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Author Topic: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?  (Read 442 times)

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Offline Ron C2

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Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« on: November 23, 2022, 05:36:58 pm »
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2022/nov/23/coins-study-suggests-fake-emperor-sponsian-was-real-say-scientists

Interesting article and the coins science seems sound. Unsurprisingly, there are skeptics too.
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Online Jay GT4

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2022, 06:28:38 pm »
I'm skeptical ;)

Offline Jan P

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2022, 05:13:45 am »
When one sees a picture of the coin, there is reason to be skeptical.
And the numismatics were !
But the fact, the piece was found in a hoard of genuine coins and the circumstances of place and time the coin must have circulated changed the minds now about this piece.
Let's see if there is a second Sponsian popping up  ::).

Offline mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2022, 05:39:58 am »
There are five Sponsianus coins listed by Eckhel; 2 in the Imperial Museum, Vienna, 1 in the former Museum de France that ended up in Vienna, and 2 others also located in Austria. The Hunter coin was acquired in 1783 from the Hess collection which is the one from Museum de France, the collection of Joseph de France (an official in the court of Maria Theresa).

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Offline Pharsalos

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2022, 06:30:56 am »
Hmm

Link to actual paper with better images: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0274285

I believe all known examples originate from the same 1713 find?

The style, motif, and legend are all bizzare. I struggle to identify anything normal looking, maybe the hair?

The researchers concluded the ‘coin’ (they actually say medallion) is cast not struck.

So against the Sponsian piece being genuine we have:
- bizzare style
- Unsual to unique inscription and layout
- Unusual metal composition
- Unusual and significantly divergent weights
- No other examples found
- Cast
- A dude no one has ever heard of, with name so strange it can only be found recorded once in the first century

And for we have:
- Looks scratched up
- Has some old looking deposits
- Forger would have had to use a lot of expensive gold

I think I’m in camp Henry Cohen, who according to the paper concluded “je regarde ces pièces comme des coins modernes ridiculement imaginés, et très-mal faits”

Offline Jan P

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2022, 06:37:44 am »
Indeed !
When I read the article yesterday in The Guardian on screen, I could only see the picture and read the headline. To Continue reading,I had to register, the screen told me.
So, after reading "mauseus" ' message here, I went back to the article via Ron C2's link and now I could read: the 5 Sponsianus gold coins were found together in Transylvania in the 18th century.
Now, for this message, going back via the same said link, to check the exact year of the find, The Guardian tells me I have to register to read the full article :laugh:.

Offline Pharsalos

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2022, 06:42:23 am »
Also, if cast as the researchers concluded, why would the ancient ‘celator’ cast a double-strike as appears on the reverse of this example?

Offline *Alex

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2022, 06:43:16 am »
Here is the article from "The Guardian".

A hoard of gold coins once thought to be fakes have been authenticated by researchers who say the artefacts reveal a long-lost Roman emperor.

The coins bear the name and image of a shadowy historical figure, Sponsian, whose existence was previously placed in doubt by experts who suggested the coins were the work of sophisticated 18th-century fraudsters.

But a scientific analysis has concluded that the coins are genuine third-century artefacts, and the researchers make the case that Emperor Sponsian was also the real deal.

“We’re very confident that they’re authentic,” said Prof Paul Pearson, of University College London, who led the research. “Our evidence suggests Sponsian ruled Roman Dacia, an isolated goldmining outpost, at a time when the empire was beset by civil wars and the borderlands were overrun by plundering invaders.”

The hoard of coins are said to have been unearthed in Transylvania, in modern-day Romania, in 1713. Several depict recognised Roman emperors of the third century, including Gordian III and Philip the Arab. But four coins bear the name and image of Sponsian, who does not appear in any other historical records.

When the coins were discovered, they were initially thought to be genuine. But from the mid-19th century, attitudes changed owing to the coins’ crude designs and jumbled inscriptions. One expert suggested they were the work of a sophisticated Viennese fraudster who had invented an emperor to appeal to collectors, and this became the prevailing view.

Pearson, an earth scientist, learned about the coins and the “fake emperor” while researching a book on Roman history as a lockdown project. He began corresponding with Jesper Ericsson, the numismatics curator at the Hunterian museum in Glasgow, which holds a coin in its collection, and the pair decided to perform a full scientific analysis.

This revealed that simply based on their weight in gold, the coins are valuable – the assemblage would be worth $20,000 (£16,700) in modern value. “If they’re a forgery, that’s a big outlay to start with,” said Pearson.

When examined at high magnification using optical imaging and electron microscopy, the coins showed similar patterns of wear and tear to genuine coins, suggesting they had been in circulation for several years. Minerals on the surface of the coins were consistent with them having been buried for an extended period, and the scientists detected sulphate crystals, which typically form when an object is deprived of oxygen for a long time and then re-exposed to air.

“I believe we have established with a very high degree of confidence that they are genuine,” said Pearson, adding that the question of Sponsian’s identity was “more speculative”.

It is known that the Dacia region was cut off from central command during a period of military strife in the 260s CE. Writing in the journal Plos One, the authors speculate that Sponsian was a military leader who assumed authority over the Roman enclave and established a local coin mint.

“He took on the title imperator – supreme military commander – that was reserved for the emperor,” said Pearson. “There are other precedents of regional emperors. If we allow Roman emperors to self-identify, he was a Roman emperor.”

Dr Adrastos Omissi, of the University of Glasgow, who was not involved in the research, described the analysis as “a brilliant piece of work”. “I think they’ve made a really convincing argument for the existence of Sponsian and of him being a real emperor,” he said, adding that the late 3rd century was a period of such turbulence and unrest that “the bar for being an emperor was very low”.

However, others were more sceptical. “They’ve gone full fantasy,” said Richard Abdy, the curator of Roman and iron age coins at the British Museum. “It’s circular evidence. They’re saying because of the coin there’s the person, and the person therefore must have made the coin.”


Alex




Offline mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2022, 06:50:17 am »
It's also interesting to note the coins of Philip I (X2) and the Gordian III also purchased by Hunter at the same time, and from the same find. The Philips look like curious Republican imitations, just as the Sponsian has been described as having a similarity to. The Gordian looks more like a third century imitation

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Mauseus

Offline mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2022, 06:54:49 am »
One of the Philip medallions.

Offline *Alex

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2022, 07:01:45 am »
They all have the same "slitty" eyes.

I do not like the look of any of these coins and I think they should all be in the "Fake coin reports", but that is only my personal opinion. Pay me no heed.  ;D

Alex

Offline mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2022, 07:21:38 am »
My personal opinion is that these need to be judged in the light of other grave goods from "barbaricum", particularly the movement of gold from the Roman world for tribute or mercenary payments for example. Those products provide a starting point for local art and we should not get hung up over a new emperor being accepted. The Gordian is obviously based on the Martem Propugnatorem reverse.

There are stylistic links to this fourth century medallion, as an example, Valentinian and Valens, I believe, in Berlin.

I think we are looking at local products from the edge, or beyond the Roman world. Names may or may not reflect a local ruler

Mauseus

Offline cicerokid

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2022, 08:46:19 am »
Fake coin report please!

The "Scientific" analysis is not!
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Offline mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2022, 09:39:35 am »
Further reading.

The full paper, not news article, is in the open access journal PLOS below

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0274285

Regards,

Mauseus

Offline *Alex

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2022, 01:17:30 pm »
In the picture of the "Guardian" coin (below), the P of Sponsian looks more like a retrograde C to me. If we are talking about a genuine ancient coin but a barbaric issue with garbled legends then IMP S CONSTAN ... doesn't seem to be beyond the bounds of possibility, even though these issues ostensibly predate the time of the Constantines. Does anyone know their actual date of production (assuming it is before the 18th Century)?

I personally don't believe for one nanosecond that an actual emperor called Sponsian ever existed. I myself own a genuine ancient coin of a non existent emperor. It is a barbaric issue of Tetricus II citing him as Augustus rather than Caesar in the legend. It had me wondering whether it could be evidence of him being elevated to that rank when I first got the coin many years ago but I am a lot less credulous when it comes to barbaric issues now.

Alex


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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #15 on: November 24, 2022, 01:24:38 pm »
The other example, showing a different level of wear, from Brukenthal National Museum in Sibiu.  The P is virtually the same as the P in IMP.

Offline Lech Stępniewski

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #16 on: November 24, 2022, 03:30:53 pm »
I think we are looking at local products from the edge, or beyond the Roman world. Names may or may not reflect a local ruler

I'm not an expert in this field, but I also believe that all these coins may be authentic oddities produced in Barbaricum.
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Online Jay GT4

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #17 on: November 24, 2022, 05:42:44 pm »
My guess is as others have said, it is a barbaric issue. The celator made up a name or maybe even used his own name and minted a handful of coins.  So yes, it is ancient.  It was passed off as a real aureus, it circulated perhaps for decades and then was buried,  but it is still not an official mint product or even a real person.

EDITED

And why the radiate crown on an aureus?

Offline mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #18 on: November 24, 2022, 06:21:25 pm »
Hi Jay
And why the radiate crown on an aureus?
In the third century there were radiate gold pieces, referred to these days as binio.

Cheers,

Mauseus

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2022, 06:44:05 pm »
Ah, well not my area of interest.  Learned something new.  Thanks

Offline PMah

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2022, 06:52:26 pm »
One of fellow board members has fairly demolished the argument from a numismatic  perspective on Twitter.
  I won't repeat the negatives in detail, but you can start by asking why a nearly 400 year old , from not a massive issue,  silver reverse type that doesn't even mention Rome or have regional meaning, would be known and meaningful to the supposed issuer and his supposed troops receiving gold.   Particularly since another 100 years of perfectly good silver and gold, often in massive quantities, was presumably in competition for the reverse type even assuming the Republic had more credibility than  the even more massive quantities of equally good Julio-Claudian gold and silver that said "IMP" and "AVG"
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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2022, 06:58:34 pm »
That is the most problematic part but the author does address that issue—he doesn’t just leave it unexplained.

Offline PMah

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2022, 10:29:33 pm »
In my view, the author does not address the Republican reverse as an "issue", but rather folds it into the argument in support.
Apart from many other numismatic objections, it is a very serious weakness in the political messaging of coinage, akin to saying that a person running for governor in a U.S. state in the Rocky Mountains in 2022 decided to make a campaign ad featuring the explorer Henry Hudson's ship Half-Moon, even if no one in government had likely ever mentioned Henry Hudson's name more than a few times and certainly hadn't named a river or town or put his ship on a coin (which happened with Hudson far more often than Minucius Augurinus! ).  Yet that same energetic governor to-be ignored every iconic person and well-known image appearing on a coin in North America from James I to GHW Bush.  An episode of Star Trek also comes to mind.

In the absence of historical references,  and the known existence of fantasy imitations manufactured around the time of the purported discovery, the argument is quite a stretch.

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2022, 08:15:59 am »
I thought he did cite Republican imitations from this time period and also an excerpt from Tacitus that said something to the effect of Republican coinage being valued in the remote areas of the empire?

Offline Ron C2

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Re: Possible discovery of a new Roman usurper emperor?
« Reply #24 on: November 26, 2022, 12:18:31 am »
I'm not ready to speculate how these came to be, but the science proving the coin itself is ancient seems decent.  I'm leaning towards barbaric imitation coin.
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