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The Antioch and Braithwell Hoards: A Comparison

By Tom Buijtendorp

Fig.1. Part of the Braithwell hoard, sold November 2007 by CNG, lot 338.

Two late 3rd century coin hoards, sold to the market, offer an interesting comparison as they were found at two outskirts of the Roman Empire, the UK and the Levant. Both have been completely catalogued, which makes the comparison quite interesting. First both hoards will be described, then a comparison will be made.

The Two Hoards

The Braithwell hoard was discovered 1 September 2002 in the village of Braithwell, South Yorkshire in the UK (fig.1). The 1,331 coins in the hoard date from 253 – 282 CE. The so called Antioch Hoard of Gallienus (AHG) came to the marked in 1992 and consisted of 583 coins, most of them dating 253 – 274 CE. The burial site is not known, however the dominance of coins freshly minted in Antioch suggests a spot close to this city. 

The Antioch Hoard of Gallienus

Fig. 2. Very worn denarius of Elagabalus, minted May 218 - summer 219. Reverse Fides enthroned left. Weight 3.819g, maximum diameter 22.7 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr. 39709/ AHG 1.

Fig 3. Silvered antoninianus of Claudius II, minted in 268-270 CE in Antioch. Scarce reverse with Isis Faria. Uneven strike. Weight 2.450 gram, maximum diameter 23.2 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr. 39712/ AHG 568. Dutch private collection.

The Antioch Hoard of Gallienus (AHG) was acquired by Alex Malloy. The 539 hoard coins were numbered AHG 1-539. In 1992, 339 coins were sold by Malloy and described in a small catalogue, including an analysis by W. Percival and D.W. Sorenson and photos of all 339 coins (including youngest and oldest one).1 Forum Ancient Coins offered 191 pieces via their website, partly uncatalogued coins. According to Mr. Malloy reports that the buyers in 1992 included the British Museum, the American Numismatic Society and the Bibliotheque National de France.

The oldest hoard coin was a very worn denarius of Elagabalus (218-222 CE) minted in the first year of his reign, May 218 – summer 219 CE (fig 2). Next comes a single antoninianus of Philipus II (247 – 249 CE) minted in Antioch. Trebonius Gallus (251 – 253 CE) is the first emperor with more than one coin: 20 coins minted in Antioch and 1 in Rome. The last emperor present with more than one coin is Claudius II Gothicus (268-270 CE) with 36 antoniniani minted in Antioch (fig 3) in addition to 1 antoninianus from Cyzicus, the only coin from this mint in the hoard.

Fig 4 Billon antoninianus of Valerianus I, minted in 254-255 in Viminacium. Reverse Victory standing and legend VICTORIA AUGG. Weight 4.221 gram, maximum diameter 22.2 mm. Sold by Forum Ancient coins nr. 39719/AHG 124.

Sorenson, who analyzed the coins in 1992, remarked that 88% of the hoard coins was minted in Antioch or related eastern mints. For that reason, he suggested the presence of 42 coins (3%) minted in Viminacium, a town close to Kostolac in Serbia, formed a separate group (fig 4). They are all minted by Valerian I (253-260 CE) and his son Gallienus as co-regent (253-260 CE). As the mint of Viminacium closed in 257/258 CE, they all date between 253 and 257 CE. Sorenson suggest somebody took them around 255 CE from the region of Viminacium (Moesia Superior) to the region of Antioch. In this respect, it is interesting to notice that of the 18 antoniniani minted in Rome, 13 are minted before 260 CE. Of these, the 3 coins of Hostilian, Trebonius Gallus and Volusian are minted in 249-253 CE. And 2 of the 3 coins from Valerian I are minted in 253-254 CE in Rome (the other 256-257 CE). Also 2 of the 4 early Gallienus coins are minted in 253-254 CE. This could mean that most of these coins from Rome first circulated in Moesia and then came to the region of Antioch together with the Viminacium coins.

In addition, it is noticed that coins of 260-262 CE are very rare in the hoard. The only two examples certainly minted between autumn 260 and early 261 CE, are two antoniniani of the brothers Macrianus and Quietus, usurpers in the east.2 Both coins are minted in Antioch or maybe a nearby town. Their presence is typical for Eastern hoards while they are normally absent in western hoards like the Braithwell hoard. This suggests the Moesia-coins arrived around this time (260-261 CE) at the latest. The unrest during the revolt of Macrianus and Quietus may explain the scarcity of hoard coins form this period. A move of the owner out of  Moesia briefly before could explain the presence of the two only hoard coins from Lugdunum (Lyon), both minted for Gallienus as co-emperor (253-260 CE), one of them dated in 259 CE and Extremely Fine.3 From then, the number of coins decreases. All these younger coins are minted in Antioch or another eastern mint nearby, except for the coin from Cyzicus (Turkey) of Claudius II mentioned above, and the 5 coins from Rome minted for Gallienus (260-268 CE) as sole emperor. Except for a single almost uncirculated coin of Aurelianus minted in 274 CE in Antioch, the most recent coins are from Claudius II (268-270 CE) (fig 3).

Sorenson points to the low wear of the coins, especially the post 262 CE coins. Although some coins are weakly struck, the low wear is shown by the thin silver layer still being in place in most cases. He concludes most coins were hoarded shortly after being minted. Given the presence of a long series of minting years, this hoarding process continued for a longer period. As there is only one coin attributed to another eastern mint (Cyzicus) versus the large amount of Antioch coins, it is very likely that the ‘eastern mint’ coins were minted in Antioch or a mint nearby. In combination, Sorenson concluded the last owner must have lived close to the mint as the numbers confirm: of the 255 hoard coins minted in the decennium 260-270 CE, all except for 6 coins were minted in Antioch or related mint (97.6%).

Sorenson concludes that the regional connection to Antioch offers important information about the special group of local coins minted for Gallienus and Valerian in a different style. There are characteristics like the special form of the letter M, and a wreath in the field as mintmark, minted form 254 CE onwards. These coins are normally attributed to an ‘eastern mint’. If not Antioch itself, it was probably a city in the same region as the hoard indicates.

Fig 5. Two antoniniani of Gallienus, both in the style of the uncertain eastern mint with wreath in the field on the reverse. The coin at the top mentions on the reverse VIRTVS AVGG with double G, while the coin at the bottom refers to VIRTVS AVG with single G, so minted after Gallienus became sole emperor in 260 CE. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. RS39847 (top) and RS39843 (bottom).

Fig. 6 Antoninianus of Gallienus minted in 260 CE in Antioch or a mint nearby. The reverse (ORIENS AVG) shows Gallienus with Oriens. Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr.RS39783. AHG nr. 176.

The indication they were minted close to Antioch may be of historical relevance. The hoard contains coins with the wreath in the field and in the reverse text the reference to ‘AVG’ with a single ‘G’ (fig 5, bottom). The legend of earlier coins ended with ‘AVGG’, referring to the joined reign of Gallienus and Valerian (fig 5, top). At the beginning of 260 CE Valerian was defeated in the Battle of Edessa by the Persian ruler Shapur. He was the first and only Roman emperor captured alive. As a result Gallienus became sole ruler but stayed in the west. The Eastern army proclaimed the brothers Macrianus and Quietus Roman emperors. This interrupted the minting of Gallienus in Antioch while new coins for Macrianus and Quietus were produced in this city, represented by two examples in the hoard. The fact that with the last regional issue of Gallienus the title AVGG shifted to AVG indicates that for a brief period Gallienus was still accepted as sole ruler before Macrianus and Quietus took their position. As the hoard contains quite a few of these coins, this period lasted sometime in 260 CE. For example, Forum Ancient Coins offered 15 VIRTVS AVG(G) hoard coins of Gallienus, 4 of them with single G minted in 260 CE (fig 5). The number of single G coins is too large to explain them as a minting error. And interestingly, the hoard coins offered by Forum Ancient Coins included 9 antoniniani of Gallienus with ORIENS AVG on the reverse. All have a single G and show Gallienus standing with Oriens (the East) and are minted in 260 CE (fig 6). This suggests these coins were minted in reaction to the imprisonment of Valerian, claiming the position of Gallienus as emperor in the east as well (until then the position of Valerian). Traditionally, ‘Oriens Augusti’ referred to the rising star of emperor August.

The adjustment indicates that the news of the defeat was received quickly at the mint involved, what also suggests a location in the same region. At the same time, it indicates Samosata in Southeastern Turkey is possibly not the location of the mint, a place suggested by Göbl in his much quoted reference work Moneta Imperii Romanii. According to the Res Gestae Divi Saporis Samosata was captured right after Valerian was imprisoned, leaving no room for coins of Gallienus as sole emperor to be minted in serious numbers.

The Braithwell Hoard

Sunday 1 September 2002, while digging out a pond in Braithwell, a landowner discovered the first part of a Roman coin hoard. Alarmed metal detector searcher Mr. Leech continued the search and finally 1,331 antoniniani were discovered.4  They were found with the remains of the earthen container, a small grey pot with a rim diameter of about 8 centimeters. Traces of organic fibers on some of the coins indicate they were wrapped in the pot, or sealed at the top with cloth. After, the corroded coins left green traces on the 13 pottery sherds. The British Museum acquired 4 coins and 1 very rare coin of Laelian (269 CE) was acquired by the Doncaster museum. The other coins were sold, 1,161 (87%) online by CNG, and for the rest by other sellers like Forum Ancient Coins.

Fig. 7. Antoninianus of Probus (276-282 CE), the last emperor of the Braithwell hoard. Minted in Lugdunum (Lyon) with traces of silvering. Period II, first officina (I) in exergue. Weight 4.60 gram. Private Dutch collection. Braithwell report nr. 139.

The oldest hoard coin was an antoninianus of Valerian, the second issue of the mint in Rome, dated 254/255 CE. The youngest coins were 6 antoniniani of Probus (276-282 CE) (fig 7). These included his last issue from Lugdunum (Lyon) dated 282 CE.

Comparison

Fig 8. Antoninianus of Gallienus (260-268 CE) from the Braithwell hoard nr. 34 (left, private Dutch collection) and the Antioch Hoard of Gallienus (right), sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. RS39813.

Fig 9. Antoninianus of Claudius II (268-270 CE) from the Braithwell hoard nr. 75 (left, private Dutch collection) and the Antioch Hoard of Gallienus (right), sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. RB39716.

Both hoards mainly consist of coins minted in the 3rd quarter of the 3rd century CE. There are some similarities, like the antoniniani of Gallienus (fig 8) and Claudius II Gothicus (fig. 9), although the coins of the Braithwell hoard are on average more worn. In both hoards, only a few coins are minted after 270 CE: seven coins or 0.5% in the Antioch Hoard of Gallienus and 0.2% in the Braithwell hoard. Both hoards are buried during the unstable period 274-282 CE, the eastern hoard probably a few years earlier. Both consist of antoniniani except for one old denarius in the eastern hoard.

Fig. 10. Comparison of the mints of the coins of the western Braithwell hoard (green), and the eastern Antioch Hoard of Gallienus (orange). The eastern hoard probably started with coins collected around 255 CE in Upper Moesia (left orange area) with coins minted in Rome, Viminacium and maybe Lugdunum. Then, mainly between 260 and 270 CE, the second part of the eastern hoard was collected around Antioch with only a few coins minted in Rome and 1 coin minted in Cyzicus.

At the same time, there are substantial differences between both hoards, reflecting the regional differences. The mints represented in both hoards show some overlap in the middle of the empire. However, this seems partly to be related to the possible two step collection of the eastern hoard, started around 255 CE in Moesia, and finished between 260 and 274 CE around Antioch (fig 10). The later part of the eastern hoard reflects the regional dominance of Antioch as local mint, maybe for some time supported by a regional mint nearby. Only a few coins from more distant mints entered the hoard, mainly form the capital Rome. The earlier part of this hoard reflects the situation in Moesia Superior around 255 CE with most coins from the provincial capital Viminacium in current Serbia, and in addition some coins from Rome and maybe Lyon. The nearby mint of Siscia in Croatia only started to operate after 260 CE, what explains that this mint is not present in the earlier part of the eastern hoard. The Braithwell hoard contains some Siscia coins minted in 260-270 CE. And the Braithwell hoard contains many coins from the Italian mints of Rome and Milan, but also some coins from Viminacium from the period 260-270 CE. And from Claudius II even some coins from an eastern mint are present.

Fig 11. Antoninianus from the Braithwell hoard minted for Claudius II after his death (DIVO CLAVDIO), with reference to his consecration (‘CONSECRATIO’). Sold by Forum Ancient Coins nr. BB49247.

Fig 12. Three antoniniani from the Braithwell hoard minted by the Gallic rulers Victorinus (268-270 CE), Tetricus I (270 – 273 CE) and Tetricus II Caesar (270-273 CE). Private Dutch collection. Braithwell hoard nr. 154, 170 and 188.

Both hoards reflect the very different developments towards the end of the reign of Claudius II. Syria and Antioch already before his death passed into Palmyrene hands. This may explain the interruption of the series in the eastern hoard from 270 CE onwards, with the antoninianus of 274 CE as next and last coin present. It is also telling that the commemorative issues for Claudius minted after his death are lacking in the eastern hoard, while 10 of these are present in the Braithwell hoard (fig 11). And the Braithwell hoard contains 1,023 coins of the Gallic-Romano Empire, a good 3/4th of all hoard coins (fig 12). The differences nicely illustrate how the eastern and western part of the Roman Empire were developing step by step their own future.  


1. R. Abdy, E. Ghey, C. Hughes and I. Leins,2009. Coin hoards from Roman Britain. Volume XII. pp.149-157; Treasury Annual Report 2002, pp. 132-133 nr. 201.

2. Nr. 316-317 in the catalogue of Malloy = AHG nr. 545-546.

3. Nr. 111 in the catalogue of Malloy = AHG 199.

4. The Antioch Hoard of Gallienus, New York.