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Author Topic: Battle of Lugdunum 19 Feb. 196 not 197: a summary of C. Clay's arguments  (Read 4332 times)
curtislclay
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« on: June 12, 2016, 03:44:51 pm »

Septimus in the French forum Monnaies de l'Antiquit asked me about my redating of Septimius Severus' defeat of Clodius Albinus near Lugdunum from the traditional date, 19 Feb. 197, to one year earlier, 19 Feb. 196. Since I do not believe I have ever explained this redating in detail in Forum Ancient Coins' U.S. Forum, I thought I would repeat my answer here, for all those interested in the correct chronology of both the historical events and the coin types of the years 195-197 AD.

Septimus,

My idea is not a "daring conjecture" as you write, but an obviously valid correction of an old error. I have only published it briefly, at the end of my article on the date and purpose of the issue of Roman bronze medallions. But it was accepted as clearly correct by the eminent Roman historians Timothy Barnes and Ernst Badian, and by the audience at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where I presented it orally in 1975. Anthony Birley rejected it, but without being able to refute a single one of my arguments; he was simply too "invested" in the traditional chronology, which he had already followed in the first edition of his biography of Septimius (1971), and which he persisted in following, without any attempt to summarize or refute my arguments, in the second edition of that same biography (1988).

The basis of the old chronology: Dio's statements (1) that Septimius' siege of Byzantium lasted for "a full three-year period", i.e. from summer 193 when Septimius came to the throne, until (people assumed) summer 196, three years later; and (2) that Septimius was still campaigning in Mesopotamia when news of Byzantium's fall reached him.

But the vita Severi gives us the date 19 Feb. for the Battle of Lugdunum. Obviously not 19 Feb. 196, if Septimius was still in Mesopotamia in summer 196! So 19 Feb. 197, and to be attached to IMP VIIII, Septimius' first new acclamation of 197 according to the coins and inscriptions.

The correct interpretation: Dio was counting inclusively, as the ancients often did. By "a full three-year period" he meant not "three full years", but rather "two full years and into the third". So Byzantium fell not in summer 196, but in summer 195, occasioning not Septimius' IMP VIII of 196, but one of his approximately simultaneous IMP VI and IMP VII of mid-195.

From Mesopotamia in summer 195, Septimius marched to Gaul and defeated Albinus there near Lugdunum on 19 Feb. 196, occasioning his IMP VIII. On Septimius' denarii IMP VIII appeared about one eighth of the way through the production of 196 as shown by Reka Devnia specimen counts, thus fitting perfectly with my assignment of that acclamation to 19 Feb. 196.

Five of the decisive advantages of the new chronology:

a. According to the coins, Septimius won his fifth acclamation and the titles PART ARAB PART ADIAB very early in 195; the victory itself probably occurred c. Dec. 194. About the middle of 195, Septimius won two further acclamations, IMP VI and VII, approximately simultaneously. On the old chronology these were for further victories in Mesopotamia, where Septimius however remained, without winning any further acclamations, for a full year longer, until he heard there of the fall of Byzantium (IMP VIII) in summer 196. But what was Septimius doing in Mesopotamia for a full year after winning his last two acclamations for victories there? On the new chronology this problem of the wasted year in Mesopotamia disappears. Septimius won his second victory there, IMP VI or VII, about the same time in summer 195 that he heard of Byzantium's fall (the other of those two acclamations). He left Mesopotamia immediately, marched to Gaul, and defeated Albinus near Lugdunum on 19 Feb. 196 (IMP VIII).

b. The gravestone of a Pannonian soldier of Legio X Gemina records that he died at Ankara in Turkey on 3 Sept. 195, "on his way back from Parthia". Old chronology: meaningless, maybe the soldier had been discharged for age or illness, so was returning home while the rest of the army was still in Mesopotamia. New chronology: the soldier was participating in the march of Septimius' entire army from the East to Gaul; the date fits perfectly!

c. According to his vita, Septimius in the course of his march from the East to Gaul first broke with Albinus, and then, at Viminacium in Moesia Superior, made Caracalla Caesar in Albinus' place. But an aureus of Septimius as IMP VII shows rev. portrait of Caracalla, with legend SEVERI AVG PII FIL, the same legend that accompanied the type Sacrificial implements on Caracalla's own earliest coins as Caesar. Old chronology: this aureus of Septimius cannot show Caracalla as Caesar, since it was issued while Septimius was still in Mesopotamia, before news of Byzantium's fall (IMP VIII) had reached him there. New chronology: The fall of Byzantium in fact caused either IMP VI or VII in summer 195, after which Septimius set out immediately for Gaul. By early Sept. 195 parts of his army were apparently already in Ankara (b above). By Nov./Dec. 195 Septimius had reached Viminacium, where, having recently broken with Albinus, he proclaimed Caracalla Caesar, and issued the aureus in question, of course still as IMP VII.

As we will see below, Septimius' final issue of New Year's medallions and asses on 1 Jan. 196 already included coins for Caracalla as Caesar, with his earliest SEVERI AVG PII FIL Sacrificial implements rev. type, alongside coins of Septimius as IMP VII, confirming the evidence of the IMP VII aureus that Caracalla became Caesar while Septimius was still IMP VII. This fact refutes the old chronology, according to which Septimius was already IMP VIII when he left Mesopotamia, so of course also IMP VIII when he made Caracalla Caesar at Viminacium a couple of months later.


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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2016, 03:51:48 pm »

d. Inscriptions and coin types (ADVENTVI AVG FELICISSIMO, FORTVNAE REDVCI) prove that Septimius apparently visited Rome as IMP VIII in the course of 196. On the old chronology that was before his defeat of Albinus (IMP VIIII, 19 Feb. 197), so Septimius would appear to have made an excursion to Rome during his march from the East to Gaul, though such an excursion would have exposed him to great dangers (attack or assassination during the excursion, defection of his leaderless army to Albinus), and though Herodian, admittedly an often unreliable historian, states explicitly that Septimius marched directly from the East to Gaul. On the new chronology Septimius indeed marched directly to Gaul, as Herodian states, and defeated Albinus near Lugdunum on 19 Feb. 196, thereby becoming IMP VIII. So the IMP VIII inscriptions and coins of later in 196 attesting Septimius' presence in Rome refer not to a strategically unlikely excursion to Rome during Septimius' march to Gaul, which is contradicted by Herodian and passed over in silence by Dio and the vita Severi, but rather to Septimius' undoubted return to Rome after his defeat of Albinus, which all authors recount!

Note that according to the coins, Septimius only returned once to Rome in 196-197, at a time when he was IMP VIII: there are no Adventus or Fortuna Redux coins commemorating the old chronology's supposed second imperial return to Rome after IMP VIIII in 197. Clearly the one imperial return to Rome attested by the coins must have been identical with the one return attested by the ancient authors. It was the misdating of the Battle of Lugdunum to 197 rather than 196 that forced the old chronology to manufacture a double return to Rome, one in 196 attested only by the coins and inscriptions, the other in 197 deduced from the misdated literary sources but not confirmed by coin types.

e. According to his vita and Dio, Septimius returned to Rome after defeating Albinus, where he first rebuked the Senate for its support of Albinus and executed 29 senators or other eminent men, then later held games and distributed a largesse to the people of Rome, before departing to the East again on his second Parthian expedition. On the coins, however, Septimius' LIBERALITAS AVG II type occurs only with IMP VIII, while his MVNIFICENTIA AVG type, showing an elephant and commemorating his giving of games, starts with IMP VIII and continues with IMP VIIII, accompanied by a PROFECTIO AVG type, showing the emperor on horseback and commemorating his departure on a new expedition, which also passes from IMP VIII to IMP VIIII. Old chronology: the vita's dating of Septimius' second largesse to after his defeat of Albinus must be wrong, for the coins show that he distributed that largesse as IMP VIII, i.e. before his defeat of Albinus (IMP VIIII) on 19 Feb. 197. The MVNIFICENTIA and PROFECTIO types have to be applied to games on the occasion of two different departures, those with IMP VIII relating to his departure from Rome against Albinus, those with IMP VIIII to his departure on his second Parthian expedition as recorded by his vita. New chronology: the vita is correct, Septimius indeed distributed his second largesse after his defeat of Albinus and as IMP VIII, since that acclamation commemorated his victory over Albinus, not the fall of Byzantium. The MVNIFICENTIA and PROFECTIO types relate to only one holding of games and one departure, namely those of spring 197 as recorded by the vita, which took place at about the same time that news of a new imperatorial acclamation, IMP VIIII, reached Rome.


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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2016, 03:53:11 pm »

You ask about the occasions of Septimius' IMP VIIII and X in 197, if, as I propose, IMP VIII commemorated the battle of Lugdunum on 19 Feb. 196. Now that is a minor problem, which we have to realize may be insoluable: the literary and epigraphical sources are so fragmentary that they often do not provide us with likely occasions for all of the imperatorial acclamations that are recorded on the coins and in the inscriptions. Here, however, is what I had to say about this question in my Oxford thesis (1972):  

"Now Dio says that while Severus was involved in the civil war the Parthians captured Mesopotamia, and would have seized Nisibis itself, had not Laetus, who was besieged there, saved the place, and thereby acquired for himself even greater renown. When Severus himself came to Nisibis, Dio continues, the Parthians instead of awaiting him retired homewards; he therefore returned to the Euphrates and constructed boats for his march along the river into enemy territory. It is clear that when Severus arrived the Parthians abandoned Mesopotamia altogether; much territory will have passed back into Roman hands, perhaps with some skirmishing, and it is easy to suppose that Severus' tenth acclamation resulted from this success. It is usually assumed that Laetus 'saved' (διεσωσατο) Nisibis merely by holding it until Severus arrived; but it could be that he had actually broken the Parthian siege by himself and had advanced some way towards driving the Parthians out of Mesopotamia. If so the salvation of Nisibis, in about May 197, could have been the occasion of Severus' ninth imperatorial acclamation. Otherwise, IMP VIIII will probably belong to an unknown early success in the Parthian war before the arrival of the emperor himself."
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2016, 05:20:08 am »

Thank you Curtis, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this summary.

Alex.
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2016, 08:58:19 am »

This is a great demonstration.  Thumbs Up

Have you tried to publish it since 1975?
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2016, 11:55:04 am »

Gentlemen, thanks for the compliments!

Unfortunately only a brief summary of my argument has ever been published, as mentioned above.

Septimus wrote in Monnaies de l'Antiquit that he accepted my arguments for backdating the Battle of Lugdunum to 196, but wanted to re-examine the evidence and arguments that had persuaded earlier authors to preserve the traditional dating, apart from the common human tendency to just accept what our distinguished predecessors have concluded.

My reply:

The reasons that led to the assignment of the Battle of Lugdunum to 19 Feb. 197 instead of 196 I have already stated above, at the beginning of my first post on this subject: Dio's statement that the siege of Byzantium lasted for "a full three-year period", misinterpreted to mean "three full years" when it actually meant "two full years and into the third".

This misinterpretation led to the conclusion that Septimius must still have been in Mesopotamia in summer 196, so he could not have defeated Albinus at Lugdunum several months before then, on 19 Feb. of the same year!

Misdating the Battle of Lugdunum to 19 Feb. 197 instead of 196 led to a large number of chronological problems with the evidence for other events of the years 195-197, five of which (a-e) I have explained above. But it didn't occur to anybody to ask whether the cause of those problems might be that the Battle of Lugdunum had been dated one year too late.

I experienced myself the power of the accepted chronology! I wrote my undergraduate senior thesis in 1966 on the history of the first ten years of Septimius' reign, then undertook at Oxford a study of the Severan imperial coinage of the first five years of the reign, 193-198 AD. But for years and years, despite encountering difficulty after difficulty in the chronology of the events and coin types of 195-197, I did not question the correctness of dating the Battle of Lugdunum to 197. The possibility that the battle might have taken place a year earlier never entered my head. It was not until the fall of 1971, when I had completed my catalogue and research and was writing the historical commentary for my Oxford thesis, that the correct solution finally occurred to me.
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2016, 01:24:13 pm »

Nice piece of scholarship. Academics are quite often hard-headed when it comes to "established facts". What these individuals do is to create sacred objects which cannot be criticized or carefully examined with a charge being levelled that one is being profane in challenging accepted sacred ideas. If scholarship is to remain honest and true to both evidence and the process of investigation, it is necessary to locate oneself on a continuum of the sacred and the profane and to judge the potential impact of one's position.

Thanks for such an interesting argument. Quite often in academia argument is characterized by gainsaying opponents rather than a careful process of examining the propositions up for debate.
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2016, 02:49:43 pm »

How were time periods counted? Is there any parallel with the inclusive reckoning that says Jesus died on Friday, and rose on Sunday morning, and counts that as three days?
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2016, 05:01:38 pm »

Nice piece of scholarship. Academics are quite often hard-headed when it comes to "established facts". What these individuals do is to create sacred objects which cannot be criticized or carefully examined with a charge being levelled that one is being profane in challenging accepted sacred ideas. If scholarship is to remain honest and true to both evidence and the process of investigation, it is necessary to locate oneself on a continuum of the sacred and the profane and to judge the potential impact of one's position.

Thanks for such an interesting argument. Quite often in academia argument is characterized by gainsaying opponents rather than a careful process of examining the propositions up for debate.

On the contrary, I think that academics are often willing to challenge established facts, but not when it challenges their own writings.  Grin
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« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2016, 08:33:56 am »

First Nepotian (whose usurpation Curtis re-dated several years ago from 350 to 351) and now Severus' defeat of Albinus.  Actually, it seems that your work on Severus was done long ago so it came first.  Regardless, it is an impressive track record of always keeping alert to what numismatics can tell us about broader history.

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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2016, 09:45:12 am »

This was a fascinating read Curtis, thank you for posting it!
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2016, 11:11:18 am »

Two questions from AMICTUS in the French forum, with my responses:

"Do the history and coinage of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Caracalla) fit with the date you are supporting (February 196 AD) for the battle at Vaise ?

"One of the reasons usually given for the severing of the relationship between Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus is his dynastic policy including changing name of Bassianus to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and his nomination as Caesar thus depriving the already Caesar Clodius Albinus of any future and legitimacy. Can this nomination be dated by end 195 AD to keep the reason for the outbreak of the conflict valid ?"

My response:

There can be no doubt that Caracalla was proclaimed Caesar in late November or December 195 AD.

1. Wilcken, Arsinoitische Tempelrechnungen aus dem J. 215 n. Chr., Hermes 20, 1885, pp. 455-6 ingeniously restored a fragmentary papyrus to record a celebration on an uncertain day in the Egyptian month Xoiak (27 Nov.-26 Dec.) in 215 AD, the occasion being the anniversary of Caracalla's proclamation as Caesar, "because our lord was proclaimed Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Caesar". For Caracalla's original proclamation as Caesar in Nov.-Dec., only the years 195 and 196 can come into question, but the date Nov.-Dec. 196 is excluded by the earliest Alexandrian tetradrachm of Caracalla Caesar, which bears the date Year 4, so must have been struck before 28 August 196, when Septimius' Egyptian Year 4 ended and his Year 5 began (Dattari 4042 = Gemini XIII, 6 April 2017, lot 414). According to this Egyptian evidence, Caracalla must have been proclaimed Caesar in Nov.-Dec. 195.

2. At the mint of Rome Septimius produced comparatively large issues of both bronze medallions and ordinary copper asses for New Year's Day 194, 195, and 196, but in the course of 196 he discontinued this practice, and over the next ten years produced virtually no more bronze medallions whatever, and no more larger issues of asses at any time in the year. But Caracalla Caesar's first rev. type, SEVERI AVG PII FIL, Sacrificial implements, is comparatively common on both bronze medallions and ordinary asses. These pieces must have formed part of Septimius' last New Year's issue of 1 Jan. 196, proving that Caracalla was certainly Caesar by the end of Dec. 195.

3. Dio 75.4.1: At the last horserace held in Rome before the Saturnalia, at which Dio himself was present, the people broke out in lamentations over the recent outbreak of civil war between Septimius and Albinus. The Saturnalia began on 17 Dec.; the games in question were probably those of Divus Lucius Verus on 15 Dec. So the news of Septimius' break with Albinus must have reached Rome during the first half of December 195. Obviously Caracalla must have been made Caesar very soon after that break, since the papyrus from Arsinoe dates his elevation to the Caesarship to the month 27 Nov.-26 Dec. 195.

I don't think Caracalla's Caesarship was the cause of Albinus' revolt, however. Instead, as the vita Severi says, Septimius first broke with Albinus, doubtless having him proclaimed a public enemy, and then a little later proclaimed Caracalla Caesar, making his own son successor to the throne instead of Albinus.
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« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2016, 11:14:35 am »

"Does this date leave enough time to Clodius Albinus to cross to the continent, gain support in Germania and Gaul and meet Severus in battle in February 196 AD ?"

My response:

I'd say that we don't have to ruminate whether or not Nov./Dec. 195-19 Feb. 196 was enough time for Albinus to cross from Britain to the Continent, rally support, and finally meet Septimius in the decisive battle near Lugdunum.

Obviously it was enough time: for both dates, break with Septimius in late Nov. or early Dec. 195, Battle of Lugdunum on 19 Feb. 196, are so solidly attested that they may be regarded as certain.

Or do you think you can refute my other arguments that the Battle of Lugdunum to all appearances took place on 19 Feb. 196?

This consideration can never become an argument for postponing the Battle of Lugdunum from 196 to 197, because Albinus probably realized well in advance that his break with Septimius was pending, so could have begun preparations a month or two before the formal break on c. 1 Dec. 195. In my Oxford thesis I was able to demonstrate that Septimius stopped issuing coins for Albinus as Caesar at the mint of Rome in summer 195; Albinus' normal one denarius reverse type was replaced by an additional, fourth, type for Septimius himself. Albinus could well have had friends in Rome who noticed this change and reported it to him. Moreover it must have become obvious fairly soon after Septimius marched from Asia Minor into Thrace, perhaps around 15 Sept. 195, that his four Moesian legions were not breaking off to return to their camps on the Danube, but were continuing west with the rest of the army towards Gaul.
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2016, 11:31:29 am »

Septimus asked for justification of my statement that "On Septimius' denarii IMP VIII appeared about one eighth of the way through the production of 196 as shown by Reka Devnia specimen counts, thus fitting perfectly with my assignment of that acclamation to 19 Feb. 196."

My response:

Throughout 196 (TR P IIII), the mint was striking three denarius types for Septimius at a time, each type in approximately the same volume. The fourth denarius type that Septimius had taken over from Albinus Caesar in summer 195 had passed to Caracalla Caesar in late Nov. or Dec. 195.

First TR P IIII issue of Septimius, continuing from previous year: two of the three types show the tribunician number, namely TR P IIII Palladium, IMP VII 21 spec., IMP VIII 12 spec.; TR P IIII Fortuna, IMP VII 10 spec., IMP VIII 19 spec. We may also use the IMP VIII figure for the third type, ARAB ADIAB COS II P P, Victory advancing: RD 34. Average for one type: IMP VII 15.5 spec., IMP VIII 21.5 spec.

Second TR P IIII issue, confined to that year: ADVENTVI 47 spec., FORT. RED. 56 spec., TR P IIII Victory 45 spec. Average for one type: 49 spec.

Third TR P IIII issue, continuing into TR P V: only one of the three types with tribunician number, namely TR P IIII Pax seated, 26 spec.

Average number of denarii per type for TR P IIII coins in RD hoard:
Issue 1, IMP VII, 15.5 spec.
Issue 1, IMP VIII, 21.5 spec.
Issue 2, IMP VIII, 49 spec.
Issue 3, IMP VIII, 26 spec.

Total 112 spec. per type, 15.5 of which (13%) with IMP VII, 96.5 (87%) with IMP VIII.
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« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2016, 04:12:27 pm »

I am disappointed to see that Timothy Barnes has retreated from his earlier acceptance of my discovery, and doesn't even bother, in the article of 2008 cited below, to name me as the originator of the idea, and to cite my 1972 Oxford thesis in which I set out all the evidence and, as I think, conclusively proved that the traditional date for the Battle of Lugdunum is one year too late!

It is astonishing to me how learned and intelligent scholars can sometimes cling to traditional ideas even after they have been decisively refuted. It must be evident to Birley, for example, that if he had to present and then attempt to refute my arguments, he would be forced to concede that they must in fact be correct. So he attempts to throw other scholars off the scent by refusing to even argue the matter on the pretext that my redating is "too implausible to require discussion." Partly my fault, of course: if I had published my arguments in a major journal, Birley and others would be forced to respond to them!

New England Classical Journal 35.4 (2008) 251-267
Aspects of the Severan Empire, Part I:
Severus as a New Augustus
Timothy D. Barnes
Universities of Toronto and Edinburgh

pp. 254-5: "Severus left Rome before the end of 193 and proceeded to the East. Before he returned westwards and attacked Albinus, whom he defeated and killed in a hard-fought battle at Lugdunum on 19 February 197 (though a date of 19 February 196 has been proposed) [note 17], he deliberately waged an
aggressive campaign outside the existing frontiers of the Roman Empire and added a new province."

note 17: "T. D. Barnes, Gnomon 47 (1975), 373; The Sources of the Historia Augusta.
Collection Latomus 55 (Brussels, 1978), 87. This redating is dismissed as too
implausible to require discussion by Birley, Septimius Severus (1988), 248 n. 13."
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« Reply #15 on: July 20, 2016, 07:06:27 pm »

That's a real shame Curtis.  You should publish your argument.  I'm sure there are many journals that would be happy to have it!
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« Reply #16 on: October 05, 2017, 08:47:31 pm »

Curtis, this was an excellent read.  Very illuminating.  I do not have enough experience to make any worthwhile contribution to the discussion.  I do appreciate the scholarship and thoroughness of your presentation. 

It is a pity that the scholars in question do not feel the need to defend their assumption of what appears to be inconsistencies in the record as accurate when it appears that your argument more than dispenses with the burden of proof.

Considering the date of your thesis, would this be considered IMP I for you?

Nick
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« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2017, 08:52:55 pm »

Nick,

Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed reading my argument, and found it convincing.

Numismatists and ancient coin collectors might be interested to consider: how much did my study of the coinage of the time contribute to this historical discovery?

Quite a bit, actually! The chief fact I found that contradicts the traditional chronology was that Caracalla was proclaimed Caesar in late Nov. or Dec. 195, at a time when according to the old chronology Septimius was still campaigning in Mesopotamia, several months of marching time away from Viminacium, where Caracalla's proclamation took place according to the vita Severi. If we believe the vita and accordingly place Septimius in Viminacium in late Nov.-early Dec. 195, then clearly Byzantium must have fallen and Septimius must have left Mesopotamia in summer 195, not in summer 196 as the old chronology had wrongly concluded by misinterpreting Dio's stated "full three-year duration" of the siege of Byzantium.

This dating of Caracalla's elevation to late 195 was indeed already strongly suggested by previous evidence, namely Wilcken's restoration of the papyrus from Arsinoe commemorating the anniversary of Caracalla's Caesarship in Nov.-Dec. 215 AD, published in 1885, together with the Alexandrian tetradrachm naming Caracalla Caesar before 28 August 195, published in 1901, and Dio's account of the protest against the new civil war that he witnessed at the last circus games before the Saturnalia, so around the middle of Dec., in a year that he does not specify. But since the papyrus from Arsinoe had many gaps, scholars felt justified to disregard Wilcken's very persuasive restoration of its text, despite the strong support that it obviously received from Dio's account and dating of the protest in the circus.

Numismatic evidence, however, made it clear that Wilcken's restoration of the papyrus must in fact be correct, and therefore that Septimius must have proclaimed Caracalla Caesar in late Nov. or Dec. 195.

1. The IMP VII aureus of Septimius with rev. SEVERI AVG PII FIL, Bare-headed, draped bust of Caracalla r., already discussed above. This coin, a specimen of which first appeared in an illustrated auction catalogue in 1910, was correctly interpreted as showing Caracalla as Caesar by Mattingly in RIC p. 66 and BMC p. xcii and by Hill (second ed.) 203, but neither of these numismatists realized that, according to the traditional chronology, Septimius must already have been IMP VIII when he declared Caracalla Caesar at Viminacium, so the IMP VII date on this aureus poses a problem.

2. My study of the Severan coinage of 193-198 showed that its main type sequence was surprisingly simple: at any one time the mint was usually striking five denarius types and five sestertius types in approximately the same volumes, that is three types in each denomination for Septimius, one type for Julia Domna, and one type for Albinus Caesar at first, then later for Caracalla Caesar. In each denomination, all five of the types usually ended and were replaced by five new types at one and the same time. In summer 195, however, Albinus' coinage at Rome apparently ended, and his one reverse type on denarii was replaced by a fourth denarius type for Septimius, which itself only lasted until just after 10 Dec. 195, when it ended and Septimius' denarius coinage reverted to just three rev. types. There can be little doubt that Septimius' fourth denarius type ended because it was being replaced by Caracalla Caesar's earliest type; therefore Caracalla must have been made Caesar, and his Rome-mint coinage must have begun, soon after 10 Dec. 195.

Philip Hill's attempt to reconstruct the type sequence of the Roman imperial coinage of 193-217, published in 1964, second edition 1977, was unfortunately a fiasco, wrong in almost all assumptions and details, as I have stated numerous times on Forvm. Regarding the matter at hand, Hill failed to recognize that the mint exceptionally struck a fourth denarius type for Septimius from summer 195 until soon after 10 Dec. 195; he made Albinus' coinage end early in 195, when Septimius was proclaimed IMP V, rather than in mid-195 when Septimius was proclaimed IMP VI and then IMP VII; and he started Caracalla Caesar's coinage not in Dec. 195, but only after 27 May 196, accepting a date for Caracalla's Caesarship which was wrongly conjectured by some earlier historian, I forget by whom and on what supposed evidence. It takes a wide collection of material, particularly for the undated coinages of empresses and Caesars, and careful analysis of numerous factors to correctly reconstruct the type sequence of any more complicated section of the Roman imperial coinage; but Hill relied mainly just on the material published by type in the standard catalogues (where some die links are pointed out, but there are no die studies), and he made many methodological mistakes, for example often ignoring the important criterion of which types in a particular issue were probably early because they had already been struck in the preceding issue, and which were probably late because they were to be carried on in the next issue.

3. As I have explained elsewhere on Forvm, my examination of the imperial titles on the bronze medallions of c. 160-195 AD led me to the discovery that almost all of them must have been produced in c. Dec. of each year, but with their titles adjusted to fit the upcoming 1 January, so that they could be used as New Year's gifts on that day. Previously some bronze medallions had indeed been dated to New Year's Day, but it was wrongly assumed that others were regularly distributed on other occasions too, for example accessions, promotions in rank, triumphs, largesses, marriages, consecrations, the undertaking or payment of vows, and so on. This discovery about the single issue date and occasion of virtually all Roman bronze medallions provided the final numismatic confirmation that Caracalla was made Caesar in late Nov. or Dec. 195, because in the course of 196 Septimius suspended the issue of New Year's medallions and of the ordinary asses which regularly accompanied the medallions, but Caracalla's first type as Caesar was comparatively common on bronze medallions and on asses, so these pieces must have been struck for distribution on 1 January 196, as part of Septimius' last larger issue of New Year's medallions and asses, proving that Caracalla was certainly Caesar by the end of Dec. 195.





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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2017, 09:24:02 pm »

Curtis,

You are welcome.  The compliment is well deserved.  I like a well constructed argument and it appears that here you have demonstrated a change in date which not only makes sense but also seems to render other dates poorly considered. 

I know nothing about the issuance of medallions besides what I have read here in this thread.  I always had assumed that there was a reason of gift giving for them but had not ever had that suspicion confirmed.  Is the primary source of information about the medallions in RIC or elsewhere?  I know you studied the BMC so was study of the primary material your source for the information?

I am just learning about the production times of denarii in some threads (this being a considerable source of information) and in reading my online version of RIC.  What was the primary source for that information mostly?  I know you can ascertain some idea of production volumes from hoard discoveries but in terms of mint figures where were those recorded?  Considering the vast means of accounting in the Empire I would imagine there were records of metal in and coinage out especially later with officina marks along with mint marks

Every time I learn something, I also learn I need to learn ten more things.

Nick
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« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2017, 01:21:01 am »

Nick,

Briefly, medallions were excluded from the earlier volumes of both RIC and BMC. The main sources for them are Gnecchi's I medaglioni romani of 1912 (three volumes), Strack's catalogues of the Roman imperial coinage from Trajan to Antoninus Pius (three volumes, 1931-1937), Toynbee's ANS monograph Roman Medallions of 1944 (reprinted with a new introduction by Bill Metcalf in 1986), Dressel's volume on the Roman medallions in Berlin (mainly written during the First World War but only published in 1973), Mittag's recent corpus of Roman medallions from Caesar to Hadrian (2010), plus sale catalogues and other monographs for more recently published or recently acquired examples. When collecting material (plaster casts) for my Severan study at various museums in Europe and America, I naturally included medallions in all metals, i.e. in both bronze and silver, no gold medallions being known from this period.

As to the relative production volumes of ancient coins: no documentary evidence (mint records, etc.) has survived, so we can only make deductions from hoard statistics, or from the number of dies found for each type in a die study. Occasionally, in particular during the Roman Republic, each die was numbered with a figure that was included in the coin design, so just noting the highest die numbers recorded will suffice for comparing the relative volumes of any two issues whose dies were so marked.
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« Reply #20 on: October 09, 2017, 12:56:56 pm »

Very impressive, convincing and illuminating!

Frans
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Nicholas Z
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« Reply #21 on: October 09, 2017, 09:57:15 pm »

This is a bit off topic: major museums let you plaster cast medallions?  I would have never thought that.

Die studies are also something I know too little about.   I will have to save that conversation for another thread or conversation.  Still I am fascinated by it.  Especially since the details of the methodology seem overwhelming in terms of finding enough coin examples to author a relatively authoritative study.

Thank you for the references for medallions.  I would love to read those sources if given the chance.   Im assuming that most of those are out of print and found only in major/dealer research collections.
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« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2017, 12:05:25 pm »

This is a bit off topic: major museums let you plaster cast medallions?  I would have never thought that.

Decades ago when I was touring museums, it was normal practice that scholars would be allowed to make their own plaster casts of museum coins.

Two changes in more recent days: some museums will no longer permit visitors to make their own casts (I know this for a fact of two major and one minor collection, Vienna, ANS, and Basle), and most younger numismatists now prefer to work with photographs anyway, and were probably not even taught how to make plaster casts!
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« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2017, 10:02:32 pm »

I admit, I find the idea of a major museum allowing traveling scholars to cast some of their precious items.  Photos, sure thing, all day long.  But casts?  It is hard to believe that the practice was allowed much less standard at the time.

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« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2017, 01:01:41 am »

So you doubt that the thousands and thousands of plaster casts of museum coins that I have in my cabinet were actually made by myself?

What reason could I possibly have for trying to conceal the truth from you and other Forvm readers?

I could also show you thousands of plaster casts that coin dealers and collectors allowed me to make of pieces in their stocks/collections. It was widely known that, with certain precautions that I name in my Forvm thread on making casts, it will not hurt coins to make plasticine impressions of them.
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Curtis Clay
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