Coin of the Month

April 2023: ‘Countermarks’ that are not

The Coin of this Month is presented by Ulrike Peter

In the coinage of Topeirus in AD 211, we encounter a little-known phenomenon of so-called pseudo-countermarks. At first glance, these give an impression of real countermarks, but a closer look demonstrates that they were in fact engraved in the original die.

Topeiros – the province's westernmost road station on the Via Egnatia – minted sporadically from Antoninus Pius until the joint rule of Caracalla and Geta in 211 AD. The dominant reverse type was Heracles sitting on a rock (see COM 2015/12). However, in 211, a number of new types emerge. Almost all reverse types used in the coinage of Caracalla also appear in the coinage of Geta. The coin shown here from comes from the collection of Bartosz Awianowicz of Toruń, who kindly contributes his coins to our portal. It shows a spear-wielding rider (the emperor?) on a horse galloping to the right, a type that has previously been attested in Topeiros only under Geta. Such motifs associated with the emperor do not appear in the city until the Severan period, although in other mints in the province, especially in Aegean Thrace, they emerge earlier.

In addition to the usual portrait of Geta and the legend ΑVΤ Κ Π ϹΕΠ-ΤΙΜΙ ΓΕΤΑϹ, the obverse also shows a round indentation with a monogram, which on all specimens or dies is framed by the ribbon of the laurel wreath. The monogram ΠΟΛ stands for Πόπλιος, which is a Greek rendering of the name Publius.

All coins of the two larger denominations of Geta, as well as of Caracalla, and all coins of Iulia Domna with the legend ΙΟVΛΙΑ ΔΟΜΝΑ bear a monogram within a round depression imitating a countermark. Their placement corresponds very carefully to the main design. The different monograms refer to the person depicted, adding their names (for Caracalla and Geta) or a title (for Iulia Domna).

It is possible that the reverse depictions of the Topeirian coins associated with the emperor and the pseudo-countermarks accompanying the images of the imperial family on the obverse relate to some historical events. In any case, the worship of and homage to the emperors Caracalla and Geta, as well as their mother Iulia Domna, can be read from this (see U. Peter, Gegenstempel und Pseudogegenstempel auf den Münzen von Topeiros, in: B. Kluge / B. Weisser (eds.), XII. Internationaler Numismatischer Kongress Berlin 1997, Akten I, Berlin 2000, 715–720).

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