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XXI

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WHERE IS RIC 41?

The Enigmatic Caligula Three Sisters Sestertius Dated TRP III?

By Joe Geranio

As most of you know or may not know the 3-sisters Caligula sestertius was only struck in 37-8 first emission, this was due to Drusilla's death and the conspiracy against Agrippina when she was banished. In 39, Agrippina and Livilla, with their maternal cousin, Drusilla's widower Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, were involved in a failed plot to murder Caligula, a plot known as the Plot of the Three Daggers, which was to make Lepidus the new emperor. Lepidus, Agrippina and Livilla were accused of being lovers. Not much is known concerning this plot and the reasons behind it. At the trial of Lepidus, Caligula felt no compunction about denouncing them as adulteresses, producing handwritten letters discussing how they were going to kill him.  Lepidus was executed.  Agrippina and Livilla were exiled by their brother to the Pontine Islands. 

During Caligula's principate, the women of the imperial family received the most public acknowledgment of their power and dynastic importance to date. The honors granted to his sisters and mother mark a string of "firsts": the first issue of coins devoted entirely, both in obverse and in reverse type, to a woman (Agrippina the Elder, on an issue of undated sestertii); the first living women to be both represented and identified by name on an issue of imperial Roman coins (Caligula's three sisters, on a sestertius of A.D. 37-38, fig. 1); the first women whose names were included in public oaths with those of the emperor; the first women to hold the rights of honorary Vestal Virgins (his sisters and grandmother Antonia Minor); the first woman (Drusilla) to be named in an emperor's will as the heir to his imperium, and the first woman (Drusilla) to be deified.

Diva Drusilla Panthea and the Sisters of Caligula
Author(s): Susan Wood Reviewed work - Source: American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 99, No. 3 (Jul., 1995), p. 458

It is a shame that Caligula's imperial coinage regarding this wonderful sestertius which was the beginning of his imperial rhetoric had to start with the conspiracy and death of his beloved Drusilla?.  So , there was no reason to start minting coins into 39-40 (TRP III) or 40-41 (TRP IIII).

The coin photo below:   This is a scan from Milan Sylloge of Roman coins. It was sent to me from a friend. This issue of Caligula with three sisters reverse was only struck in the first year of his reign 37-8 A.D., yet this issue with corrosion is from 39-40 A.D. RIC 41 reports such a coin with TR P III in Milan, with footnote "The Milan coin is perhaps a little tooled, but the reading seems plain."

A shame that RIC does not illustrate such an enigmatic novelty!

COIN PHOTO
Gaius (Caligula). AD 37-41. ∆ Sestertius (26.83 g, 7h). Rome mint. Struck AD 37-38. C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, laureate head left / AGRIPPINA DRVSILLA IVLIA, S C in exergue, Gaius' three sisters standing facing: Agrippina (as Securitas) leaning on column, holding cornucopia, and placing hand on Drusilla (as Concordia), holding patera and cornucopia; Julia (as Fortuna) holding rudder and cornucopia. RIC I 33; CNR XII, 56 (this coin); BMCRE 37; BnF 49; Cohen 4.



Here is the issue we see, RIC 33.
COIN PHOTO
Gaius (Caligula). AD 37-41. ∆ Sestertius (26.83 g, 7h). Rome mint. Struck AD 37-38. C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, laureate head left / AGRIPPINA DRVSILLA IVLIA, S C in exergue, Gaius' three sisters standing facing: Agrippina (as Securitas) leaning on column, holding cornucopia, and placing hand on Drusilla (as Concordia), holding patera and cornucopia; Julia (as Fortuna) holding rudder and cornucopia. RIC I 33; CNR XII, 56 (this coin); BMCRE 37; BnF 49; Cohen 4.
AE sestertius - RIC I, 41 No photo Gaius (Caligula). AD 37-41. ∆ Sestertius. Rome mint. Struck AD 39-40. C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR P III P P, laureate head left / AGRIPPINA DRVSILLA IVLIA, S C in exergue, Gaius' three sisters standing facing: Agrippina (as Securitas) leaning on column, holding cornucopia, and placing hand on Drusilla (as Concordia), holding patera and cornucopia; Julia (as Fortuna) holding rudder and cornucopia.
Ok, here is Prof. Butcher at 32 seconds telling us this was only struck in 37-38 Any thoughts? I am glad this was brought to my attention, because of all the years I have been sifting through Caligula's Coinage, especially RIC, I have never seen one with TRP III. Dont ya love this stuff!?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uZMF69W8fA

In 3:50 of the video he states it more emphatically, you can hear his reasons.
Curtis Clay a Numismatist had this to say about RIC 41.
One has to suspect that the coins are modern, since the Three Sisters type was no longer valid after Drusilla's death on 10 July 38, dated by the Ostian Fasti, and her consecration on 23 Sept. 38 (so Kienast, with a question mark, not naming a source). Since Drusilla had died and been deified before the beginning of Caligula's TR P III on 18 March 39, she should no longer have been displayed in a type along with her two living sisters, and without the title DIVA.

But say we are wrong about this, and the Three Sisters type was still considered valid between 18 March 39, when Caligula became TR P III, and the detection of the conspiracy of Agrippina and Julia in October 39 (mentioned in the Arval Acts on 25 Oct. 39). Why then is the type so rare with TR P III, rather than merely scarce like Caligula's other sestertius types with TR P III?

On the other hand, the Three Sisters type has always been rare and highly desired by collectors, so has been a favorite target of coin forgers. It would clearly be much more likely that a modern forger would mix up his dies, striking the Three Sisters type with TR P III, than that such a mix-up should occur at the ancient mint of Rome.

Tony de Laat's coin is, unfortunately, demonstrably such a case: the dies are Paduan, published by Klawans, Imitations and Inventions, pp. 33-4, with photo of a coin in the Paris collection. Forum's Fake Reports also include one example of this hybrid Paduan, which I re-illustrate below, plus numerous examples of Paduans or casts of Paduans from the same reverse die, but correctly coupled with a TR POT obverse, one of which I also re-illustrate below. How a specimen of this hybrid TR P III Paduan came to be buried near the Dutch border to Belgium is anyone's guess!

That leaves the Milan coin, which is from different dies. I suspect that it too will turn out to be modern. It would be important to check its obverse die against other clearly genuine TR P III sestertii of Caligula, and its reverse die against genuine Three Sisters sestertii with obverse TR POT.

Why the RIC 41 ref? It would have been more prudent of Sutherland to mention that coin in a footnote or appendix only, as suspect and requiring confirmation!