My Coins, Up For Sale Right Now

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Diocletian's "New Order".

What got me to get posting was thinking about the Emperor Diocletian, (r. 284 - 305 AD) how he is credited with the creation of the Tetrarchy, how he realised that it was nigh impossible for a single Emperor to manage the demands of the entire Empire, most of all muster the armies to fight off the ever increasing Germanic tribes and the fanatical Sasanian dynasty of Persia.

The Emperor prior to Diocletian was Numerian  (r. 282 - 284 AD).

He ruled the eastern part of the Empire.

Yes, that is right, he was not the only Emperor at the time.

There was another, ruling the western part of the Empire, Numerian's brother, Carinus (r. 282 - 285 AD).

So we see in place a system of divided, ostensibly harmonious rule, by two Emperors, due to the enormity of managing the frontiers.

Yet this system was done in the reign of Valerian ( r. 253 - 260 AD) who took responsibility of the eastern part of the Empire and made his son, Gallienus (r. 253 - 268 AD) Caesar and to look after the western part of the Empire.

Trebonianus Gallus (r. 251 - 253 AD) had his son, Volusian (r. 251 - 253 AD) made co-Emperor, but without any specific territory to govern, more as a "guaranteed successor".
However they were both overthrown and killed by the army of Aemilian.

Decius (r. 249 - 251 AD) made his son, Herennius Etruscus, co-Emperor.

Philip I (r. 244 - 249 AD) made his son, Philip II, co-Emperor (r. 247 - 249 AD).

Pupienus (r. 238 AD) was co-Emperor with Balbinus (r. 238 AD) for only three months, with Gordian III as Caesar.

Maximinus I (r. 235 - 238 AD) made his son, Maximus (r. 236 - 238 AD) Caesar.

Examples like these go back to the time of Octavian "Augustus".

The difference with Diocletian was that he tried to create a co-Emperor who was not a relative, but from merit. And the same for the respective Caesars, to be non related and chosen by ability.

However, almost all of them came from Illyria.

So regionalism replaced nepotism.

For a short time, until the accession of Constantine I and Maxentius in 306 AD.

So whilst Diocletian set out to create a new order, based on an old format, his new order did not last long either.
Yet in laymans history, creating a new, long lasting, order is exactly what Diocletian is thought of.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Roman Eagle Statue Of The Minories, London

In September 2013 a team of Archaeologists working on the site of a soon to be built 16 floor hotel in the Minories area of the City of London found this in, what was a ditch, caked in mud.

Eventually it was revealed and the Archaeologists were initially hesitant to decide on it being of the Roman era due to its exceptional quality.

There is only one other like it in the world. Found in the country of Jordan in 1937 and now on display in the Cincinnati Art Museum, U.S.A.
The Eagle found in the Minories is thought to have been part of a Mausoleum, the foundations of which were also found in the excavations.
The Eagle is thought to date to around the 1st to 2nd centuries A.D.
The Mausoleum is thought to have been broken up for use as building material, possibly to do with the construction of the wall around Londinium in around 200 A.D.
However the Eagle was kept intact and placed in a ditch.

It would have been painted originally, and it does have some detail on the back, contrary to what has been reported.

Friday, 28 June 2013

John Tzimiskes: The First Crusader

The barbaric Crusades done by the Franks, which saw anyone who was non-Catholic Christian, killed or persecuted have left an indelible mark on Humanity.

However, 124 years ealier, before those fateful incursions into Anatolia, Syria and the Holy Land, Christian armies had campaigned into Syria and the Holy Land, and if events had been different there may never have been a reason for the Franks to invade.

In 975 A.D. the Byzantine emperor, John Tzimiskes, led contingents from the Byzantine Themes and allied cavalry from the Bagratuni kingdom of Armenia, into Syria and the Holy Land.

The catalyst for the invasion was the fierce invasions of  Syria and the Holy Land by the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, which was resisted by not only the Sunni communities but by the Christian as well.
The Fatimids objective has to conquer the entire Islamic world or bring it into subjection.
They had conquered Egypt in 969 A.D.

Seldom mentioned in online sources is the fact that Syria and the northern Holy Land was occupied by the armies of John Tzimiskes by 976 A.D. and even after his mysterious death, the lands remained under Byzantine control for another 19 years.

By 987 A.D. the Fatimids had retaken the lands, a seven year truce was drawn between the emperor Basil II and the Caliph al-Aziz Billah, though peace would not last long.

Read John Julius Norwich's "Byzantium: The Apogee" to learn in an entertaining way to life of John Tzimiskes.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The circles of Khorasan

The remains of the ancient city of "Konjikala" is near the comparatively younger remains of "Ai- Khanum" on the Afghanistan border with Tajikstan.
It is thought to date to around 2000 B.C.
It seems to have been built to on both banks of the Oxus river, possibly to control  trade that came down it but also to control the valuable water resource.
The layout of the city was circular, in its centre was a mound with a temple.
It is thought that it was here that Zoroastrianism began.

Floods seem to have destroyed much of the walls of the city and it was in ruins when the armies of Alexander III reached it in around 330 B.C.
Viewed on Google Map, my rendering of the original circular layout and the remains of the central complex.

In 209 A.D. the vassal ruler of Fars, Ardashir, rebuilt the ruined city of Khor, renaming it "Khor Ardashir". This was to be his base in his campaign to overthrow the Arshakuni (Arsacid) dynasty in Persia.
The city layout was circular, with four gates.
In the centre was a Zoroastrian temple, built in a spiral, which the Mosque of Samarra was modelled on.
From Google Map, my plottings of the outlines of the city of Khor Ardashir

In 734 A.D. the Abbasid Caliph, al-Mansur, ordered the building of a new city for the Caliphate.
It was built north of the old city of Ctesiphon.
Naubakht Ahvazi, from Khuzistan and Mashallah ibn Athari, from Khorasan, were employed as the Astrologers to deterimine the most fortuitous time to establish the city.
Abu Hanifa, of Khorasani origin, organised the contruction of the bricks needed and a Canal to bring them into the building site.
The city layout was circular, with four gates.
In the centre was a Mosque and the Palace of the Caliph.
Not only does this show the antiquity of Khorasan but also the cultural power it had over neighbouring regions.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Carausius: "The Expected One"

Whilst reading "The Reign And Coinage Of Carausius" by Percy H. Webb, F.R.N.S. and "Carausius, A Consideration Of The Historical, Archaeological And Numismatic Aspects Of His Reign" by Hugh P. G. Williams, I learnt about a type of coin that was issued in his reign.

The type in question has the reverse legend of "EXPECTATE VENI" with the personification of Britannia, standing to the left, shaking Carausius, standing to the right, by the hand.
An example of the "EXPECTATE VENI" type of Antoninianii issued by Carausius, this one found in the county of Hertfordshire, U.K. in 2005.
"EXPECTATE VENI" roughly translates as "The expected one came".
This seems to allude to a British legendary tradition of an "expected saviour or king" who would return to the island in the future.

Carausius, in the grand Roman tradition, made use of coins to carry propagandistic messages.

Yet this seems to refer to an established legendary tradition.

The legend of "King Arthur", of which the work by Geoffrey of Monmouth is what we associate the legend today as, has the Arthur as the "once and future king".

Knowing that this legend is a combination of Bardic tales and the then contemporary Chilvalric ideals of the 13th century, I wonder if this idea of a "once and future king" predates the supposed 6th century era for an "Arturius" and instead goes to the time of the Roman invasion and occupation of the island in the 1st century B.C.
Maybe a legend created in the aftermath of the defeat of the Iceni, Catuvellauni and Brigantes in the 1st century A.D. ?

What possible connection or right would Carausius have to connect himself with such a supposed "British nationalistic" legend?

Well Carausius was not an ethnic Italian, but an ethnic Menapian.

The Menapii were part of the Belgic tribe that had established itself in southern Britain before the Romans invaded, including before Julius Caesar invaded in 55 B.C.

And so, as a Celt and belonging to a tribe that had an ancient link to Britain, Carausius had a right to make such an association of himself with a supposed legend of a "once and future king".

The conclusion is that not only by looking at the coinage of Carausius do we learn about his mind set and the use of propaganda but also see the possible origins that went in toeh making of the legend of king Arthur by the 13th century.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Roman Triumphalism in 5th century coinage.

During the 5th century AD the depiction of the western Emperors on their coins subduing or with their foot on a "Barbarian" increased, and it seemed to tally with the increase in the real power "Barbarians" had in the western Empire.

I noticed that in the gold coinage of the late Western empire, the emperor was depicted with his foot on the head of a Barbarian.
This type is described as a "Human Headed Serpent".

(There may well be some Christian symbolism, using a Serpent as an "evil emblem", ironic when we recall the "pagan" Salus types were the snake was revered.)

That "Human Headed Serpent" might be just a decapited head of a long haired "Barbarian" such as a Burgundian, of which it is well known they wore their hair long.

The irony was, that it was these "Barbarians" whose feet began to make their impact on the "head" of the western Roman empire, making and breaking "emperors" who became mere puppets, a trend which continued unabated until the forced abdication of Romulus "Augustulus" in 476 AD.

Julius Nepos, a rival western emperor, held out in the province of Dalmatia until 480 AD, when he was killed by his own army, which is likely to have mostly consisted of "Barbarians".

Then Syagrius, the last Magister Militum of Gaul, overthrown by the Franks, fled south to the Visigoths, then sent back north to the Franks and then assassinated by order of the Frankish king in 486 AD.

But I have not seen any "Barbarian" coins with the king depicted with his foot on the head of a Roman, but then the Roman civilians outnumbered the "Barbarians", seeing a coin with a depiction of one of them beheaded, under the foot of a "barbarian" king would have caused a rebellion.

So we see the propaganda power that coins have, and for the "Barbarians", using coinage to show them as the continuators of "Romanitas" was just as an effective weapon in the subduing and control of the former Roman provinces as any levies they could muster.
Gold Solidus of the Frankish king, Theudebert I, circa 534 AD
And so we are left with wondering who were the real "barbarians"? The non-Romans, who lived in structured societies, with laws and an established religion, or the Romans, whose city began as a refuge for bandits and other outcasts in the 8th century BC?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Time Team, Time Over?

In October 2012, Channel 4 decided that 2013 will be the final Time Team series, with a few special episodes to be shown in 2014.
The reasons for axing the show are that the Ratings have dropped, to around 700,000 viewers per episode.

Time Team began in 1994.
Initially the concept was about excavating potential archaeology in homeowners gardens, with three days to find out as much as possible.
The number of episodes was four.

Tony Robinson, who then was well known from "Blackadder", "Maid Marian and her Merry Men" as well as numerous history documentaries such as "Boudicca", all for the BBC.
He brought his passion for history to Time Team, in the early episodes even reading source information on the subjects being investigated.
There was a fast pace to the concept as well.

Becoming popular, in hindsight Channel 4 overstretched Time Team.
Both by giving them extensive fields to survey and excavate and also the number of episodes, in series six, 1999, for example going up to thirteen episodes.

The three day format could never cover the potential that lay in extensive fields and large ancient complexes, often much more was being found out in the final hours of the third day and the Team had to stop.
For viewers it was a put off, it not being easy to find out more on the further work undertaken on the sites by other archaeological groups.

Perhaps if a few large sites were chosen and numerous episodes given over to them so that as much as possible could be found out without a "three day limitation"?
This sort of happened with the special episodes.

What the later series showed is that there is a lot out there in the UK and beyond to learn and discover about the past, and that a wide range of people are interested in this.

Because Channel 4 has changed (for the worst?) since it started in 1982, it seems that Time Team is too much for it to maintain.
They moved the production team from London to Cardiff which did no good, and also brought in two new presenters, Alex Langlands (best known from BBC 2's "Edwardian Farm") and Mary Ann Ochota (a broadcaster, Anthropologist and model).
It seems that for viewers it was a change too much, and perhaps the "writting was on the wall" well before series nineteen because of the way the series had become. 

Team members such as Professor Mick Aston, Phil Harding, John Gater, Stewart Ainsworth, the late Robin Bush, Doctor Carenza Lewis, Ian Polesland, Mick Worthington, Raysan al-Kubaisi, Victor Ambrose, Brigid Gallagher, Matt Williams and Raksha Dave have added their own unique views and talents to produce results, as well as all the other experts. They have all become National Treasures in their own right because of making viewers aware of prehistoric and historic national treasures.

The BBC has dabbled in some archaeological programs but nothing to the consistency of Time Team.

The pursuit and discover of our past does not end with the end of Time Team, and of course the academic world will not end with it (though it is stated that Phil Harding and Doctor Carenza Lewis have written more field reports than most universities put together).

TV has its Niche programs, so surely it is obvious there still is a Nich audience who like history?
After all, there is now a "Yesterday" channel, about history, that even shows repeats of Time Team.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The "Valens" bust in the Capitoline Museum, Rome

Saw this bust said to be of the eastern emperor Valens in the Capitoline Museum, Rome, on the Wikipedia page for Valens.

The odd thing is that it depicts a young man, a boy even.
The bust is also said to depict the 5th century western emperor, Honorius.
Yet the bust does not wear a Diadem, as a typical 4th and 5th century Roman emperor would be depicted.

The features still have that "vacant Tetrarchic gaze" to it, though clearly it is of the "neo-Classical" style brought in by Constantine I, which saw imagery that harked back to the golden era of the empire, such as the Julio-Claudians and Antonines.
In fact, the bust looks similar to the colossal bust of Constantine I in the Capitoline Museum.
This bust is actually re-cut from its original, made for the Emperor, Maxentius.

I wonder if this "Valens/Honorius" bust actually depicts Constantine's first born son, Crispus.
He was made Caesar on the 1st of March 317 AD.
He had a pivotal role in the Battle of the Hellespont, which saw the defeat of the eastern emperor, Licinius I, and paved the way for the foundation of Constantinople.
Tragically, Crispus' greatness brought the evil eye of envy and he was framed, and later executed by order of his father!

The features of the bust resemble most this tragic man, victim of his father's envy, Crispus.

The "Colossus of Barletta", a statue of Valentinian I?

I first became aware of this statue when I saw a photo of it in John Julius Norwich's "Byzantium: The Early Centuries" and saw it again recently in the BBC's "Treasures of Ancient Rome", where the statue was referred to as always looking as it did, holding a Medieval Latin cross in its right hand.

The statue is variously said to either have been found in Ravenna in the 13th century or on the coast of Barletta after the Fourth Crusade in 1204 AD, the result of a Venetian shipwreck, stuffed with loot from Constantinople.

The Dominican Friars are said to have hacked of the arms and legs to use the bronze to cast bells, in other sources the statue was said to already have been missing its arms and legs when found on the beach of Barletta.

What can be said is the arms and legs, though made to match the style of the statue, are replacements.

To me, the small Latin Cross did look "odd" against the Colossus, and the plain globe in the left hand seemed to be missing a Victory upon it.

Who the Emperor is, is still not known.

Eusebius, in his Historia Ecclesiae, in his writings on Constantine I, reported that after Constantine's victorious entry into Rome after the battle of the Milvian Bridge, the Emperor had a statue of himself created, "holding the sign of the Savior in his right hand" which may well be the Labarum.

Only the hairstyle does not resemble the well known, Colossal bust of Constantine that is now at the Capitoline Museum.

The features do look like Jovian as depicted on his coinage, and his reversal of the Pagan policies of Julian II would be an explanation for having such a Christian triumphal statue made, however Jovian never made it to Constantinople, never mind Ravenna, dying at a place called Dadastana in Asia Minor, after barely eight months of rule.

Valentinian I could be a contender, the hairstyle, the arched eye brows, cheek bones, jaw line etc.

In comparision, Gratian's features on his coins do not resemble the Colossus. Though on his coins Victory appears, he did not object to the removal of the altar of Victory from the Senate house.

Theodosius I? Again, in comparsion with the features of Valentinian I, his does not resemble the statue's. Victory still appeared on his coinage.

Would the impoverished western Emperors of the 5th century have had the resources to make a huge statue of themselves?

Eastern Emperors such as Marcian and Leo I are also suggested, but unless the statue really was looted from Constantinople in 1204 AD, why would an eastern Emperor have a statue of themself set up in Ravenna?

Justinian I is another Emperor that the statue is thought to be of, but the well known mosaic of Justinian in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, shows him with curly hair. Not a match.

Heraclius is another suggestion, certainly on the Tremissis he had minted, his bust matches the style of the face of the Barletta Colossus.
Heraclius was celebrated in the west after his victory against Persia and the recovery of Jerusalem, but by that date he is depicted as bearded.

Thinking that instead of the Medieval Latin Cross held in his right hand, the statue held the Labarum, and in his left hand it was Victory that stood upon the globe, I drew this sketch of what the Colossus may have originally looked like.
Amongst all potential imperial candidates the statue could be of, the features of Valentinian I looks the closest, and he had the means to have such a statue made.

However, if it is of Valentinian I, Ravenna would not be the original city of the statue, since it did not become the official capital of the Western Roman empire until 402 AD, 27 years after the death of Valentinian I.

The statue that was said to have been found in Ravenna in 1232 AD by order of the Holy Roman Emperor,  Frederick II, is not said to have been this.

Quite how a Venetian galley, stuffed with loot from the sack of Constantinople in 1204 AD, would choose to avoid the Adriatic and head instead for the north coast of Sicily and promptly sink, seems odd.

Maybe the statue was taken as loot during the Vandal sack of Rome in 455 AD, one of their boats that carried this statue, along with other "loot" being wrecked of the north Sicilian coast, en route to Carthage.

I wonder if during the sack of Rome, by the Arab emirate of Africa in 846 AD, this was part of the "loot" taken back to their new base of Palermo (conquered by them in 831 AD), and it was then that the statue was "lost" in a shipwreck of the coast of Barletta.

There was a previous example of a more famous "Colossus" being taken away for scrap by a Caliphal army.
The Colossus of Rhodes, after falling down to an earthquake in 226 BC, in 654 AD its remains were taken by the army of Caliph Muawiyah I, which had conquered Rhodes, and sold off for scrap.

Also the Norman sack of Rome in 1084 AD, may be another explanation for how an imperial statue, likely from Rome, ended up as wreckage of the north Sicilian coast, since the Normans, by 1084 AD, had control of Sicily.

Ironically, having a look through my copy of "Romano-Byzantine Armies 4th–9th Centuries" by Osprey Publishing, on page 9 is a photo of the Colossus of Barletta, where the author, David Nicolle, states that the statue probably is of Valentinian I.