 55 BC) to resettle on the west bank of the Rhine. A shrine was dedicated there, possibly to Divus Caesar whom Ubii fondly remembered, and the village became known as Ara Ubiorum, "Altar of Ubians". This quickly would become an important Roman settlement. Agrippina the Younger, Agrippa's granddaughter, wife of Emperor Claudius and mother of Emperor Nero, would be born there in 15 AD. In 50 AD she would sponsor this village to be upgraded to a colonia, and it would be renamed Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (colony of Claudius [at] the Altar of Agrippinians – Ubii renamed themselves as Agrippinians to honor the augusta!), abbreviated as CCAA, later to become the capital of new Roman province, Germania Inferior.

In 37 BC Octavian recalled Agrippa back to Rome and arranged for him to win the consular elections, he desperately needed help in naval warfare with Sextus Pompey, the youngest son of Pompey the Great, who styled himself as the last supporter of the republican cause, but in reality became a pirate king, an irony since his father was the one who virtually exterminated piracy in all the Roman waters. He forced humiliating armistice on the triumvirs in 39 BC and when Octavian renewed the hostilities a year later, defeated him in a decisive naval battle of Messina. New fleet had to be built and trained, and Agrippa was the man for the job. Agrippa's solution was creating a huge secret naval base he called Portus Iulius by connecting together lakes Avernus, Avernus and the natural inner and outer harbors behind Cape Misenum at the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. He also created a larger type of ship and developed a new naval weapon: harpax – a ballista-launched grapnel shot with mechanisms that allowed pulling enemy ships close for easy boarding. It replaced the previous boarding device that Romans used since the First Punic War, corvus – effective, but extremely cumbersome. A later defence against it were scythe blades on long poles for cutting ropes, but since this invention was developed in secret, the enemy had no chance to prepare anything like it. It all has proved extremely effective: in a series of naval engagements Agrippa annihilated the fleet of Sextus, forced him to abandon his bases and run away. For this Agrippa was awarded an unprecedented honour that no Roman before or after him received: a rostral crown, "corona rostrata", a wreath decorated in front by a prow and beak of a ship.

That's why Virgil (Aeneid VIII, 683-684), describing Agrippa at Actium, says: "…belli insigne superbum, tempora navali fulgent rostrata corona." "…the proud military decoration, gleams on his brow the naval rostral crown". Actium, the decisive battle between forces of Octavian and Mark Antony, may appear boring compared to the war with Sextus, but it probably turned out this way due to Agrippa's victories in preliminary naval engagements and taking over all the strategy from Octavian.

In between the wars Agrippa has shown an unusual talent in city planning, not only constructing many new public buildings etc., but also greatly improving Rome's sanitation by doing a complete overhaul of all the aqueducts and sewers. Typically, it was Augustus who later would boast that "he had found the city of brick but left it of marble", forgetting that, just like in his naval successes, it was Agrippa who did most of the work. Agrippa had building programs in other Roman cities as well, a magnificent temple (currently known as Maison Carrée) survives in Nîmes itself, which was probably built by Agrippa.

Later relationship between Augustus and Agrippa seemed colder for a while, Agrippa seemed to even go into "exile", but modern historians agree that it was just a ploy: Augustus wanted others to think that Agrippa was his "rival" while in truth he was keeping a significant army far away from Rome, ready to come to the rescue in case Augustus' political machinations fail. It is confirmed by the fact that later Agrippa was recalled and given authority almost equal to Augustus himself, not to mention that he married Augustus' only biological child. The last years of Agrippa's life were spent governing the eastern provinces, were he won respect even of the Jews. He also restored Crimea to Roman Empire. His last service was starting the conquest of the upper Danube, were later the province of Pannonia would be. He suddenly died of illness in 12 BC, aged ~51.

Agrippa had several children through his three marriages. Through some of his children, Agrippa would become ancestor to many subsequent members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He has numerous other legacies.
Yurii P
1ba Caesar's Siege of Massilia11 viewsL Hostilivs Saserna, moneyer
49-44 BC

Denarius, 48 BC

Head of Gallia, right, Gaulish trumpet behind
HOSTILIVS SASTERNA, Diana of Ephesus with stag

Seaby, Hostilia 4

This piece appears to refer to Julius Caesar's siege of Massilia (Marseille) during the civil war in 49 BC.

In The Civil Wars, Julius Caesar recorded: While this treaty was going forward, Domitius arrived at Massilia with his fleet, and was received into the city, and made governor of it. The chief management of the war was intrusted to him. At his command they send the fleet to all parts; they seize all the merchantmen they could meet with, and carry them into the harbor; they apply the nails, timber, and rigging, with which they were furnished to rig and refit their other vessels. They lay up in the public stores, all the corn that was found in the ships, and reserve the rest of their lading and convoy for the siege of the town, should such an event take place. Provoked at such ill treatment, Caesar led three legions against Massilia, and resolved to provide turrets, and vineae to assault the town, and to build twelve ships at Arelas, which being completed and rigged in thirty days (from the time the timber was cut down), and being brought to Massilia, he put under the command of Decimus Brutus; and left Caius Trebonius his lieutenant, to invest the city.
3960 SAMARIA, Caesarea Maritima. Hadrian AE 23 Tyche standing15 viewsReference.
RPC III, 3960; SNG ANS 769; Kadman, Caesarea 26; Rosenberger 23; De Saulcy 4; BMC 64

laureate and draped bust right

Tyche of Caesarea standing left, foot on harbor god his head, bust of Hadrian in right and scepter in left

7.47 gr
23 mm
706 Hadrian Sestertius Roma 132-34 AD Galley left57 viewsReference
RIC 706; Strack 837; C. 657; Banti 337

Laureate head right.

Galley moving left with stearman and five rowers; vexillum on prow.

23.61 gr
31 mm

Stack's Bowers Galleries January 2013 N.Y.I.N.C. lot 5210

An acrostolium is an ornamental extension of the stem post on the prow of an ancient warship. Often used as a symbol of victory or of power at sea. (numiswiki)
1st-4th Century AD:
The Ship in Imperial Rome

Realizing its importance, Augustus established the Roman navy along lines similar to that of the legions. In addition to a number of key harbors, from which ships could be deployed, he stationed several fleets (Latin classes) in key areas throughout the empire. Among these, the classis Britannica patrolled the channel between Gaul and Britannia, protecting the shipping lanes. Its strategic regional importance is commemorated in the coinage of several of the period usurpers from the area. M. Aurelius Postumus was the first to do so (lots 676-679). His bronze ship issues carry the legend LAETITIA AVG, emphasizing the source of imperial well-being resides in a strong navy. The usurper M. Aurelius Carausius, commander of the classis Britannica under Diocletian, struck coins commemorating, in part, his control of that fleet and its abilities in keeping the sea lanes open (lot 680). His short-lived successor, Allectus, continued the type (lots 681-684).

One important function of the navy was the transportation of the imperial family on state visits. From the time of Augustus, vessels were dispatched to carry the emperor between the capital and the provinces. One such instance is commemorated in a rare bronze as, struck at Patrae in AD 66/7 (lot 609). The reverse depicts the quinquereme used to carry Nero on his infamous tour of Greece. Hadrian’s extensive travels were recorded with a wide variety of ship types struck at Rome (lots 610-622), and in the East (lot 623). An inscription from Ephesus (Syll. III 3241), records that a local captain, L. Erastus, used his ship to transport the emperor while he was in that area. A coin struck at Alexandria (lot 624) is of particular importance for, in the same year as the coin was struck Antinoüs drowned as the imperial party was sailing up the Nile. Hadrian’s successors continued to travel, now to shore up border conflicts or prepare for one of the periodic wars with Persia (lots 625-627; 631-675). By the middle of the third century AD local issues, rather than those minted at the imperial capital, recorded these events, a sign that the center of power was drifting away from Rome itself.

Warships were not the exclusive vessel of the Roman navy. Providing the empire with an uninterrupted supply of grain, as well as other necessary supplies, necessitated the construction of ship for such a purpose. Unlike the warship, which required speed and strength for ramming, the merchantman (Greek nau~ stroggulh; Latin navis oneraria) was of broader beam. Many of these vessels, like the ponto or more common actuaria resembled the shape of a trireme and could be powered by both oars and sails. Since ships of this type were used to transport vital commodities such as wine and grain, they, like the large ponto, are often those shown on coins from the Black Sea (lots 655 and 664-666). The great Roman merchantman, or corbita, often seen in part on imperial issues commemorating the annona, is more familiar (lots 607-608). Powered by two large sails, it featured a rear cabin in the shape of a swan and was the true workhorse of Roman merchant vessels; its type continued well into the Byzantine period.
3 commentsokidoki
Alexandria11 viewsAlexandria was one of the most famous cities in the world. It was founded around a small pharaonic town c. 331 BC by Alexander the Great. It remained Egypt's capital for nearly a thousand years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641, when a new capital was founded at Fustat (Fustat was later absorbed into Cairo). Alexandria was known because of its Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its library (the largest library in the ancient world); and the Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Ongoing maritime archaeology in the harbor of Alexandria, which began in 1994, is revealing details of Alexandria both before the arrival of Alexander, when a city named Rhacotis existed there, and during the Ptolemaic dynasty.ancientone
Angusshire 1020 viewsObv: DUNDEE HALF-PENNY 1795, the ancient tower of Dundee, OLD TOWER FOUNDED 1189, in exergue.

Rev: COMMERCE AUGMENTS DUNDEE, a view of a harbor, with a ship alongside a quay, DEI DONUM arms supporters and motto below, WRIGHT DELIN, at the sides.


Half Penny Conder Token

Dalton & Hamer, Angusshire, Dundee 10
SPQR Coins
BCC CM1361 viewsRoman Provincial
Caesarea Maritima
Hostilian 250-251 CE
Radiate, (draped or cuirassed?) bust right.
Tyche standing to left, holding bust, staff and rudder.
Her right foot rests on a prow, she steers the ship of state.
At her feet to her left, not so visible here, is a port worker,
perhaps a god, representing the harbor of Sebastos. He gazes
up at her in adoration for her protection of the city. Large parts
of the statue that I believe formed the model for this coin were
found in the 1970's by the Joint Expedition to Caesarea
Maritima, and are now on display in the museum there.
AE 24mm. 14.1g. Axis:0
Kadman #187 var. (radiate bust), very rare.
BCC M98-M10245 viewsCaesarea Minimae
Five minute coins from Caesarea Maritima
Mint: Caesarea?
Obv:Head of Tyche, or female head,
often crudely rendered.
Rev: Various styles of galley.

M98: 13x11mm 0.79gm. Axis:300
M99: 12 x 11.5mm 0.97gm Axis:270 cf. Ham# 65
M100: 10mm 0.53gm Axis: 150 cf. Ham# 59
(same reverse die?)
M101: 10mm 0.44gm Axis:210 cf. Ham# 66
M102: 10mm 0.55gm Axis:30 cf . Ham# 70

Hamburger assignes this type to the mint at
Caesarea because of the frequency of finds,
as well as the importance of the galley to the
harbor of Caesarea. He suggests a date of early
through late 3rd century CE based on the
popularity of the bust of Tyche on colonial
coinage from that era.

H. Hamburger “Minute Coins from Caesarea
Maritima” Atiqot, Vol.1, 1954. #59-#74
(click for higher resolution)
BITHYNIA. Caesarea Germanica. Caracalla (198-217). Harbor of Caesarea Germanica20 viewsReference.
RG -; SNG von Aulock -; SNG Copenhagen; apparently unpublished.

Laureate and cuirassed bust right.

Overhead view of the harbor of Caesarea Germanica, containing galley under sail right and with pharos and column at each side; within harbor, distyle temple set upon pediment; below, bull reclining left, head right.

Extremely rare and interesting

11.97 gr
29 mm
1 commentsokidoki
Calabria Italy Taras on Dolphin21 viewsTaras, Calabria, Italy, c. 272 - 240 B.C., Silver nomos, Unpublished(?); Vlasto 932 var. (different controls), SNG ANS 1239 var. (same), HN Italy 1044 var. (same), SNG Cop -, BMC Italy -, VF, 6.520g, 19.7mm, die axis 180°,
OBV: Nude warrior wearing crested helmet on horse standing left, holding shield on left arm, horse raising right foreleg, ET (control) before horse, API-ΣTΩN below divided by horse's left foreleg;
REV: Taras on dolphin left, kantharos in extended right hand, trident nearly vertical in left, ΓY (control) behind upper right, TAPAΣ below;

Very Rare variant. EX: Forum Ancient Coins

Taras, the only Spartan colony, was founded in 706 B.C. The founders were Partheniae ("sons of virgins"), sons of unmarried Spartan women and Perioeci (free men, but not citizens of Sparta).
These out-of-wedlock unions were permitted to increase the prospective number of soldiers (only the citizens could be soldiers) during the bloody Messenian wars. Later, however, when they were no longer
needed, their citizenship was retroactively nullified and the sons were obliged to leave Greece forever. Their leader, Phalanthus, consulted the oracle at Delphi and was told to make the harbor of Taranto
their home. They named the city Taras after the son of Poseidon, and of a local nymph, Satyrion. The reverse depicts Taras being saved from a shipwreck by a dolphin sent to him by Poseidon.
This symbol of the ancient Greek city is still the symbol of modern Taranto today.

Campania, Neapolis. (Circa 300 BC)19 viewsAR Didrachm

20 mm, 6.98 g

Obverse: Head of nymph r., wearing taenia, triple-pendant earring and necklace; four dolphins around (only the bottom two around the neck visible).

Reverse: Man-headed bull walking r., being crowned by Nike; ΘE below bull. [NE]OΠOΛI[TΩN] in exergue

Sambon 457; HNItaly 576; SNG ANS 336.

Neapolis was founded ca. 650 B.C. from Cumae (a nearby city and the first Greek colony on mainland Italy). Ancient tradition records that it had originally been named after the siren Parthenope, who had been washed ashore on the site after failing to capture Odysseus (Sil. Pun. 12.33-36). The early city, which was called Palae(o)polis, developed in the SW along the modern harbor area and included Pizzofalcone and Megaris (the Castel dell'Ovo), a small island in the harbor. Megaris itself may have been the site of a still older Rhodian trading colony (Strab. 14.2.10). Owing to the influx of Campanian immigrants, the town began to develop to the NE along a Hippodamian grid plan. This new extension was called Neapolis, while Palae(o)polis became a suburb. Incited to a war with Rome by the Greek elements, the city was captured in 326 B.C. by the proconsul Quintus Publilius Philo (Liv. 8.22.9), and the suburb ceased to exist. Neapolis then became a favored ally of the Romans; it repulsed Pyrrhos, contributed naval support during the First Punic War, and withstood the attacks of Hannibal.
Nathan P
Corinth, Corinthia16 views14-37 AD (Reign of Tiberius)
AE Semis (14mm, 3.03g)
O: Pegasus flying right.
R: Melikertes naked, swimming with dolphin left, left hand holding dorsal fin.
Amandry XVI63
ex Agora Auctions

Melikertes was the mortal son of Ino who, while fleeing from her insane husband, flung herself and her son into the ocean from a high cliff near Megara. The two were immediately transformed into sea dieties, and Melikertes was brought ashore to Corinth by a dolphin. Melikertes became Palaimon the patron of sailors, and identified with the Roman god of harbors Portunus.
Melikertes is sometimes depicted with a fish tail and has been associated with the Phoenician god Malquart. It is very easy to see an iconographic similarity between Melikertes and Arion of Corinth or Phalanthos of Taras.
Gallieno, R/ FORTVNA (?), antoniniano13 viewsGallieno, R/ FORTVNA (?), antoniniano
Nota: ceduta dal venditore come imitativa. DISPERSA NEL TRASPORTO POSTALE
Provenienza: collezione Berardengo. Roma Italia (22 aprile 2008, numero catalogo S2); ex David Connors collection (Oak Harbor WA Usa, prima del 2008)
Greece, The acropolis at Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon, from across the harbor.70 viewsTaken September 29, 2016cmcdon0923
GREEK, Illyria, Dyrrachion. AR Stater85 viewsCirca 340-280 BC (21mm, 10.71 g, 4h). Maier 23 var. (lizard on rev.); Meadows, Coin Hoard (forthcoming) 175 (this coin); SNG Copenhagen –; BMC 17 var. (same). Obverse Cow standing right, looking back at suckling calf standing left below; above, wasp right. Reverse Double stellate pattern, divided by line, in double linear square border (single on one side); DYP retrograde, club below; all within linear circle border. Good VF, bright surfaces, some porosity. Well centered. Very rare.

Ex Classical Numismatic Group 93rd Printed Auction, lot 190.

Dyrrhachion was founded as Epidamnos in the ancient region of Illyria in 627 BC by ancient Greek colonists from Corinth and Korkyra. The city's geographical position was highly advantageous, as it was situated around a natural rocky harbor which was surrounded by inland swamps and high cliffs on the seaward side, making the city very difficult to attack from either land or sea. The city, together with Corinth’s conflict with Korkyra was one of the causes in precipitating the Peloponnesian War. Dyrrhachion was noted for being a politically advanced society, prompting Aristotle to praise its political system in controlling trade between the Greek colonists and the locals. The Romans prefer calling the city Dyrrhacium since the last two syllables of the city’s name “–damnos” connotes a different meaning and inauspicious to Roman ears. The designs of the staters of Korkyra as well as its colonies, Apollonia and Dyrrhachion, have been the subject of much numismatic speculation. Eckhel (Doctrina numorum veterum [Vienna, 1792/3], II:155) accepted the view of Laurentius Beger (Observationes Et Conjecturae In Numismata Quaedam Antiqua [Brandenburg, 1691]), who argued that the design represented the garden of Alkinöos, the mythical king of Phaiakia, described in detail by the poet Homer (Od. 7.112-133). Based on the assumption that mythical Phaiakia was the island of ancient Korkyra (mod. Corfu), and knowing that Korkyrans colonized both Apollonia and Dyrrhachion, Beger (and through him, Eckhel) concluded that the central elements were flowers and that the overall design must represent either the layout of the garden, or the doors leading to it. Other numismatists argued that the central elements of the design were more star-like. While Böckh and Müller (in P. Gardner, "Floral patterns on Archaic Greek coins," NC 1881, p. 1) felt this to be the case, they considered the elements to be nothing more than a fortuitous series of random strokes. Friedlander and von Sallet (Das königliche Münzkabinett [Berlin, 1877], coins 72-75) viewed them as symbols of the Dioskouri. Proponents of either interpretation continue to argue their views (see Alfred Maier, "Die Silberprägung von Apollonia und Dyrrhachion," NZ 41 [1908], p. 2 and note 4 [garden]; Traité, Part II, Volume I, column 931 [garden]; Michael E. Marotta, "Dyrrachium: Rome's doorway to Greece," Celator [April 1997], pp. 6-7 [garden]; Gyula Petrányi, “Gardens of Alkinoos: Fact or Fiction?” on the reverse pattern of the silver coins from Corcyra, Apollonia and Dyrrachium," Celator [November 1998], pp. 22-24 [Dioskouroi]). Gardner (op. cit.) was convinced that the reverse design had a religious meaning, but was unconvinced that the symbols were either a garden layout, or stars. Instead, he favored a floral interpretation. He argued that this was indicated not only by their general shape, but in some particular instances by an intentional modification to make them appear more floral. Noting a similarity between the reverse types of Korkyran staters – the model for the staters of Apollonia and Dyrrhachion – and those of other Greek city-states, most notably Miletos and Kyrene, he argued that this was due to a common religious cult between them, since he believed that Greek coin types were primarily religious in origin. Arguing that the most probable deity was Apollo, Gardner concluded that the reference was to Apollo Aristaios or Nomios, a pastoral version of that god who was worshiped (among other places) both at Kyrene and throughout northern Greece and was known to be the protectors of flocks (cf. Pind. Pyth. 9.64-65). Most recently, Nicolet-Pierre revisited the issue of the reverse design in her article on the archaic coinage of Korkyra ("À props du monnayage archaïque de Corcyre," SNR 88 (2009), pp. 2-3), and offered a novel interpretation. Noting a passage of Thucydides (3.70.4) in which that author cited the existence on the island of a sacred precinct (temenos) and dedicated to Zeus and Alkinöos, she suggested that the reverse design might have been inspired by this, and not Homer's garden of Alkinöos. Since Apollonia and Dyrrhachion, as colonies of Korkyra, employed that island's designs in their own coinage, it is necessary to explain why Korkyra used such symbols on its coinage. The archaic staters of Korkyra were the first issues to employ a cow standing right (or left), suckling its calf on the obverse. (BMC 1-8 [for cow right]; BMC 9-16 [for cow left]). A similar obverse design appears on the coinage of Karystos in Euboia and, according to Plutarch (Quaest. Graec.), Korkyra was settled by Euboians, whose coinage symbol was a bovine. Several dedications in the form of a bronze bull are attested for the Korkyrans and the island's patron god was Apollo. The reverse design of the archaic staters consists of a pair of incuse punches, consisting of stars (BMC 1 and pl. XXI, 1). That the symbol was a star is certain, as fractions of this series and subsequent issues with a star on the obverse make plain. One stater (BMC 10 and pl. XXI, 2), puts the star design in a more abstract arrangement, becoming the precursor of the reverse design type employed in later stater issues (BMC 39 and pl. XXI, 9). The striking lines formed by the incuse punches are retained in the later design as lines of the frame. Thus, the staters of Apollonia, Dyrhachion, and Korkyra demonstrate a meticulous progressive recopying of an archaic coin type that continued under its colonies, and not an allusion to a possible Homeric past.

Jason T
HARBOUR, NERO, AE Sestertius (Portus Claudii)131 viewsÆ sestertius (22.54g, maximum Ø34.24mm, 6h), Lugdunum mint, struck AD 66.
Obv.: IMP NERO CAESAR AVG P MAX TR P P P, laureate head of Nero right, globe below tip of bust.
Rev.: PORT AVG (below) S C (above), aerial view of the harbour of Ostia, showing pier, breakwaters, lighthouse surmounted by the statue of Neptune, seven ships, and the figure of Tiber reclining left in foreground, holding rudder and dolphin.
Mac Dowall (The western Coinages of Nero, ANS SSN 161) 476; RIC 586 (R2); BMCRE 323 var. (different obv. legend); Cohen 253 var. (emperor's head to left); CBN 74 var. (different obv. legend); Sear (RCV) 1953var.

Rome's original harbour was Ostia, situated at the mouth of the Tiber. It could not easily handle large sea-going vessels such as those of the grain fleet. Therefore, Claudius initiated the construction of a new all-weather harboru at Portus, about 4 km north of Ostia. The project was completed under Nero who renamed the harbour "Portus Augusti".

It was a huge project enclosing an area of 69 hectares, with two long curving moles projecting into the sea, and an artificial island, bearing a lighthouse, in the centre of the space between the moles. The foundation of this lighthouse was provided by filling with concrete and sinking one of the massive ships that Caligula had used to transport an obelisk from Egypt for the Circus Maximus. These giant ships had a length of around 100m and displaced a minimum of 7400 tons. The harbour opened directly to the sea on the northwest and communicated with the Tiber by a channel on the southeast. However, it was very exposed to the weather and under Trajan was superseded by a new land-locked inner basin linked to the Tiber by a canal.
3 commentsCharles S
Illyria, Dyrrhachion. AR Stater.55 viewsCirca 340-280 BC. AR Stater (21mm, 10.71 g, 4h). Maier 23 var. (lizard on rev.); A. Meadows, Coin Hoards (forthcoming) 175 (this coin); SNG Copenhagen –; BMC 17 var. (same). Obverse Cow standing right, looking back at suckling calf standing left below; above, wasp right. Reverse Double stellate pattern (or stylized double thunderbolts of Zeus), divided by line, in double linear square border (single on one side); DYR retrograde, club below; all within linear circle border. Good VF, bright surfaces, some porosity. Well centered. Very rare (R2).

Ex CNG 93rd Printed Auction, lot 190.

Dyrrhachion was founded as Epidamnos in the ancient region of Illyria along the Adriatic coast in 627 BC by ancient Greek colonists from Corinth and Korkyra. The city's geographical position was highly advantageous, as it was situated around a natural rocky harbor which was surrounded by inland swamps and high cliffs on the seaward side, making the city very difficult to attack from either land or sea. The city, together with Corinth’s conflict (a "tipping point") with Korkyra was one of the causes of precipitating the Peloponnesian War. Dyrrahchion was noted for being a politically advanced society, prompting Aristotle to praise its political system in controlling trade between the Greek colonists and the locals. The Romans prefer calling the city Dyrrhacium since the last two syllables of the city’s name “–damnos” connotes a different meaning and inauspicious to Roman ears.

1 commentsJason T
Mark Antony Fleet coinage156 viewsMarcus Antonius Fleet coinage (Light Series)

Conjoined heads of Marcus Antonius and Octavia right

Galley under sail right

Tarentum (?) summer 37 BC

Sear 1497, RPC 1470, CRI 296,

Very rare in any condition

Cleaned by Kevin at NRC.

The legendary Fleet coinage of Antony belongs to two series, heavy and light. The "light series" is thought to have been minted at a later date, possibly just after Antony returned from his conference with Octavian in 37 BC. The meeting saw the Pact of Tarentum. Part of that agreement saw Antony loan 120 ships to Octavian along with his Admirals Altratinus and Capito.

A fine insight into Antony's administrative abilities can be seen by his fleet coinage that came in sestertius, dupondius and as denominations. Of note is that Antony's "Fleet Coinage" shows the appearance of the first sestertius in bronze rather than silver. When Octavian (Augustus) reformed the coinage 20 years later he maintained the exact same denominations; sestertius, dupondius and as. After Actium Octavian also kept many if not all of the client Kings in their positions and territories. A strong case for Antony's capabilities as an administrator.

M. Oppius Capito occupied an important position in Antony's inner circle although little is known of him. Capito's coins are more abundant than those of his colleagues and only Capito's coins include the title "Praefectus classis" (Prefect of the fleet). Most of his coins are found in Greece and were probably minted in Piraeus, the harbor complex of Athens. Athens at this time was the home of Antony and Octavia so it is likely that Capito's mint would be located here.

Sold to Calgary Coin Jan 2016
4 commentsJay GT4
NABATEI, Bronzo-AE, Petra. Aretas IV e Shuqailat (9 a.C.- 40 d.C.)66 viewsNabatei, AE18. Coniato a Petra tra il 9 a.C. e il 40 d.C. Regno di Aretas IV
AE, gr. 5,0. mm 18, MB+/BB
D/ busti accostati di Aretas IV (togato) e della principessa Shuqailat, sua figlia
R/ cornucopie incrociate
SNG Part 6 #1438.
Provenienza: collezione Berardengo, Roma Italia (23 novembre 2007, numero catalogo 61); ex David Connors collection, Oak Harbor WA Usa, fino al 2007).
1 commentspaolo
Neapolis, Campania43 views270-240 BC
AE19 (19mm, 5.38g)
O: Laureate head of Apollo left; NEOΠOΛITΩN before, Ξ behind.
R: Man headed bull right, crowned by Nike flying right; IΣ below.
Graziano 423; MSP I, 364; Sambon ---; SNG ANS 477; Hands Type IV; HN Italy 589; Sear 557
ex Ancient Imports

“I will remember and not forget far-shooting Apollo.
Gods tremble as he approaches the home of Zeus:
All rise from their seats as he draws near
when he stretches his gleaming bow…
… How to praise you, celebrated in so many hymns?
Phoibos, the range of songs for you spreads over
all the islands and lands that feed calves.
All high places please you, from the mountain
headlands, to the rivers that flow seaward,
and the rugged banks sloping to the sea and harbor.”
~ Homeric Hymn to Apollo (Diane Rayor translation)
1 commentsEnodia
Nero Æ sestertius34 viewsNero Æ sestertius. Lugdunum, 67 A.D.. Laureate bust left, globe at point of bust / Port of Ostia with ships in the harbor and pharos; below is a reclining figure of Tiber, holding rudder and dolphin. 34 mm, 20.54 g, 6 h. RIC 589; WCN 470. Ex. John C. LavenderHolding_History
Nero, RIC 586, Sestertius of AD 66 (Portus Augusti)71 viewsÆ sestertius (22.54g, maximum Ø34.24mm, 6h), Lugdunum mint, struck AD 66.
Obv.: IMP NERO CAESAR AVG P MAX TR P P P, laureate head of Nero right, globe below tip of bust.
Rev.: PORT AVG (below) S C (above), aerial view of the harbor of Ostia, showing pier, breakwaters, lighthouse surmounted by the statue of Neptune, seven ships, and the figure of Tiber reclining left in foreground, holding rudder and dolphin.
Mac Dowall (The western Coinages of Nero, ANS SSN 161) 476; RIC 586 (R2); BMCRE 323 var. (different obv. legend); Cohen 253 var. (emperor's head to left); CBN 74 var. (different obv. legend); Sear (RCV) 1953var.

Certificate of Authenticity: David R Sear / A.C.C.S. Ref. 100CR/RI/C/V (January 6, 2015): "Grade: F and very rare, one of the most interesting types of Nero's sestertius series "

Extract of Sear's Historical and Numismatic Note: "This example commemorates the completion of the great harbor project to serve the needs of the imperial capital initiated by Claudius and completed under Nero. Ostia is situated at the mouth of the Tiber, but could not easily handle large sea-going vessels such as those of the grain fleet. Accordingly, Claudius initiated the construction of a new all-weather harbor at Portus, about two miles along the coast line to the north. This was a huge project, involving the construction of two great moles jutting out into the sea. The lighthouse erected at the end of one of these moles was built on foundations formed by sinking a large ship that Caligula had used to transport an obelisk from Egypt. This harbor, however, was very exposed to the weather and under Trajan was superseded by a new land-locked inner basin linked to the Tiber by a canal (cf. P.Connolly and H.Hodge, The Ancient City. Life in Classical Athens and Rome, pp. 128-30)"
3 commentsCharles S
Pamphylia, Aspendos AR Stater56 viewsCirca 330/25-300/250 BC. (26mm, 10.58 g, 12h). Tekin Series 5; SNG von Aulock-4573; SNG France-115. Obverse: Two naked wrestlers grappling; monogram between. Reverse: Slinger in throwing stance right; EΣTFEΔIY to left; to right, triskeles over downward facing club; all within dotted circle border. Minor die break on obverse. Good VF, toned, well centered.


The ancient city Aspendos was an important Greek colony and harbor city on the river Eurymedon located 7 miles off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. In the fifth century BCE, the city commenced minting coins based on the Persian standard, which was then common in Persian-ruled Asia Minor. The wrestler-type, began in the fourth century, probably refers to either pankration or pale (wrestling) victory in one of the Panhellenic games. The slinger on the reverse may be a punning reference to the city's name, since sphendone ("sling") sounds similar to Aspendos. The triskeles to the slinger's right might depict the city's badge. The ethnic on the reverse, Estwediu, corresponds to the Greek genitive case Aspendiou ("of the Aspendians"). It is interesting to note that the ethnic is spelled utilizing the then-archaic ancient Greek letter digamma F (pronounced “w”). Other known coinages which used the digamma letter were Elis in the Peloponnesos and Lydian “Walwet” coins. The Aspendians also liked to stress out that their city had been established by the Argives. The club of the Argive hero Herakles on the reverse may refer to the event when Argos bestowed honorary Argive citizenship to all Aspendians in a decree dated around 330-300 B.C. that was set up in Nemea, the site of the Nemean games. (Part of commentary extracted from HFMA Coin Catalogue).

2 commentsJason T
Ragusa (now, Dubrovnik, Croatia)62 viewsCNI VI Type 6, Group 2, Mimica Type XVII, Resetar Type 17

AE minca (follaro), 17-18 mm. Struck ca. 1546-1551.

Obv: • MONETA—RACVSII, Laureate female head left, hair bunched in back.

Rev: • CIVITAS • • RACVSII, City walls with three towers and one gate, double line (stylized harbor) below.

Note: This coin does not appear to match any of the specific coins identified in the references, but seems to fall within the types indicated above.
ROMAN EMPIRE, Nero, 13 October 54 - 9 June 68 A.D.18 viewsSH86120. Orichalcum sestertius, RIC I 178, BMCRE I 131, Cohen I 37, Mac Dowall WCN 120, BnF I -, VF, well centered, nice portrait, near black patina, scratches on obverse lower right field, some porosity and tiny pitting, weight 26.031 g, maximum diameter 34.0 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, c. 64 A.D.; obverse NERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P, laureate bust right, wearing aegis; reverse AVGVSTI above, S - C divided by POR OST below, bird's-eye view Ostia harbor: pharos lighthouse with Neptune statue on top at far side center; crescent-shaped pier with building and figure sacrificing at far end, crescent-shaped row of breakwaters or slips on right with figure seated on rock at far end, 7 ships within port; river god Tiber reclining left holding rudder and dolphin below; ex Gorny & Mosch auction 195 (7 Mar 2011), lot 405Joe Sermarini
ROMAN EMPIRE, Nero, Sestertius, AE Rome mint, struck 64 AD657 viewsNERO CLAVD CAESAR AVG GER P M TR P IMP P P laureate-headed bust right with aegis on left shoulder
AVGVSTI, POR OST, SC bird’s eye view of a the new Ostia harbor; at top pharos surmounted by a statue (light house); at bottom, reclining figure of Neptune left, holding rudder and dolphin
RIC 181, Cohen 33 (20 Fr.)

ex. Arthur Bally-Herzog collection

15 commentsdupondius
SAMARIA, Caesarea Maritima. Hadrian. 117-138 CE. 11 viewsObv. Laureate and draped bust right.
Rev. Tyche of Caesarea standing left, holding bust of emperor and sceptre, foot on galley; harbor god at feet.
References: Kadman 26; Rosenberger 23; SNG ANS 768; Hendin.
20mm, 7.5grams.
8.3 MM AND 0.45 GRAMS. Sear 5940v
OBVERSE – Bearded diety about to slay lion, within incuse square
REVERSE – Galley with zig-zag waves below

Like most Phoenician cities, Sidon was built on a promontory facing an island, which sheltered its fleet from storms off the sea, and became a refuge during armed incursions from the interior. lt surpassed all other Phoenician cities in wealth, commercial initiative, and religious significance. At the height of the Persian Empire (550 - 330 BC) Sidon provided Persia, a great land power, with the ships and seamen it needed to fight the Egyptians and Greeks. This vital role gave Sidon and its kings a highly favored position during that period.
Glass manufacture, Sidon's most important enterprise, was conducted on such a vast scale that the very invention of glass has often been attributed to it. Exceedingly vigorous, too, was the production of purple dye for garments of royalty, as attested by Murex Hill, a huge mound of remains of the shellfish Murex trunculus from which the dye was obtained. Sidon was also famous in ancient times for its gardens and its twin-basin harbor.

Like other Phoenician capitals, Sidon suffered the depredations of a succession of conquerors. At the end of the Persian era, unable to resist the superior forces of the emperor Artaxerxes lll, the desperate Sidonians locked their gates and immolated themselves in their homes rather than submit to the invader. More than 40,000 died in the flames. Shortly after, in 333 BC, the decimated city was too weak to oppose the triumphal march down the coast of Alexander the Great, and sued for peace.

Antonivs Protti
Skythia, Olbia. (Circa 260-250 BC)22 viewsAE 19, 7.30 g

Obv: Horned head of Borysthenes left.

Rev: OΛBIO. Axe and bow in quiver; API to left.

SNG BM Black Sea 530

Olbia was founded in the 7th century BC by colonists from Miletus. Its harbor was one of the main emporia on the Black Sea for the export of cereals, fish, and slaves to Greece, and for the import of Attic goods to Scythia.

During the reign of Alexander the Great, Olbia was attacked by the Zopyrion, who had been made a governor either of Thrace or of Pontus by Alexander. For this purpose, he collected a force of thirty thousand men.They marched along the Black Sea coast and besieged Olbia. But the Olbians "gave freedom to their slaves, granted the rights of citizenship to foreigners, changed promissory notes and thus managed to survive the siege". They also made an alliance with the Scythians. Zopyrion, lacking resources to continue the siege, decided to retreat. On his way back, Scythians destroyed his army by constant raids. Defeat was probably accomplished beyond the Danube by Getae and Triballi avenging Alexander's devastation of their lands in 335 BC. Zopyrion perished with his troops in the winter at the end of 331 BC.
Nathan P
Syria, Arwad / Ruad (Arados, Phoenicia)22 viewsArwad, an island about 800 m long by 500 m wide, about 50 km north of Tripolis, was settled in the early 2nd millennium B.C. by the Phoenicians. Ancient Arados was an important trading city surrounded by a massive wall and an artificial harbor on the east side toward the mainland. Its powerful navy and ships are mentioned in the monuments of Egypt and Assyria. In the Bible, an "Arvad" is noted as the forefather of the "Arvadites," a Canaanite people. Arados ruled some neighboring cities on the mainland, such as Marat (present-day Amrit) and Sumur, the former nearly opposite the island and the latter some kilometers to the south and held hegemony over the northern Phoenician cities from the mouth of the Orontes to the northern limits of Lebanon, something like that of Sidon in the south. Under the Persians, Arwad was allowed to unite in a confederation with Sidon and Tyre, with a common council at Tripolis. When Alexander the Great invaded Syria in 332 B.C., Arados submitted without a struggle under her king Strato, who sent his navy to aid Alexander in the reduction of Tyre. The city received the favor of the Seleucid kings of Syria and enjoyed the right of asylum for political refugees. It is mentioned in a rescript from Rome about 138 B.C. in connection with other cities and rulers of the East, to show favor to the Jews. This was after Rome had begun to interfere in the affairs of Judea and Syria and indicates that Arwad was still of considerable importance at that time.

Photo by NASA.
Joe Sermarini
Taras, Calabria96 views380-345 BC
AR Diobol (11mm, 0.95g)
O: Horse right, running free.
R: Taras astride dolphin right, left hand extended.
Vlasto 1225; Cote 177; SNG Fitzwilliam 348
Very Scarce
ex Davissons Ltd

As the first port-of-call in southern Italy from Greece, Taras’ fine natural harbor soon established the city as a major center of Greek influence.
Founded in 706 BC by the Spartan Phalanthos, Taras derived its name from the son of Poseidon, who was carried ashore by a dolphin. Legend has it that Phalanthos too, after being shipwrecked, was rescued by a dolphin, and this explains the artistic device so common throughout this prolific coinage.
2 commentsEnodia
Velia, Lucania103 views350-310 BC (Period VI: Kleudoros Group)
AR Didrachm (21mm, 7.50g)
O: Head of Athena right, wearing crested Attic helmet ornamented with griffin, swan's head at front of visor.
R: Lion prowling left; Φ above, >E monogram (Kleudoros) below, YEΛHTΩN in ex, all within linear circle.
Williams 297; SNG ANS 1312; SNG Ashmolean 1233; HN Italy 1289; Sear 460v
ex Jack H. Beymer

In 545 BC the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the Ionian colony of Phocaea in Asia Minor. The survivors fled by sea, and after a settlement on Corsica was destroyed by the Carthaginians the Phocaean refugees finally reached the south-west coast of Lucania between 538 and 535 BC, where they founded Velia on a promontory between two rivers.
Its’ natural harbor and fortunate situation on the road between Rome and Rhegion made Velia a prime center of commerce, and it soon became known throughout the Mediterranean as a profitable destination and a safe shelter from the harsh winds of the Tyrrhenian Sea. This allowed the colony to thrive, and by the middle of the 5th century BC the Eleatic school of philosophy took form here under Xenophanes and Parmenides, the latter also writing the city's constitution.
4 commentsEnodia
Velia, Lucania99 views305-290 BC (Period VII: Philistion Group)
AR Didrachm (22mm, 7.33g)
O: Head of Athena left, wearing crested Phrygian helmet decorated with griffin; palmette on neck-guard, Θ (Philistion) behind.
R: Lion standing right with head facing, devouring ram‘s head; grasshopper between Φ-I above, YEΛHTΩN in ex.
William 415; HN Italy 1305; SNG ANS 1361; SNG Ashmolean 1322-4
ex Praefectus Coins

Velia was never conquered by the Lucanians, and in 275 BC signed an alliance with Rome. However over the centuries the mouths of the two rivers between which the city was built silted up the harbor, resulting in a ruined trade. In time the city became surrounded by marshlands, malaria ensued, and its inhabitants moved away.
Velia had managed to withstand centuries of regional hostility, but withered before the forces of nature.
5 commentsEnodia
[18H907] Trajan, 25 January 98 - 8 or 9 August 117 A.D., Sepphoris, Galilee218 viewsBronze AE 23, Hendin 907, BMC 5, Fair, 7.41g, 23.1mm, 0o, Sepphoris mint, 98 - 117 A.D.; obverse TPAIANOS AYTO]-KPA[TWP EDWKEN, laureate head right; reverse SEPFW/RHNWN, eight-branched palm bearing two bunches of dates.

At the crossroads of the Via Maris and the Acre-Tiberias roads, Sepphoris was the capital of Galilee and Herod Antipas' first capital. Damaged by a riot, Antipas ordered Sepphoris be rebuilt. Flavius Josephus described the rebuilt Sepphoris as the "ornament of all Galilee." Since Sepphoris was only five miles north of Nazareth, Jesus and Joseph may have found work in Antipas' rebuilding projects. Sepphoris was built on a hill and visible for miles. This may be the city that Jesus spoke of when He said, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden."

Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a brilliant general and administrator was adopted and proclaimed emperor by the aging Nerva in 98 A.D. Regarded as one of Rome's greatest emperors, Trajan was responsible for the annexation of Dacia, the invasion of Arabia and an extensive and lavish building program across the empire. Under Trajan, Rome reached its greatest extent. Shortly after the annexation of Mesopotamia and Armenia, Trajan was forced to withdraw from most of the new Arabian provinces. While returning to Rome to direct operations against the new threats, Trajan died at Selinus in Cilicia.

De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families

Trajan (A.D. 98-117)

Herbert W. Benario
Emory University

Introduction and Sources
"During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this and of the two succeeding chapters to describe the prosperous condition of their empire, and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall, a revolution which will ever be remembered and is still felt by the nations of the earth."

This is perhaps the most important and best known of all Edward Gibbon's famous dicta about his vast subject, and particularly that period which he admired the most. It was a concatenation of chance and events which brought to the first position of the principate five men, each very different from the others, who each, in his own way, brought integrity and a sense of public duty to his tasks. Nerva's tenure was brief, as many no doubt had expected and hoped it would be, and perhaps his greatest achievement was to choose Trajan as his adoptive son and intended successor. It was a splendid choice. Trajan was one of Rome's most admirable figures, a man who merited the renown which he enjoyed in his lifetime and in subsequent generations.

The sources for the man and his principate are disappointingly skimpy. There is no contemporaneous historian who can illuminate the period. Tacitus speaks only occasionally of Trajan, there is no biography by Suetonius, nor even one by the author of the late and largely fraudulent Historia Augusta. (However, a modern version of what such a life might have been like has been composed by A. Birley, entirely based upon ancient evidence. It is very useful.) Pliny the Younger tells us the most, in his Panegyricus, his long address of thanks to the emperor upon assuming the consulship in late 100, and in his letters. Pliny was a wordy and congenial man, who reveals a great deal about his senatorial peers and their relations with the emperor, above all, of course, his own. The most important part is the tenth book of his Epistulae, which contains the correspondence between him, while serving in Bithynia, and the emperor, to whom he referred all manner of problems, important as well as trivial. Best known are the pair (96,97) dealing with the Christians and what was to be done with them. These would be extraordinarily valuable if we could be sure that the imperial replies stemmed directly from Trajan, but that is more than one can claim. The imperial chancellery had developed greatly in previous decades and might pen these communications after only the most general directions from the emperor. The letters are nonetheless unique in the insight they offer into the emperor's mind.

Cassius Dio, who wrote in the decade of the 230s, wrote a long imperial history which has survived only in abbreviated form in book LXVIII for the Trajanic period. The rhetorician Dio of Prusa, a contemporary of the emperor, offers little of value. Fourth-century epitomators, Aurelius Victor and Eutropius, offer some useful material. Inscriptions, coins, papyri, and legal texts are of major importance. Since Trajan was a builder of many significant projects, archaeology contributes mightily to our understanding of the man.

Early Life and Career
The patria of the Ulpii was Italica, in Spanish Baetica , where their ancestors had settled late in the third century B.C. This indicates that the Italian origin was paramount, yet it has recently been cogently argued that the family's ancestry was local, with Trajan senior actually a Traius who was adopted into the family of the Ulpii. Trajan's father was the first member of the family to pursue a senatorial career; it proved to be a very successful one. Born probably about the year 30, he perhaps commanded a legion under Corbulo in the early sixties and then was legate of legio X Fretensis under Vespasian, governor of Judaea. Success in the Jewish War was rewarded by the governorship of an unknown province and then a consulate in 70. He was thereafter adlected by the emperor in patricios and sent to govern Baetica. Then followed the governorship of one of the major military provinces, Syria, where he prevented a Parthian threat of invasion, and in 79/80 he was proconsul of Asia, one of the two provinces (the other was Africa) which capped a senatorial career. His public service now effectively over, he lived on in honor and distinction, in all likelihood seeing his son emperor. He probably died before 100. He was deified in 113 and his titulature read divus Traianus pater. Since his son was also the adoptive son of Nerva, the emperor had officially two fathers, a unique circumstance.

The son was born in Italica on September 18, 53; his mother was Marcia, who had given birth to a daughter, Ulpia Marciana, five years before the birth of the son. In the mid seventies, he was a legionary legate under his father in Syria. He then married a lady from Nemausus (Nimes) in Gallia Narbonensis, Pompeia Plotina, was quaestor about 78 and praetor about 84. In 86, he became one of the child Hadrian's guardians. He was then appointed legate of legio VII Gemina in Hispania Tarraconensis, from which he marched at Domitian's orders in 89 to crush the uprising of Antonius Saturninus along the Rhine. He next fought in Domitian's war against the Germans along Rhine and Danube and was rewarded with an ordinary consulship in 91. Soon followed the governorship of Moesia inferior and then that of Germania superior, with his headquarters at Moguntiacum (Mainz), whither Hadrian brought him the news in autumn 97 that he had been adopted by the emperor Nerva, as co-ruler and intended successor. Already recipient of the title imperator and possessor of the tribunician power, when Nerva died on January 27, 98, Trajan became emperor in a smooth transition of power which marked the next three quarters of a century.

Early Years through the Dacian Wars
Trajan did not return immediately to Rome. He chose to stay in his German province and settle affairs on that frontier. He showed that he approved Domitian's arrangements, with the establishment of two provinces, their large military garrisons, and the beginnings of the limes. Those who might have wished for a renewed war of conquest against the Germans were disappointed. The historian Tacitus may well have been one of these.

Trajan then visited the crucial Danube provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, where the Dacian king Decebalus had caused much difficulty for the Romans and had inflicted a heavy defeat upon a Roman army about a decade before. Domitian had established a modus vivendi with Decebalus, essentially buying his good behavior, but the latter had then continued his activities hostile to Rome. Trajan clearly thought that this corner of empire would require his personal attention and a lasting and satisfactory solution.

Trajan spent the year 100 in Rome, seeing to the honors and deification of his predecessor, establishing good and sensitive relations with the senate, in sharp contrast with Domitian's "war against the senate." Yet his policies essentially continued Domitian's; he was no less master of the state and the ultimate authority over individuals, but his good nature and respect for those who had until recently been his peers if not his superiors won him great favor. He was called optimus by the people and that word began to appear among his titulature, although it had not been decreed by the senate. Yet his thoughts were ever on the Danube. Preparations for a great campaign were under way, particularly with transfers of legions and their attendant auxiliaries from Germany and Britain and other provinces and the establishment of two new ones, II Traiana and XXX Ulpia, which brought the total muster to 30, the highest number yet reached in the empire's history.

In 101 the emperor took the field. The war was one which required all his military abilities and all the engineering and discipline for which the Roman army was renowned. Trajan was fortunate to have Apollodorus of Damascus in his service, who built a roadway through the Iron Gates by cantilevering it from the sheer face of the rock so that the army seemingly marched on water. He was also to build a great bridge across the Danube, with 60 stone piers (traces of this bridge still survive). When Trajan was ready to move he moved with great speed, probably driving into the heart of Dacian territory with two columns, until, in 102, Decebalus chose to capitulate. He prostrated himself before Trajan and swore obedience; he was to become a client king. Trajan returned to Rome and added the title Dacicus to his titulature.

Decebalus, however, once left to his own devices, undertook to challenge Rome again, by raids across the Danube into Roman territory and by attempting to stir up some of the tribes north of the river against her. Trajan took the field again in 106, intending this time to finish the job of Decebalus' subjugation. It was a brutal struggle, with some of the characteristics of a war of extirpation, until the Dacian king, driven from his capital of Sarmizegethusa and hunted like an animal, chose to commit suicide rather than to be paraded in a Roman triumph and then be put to death.

The war was over. It had taxed Roman resources, with 11 legions involved, but the rewards were great. Trajan celebrated a great triumph, which lasted 123 days and entertained the populace with a vast display of gladiators and animals. The land was established as a province, the first on the north side of the Danube. Much of the native population which had survived warfare was killed or enslaved, their place taken by immigrants from other parts of the empire. The vast wealth of Dacian mines came to Rome as war booty, enabling Trajan to support an extensive building program almost everywhere, but above all in Italy and in Rome. In the capital, Apollodorus designed and built in the huge forum already under construction a sculpted column, precisely 100 Roman feet high, with 23 spiral bands filled with 2500 figures, which depicted, like a scroll being unwound, the history of both Dacian wars. It was, and still is, one of the great achievements of imperial "propaganda." In southern Dacia, at Adamklissi, a large tropaeum was built on a hill, visible from a great distance, as a tangible statement of Rome's domination. Its effect was similar to that of Augustus' monument at La Turbie above Monaco; both were constant reminders for the inhabitants who gazed at it that they had once been free and were now subjects of a greater power.

Administration and Social Policy
The chief feature of Trajan's administration was his good relations with the senate, which allowed him to accomplish whatever he wished without general opposition. His auctoritas was more important than his imperium. At the very beginning of Trajan's reign, the historian Tacitus, in the biography of his father-in-law Agricola, spoke of the newly won compatibility of one-man rule and individual liberty established by Nerva and expanded by Trajan (Agr. 3.1, primo statim beatissimi saeculi ortu Nerva Caesar res olim dissociabiles miscuerit, principatum ac libertatem, augeatque cotidie felicitatem temporum Nerva Traianus,….) [13] At the end of the work, Tacitus comments, when speaking of Agricola's death, that he had forecast the principate of Trajan but had died too soon to see it (Agr. 44.5, ei non licuit durare in hanc beatissimi saeculi lucem ac principem Traianum videre, quod augurio votisque apud nostras aures ominabatur,….) Whether one believes that principate and liberty had truly been made compatible or not, this evidently was the belief of the aristocracy of Rome. Trajan, by character and actions, contributed to this belief, and he undertook to reward his associates with high office and significant promotions. During his principate, he himself held only 6 consulates, while arranging for third consulates for several of his friends. Vespasian had been consul 9 times, Titus 8, Domitian 17! In the history of the empire there were only 12 or 13 private who reached the eminence of third consulates. Agrippa had been the first, L. Vitellius the second. Under Trajan there were 3: Sex. Iulius Frontinus (100), T. Vestricius Spurinna (100), and L. Licinius Sura (107). There were also 10 who held second consulships: L. Iulius Ursus Servianus (102), M.' Laberius Maximus (103), Q. Glitius Atilius Agricola (103), P. Metilius Sabinus Nepos (103?), Sex. Attius Suburanus Aemilianus (104), Ti. Iulius Candidus Marius Celsus (105), C. Antius A. Iulius Quadratus (105), Q. Sosius Senecio (107), A. Cornelius Palma Frontonianus (109), and L. Publilius Celsus (113). These men were essentially his close associates from pre-imperial days and his prime military commanders in the Dacian wars.

One major administrative innovation can be credited to Trajan. This was the introduction of curators who, as representatives of the central government, assumed financial control of local communities, both in Italy and the provinces. Pliny in Bithynia is the best known of these imperial officials. The inexorable shift from freedmen to equestrians in the imperial ministries continued, to culminate under Hadrian, and he devoted much attention and considerable state resources to the expansion of the alimentary system, which purposed to support orphans throughout Italy. The splendid arch at Beneventum represents Trajan as a civilian emperor, with scenes of ordinary life and numerous children depicted, which underscored the prosperity of Italy.

The satirist Juvenal, a contemporary of the emperor, in one of his best known judgments, laments that the citizen of Rome, once master of the world, is now content only with "bread and circuses."

Nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet, atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses. (X 78-81)

Trajan certainly took advantage of that mood, indeed exacerbated it, by improving the reliabilty of the grain supply (the harbor at Ostia and the distribution system as exemplified in the Mercati in Rome). Fronto did not entirely approve, if indeed he approved at all. The plebs esteemed the emperor for the glory he had brought Rome, for the great wealth he had won which he turned to public uses, and for his personality and manner. Though emperor, he prided himself upon being civilis, a term which indicated comportment suitable for a Roman citizen.

There was only one major addition to the Rome's empire other than Dacia in the first decade and a half of Trajan's reign. This was the province of Arabia, which followed upon the absorption of the Nabataean kingdom (105-106).

Building Projects
Trajan had significant effect upon the infrastructure of both Rome and Italy. His greatest monument in the city, if the single word "monument" can effectively describe the complex, was the forum which bore his name, much the largest, and the last, of the series known as the "imperial fora." Excavation for a new forum had already begun under Domitian, but it was Apollodorus who designed and built the whole. Enormous in its extent, the Basilica Ulpia was the centerpiece, the largest wood roofed building in the Roman world. In the open courtyard before it was an equestrian statue of Trajan, behind it was the column; there were libraries, one for Latin scrolls, the other for Greek, on each side. A significant omission was a temple; this circumstance was later rectified by Hadrian, who built a large temple to the deified Trajan and Plotina.

The column was both a history in stone and the intended mausoleum for the emperor, whose ashes were indeed placed in the column base. An inscription over the doorway, somewhat cryptic because part of the text has disappeared, reads as follows:

Senatus populusque Romanus imp. Caesari divi Nervae f. Nervae Traiano Aug. Germ. Dacico pontif. Maximo trib. pot. XVII imp. VI p.p. ad declarandum quantae altitudinis mons et locus tant[is oper]ibus sit egestus (Smallwood 378)

On the north side of the forum, built into the slopes of the Quirinal hill, were the Markets of Trajan, which served as a shopping mall and the headquarters of the annona, the agency responsible for the receipt and distribution of grain.

On the Esquiline hill was constructed the first of the huge imperial baths, using a large part of Nero's Domus Aurea as its foundations. On the other side of the river a new aqueduct was constructed, which drew its water from Lake Bracciano and ran some 60 kilometers to the heights of the Janiculum Hill. It was dedicated in 109. A section of its channel survives in the basement of the American Academy in Rome.

The arch in Beneventum is the most significant monument elsewhere in Italy. It was dedicated in 114, to mark the beginning of the new Via Traiana, which offered an easier route to Brundisium than that of the ancient Via Appia.

Trajan devoted much attention to the construction and improvement of harbors. His new hexagonal harbor at Ostia at last made that port the most significant in Italy, supplanting Puteoli, so that henceforth the grain ships docked there and their cargo was shipped by barge up the Tiber to Rome. Terracina benefited as well from harbor improvements, and the Via Appia now ran directly through the city along a new route, with some 130 Roman feet of sheer cliff being cut away so that the highway could bend along the coast. Ancona on the Adriatic Sea became the major harbor on that coast for central Italy in 114-115, and Trajan's activity was commemorated by an arch. The inscription reports that the senate and people dedicated it to the []iprovidentissimo principi quod accessum Italiae hoc etiam addito ex pecunia sua portu tutiorem navigantibus reddiderit (Smallwood 387). Centumcellae, the modern Civitavecchia, also profited from a new harbor. The emperor enjoyed staying there, and on at least one occasion summoned his consilium there.

Elsewhere in the empire the great bridge at Alcantara in Spain, spanning the Tagus River, still in use, testifies to the significant attention the emperor gave to the improvement of communication throughout his entire domain.

Family Relations; the Women
After the death of his father, Trajan had no close male relatives. His life was as closely linked with his wife and female relations as that of any of his predecessors; these women played enormously important roles in the empire's public life, and received honors perhaps unparalleled. His wife, Pompeia Plotina, is reported to have said, when she entered the imperial palace in Rome for the first time, that she hoped she would leave it the same person she was when she entered. She received the title Augusta no later than 105. She survived Trajan, dying probably in 121, and was honored by Hadrian with a temple, which she shared with her husband, in the great forum which the latter had built.

His sister Marciana, five years his elder, and he shared a close affection. She received the title Augusta, along with Plotina, in 105 and was deified in 112 upon her death. Her daughter Matidia became Augusta upon her mother's death, and in her turn was deified in 119. Both women received substantial monuments in the Campus Martius, there being basilicas of each and a temple of divae Matidiae. Hadrian was responsible for these buildings, which were located near the later temple of the deified Hadrian, not far from the column of Marcus Aurelius.

Matidia's daughter, Sabina, was married to Hadrian in the year 100. The union survived almost to the end of Hadrian's subsequent principate, in spite of the mutual loathing that they had for each other. Sabina was Trajan's great niece, and thereby furnished Hadrian a crucial link to Trajan.

The women played public roles as significant as any of their predecessors. They traveled with the emperor on public business and were involved in major decisions. They were honored throughout the empire, on monuments as well as in inscriptions. Plotina, Marciana, and Matidia, for example, were all honored on the arch at Ancona along with Trajan.

The Parthian War
In 113, Trajan began preparations for a decisive war against Parthia. He had been a "civilian" emperor for seven years, since his victory over the Dacians, and may well have yearned for a last, great military achievement, which would rival that of Alexander the Great. Yet there was a significant cause for war in the Realpolitik of Roman-Parthian relations, since the Parthians had placed a candidate of their choice upon the throne of Armenia without consultation and approval of Rome. When Trajan departed Rome for Antioch, in a leisurely tour of the eastern empire while his army was being mustered, he probably intended to destroy at last Parthia's capabilities to rival Rome's power and to reduce her to the status of a province (or provinces). It was a great enterprise, marked by initial success but ultimate disappointment and failure.

In 114 he attacked the enemy through Armenia and then, over three more years, turned east and south, passing through Mesopotamia and taking Babylon and the capital of Ctesiphon. He then is said to have reached the Persian Gulf and to have lamented that he was too old to go further in Alexander's footsteps. In early 116 he received the title Parthicus.

The territories, however, which had been handily won, were much more difficult to hold. Uprisings among the conquered peoples, and particularly among the Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora, caused him to gradually resign Roman rule over these newly-established provinces as he returned westward. The revolts were brutally suppressed. In mid 117, Trajan, now a sick man, was slowly returning to Italy, having left Hadrian in command in the east, when he died in Selinus of Cilicia on August 9, having designated Hadrian as his successor while on his death bed. Rumor had it that Plotina and Matidia were responsible for the choice, made when the emperor was already dead. Be that as it may, there was no realistic rival to Hadrian, linked by blood and marriage to Trajan and now in command of the empire's largest military forces. Hadrian received notification of his designation on August 11, and that day marked his dies imperii. Among Hadrian's first acts was to give up all of Trajan's eastern conquests.

Trajan's honors and reputation
Hadrian saw to it that Trajan received all customary honors: the late emperor was declared a divus, his victories were commemorated in a great triumph, and his ashes were placed in the base of his column. Trajan's reputation remained unimpaired, in spite of the ultimate failure of his last campaigns. Early in his principate, he had unofficially been honored with the title optimus, "the best," which long described him even before it became, in 114, part of his official titulature. His correspondence with Pliny enables posterity to gain an intimate sense of the emperor in action. His concern for justice and the well-being of his subjects is underscored by his comment to Pliny, when faced with the question of the Christians, that they were not to be sought out, "nor is it appropriate to our age." At the onset of his principate, Tacitus called Trajan's accession the beginning of a beatissimum saeculum, and so it remained in the public mind. Admired by the people, respected by the senatorial aristocracy, he faced no internal difficulties, with no rival nor opposition. His powers were as extensive as Domitian's had been, but his use and display of these powers were very different from those of his predecessor, who had claimed to be deus et dominus. Not claiming to be a god, he was recognized in the official iconography of sculpture as Jupiter's viceregent on earth, so depicted on the attic reliefs of the Beneventan arch. The passage of time increased Trajan's aura rather than diminished it. In the late fourth century, when the Roman Empire had dramatically changed in character from what it had been in Trajan's time, each new emperor was hailed with the prayer, felicior Augusto, melior Traiano, "may he be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan." That reputation has essentially survived into the present day.

Copyright (C) 2000, Herbert W. Benario.
Published: De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families Used by permission.

Edited by J. P. Fitzgerald, Jr.

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