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XXI

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MON VRB

Latin abbreviation: Moneta Urbis - Mint of the City.

MON VRB was used as a mintmark on Roman provincial Syria tetradrachms. According to H. R. Baldus this initial issue of coins was minted in Rome. Indeed the portrait style is unmistakably that of the mint of Rome, and even if the coins were actually minted in Antioch, the dies were surely engraved by the Rome mint.


Philip I. AR-tetradrachm, struck 244 or 248 AD at Rome mint (see below for discussion).
Obv: AVTOK K M IOYL FILIPPOY CEB, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right.
Rev: DHMAPX EXOYCIAC, MON VRB in exergue, S C in field, eagle standing facing, head left, holding wreath in beak.
26 mm, 12.36 g
Prieur 304; Baldus pl. I, 9

On a the discussion board in a post about the coin above, Curtis Clay wrote the following:

MON VRB on the reverse apparently means that this Syrian tetradrachm was struck at the "City mint", i.e. the mint of Rome, as first proposed by H.R. Baldus in 1969 and today generally accepted.

These tetradrachms are normally dated to c. 244-5 AD on the basis of Philip's portrait. In that case they are the first products of the mint of Rome to show officina numbers, for apart from the unmarked issue like Lars' coin, there is a set with the Greek numerals 1-6 by the eagle's head on rev., A, B, Gamma, Delta, E, S. On antoniniani of the mint of Rome officina numbers do not appear until 248, first the SAECVLARES AVGG series with Latin numbers I-VI, then the final issue of the reign at Rome with the same Greek numerals as on the tetradrachms.  Also it is difficult to conceive why Philip I should have struck Syrian tetradrachms in Rome in 244-5.

I am considering a different dating for the MON VRB tetradrachms, namely late 248 AD, when I propose that Philip and his family undertook an expedition to the East.  The tetradrachms were struck at Rome, then, in order to BE TAKEN ALONG on that expedition to Syria where they could be spent; and they were marked with the Greek numerals 1-6 at PRECISELY THE SAME TIME THAT THE SAME LETTERS WERE BEING PLACED ON ANTONINIANI.  Do the portraits on the tetradrachms allow this hypothesis, or do they decisively refute it and demonstrate a much earlier date as several scholars have maintained?

It is curious that the obverse legend of these tetradrachms is in the genitive case, PHILLIPOY. The genitive of the ruler's name had been the norm on Seleucid coins, and was continued on Antioch tetradrachms of the Roman emperors up to Vespasian. But the nominative obv. legend begins to appear on Syrian tetradrachms under Nero, and that case was used exclusively by all emperors from Titus on, with the single exception of Philip I's MON VRB coins. For Commodus Caesar, a dative legend was used, and for Otacilia Severa, an accusative legend; but Philip I is the only emperor to have a genitive legend after Vespasian. All of his Syrian tetradrachms struck at Antioch not Rome have the standard nominative legend.