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XXI

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COL L AN COM P M TR P XV IMP VIII COS VI S C

This reverse legend is from the reverse of sestertius of Commodus minted at Rome, AD 190: RIC III 560, Cohen 39 (60 fr.), BMCRE IV 643.

Obverse: M COMMOD ANT P FE-LIX AVG [BRIT P P], laureate head right
Reverse: COLLANCOM PM TR P XV IMP VIII (around), COS VI / S C (in exergue), Commodus, veiled, as priest, ploughing right with two oxen. 

The letters COL together with the depiction of the ritual ploughing of the furrow marking out a new foundation, refer to establishing a colony (COLonia). COL is followed by the name of the colony in this case: LANCOM, where evidently COM stands for COMmodiana. The critical part is formed by the three letters LAN.

The traditional explanation of the reverse legend can be found in the below in the Dictionary of Roman Coins.  The explanation in the Dictionary is based on Eckhel (1796), reading the legend abbreviated COL.L.AN.COM, referring to the refounding of Rome under its new name: COLonia Lucia ANtoniniana COMmodiana.  Cohen follows this, as well as RIC and BM although they substitute ANtoniniana by ANnia.

Curtis Clay noted on the Classical Numismatics Discussion Board, that Chantraine in 1971, following a suggestion of Renier in 1872, proposed an alternative explanation expanding the legend COL·LAN·COM to COLonia LANuvina COMmodiana. The coin no longer refers to the refounding of Rome but to that of Lanuvium, the place of birth of Commodus, elevating it from municipium to the rank of colony.

The question remains why Eckhel, who himself noted that the praenomen of Lucia given to Rome was strange at a time when Commodus used that of Marcus, insisted expanding the legend as he did, unless he saw the legend actually abbreviated like that on a specimen. Here, we find a sestertius which, even though it has part of the legend off the flan, shows dots between parts of the legend: COL·L·AN...  The first dot can clearly be seen.  Perhaps the condition of this specimen is not good enough to ascertain that there is also a second dot after the second L but it appears to be so. In any case, this specimen shows that a die existed with dots indicating how the abbreviations on the reverse should be read. Suffice to find a picture of another surviving sestertius from that die...


Dictionary of Roman Coins

 




Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.

COL. L. AN. COM. P. M. TR. P. XV. IMP. VIII. COS. VI. S. C. - A priest veiled driving a plough, to which oxen are yoked. - First and second brass of Commodus.

On this reverse, we have monetal proof of Rome having been called Colonia Commodiana, by command of Commodus.  Lampridius (chap. 8)  informs us that this emperor reached such pitch of madness as to desire that the city of Rome should be called Commodianan Colony ; an act of folly which is said to have been brought about, by the fascinations of Marcia, his Amazonian mistress.  The same historian adds that, at the time when he introduced to the Senate his scheme for turning Rome into Commodiana, that degenerate body not only received it readily, but even gave itself the title of (Senatus) Commodianus.  Thus the absurdity was fortified even by a Senatus Consultum, as is shown by the coin from which the above is an accurate cut, and which is marked with the S. C.  To show how obstinately Commodus had set his mind on this object, it is stated by Dion (Ixxii. § 15), that the people were commanded to call Rome itself Commodiana, and the armies Commodiani.  And further, that Rome was styled by the emperor himself the " eternal fortunate (Felicem) Colony of the world; "so intent was he on the city's being considered as his own colony.  But this new " settlement "  had a very narrow escape from destruction, by the hands of the very person who planted it : for he would have set fire to the city, says Lampridius (ch.15), had he not been prevented by Lætus.

The type of a priest veiled, ploughing, with a yoke of oxen, admirably confirms the testimony of historians, for (as has been fully demonstrated in the preceding pages), it is a common one on coins of cities which were planted as colonies.  The golden statue erected to him, with the figures of a bull and a cow, has reference to this foolish attempt of Commodus, in his pretended capacity of founder of a colony.  The legend also, perfectly agree with the type of this remarkable coin, as it gives the word COLonia.

"The whole inscription (adds Eckhel) no doubt should be thus interpreted--COLonia Lucia ANtoniniana COMmodiana, just as Diospolis in Samaritis, and Eleutheropolis in Judæa, styled themselves on coins Lucia Septimia Severiana. Still, it is remarkable, that the prænomen of Lucia should have been given to Rome, at a time, when Commodus himself constantly used that of Marcus, unless, perhaps, he had in mind the revival of the old and long disused name of Lucius, which he really adopted two years afterwards."-See vii. 122.

The same subject is alluded to on coins inscribed HERC. ROM. COND. -- Among Vaillant's Selectoria Numismata from the De Camps collection, now in the Cabinet de France, there is one which exhibits this emperor indulging his insane fancy of guiding the colonial plough, but attired in the lion's skin like Hercules.  And the impersonation is completed by a club which he carries in his right hand.  For Lampridius records, that "He caused himself to be styled Romanus Hercules" -- adding the reason for that designation, viz. "because he had slaughtered wild beasts in the amphitheatre at Lanuvium." It was in memory of his converting the eternal city into a colony bearing his own name, and to his own honour, as "Hercules Romanus Conditor," that the medaillon in question was struck, at the beginning of his 7th consulate, in colleagueship with Helvius Pertinax, 945(s.p. 192), and during his 17th investiture with the tribunitian  power. -- See COMMODUS, biographical summary of (p. 240). -- Engraved in Akerman, i. 312, pl. p.

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