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Multiple Dies of Sejanus Asses?

Minor Die Variations of an Extremely Rare Spanish Issue

By Max Paschall

Lucius Aelius Sejanus was the Praetorian Prefect under the emperor Tiberius (14-37 A.D.). Sejanus was probably born around 20-10 B.C. in Volsinii, Etruria. His adoptive father was Lucius Sejus Strabo, who was the Praetorian Prefect before Sejanus. Sejanus was the joint Prefect of the Praetorian Guard with his father until 15 A.D., when his father retired to become the prefect of Egypt.

Sejanus was the greatest influence on the emperor, Tiberius; even more so than Tiberius's own mother, Livia. Though Tiberius was not particularly fond of Sejanus, he admired the prefect's loyalty and persuasion. But Tiberius was deceived. Evidently, Sejanus was carrying on an affair with Livilla, Tiberius's niece and daughter-in-law. With her he had 2 illegitimate children (which most people thought were the sons of Drusus, Tiberius's son and Livilla's husband), Tiberius and Germanicus Gemellus. Sejanus and Livilla also poisoned Livilla's husband, Drusus. But Tiberius never knew of anything.

In 31 A.D., Sejanus was named as joint-consul with Tiberius. He also became the magistrate of the small Spanish town, Bilbilis (the modern town of Calatayud). In honor of Sejanus' consulship, the mint at Bilbilis began to strike an As of Tiberius, naming Sejanus the consul on the reverse of the coin. RPC (Roman Provincial Coinage) states that there are 19 examples known to exist.

The obverse has the crude, youthful portrait of Tiberius and the inscription: TI CAESAR DIVI AVGVSTI F AVGVSTVS. The reverse has abbreviation, COS (short for'consul') in a wreath surrounded by the inscription: MVN AVGVSTA BILBILIS TI CAESARE V L AELIO SEIANO.

I (the author) have recently purchased an example of this very rare coin from an Spanish auction catalog. When my coin arrived, I discovered that it was a very interesting strike. The obverse was exceptionally small for the large, 31 mm flan. But the reverse was the same size as the flan so it could not be a trial strike. I found 3 examples of this coin (with photos) online, and compared the dies. I discovered that there are about 3-4 different reverse dies of this coin, though there are probably more. They all have the same exact obverse die, but the reverse, though it has the same inscription, is a different die, carved by the same celator. To discern the different dies, I looked at the size and shape of the'C' in'COS', and the placement of the solitary letter'V' before the L AELIO SEIANO (Sejanus's full name: Lucius Aelius Sejanus).

Due to their extreme rarity, I was only able to find 4 pictures of coins of Sejanus, including my own. This hinders my research because there may be other dies of this coin which I may not  know of. But this is what I have uncovered thus far:

This is the Sejanus As from CNG. Notice the size and shape of the'C' in COS as well as the placement of the'V' directly below the wreath on the reverse. Photo courtesy of CNG.

This is the Sejanus from Numismatik Lanz. It was used as the plate coin in David L. Vagi's book: Coinage and History of the Roman Empire. Notice the different shape of the'C' in COS than the Sejanus As from CNG. Also notice how the'V' is placed just slightly to the left from directly beneath the wreath as the'V' was in the CNG coin. Photo courtesy of Numismatik Lanz.

This is Oldromancoin's Sejanus As. This coin may be of the same dies of my coin. The obverse die is the same for all Sejanus asses. But the reverse is almost always different. Photo courtesy of Classical Cash.

And finally, my coin. Notice how one side of the'O' is'COS' is thinner than the other side. Then compare the "O"'s shape and width to that of the coins above. Also compare the placement of the'V' with the line above with the coins above.

In conclusion, I have discovered that all of the obverse dies are the same, except there are probably 4 or more reverse dies. My theory is that the obverse die was the one which was embedded in the anvil which these coins were struck on, and that the reverse dies were the portable ones, which were replaced many times throughout the year 31. The reverse dies were also probably made of a softer metal, thus breaking and wearing away often.

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