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Webb Carausius Mint-marks


The great difficulty of interpretation which the mint­marks of the period present has recently been discussed in connection with the coinage of Allectus.8 This difficulty is accentuated during the reign now under consideration by reason of the much greater roughness and irregularity of the issues of Carausius and the numerous varieties of mark which his moneyers employed, and also by the existence of many coins which are un­doubtedly blundered. Due allowance being made for these peculiarities, it does not, however, appear that there is anything on the coins of Carausius which conflicts with the interpretation put forward with reference to those of Allectus, which was based on the theory that mint­marks must, as a rule, be expected to refer to matters connected with the mint, e.g. its situation, the number of its officina. in which the coin was struck, the series to which it belonged, and its value. If it be true that the rougher issues of Carausius should in the main be attributed to the earlier years of his reign, then we may even trace the development of the system of mint-marking concurrently with the improvement in his mints, and, as we may well suppose, with the opening of additional officinae in those mints, especially in that of London. The earliest mark was probably the exergual ML, which is often found on poorly executed coins; as improvement took place the marks became more complicated and regular, till we find, perhaps at the end of his reign, certainly throughout that of his successor, that almost every coin bears a complete series of marks both in field and exergue.
The common assumption that many of these marks are of a religious or dedicatory character becomes the less acceptable the more it is considered. Why, for instance, should numerous comparatively unimportant pieces of bronze be dedicated to the gods as "sacra moneta" or "sacra pecunia," as Stukeley and others so constantly allege, while no such dedication of any of the fine issues of gold and silver can (with one exception) be discovered; or why, to turn to the interpretations put forward by other authors, should such a mark as S.P be read as "Securitas Perpetua" on a coin which is already, by its type, made commemorative of peace or bravery? It is more probable that even the selection of types which were of a quasi-religious character was rather prompted by custom and precedent than by any active dedicatory intention. Mr. George Macdonald, who has traced the introduction and development of the religious element in numismatics, summarizes the view above submitted in speaking of reverse designs of a commemorative or conventionally religious type on the coins of the period as follows: "I have said 'conventionally religious' because it will hardly be contended that any real sanctity attached to them ; there could be no ques­tion of invoking the witness of the gods on some coins where frankly secular types were freely admitted on others."9

The following attempt to solve the riddle of the mint-marks of Carausius, therefore, follows the lines on which an explanation of those of Allectus has been attempted.

It is suggested that marks in the field are, in nearly every case, used to indicate the number of the monetary office from which the coins were issued and the series to which they belonged; and there may have been variations in method of describing an officina used to distinguish different series issued therefrom. It will be admitted that the officinae of the Roman mints are sometimes indicated on coins of the third and fourth centuries by one or other of the following letters and numerals:-

The first office, by (1) the letter A, as the first letter of the alphabet, (2) the numeral I, and (3) the letter P, the initial letter of Prima (officina).
The second office, by (1) the letter B, (2) the numeral II, and (3) S, the initial of Secunda.
The third office, by (1) the letter C or Γ, the third letter of the Latin or Greek alphabet, (2) the numeral III, and (3) the letter T for Tertia.
The fourth office, by (1) the letter D or , (2) the numeral IIII, and (3) the letter Q for Quarto.
The fifth office, by (1) the letter E or Ⲉ, (2) the numeral V.
The sixth office, by (1) the letter F or ς, (2) the numeral VI.

It is doubtful whether a sixth officina ever operated even in London, and almost certain that there was no such officina at Colchester. The letter F on coins of those mints should therefore, perhaps, be read as "faciunda " or "feriunda," and it seems possible that the common combination , which was not used by Allectus, may have been a method of indicating the first officina of London, employed perhaps when the mint had only one officina, and meaning "Money of London made in the officina," i.e. money issued by the established and authorized mint, thus giving it a sort of warranty of validity, and distinguishing it from the very rough coinage, which certainly could easily have been, and no doubt was, imitated.

The letters S and E were perhaps sometimes used for "signata," "emissa" and not as numerals. The Roman numerals I, II, and III occur very rarely, and are generally found on coins of rough execution; it is probable that they are only blundered forms of the letters M and L, but it must not be forgotten that this form of marking does appear on Roman coins which must have been then in circulation in Britain, and is thereon almost certainly used to indicate the number of the officina. It is, however, particularly difficult to read the marks II and III on the coins of Carausius and Allectus as numerals indicating the monetary office, because, in some of the very few cases in which they appear at all, they are found in conjunction with what seem to be other and inconsistent office-marks. It will be found on perusal of the following table of mint-marks, which includes those of Allectus, that the above suggestions afford a possible explanation of almost all of them. The great rarity of some marks presents a difficulty, but, did we know a little more of the history of the period, it might be easy to suggest explanations: officinae may have operated for a short time only, or chance may have led to the preservation and discovery of larger numbers of some issues than of others. There are so many marks in the two reigns which are now only represented by very few specimens, that they cannot all be considered as blunders.

The suggested interpretations are put forward with "bated breath and whispered humbleness," and will certainly fail of acceptance by many numismatists. Even these dissentients may perhaps, while discarding the interpretations, yet find the table (showing, as it does, a very large number of the marks used by two Emperors - whose mints introduced a more complicated system than had previously been employed on the Continent) of some value for reference, and perhaps suggestive. It is also, perhaps, permissible to point out that there is great difficulty in applying to the complicated marks of these reigns any of the alternative theories which have been put forward, but not as yet elaborated or proved, by several eminent writers. The table does not, for instance, seem to suggest either a system of moneyers' private marks or a general cryptogramic method of identification of the coins as belonging to various series unless by means of marks of officinae. It will, however, be enough if it gives any assistance to the discovery and proof of the true explanation, whatever that may be. Where the existence of a mint­mark has not been verified and the evidence is doubtful, it is queried.



8. Num. Chron., 1906, pp. 136-138.

9. Coin Types, p. 225.

Webb, P.H. The reign and coinage of Carausius. (London, 1908).

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