Coin of the Month

June 2024: An emperor´s son with many faces is given a name.

The Coin of this Month is presented by Paul Seyfried

The vault of the Berlin Coin Cabinet is the safe home of many as yet unsolved coin mysteries. The coin of the month for June also comes from the holdings of the Berlin Coin Cabinet. It is a 22mm bronze nominal of the polis Lampsakos (Mysia), which has not yet been published.

Most coins of the month are discussed on the basis of their reverse images. Their mystery and allure often lie in the discussion of these diverse motifs, especially in the case of imperial examples. The coin of the month for June has a different focus: the obverse. However, the reverse of our coin needs to be discussed briefly beforehand, as the design of this coin does, after all, point to its origin. The design on the reverse of this coin type is clearly identifiable: it is a portrait of the bearded Priapos with a hairband (to the right). The legend, ΛΑИΨΑΚΗΝΩ[Ν], refers to the issuing polis Lampsakos.

But now, finally, to the enigmatic obverse of our coin. As you would expect from an imperial coin, it shows a portrait of a member of the imperial family. Judging by the short haircut and the clothing, it is a male member of the imperial family. Avid readers of the "Coin of the Month" will know that it would be possible to clearly identify the person depicted by deciphering an imperial-era obverse legend. However, the remains of the letters on our coin are more cryptic than clear, and the portrait also lacks any distinctive facial features that could be attributed to an individual. In order to unravel the mysterious remains of letters on the obverse, we have to work with the little information we have obtained from the reverse and the technical details of our coin. The coin diameter and the style of the reverse design provide clues as to the date of the coin. Coins of this type appear more frequently in Lampsakos towards the end of the 2nd century AD. Armed with this knowledge, we can turn our attention back to the obverse. The head of our sitter is beardless and he is not wearing a laurel wreath. The absence of these features suggests a young member of the imperial family who had not yet received the epithet Augustus. A glance at the Roman emperor table by D. Kienast offers a selection of six possible Caesars of the late 2nd and early 3rd century AD: Caracalla, Geta, Diadumenianus, Maximus, Phillippus II. and Volusianus. A look at previous collection catalogues of the SNG series and the RPC-type catalogue allows for further narrowing down. There are no known Lampsakian types with images of Diadumenianus or Volusianus. Even the few clearly recognisable letters on the obverse (M or Π, A or Λ, Ω, Ν, Ε or C, Ι) cannot be reconciled with the Greek name equivalents and "titulatures" of Volusianus (OYOΛOYCCIANOC) or Diadumenianus (ΔΙΑΔΟVΜЄΝΙΑΝΟC). The obverse portraits of Philippus II (ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟϹ) and Maximus (ΜΑΞΙΜΟϹ) from Lampsakos are similar in style to our coin, but also cannot be reconciled with the legible letters. This leaves only the two sons of Septimius Severus Geta and Caracalla as potential candidates for identification. Over a hundred years ago, Arthur Löbbecke identified our unknown Caesar on the obverse of the coin as Geta. But this identification seems unlikely. The usually expected ΓΕΤΑC at the end of the emperor's name can only be fitted into the existing letter remnants with a great deal of good will. Much more likely is the following reading, which would identify the coin as a specimen of the young Caracalla: M A ANT-ΩΝЄΙΝ[ΟC] [K?]. A similar example of Caracalla from Lampsakos can be found in the Austrian Leypold Collection. However, the coin there has a different obverse die with an equally different legend (AY...-ANTΩΝЄΙΝΟC).

The resolution of the legend as M(ARKOC) A(YPHΛΙΟC) ANTΩΝЄΙΝΟC seems most likely. Not only do the remains of the letters suggest an ANT-ΩΝЄΙΝ, but the reverse motif of the bearded Priapos is also documented for Caracalla (as Caesar). This allows us to date the coin precisely to a period of two years (April 196- January 198). The uncertainty surrounding the portrait could be clarified, identifying it as that of Septimius Severus´ firstborn son.

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