Thursday, 26 March 2020

Silver-washed denarius of Clodius Albinus

Last Sunday was my last day of metal detecting for the foreseeable future due to the lock-down. It enabled me to find my first denarius. This Roman coin shows Clodius Albinus. It is a silver-washed denarius (silver foil on copper) meaning that it is probably a forgery. I have done some research into the coin (references below). I cannot find an image of one with the ALB top left of the portrait side so it is unusual. some of the silver has peeled off of both sides, showing the bare copper beneath.

The obverse side (above) full inscription would be:
D CLODIUS ALBIN CAES meaning Decimus Clodius Albinus Caesar
(later note: the meaning of D has been changed from Diva, thanks to Gilbert's correction)

The reverse side (below) probably reads: 
PROVI-D AVG COS and shows "Providentia standing left, holding wand in right hand over globe to left, leaning on scepter in her left hand." 
The inscription means Providentia Augustus Consul.

In AD 193, shortly after hearing of the assassination of Pertinax and subsequent elevation of Didius Julianus, Clodius Albinus, who was then governor of Britain, began preparations for seizing the throne himself. At the same time, Septimius Severus, the governor of Upper Pannonia, had been declared emperor by his troops and was preparing to march on Rome. Upon hearing of Albinus' plans, Septimius offered him the rank of Caesar and heir to the throne should Albinus join him. Albinus must have sensed that Septimius had stronger support than himself, and prudently decided to agree. Septimius marched on Rome and entered the city without resistance soon after Julianus was killed on June 1.

After securing the capital, Septimius proceeded to issue a series of coins from Rome, including an issue for his Caesar, Albinus. This initial issue of Albinus, noted by COS in the reverse legend, consisted of the single reverse type of Providentia, and was struck in gold aurei, silver denarii, and bronze sestertii. For this issue, Providentia appears as the 'Providence of the Augustus', and represents Septimius' securing of his dynasty through the nomination of his successor. This short issue was superseded by a second issue beginning in January, AD 194, when Albinus and Septimius jointly served as consul, each for the second time.

The harmony between the two was short-lived. Both had different ambitions, Clodius to become emperor himself, Septimius to establish his family as the ruling house, and the arrangement seemed only necessary for each to prepare to accomplish their own goal. While Septimius was away in the east fighting Pescinnius Niger, he learned of Albinus' machinations against him, and responded by breaking their arrangement and elevating his son, Caracalla, to the rank of Caesar. Albinus responded by declaring himself Augustus, rallying his troops in Britain, and began marching on Rome. His forces were stalled by resistance in Gaul as Septimius moved west. Eventually the two armies, comprising over 100,000 men, met on the fields outside Lugdunum (Lyon) on 19 February AD 197. After making initial gains, Albinus' army was routed, and he committed suicide when he became trapped in a house near the Rhône.

the following refers to a denarius of another emperor which is also silver-washed:-

"This one's a bit unusual.  Although "fourree" silver-over-copper denarii are not terribly uncommon, they tend to be seen more in the Republic and early Imperial era, however.  Those silver foil-wrapped copper cores, the foil sealed to the core with flux and the whole package struck with dies was the "standard" for counterfeits - ie: fakes made to deceive and pass current as good silver denarii for a long time.

 These "plated" or "silvered" denarii are found now in relatively great numbers in Eastern Europe - Bulgaria, Romania, the former Yugoslavian states etc - they used to be somewhat of a curiosity and were not seen very often but now are becoming commonly known, overall, since they often appear in lots of Balkan-dug uncleaned coins.

 So it begs the question, why were all these unofficial coins produced? We know they're not official because none of them is a die match for any known official denarii, except those obviously made by casting in molds made by impressing official coins in clay, etc.  These plated pieces would have been unlikely to fool anyone into thinking they were official.

 There are, of course, many theories and little or no proof.  Perhaps like the limes falsa copies of AE's [coins] of the 1st century made in Britain and northern Gaul, they were a product of neighboring peoples who had become Romanized to the extent of using coins in commerce, but weren't well enough within the sphere of Roman influence to have adequate quantities of official coins.  Perhaps they were a form of military scrip - paid to troops in the field and meant to be exchanged for good coin at a later date - meant to keep the "enemy" from capturing large amounts of legal tender in the event of a catastrophic defeat.  Or maybe they served a purpose like plantation chits on large latifundia - farms so large that they had their own internal economies, but having a reason not to want to put hard coin in the hands of slaves who might be at risk of escape. Lots of theories - no real proof, though."

note: Limes falsa from the region of the Danube (modern Serbia) - a term used for the fakes (presumably first found in this region).

I found this information also:
"These fake denarii are often plated and are known among collectors and researchers under the names plated, fourrées and subaerati. Usually they contain a copper core but some specimens contain a core made out of iron. This core was then plated with a thin layer of silver(foil) (1). The counterfitting of Roman denarii already started from the time of the introduction of the coin around 211 BC. Plated denarii are known to exist from almost every mintmaster who had struck denarii during the period of the Roman republic (2). During the imperial period this phenomenon continued until about the middle of the third century AD."

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