An AE 30 Neocorate issue of Nikomedia, Bithynia

Roman Provincial/Greek Imperial Coins were issued by many cities over a period of nearly three centuries. So many issues by so many authorities was certain to include quite a bit of variety. This page will look at a coin of Macrinus and focus on some points that made the coin interesting to me. We have looked at coins of this ruler before but still this coin has information to offer not previously offered on this site. At 30mm diameter the coin would seem to be a local version of the sestertius but the thin flan weighs only 11.1g - light for a sestertius and light in comparison with the other coin of this size we examined. Note that the coin on this page lacks the sharply squared edges of the Laodikea coin. It also lacks the centration dimples commonly found on many provincial issues but not used at Nikomedia. These three flan production techniques cover the techniques commonly found on provincial coins. Most cities used one or another 'fabric' consistently through the time that coins were issued so this characteristic can be used both for identification and authentication.

Macrinus - AE 30 - Nikomedia Bithynia - 11.1g
NEIKOMHDEWN DIC NEWKORWN - soldier standing left

Previously we have examined some coins that placed the legend continuously around the edges and others that broke it into sections allowing for elements of the design that neared the edges of the coin. This coin shows a very unusual compromise: The letters of the legend that fell near the protruding design were simply made smaller to fit in the space available. On the obverse we see 'CE' of 'Severus' and 'VG' of 'Augustus' in a much smaller 'font' than the rest of the legend. The reverse shows only one letter 'I' reduced by being crowded by the soldier's helmet. Another legend oddity illustrated by this coin is the spelling of the city name. Coins from Nikomedia are found with both 'NIK' and 'NEIK' spellings. The spelling difference changes back and forth more than once over the two centuries during which the city issued coins. I have no explanation of why this occurred other than Greek frequently varied the handling of diphthongs. Can you add to my understanding here?

The reverse legend begins with the genitive plural 'of the Nikomedians'. What follows is notice of the civic pride of the city in maintaining two (D IC) 'Neocorates' or temples dedicated to the Imperial cult. Cities entitled to this distinction usually listed it on coins. Those with more than one temple usually listed the number (sometimes using a numeral like B=2). Nikomedia later built a third temple so coins of Elagabalus are found with TPIC (3) but under Severus Alexander the count is back to two. Such evidence is of interest both to coin collectors and to historians studying the city.

Some catalogs would describe this coin as showing Ares (Latin Mars), the god of war. Others might consider this to be the personification of valor Arete (Virtus), a female figure (explaining why virtus, the Latin word for 'manliness', is feminine declension). A third choice would be simply a soldier. What have we here? If the figure were bearded or nude, Ares would be the choice. Ares is also suggested by the fact that another coin of Macrinus shows Athena (Minerva), the sister and frequent companion of Ares. If the body shape were clear enough to suggest gender, we could be more certain. Perhaps it would be better to call this a soldier. Catalog identifications and descriptions are the best efforts of their authors but the collector needs to be aware that the intent of the die cutter may have been different. Wear on the coin certainly makes this identification no easier.

Again, the coin shown on this page shows several minor points of interest. We did not mention here the matter of beard length that was the subject of the earlier page on Macrinus. What we see as important in a coin tells much about ourselves as individual collectors.

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(c) 1999 Doug Smith