A Valerian I (?) Bronze from Pisidia

A small bronze (AE 23mm) from Antioch in Pisidia has caused me some problems over its attribution. The mint location is clearly evident on the reverse of the coin, the Roman colony of Antioch in Pisidia, not to be confused with its more famous namesake in Syria. The issuing emperor, however, is a different matter.

The coin was acquired as being an issue of Valerian I (253-c.259-60) but an examination of the obverse legend gives the reading IMP CAER A SLLOVNAHIIIR. This is a long way from anything approaching IMP CAES VALERIANVS AVG or similar.

The problem is compounded by the bust, a youthful radiate, draped and bearded bust. Alright, beards are not unknown on the main Roman coins of Valerian as demonstrated by the left hand antoninianus, but they soon disappear. Furthermore the youthful bust is misleading as, and I'm guessing here, he must have been born around 210 AD and be in his mid forties.

Checking the standard references for the series, Krzyzanowska's Monnaies Coloniales d'Antioch de Pisidie (no. VIII) and the Sylloge Nummorum Graecorum (Fitzwilliam Museum) (no. 1696) revealed that both confirm this legend as being for Valerian I, rather than Valerian II or Saloninus.

The die cutters of Antioch were, apparently, very unskilled, particularly towards the end of the mint's life and I wonder whether this was a reflection of the increase in the volume of coinage needed to feed into the eastern military campaigns resulting in the use of amateur die cutters?

The Trajan Decius bronze (AE 26mm) illustrated here also shows orthographic errors both on the obverse and reverse, the obverse legend being rendered as IMCI CAES G MESS Q DECIO TRA and the backwards RS in the exergue on the reverse. The backwards P in IMP and the order of Decius' name being the giveaway.

This is some way removed from the pretty coins produced a quarter of a century earlier under emperors, such as this bronze of Elagabalus (AE 23mm). For more on Antioch in Pisidia it is worth consulting the link on the homepage.


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2003 RJB