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Coins of the Romans Relating to Britain By John Y. Akerman, Published 1836.
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Coins of the Romans Relating to Britain By John Y. Akerman, Published 1836.




L.L.D., F.R.S., F.S.A., F.R.A.S.



IN soliciting your countenance to this little work, I cannot refrain from gratifying my own feelings, even at a risk of doing violence to yours, by publicly acknowledging the obligations I owe to you, for the uniform readiness and urbanity with which you have, at all times, met my enquiries on the interesting subject to which it relates.

During your travels in the East, you had abundant evidence, from the most authentic sources, of the extent of that mighty empire, of the medallic memorials of whose sway over Britain, I here present a brief but I trust faithful account.

In the earnest hope, that my endeavours may assist in promoting that study, the advancement of which you have so much at heart,

I remain, Sir, with great respect,

Your faithful humble Servant,



INTRODUCTION.......................................Page 1




ANTONINUS PIUS............................................18

COMMODUS.................................................... 24




ROMAN COINS SUPPOSED TO BE THE WORK OF FORGERS........................................44






CONSTANTINUS THE YOUNGER..................70



THE object of this little work, is to bring under one view the Coins of the Romans which relate to the province of Britain. It is hoped that such an attempt will not only find favour with the antiquary and the numismatist, but will also interest all who are curious in the early history of our island; some of the principal events in which, during a long period of the Roman occupation, are recorded on the coins of the conquerors.

The remark of Gibbon, that 'diligence and accuracy are the only merits which an historical writer may ascribe to himself,' is still more applicable to compilations of this description: there is little room for fancy or ornament; but the authentic information which they supply, affords ample amends for any deficiency of style, and supplies the place of elaborate embellishment.

I must add, that the notes for this tract were made during brief intervals of leisure, and that I have taken great pains to exclude such coins as are of questionable authenticity. To those who may complain of its brevity, I have only to remark, that I might have made it much larger if I had dealt in conjecture; but, as I preferred matter of fact to wild speculation, and rejected the fanciful relations of the over-zealous for the indisputable evidence of antiquity, I could not have increased its size without travelling beyond the limits I had prescribed to myself.

------------------------------------------------------ Page 1


IN the following pages I have endeavoured to describe a series of ancient coins, which to an Englishman must, of all others, be the most interesting. The plates have been engraved, with the most strict attention to accuracy, from drawings made expressly for this work from the well preserved originals in the British Museum, from the collection of the French king, and various private cabinets in this country. Some of these coins have been figured in Camden, Speed, and other writers on the early history of Britain, but all so unlike the originals as to cause much embarrassment to the inexperienced collector; even Pinkerton, ever ready to pounce upon the errors of others, contented himself with copying ill-engraved and unauthenticated representations. The plates, therefore, which accompany this volume claim the attention of the numismatist on the score of their fidelity.

I have confined myself to a description of those coins only which have direct allusion to Britain.


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It is evident that others were struck by the Romans to commemorate events in this country; but, in order to save much repetition, I have given descriptions of those only which bear the word BRITANNIA either at length, or in a contracted form, and such as are considered by many to have been minted in this country.

The coins of the Romans have descended to us in prodigious numbers. In every country once included in their vast empire, numerous hoards in the three metals, have, from time to time, been brought to light. In England, France, Italy, Germany, and the more remote provinces of the East, innumerable discoveries during the last two centuries have enriched the cabinets of the curious, and proved a source of information and delight to the historian, the antiquary, and the artist.

With a foresight which has seldom been evinced by modern nations, the Romans celebrated those deeds which have been the admiration of succeeding ages, in a manner peculiarly their own. Time and accident might destroy temples and statues, upon which the genius and skill of the architect and the sculptor had been lavished, but their coins were calculated to perpetuate their fame to the remotest times. The triumphal arch, defaced and over-thrown, exhibits but disjointed portions of its once high-sounding inscription; but numerous coins


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remain uninjured, bearing the sententious legends-IVDAEACAPTA - VICTORIAEBRITTANNICAE -AEGYPTO CAPTA - and a multitude of others of almost equal interest.' If all our historians were lost to us,' says Gibbon, ' medals and inscriptions would alone record the travels of Hadrian. 'The coins of the Romans were, in fact, their gazettes, which were published in the most distant provinces; and they are at this day discovered in remote regions where our own records have, in all probability, never reached. Did they obtain a victory or reduce a province, coins were issued in vast numbers, upon which the vanquished were depicted with their characteristic arms and costume. Did the emperor visit the province as pacificator, coins appeared, upon which he was represented in a civil habit, raising up the prostrate female who represents the country which had won the imperial favour. The remission of taxes, the raising of temples to their deities, and public buildings for the people, the forming of public ways, the celebration of games and sacrifices, and the records of traditions when Rome herself was young, are all found in in finite variety on the coins of that once mighty empire.

Such were the types which the Romans impressed upon their coins-' the common drudge of retail traffic. 'Of their execution as works of art,


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enough has been already said by various writers, and we know that they have been the admiration of the most eminent sculptors of modern times.

My observations, with one or two exceptions, are confined to the coins themselves. A history of Roman Britain could not have been comprised within the limits of a work like the present; indeed, the early records of most countries present a finer field for the imagination of the poet than the sober relation of the historian: yet, reNete with fable and romance as is the early history of Britain, it is some consolation to the antiquary to find a few authentic relics which bear upon the early times of our ancestors. From the first landing of Julius Caesar to the final abandonment of the island by the Romans, the history of Britain presents, with few intervals, one long scene of cruelty and extortion. Barbarian retaliation frequently followed civilized aggression, and war and slaughter were often preferred by the wretched islanders to the grinding taxation of their oppressors. Of the manner in which the taxes of the Romans were laid upon conquered countries, we have many relations:

even their own poet, Juvenal, has lashed them for the cruel exactions practised upon those states which had the misfortune to become tributary to them. Wretched indeed must have been the condition of the Britons when the Romans quitted for ever their


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island province; debased by long servitude, and tainted by the vices of their civilized oppressors, they were an easy prey to the barbarian hordes who threatened to overwhelm them: and of the dark period which succeeded we have but faint records, unrelieved by inscriptions or medallic evidence.

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Nec stetit Oceano, remisque ingressa profundum,

Vincendos alio quaesivit in orbe britannos,

Haee est in gremium victos quae sola recepit.

Humanumque genus comumuni nomine forvit;

Matris, non dominae ritu, civesque vocavit

Quosdomuit nexuque pio longinqua revinxit.



Page 7



[A.D. 41 TO A.D. 54.]

THE first Roman coin having allusion to Britain was struck in the fifth year of this emperor's reign. A fugitive British lord, having fled to the Roman court, entertained the emperor with an account of the island, and assured him that its complete subjugation might easily be effected. Claudius, it appears, lent a ready ear to the traitor; and when the British ambassadors entreated that he might be given up to them, Claudius treated their request with disdain, and kept the fugitive in his favour. This treatment was, of course, resented. Excuses were not wanting for a quarrel with the Britons; and it was now discovered that their tribute had not been regularly paid. Mutual recrimination fol-


Page 8

lowed; and finally Plantius, the Roman general, was despatched with an army into Britain, and Clandius prepared to follow him. After a succession of skirmishes, in which the Romans, though often great sufferers, were generally the victors, the Britons sustained a signal defeat.

Claudius about this time landed in person, and the Britons were again defeated with great slaughter*.It is said that the war was ended in fifteen days, and that Claudius shewed great clemency to the vanquished Britons, who paid him divine honours. Plautius in reward for his services oh-tamed the government of Britain, and after the departure of the emperor, carried on the war against the provinces not yet tributary to tlse Roman arms.

*Suctonius, however, says that the revolt was quelled without bloodshed;-' Ac sine nib praeho aut sanguine, intra paucissimos dies parte insulae in deditionem recepta:' an account which agrees with an inscription in the Bar-berini palace at Rome

Dion Cassius, on the contrary, says that it cost the Romans a hard-fought battle.


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Obverse. TI CLAVD CAESAR AVGPMTRP VIIIIIMPXVI.Tiberias Claudius Caesar Angustus, Pen tifex Maxim us, Tribunitia Pontestatenonum, imperater decimum sextum. Laureated head of Claudius to the right.

Reverse.DE' BRITANN (or BRITAN), on the front of a triumphal arch, surmounted by an equestrian statue between two trophies. Plate I. No. 1.

I cannot do better than quote the words of Dr. Cardwefl in illustration of this coin.' It is evident,' he observes, 'from the date given to the Trib. pot. that this coin was not minted before the middle of the year 46 after Christ, although we know from Dio that a triumph for his victories in Britain had been decreed by the senate three years previously, and had actually been celebrated in the year 44.The coins, however, which bear our inscription are in gold and silver, and were therefore minted by the emperor*; they were minted, too, as appears from the reverse, in commemoration of the triumphal arch erected by the senate (2), and therefore could not be well issued till some time had elapsed after his return from Britain. It is worthy of remark, that although Claudius was partial to the title of Imperator, and even on some of his

* The coinage of brass money was evidently under the control of the senate, while that of gold and silver was at the command of the emperor.

(2) Dio, lib. 2.


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coins is styled IMP XXVII, he uses it in no instance as a prlenomen, confirming thereby the words of Suetonius, who says expressly, ' Proenomine Imperatoris abstinuit*,' hut at the same time leading to the permanent abuse of the title as a token of victory, by the frequency and absurdity of the occasions on which he adopted it (2).

This coin is by no means uncommon in gold, but is of considerable rarity in silver.

I have next to notice a remarkable and unique silver medallion formerly in the Museum Hedervarium, a collection now dispersed.

Obverse. TI CLAVD CAESAR AVG GERM PMTRP. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Asrestes Germanicus, Pentifex Maximus, Tribunitia Potestate. Laureated head of Claudius to the left.

Reverse. DEBRITANNIS. The emperor in a quadriga his right hand resting on its edge; his left holding a sceptre surmounted by an eagle.

The catalogue states that it was obtained through Mr. Millingen, whose antiquarian knowledge and skill in medallic science forbid us to doubt the authenticity of this interesting medallion. It is described as 'in aversa repercussus.

* Cap. 12.

(2) When the title IMPerator precedes the name on coins, it has a different signification, and implies supreme power; but when it follows the name, it is simply a military title.


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[Born A. D. 42.-Poisoned A. D. 55.]

THE original name of this son of Claudius was Germanicus; but he received that of Britannicus in consequence of the victories obtained by Claudius in Britain, and is better known in history by the latter name. Through the intrigues of Agrippina, his stepmother, he was removed from the succession to the empire to make room for her son Nero, by whom he was poisoned, A. D. 55The coin here engraved is described by Eckhel, and considered by him unique.

Obverse.TI CLAVDIVSCAESARAVGFBRITANNICVS. Tiberius Claudius Caesar, Augusti Pilii, Britannicus.Bare head of Britannicus to the right.

Reverse.S C.Senatus Consulto. Mars marching to the right with spear and shield.

Alabanda, Thessalonica, Nicomedia, ilium, and other Greek cities, struck coins in honour of this unfortunate prince; but as they belong to a distinct senes, they are not here described. I cannot, however, pass over two coins in the cabinet of Mr. Thomas, who jnsfly hoMe them in high estimation. The first is of gold.


Obverse. No legend. The laureated head of Claudius to the right.

Reverse.Bare head of Britannicas to the right: behind it, the letters BAKO in monogram. These letters are the abbreviation for BAatXiog KOrvoc [money] of King Cotys. Beneath the head, the Greek numeral letters BMT, which signify 342 of the era of the kingdom of Bosphorus, answering to the year of Rome 798, or A. D. 46, and thus agreeing with the gold coin of Claudius. Plate VI No.1.

The other coin is of copper.


Obverse. The head of Cotys, king of the Bosphorus, encircled by the regal diadem or flilet, and the hair reaching to the shoulders. Behind, the monogram, composed of the letters BA KO, as in the preceding coin. These princes are always thus represented on their coins.
Reverse. KAIEAPOE' BPETANNIKOE. Caesaris Britannici. Bare head of Britannicus to the right. Plate VI No.2.

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Both these coins are of great rarity. The first is, perhaps, the only one in this country; the other is, in all probability, unique, and is now published for the first time.

Few cabinets in England possess coins of this rare series; and it is on this account, as well as from the interest attached to them owing to the circumstance of their illustrating each other, that they are here admitted. 'It may not be amiss to remind the reader,' remarks Mr. Thomas, in the observations with which he accompanied the drawings he so kindly permitted me to make of these interesting objects, 'that, until the time of Domitian, the portraits of the kings of the Cimmerian Bosphorns (a country now known as the Crimea), are seldom, if ever, found upon their gold coins *: that on one side the head of the contemporary Roman emperor is generally found in lieu of it, and on the other, that of the Caesar or nearest relative of the emperor. Even the names of the kings of the Bosphorus are not given at length, but in a monogram or contracted form: the date, however, always found upon them, indicates the year in which they were minted.'

* M. Mionnet, in his excellent Description de Medailles Antiques' (tom. ii. p.369), describes one of the portraits upon each of the coins numbered 54 to 58, as of Rhescuporis the First, king of the Bosphorus; hut Visconti, in his 'Iconographie Crecque' (tom. ii. p.153), supposes them to be portraits of Romans, and does not admit them in that work because they do not belong to the series of Greek portraits.

Page 14

The celebrated Visconti,' continues Mr. Thomas, was the first, who, upon an inspection of the identical gold coin here described*, pronounced the juvenile portrait which it bears to be that of Britannicus (2); an opinion which was sanctioned by the date, which shews that the piece was struck while Messalina, the mother of that prince, yet lived, and was in the plenitude of her power and influence. It would appear, that it was not until after the death of that empress, when the crafty Agrippina had become the wife of the imbecile Claudius, and advanced her son (by her first marriage), that Cotys caused the portrait of Nero to be engraved on his gold coins.

Since the publication of Visconti's valuable 'Iconoyrophie Grecque,' the copper coin described above, has been discovered; and, while it proves beyond doubt, that the youthful portraits are of the same personage, confirms the opinion which that able antiquary had ventured upon the gold one. The value and interest of this coin are greatly increased on account of its being the only one bearing a portrait of Cotys the First.

*This coin was formerly in the collection of M. Allier.

(2) Iconographie Grecque, tom. ii. p.158. 4to. edit. 1811.


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A.D. 117 TO A.D. 138

IN the reign of this prince the Britons revolted; and Julius Severus was recalled to proceed against the Jews, who had made an effort to re-cover their liberty. The Caledonians also destroyed several forts which had been erected by Agricola*. Hadrian, with three legions, arrived in time to prevent the Britons from throwing off the Roman yoke, and to protect the northern frontiers of the province, built a wall which extended from the Tyne in Northumberland to the Eden in Cumberland. The war does not appear to have been of long continuance; and the southern Britons, protected from the incursions of their savage neighbours, were evidently content to bear the Roman yoke. Hadrian's arrival in Britain is commemorated by a large brass coin struck in the year of Rouse 874, A.D. 121.

Obverse. HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P. Hadrianus Augustus, Consul tertium, Pater Patriae. Laureated host of iladrianos, with the chlamys buckled over the right shoulder.

Reverse. ADVENTVS AVGBRITANNIAE. Adventus Augusti Britanniae. In the exergue, S. C. An

* The Roman general bad previously bad some skirmishing with the northern inhabitant shut his presence was considered of more importance in the east.

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altar with the fire kindled placed between the emperor in the toga, who holds a patera, and a female figure, a victim lying at her feet. Plate I. No.5.

There is another very rare coin in large brass.

Obverse. HADRIANYS AVG COS III. fladrianus Augustus, Consul tertium. Laureated head of Hadrianus to the right.

Reverse. BRITANNIA. A female figure seated, her right foot resting on a rock, her head resting on her right hand, and spear in her left; by her side a large shield, with a spike in the centre. Plate I. No.4.

Most antiquaries believe the figure on the reverse of this coin to be the province of Britain personified. It cannot be Rome; and the absence of characteristic attributes of the island, is in all probability owing to the ignorance of the engraver of the die, which was doubtless not executed in Britain.

Second or middle brass coins of Hadrian also bear allusion to Britain of these there are two varieties.

Obverse. HADRIANVS AVG COS III. Hadrianus Augustus, Consul tertium. Laureated head of the Emperor,


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.holding a javelin, hen right hand supporting her head; a large shield by her side, with a long spike in the centre. Plate 1. No.2.

The attitude of repose given to the figure on the reverse of this coin, the type of which resembles that of the large brass, would seem to imply that it was struck when peace had been restored in Britain.


Obverse. HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS COS III. Hadrianus Augustus, Consul tertium. Laureated head of the emperor.

Reverse. PONT MAX TR POT COS III-PP. Pontifex maximus, Tribunitia Potestate, Consul tertium, Pater Patriae; in the exergue, BRITANNIA. A female figure as on the preceding coin. Plate 1 No. 3.

Havercamp thinks these figures are intended to represent the secure, but watchful state of the province. The attitude of repose signifies that the Britons have no longer cause to dread the incursions of their barbarian neighbours; while the spear and shield indicate that the province is prepared to repel any attack.

Coins of Hadrianus with the legends EXERCITVS' emperor. BRITANNICVS and RESTITVTORIBRITANNIAE

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have been given by early writers, but they are not authenticated *.

An eminent numismatist informs me that he never saw one in any of the cabinets he has inspected either at home or abroad. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that such coins were struck.

No gold or silver coin of Hadrian, with allusion to Britain, is known; a deficiency for which it is difficult to account, as the coins of that prince, in geld and silver, are exceedingly numerous.


[A.D. 138 ~e AD. 161.3

THE coins of this emperor have been found iii great numbers in England; and one hearing 'Britannia,' has now and then been discovered among them; but there are several varieties of this interesting type, some of which are of great rarity.

The first is a gold coin or aureus.

Obverse. Uncertain. (See Vaillent.)

Reverse. BRITAN. Victory standing en a globe holding a garland and a palm-branch, an elegant type repeated on a coin of large brass, described below.

* A coin of large brass is described in the Museum Then-polum, with the legend EXERC BRITAN. The emperor on a suggested or estrade haranguing his soldiers.


Page 19

This coin, in all probability, commemorates the victory over the revolted Brigantes, who made incursions upon their neighbours, then leagued with the Romans. Urbicus, the Roman general, defeated them with great slaughter, and raised a turf wall still further to the northward, extending, as our English antiquaries suppose, from the Tyne to Carlisle.

Victory was an important deity among the Greeks and Romans; and she is accordingly figured on great numbers of their coins. The representation of this goddess cannot be mistaken; her attitude is generally graceful, and on this coin is elegant. Sylla built a temple to Victory at Rome, and instituted games in her honour; and we are told, that Hiero, king of Sicily, made a present to the Romans of a statue of Victory in solid gold. She had a fine statue in the Capitol, of whiels the figure on the reverse of the coin here described, may have been a copy. Rome is constantly represented on the coins of the lower empire, seated in a chair, and holding the hasta and a small figure of Victory, whom the early Christians seemed disposed to reverence after the gods of their fore-fathers had disappeared, since her statin's were protected long after those of the other deities had been demolished.

The next are of large brass; and of these there

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are several varieties. The reverse of the first is similar to the gold coin above described.


Obverse. ANTONINVSAVGPIVSPPTRPCOS III.Antoninus Augustus Pius, Paler Patrice, Iri-bunitia Potestate, Consul tertiuns. The bearded and laureated head of Antoninus.

Reverse. IMPERATOR' II (Imperator iterum) : across the field of the coin, BRITAN. An elegant winged Victory standing on a globe, holding a garland in her right hand, and a palm branch in her left. Plate II. No.2.

I never heard of a discovery of a coin with this type in England. One of them at the sale of Mr. Edgar's cabinet, in 1815, brought the very high price of �5 7s, 6d; but it was in remarkably fine preservation.


Obverse ANTONINVSAVGPIVSPPTRP COS III. Antoninus Augustus Pius, Paler Patrice, Tribunitia Potestate, Consul tertiun. Laureated head of the emperor.

Reverse. BRITANNIA. A female figure seated on a rock, her head bound with a fillet or diadem, and wearing trousers under her robes. A standard in her hand, dod a spear in her left, which rests on the edge of a shield placed by her side. Plate 1 No. 7.


Obverse. ANTONINVSAVGPIVSP ........ .. Antoninus Augustus Pius, Pater Patrice, Tribunitia Potestate. Laureated head of the emperor to the right.


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Reverse, IMPERATORII (Insperetor iterum) and BRITAN across the field. A helmed female figure seated on a rock holding a spear in her right hand; her left reposing on a large ornamented shield by her side, her right foot resting on a globe. From this it may be inferred that the figure is intended for Rome. Plate III. No.2.


Obverse. ANTONINVSAVGPIVSPPTRPCOS III.Antoninus Augustus Pius, Peter Patrice, Tribunitia Potestate, Consul tertium. Laureated head of the emperor to the right.

Reverse. BRITANNIA. A male figure seated on a perpendicular rock, holding a standard in his right hand and a javelin in his left; by his side a large oval shield with a spike in the centre, resting on a helmet placed on the ground. Plate II No.1.


Obverse. ANTONINVSAVGPIVSPPTRP COS III. Laureated head of Antoninus to the right.

Reverse. IMPERATOR 'II (Imperator iterum) : in the exergue (BRI)TAN.A male figure with lao-rested head seated on a rock; in his right band a standard, in his left a spear; his left arm reposing on the edge of a large spiked shield by his side.


Obverse. ANTONINVS 'AVG' PIVS ' P'P'TR'P' COS'III. Laureated head to the right.

Reverse. IMPERATOR 'II (Imperator iterum) : in the exergue, BRITAN. A female figure seated on a globe surrounded by waves ; in her right hand a

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standard, in her left a javelin; her elbow resting upon the edge of a large buckler by her side. Plate II. No. 5.

This is perhaps the most interesting coin of the whole series.The type illustrates the oft-quoted line of Virgil:-

'Et penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos.'

Or that of Claudian:-

' -et nostro deducta Britannia mundo.'


Obverse. ANTONINVS AVG- PIVSPPTRP COS III. Laureated head of the emperor to the right.

Reverse. IMPERATOR II (Imperafer iterum) in the exergue, BRITANNIA. A male figure seated on a rock ; in his right hand a standard, in his left a spear; his left arm resting on the edge of a large ornamented oval shield, supported by a helmet.


Obrerse. ANTONINVSAVGPIVSPP TRP COS III.Laureated head to the right.

obverse. BRITANNIA. A male figure seated on a rock his right band holding a standard; his left arm reposing on the edge of a shield placed by his side. Plate II. No, 4.

This curious coin is somewhat puzzling. It bears on the obverse the head and name of Anto-Ilinus; hut the seated figure on the reverse is obviously a portrait of Hadrian. It is difficult to find a reason for this, unless we suppose that the


Page 23

die for the reverse was originally intended for a coin of Hadrian during the life of that emperor, but for some cause or other not used on his money. Or was it designed by the senate as a tribute to the memory of Hadrian, who certainly performed more in Britain than his successor? In either case, it is a very curious type. That the figure on the reverse is that of hadrian, no one acquainted with the portraits of that emperor will deny.

There are also two coins in middle brass.


Obverse. ANTONINVSAVGPIVSPPTRPCOS III. Laureated head of the emperor to the right.

Reverse. IMPERATOR- II. Victory walking to the left, holding in her right band a buckler inscribed BRITAN.Plate 1. No.6.

This type would seem to indicate, that a decisive victory had been obtained by the Romans over the Brigantes. The type of the next coin is a contrast to this. It was minted in the fotsrth consulate of Antomnus, and probably denotes that the campaign was then ended.


Obverse. ANTONINVS PIVSAVGPPTRP COS III. laureated *head of the emperor to the right.

*A coin in the cabinet of Mr Thomas has the brad radiated; this is very uncommon, if not unique.


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Reverse. BRITANNIA COS 1111.Britannia, Consul quartum. A female figure seated on a rock in an attitude of dejection before her, a large oval shield, and a military standard. Plate I. No.8.

Of all the Roman coins relating to Britain, this is the most frequently discovered in England. Some time since, one of them was dug up in St. Saviour's churchyard, near London Bridge. They are generally found in very ordinary condition, and are scarcely ever met with in fine preservation. It is somewhat singular that among the numerous fine and interesting brass medallions of Antoninus not one bears allusion to Britain.

A. D. 180 TO A. D. 192.
IN the reign of this emperor, the Caledonians again passed the boundary wall, ravaged the country, and put to the sword the Roman troops. The incursion was sudden and unexpected, and the Roman general was taken by surprise. Commodus, on receiving the news of this irruption, despatched Ulpius Marcellus into Britain ; when the invaders were driven back beyond the wall, and the Roman discipline, which had been suffered to decay, was revived by Marcollus. We learn from Herodian that Com-
Page 25
modus was ambitious of the name of Britannicus, although he did not visit the province; and this is shown by Isis coins, upon which it frequently appears with other equally inappropriate and un-merited titles *. During the reign of Commodus, Pertinax, Clodius Albinus, and Julius Severus were, at various times, governors of Britain.

Among the numerous beautiful medallions of this emperor, are three with records of the war in Britain. They are of large size, and two of them differ but slightly from each other.

Obverse. MCOMMODVSANTONINVSAVG PIVS BRIT.Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Britannicus. laureated head of the emperor to the right.

Reverse. BRITTANIA P MTR P XIMP VII COS IIII PP. Brittania, Pontifex Maximus, Tribunitia Potestate decem, Imperator septimum, Consul quartuni, Pater Patrice.A male figure seated on a rock to the right, holding in his right hand a militate standard, and in his left a javelin; by his side a shield inscrihed SPQR (Senates Populusque Romanus.)

This medallion, which is of great rarity, is in the collection of the French king; it differs from that

*Lampridius indulges in some severe remarki upon the assumption of the names Britannicus and Pius, hy Commodus


Page 26

in the cabinet of Mr. Thomas, by having the letters S P Q R, instead of a spike, in the centre of the shield.

Another most interesting medallion in the posession of Mr. Thomas is of great rarity.

Obverse. M COMMODVS ANTONINVS AVG PIVS BRIT. Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus Pius Britannicus.

Reverse.PMTRPXIMPVII,the remainder of the legend not being impressed, in consequence of the module of the medallion being too small (2). Victory seated on a heap of arms, inscribing on a shield VICT BRIT (Victoria Britannica) in two lines: before her a trophy.

Captain Smyth, in his recent work on the large brass coins of the emperors, is of opinion that the coin of Commodus, which follows, was minted before the campaign was ended, because Victory holds a shield without inscription. If the conjecture be admitted, this medallion was struck at a subsequent period, when the war had terminated; but the IMP VII. is against it. Had the medallion been struck by a decree of the conscript fathers, they would not

*That in the French cabinet is also without the numerals VII.

(2) The continuation of this legend when entire, Is, COS IIII P Por, COS IIIIP P V C P.

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have dared to omit the record of another victory: on the other hand, if the striking of these pieces had been at the disposal of the tyrant, he who assumed the title of Conqueror of a Thousand Gladiators, would not have neglected to style himself Imperator for the eighth time.

A coin in large brass is by no means uncommon, although, from its interest, it is not always to be obtained so easily as scarcer coins of this emperor.

Obverse.M COMMODVS ANTON AVG PIVS BRIT. Marcus Commodus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Britannicus. Laureated head of the emperor to the right, with the hair, beard, and moustaches dressed.

Reverse. PMTRPXIMP VIICOS IIIIPP: in the exergue, VICT BRJT (Victoria Britannica) Victory seated on a heap of shields to the right, holding in her right hand a palm-branch, and supporting with her left arm a shield, which she rests on her knees. Plate III No5.


A. D. 193 TO AD. 211.

THE sojourn and death of Severus in Britain runder it necessary that we should say something of his extraordinary career, and of the motives which

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induced him to visit this country. The great military fame of this emperor was tarnished, if not obscured, by his ferocity and cruelty; but if we look only at his military expeditions, his sagacity, promptitude, and judgment, we shall find that circum-stances alone were wanting to render him as celebrated as the most famous heroes of antiquity. Possessed of the purple, which he had acquired by a series of exploits which may justly be paralleled with those of Cassar and Hannibal, Severus discovered that the cares of government were as arduous as the toils of a campaign; and he who had braved danger in many a hard-fought battle, found the throne of a usurper beset with perils no less imminent. Naturally mistrustful, his jealousies and alarms were increased by the discovery of a conspiracy against him by his most tried and intimate friends; while the increasing dissensions of his sons, Caracalla and Geta, added greatly to his inquietude, and made sad havoc upon a constitution already impaired by a life of hardship and the advances of old age.

It has been well observed by Gibbon, that 'the ascent to greatness, however steep and dangerous, may entertain an active spirit with the consciousness and exercise of its own powers; but the possession of a throne could never yet afford a lasting satis-


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faction to an ambitious mind *.'Severus was doomed to experience this bitter truth: ' Omnia fui, et nihil expedit!' was the dying exclamation of this daring and successful despot, of whom scarcely one single act of mercy or forbearance is recorded (2).

Bodily infirmity and mental anxiety had made inroads upon the naturally robust and vigorous constitution of Severus, so much so, indeed, that the gout had deprived him of the use of his feet; but, even in this state, the news of the revolt of the Britons was welcome to the crippled emperor: his mind found relief in activity, and he had long been desirous of weaning his sons from the luxury and effeminacy of Roman life. Herodian says that the governor of Britain wrote to Severus, informing him of the rebellion, and entreating him either to send reinforcements, or come immediately in person to reduce the revolted islanders. The emperor, upon receipt of this intelligence, caused proclama-

* See Lord Bacon's essay, 'Of Empire,' where this restlessness of amhitiuus princes is discussed with his usual sagacity.

(2) Eutropius (lib. viii. c. 19), tells us that Severus was attached to the arts of peace, and loved literature and philosophy.This Ipsedixit of the historian is, however, refuted by the public acts of Severus.Of his paruality to literary men we have no record; and his restless and ferocious disposition was utterly incompatible with philosophical studies.


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tion to be made of his intended expedition, and having soon collected a formidable army, he commenced the march with his usual rapidity, and soon arrived in Britain. His unexpected appearance, with such a force, astonished and alarmed the revolted Britons, who immediately sent ambassadors to negotiate a peace and make terms with the exasperated tyrant; but his wrath could only be quenched in their blood. Nevertheless, he affected to temporise; and having, by keeping the ambassadors in suspense for some days, gained sufficient time to mature his plans, he dismissed them with an assurance that he would take ample vengeance. Herodian says he was ambitious of the title of Britannicus, and of crowning his victories in other countries by erecting trophies in Britain. This author informs us that the campaign was a bard one, even for a general like Severus: he also gives us some curious particulars of our savage ancestors and of their island. The country, he observes, was in many places overflowed by the sea; and the bogs and marshes presented great difficulties to the operations of the Roman army. The natives were scarcely acquainted with the use of clothes, and were consequently prepared for swimming, or wading through the mud and water, when desirous of retreating before their enemies.* He speaks of their

*Dion Cassius says that their manners were most simple, that they had neither walls nor towns, nor cultivated lands; that they lived upon wild fruits, and by hunting; and that, although the sea abounded with fish, they never eat any.


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painted bodies, of which he says they were very vain, and characterizes them as a warlike and sanguinary race. Their arms, he says, were a narrow shield, a lance, and a bow. Defensive armour they had none; they looked upon helmet and coat of mail as impediments to their passage through the swamps and morasses*.

Leaving Geta to the government of that portion of the island which remained in the Roman interest, Severas and his son Antoninus, or, as he is most commonly called, Caracalla, advanced against the enemy, whom they overthrew on several engagements; not, however, without suffering severely: but ere the war was ended, the growing infirmities of Severus compelled him to quit the field, leaving Caracalla to carry on the contest. Retiring to York, and finding his end approaching, the emperor had his dying moments embittered by the detection of his son's design against his life; for it is said that this appalling discovery reached the stern and relentless soul of Severus, and that it hastened his death, which took place in that city, in the year

*Herodian tells us that these morasses continually emitted thick vapours, which obscured the face of heaven: his informant must have visited the island at a foggy season. As I write, there is nut a cloud in the sky.


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of Rome 964 (A. D. 211).In his last moments he recommended unity to his sons, and, with characteristic ferocity, urged his generals to prosecute the war against the Caledonians until they were exterminated*.

I now come to describe such of the coins of Severus as have relation to the country in which he ended his eventful life. I commence with one in large brass, which is generally considered by numismatists to have reference to some advantages obtained by the Romans over the Picts.

This coin, by the record of tribunitian power, was struck A. D. 210.The advantages which it boasts, are, however, very doubtful, as the expedi-

* Dion Cassius says it was foretold that Severus would not return alive from Britain; a prophecy which was doubtless founded upon the knowledge of Caracalla's design upon his life.


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tion is said to have cost the Romans fifty thousand men.

The next is also of large brass, and appears to commemorate an important victory.

Some numismatists think that a double victory is implied by the two figures holding the shield; but they may possibly be intended to indicate that the glory was shared between Severus and his son. The same type is repeated on another coin of Severus, but it has the legend VICTBRITPMTRP XIX COS III P P

The middle or second brass coins of Severus with allusion to Britain are the following


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ing between two captives seated on the ground, holding with both hands a standard transversely. Plate IV. No.1.


The following types occur in gold and silver -



The next are found only in silver:-


Obverse. SFVERVSPIVS - AVGBRIT. Laureated head to the right.


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Reverse. VICTORIAE- BRIT. Victory attaching a buckler to the trunk of a tree.



[AD. l98 To AD. 217.]

CARACALLA, upon the death of his father, concluded a disadvantageous and inglorious peace with the Caledonians, and restored to them many of their forts. He soon quitted the island, and commenced a series of cruelties worthy of the son of Severus. He put to death all the physicians who had refused to attempt the life of his father, and included in the horrible proscription those who had been charged with his own and his brother's education, because they had dared to propose a reconciliation between them. The tried ministers of his father shared the same fate; and in the following year, the discord of the brothers ended in the death of Geta, who was slain by Caracalla in the arms of his mother. An-


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other massacre followed of the friends of Geta, and even the buffoons and gladiators who had contributed to the amusement of that unfortunate prince were involved in the common fate*.The career of Caracalla, the most active, if not the most cruel of all the Roman tyrants, was marked by rapine, violence, and slaughter; and be finally fell by the hand of Macnuns, in the year of Rome 970 (A. D. 217).

We have several coins of this prince relating to Britain. I commence with the large brass.


Those who are familiar with Roman coins will recollect the peculiar shape of the German shield which appears on the coins of Domitianus. Two shields of the same shape are represented in the trophy on this coin; but it is difficult to determine if they were copied from actual specimens. Hero-

*Herodianus, Iib. iv, c 11.


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dian says, the Britons carried a narrow shield (scutus augustus), and these ate certainly of that shape.



Obverse. M- AVREL ANTONINVS PIVS AVG. Laureated head of Caracalla to the right.

The same type occurs on a coin of Severus (see page 33).

The middle brass coins of Caracalla with allusions to Britain are the following



Reverse. VICTORIAE BRITTANICAE.A similar type to that of the preceding coin. Plate V. No.2.

A middle brass coin of Caracalla, in the cabinet of Mr. Huxtable, has the radiated head of Caracalla, with the legend ANTONINVSPIUSAVGThe reverse is the same as the above.

His gold coins are:-



His silver coins




[A.D. 209, TO A. D. 212.]

THE fate of this unfortunate prince has been mentioned in the foregoing section. Although, as we are informed, he did not take a personal share in the expedition against the Caledonians, the senate appear to have considered him entitled to the surname of Britannicus, and struck coins in his honour. Of these there are several varieties. The large brass are :-


A similar type occurs without the two captives.


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Obverse. P SEPTIMIVS GETA PIVS AVG BRIT. Publius Septimius Geta Pius Augustus Britannicus. Laureated head of Geta.

Reverse. VICTORIAR BRJTTANNICAE. Victory, her left foot placed on a helmet, erecting a trophy, at the foot of which is a captive standing, and another seated on the ground; each has his hands tied behind his back.


Obverse. PSEPTIMIVS GETA PIVS AVG BRIT. Laureated head of Geta.

Reverse. VICTORIAEBRITTANNICAE. Victory erecting a trophy, at the foot of which a captive is seated.

A similar type occurs with the legend VICT BRIT P M TR P II.COS II.


Obverse. P SEPTIMIVSGETA PIVS AVG BRIT. Laureated head of Geta.

Reverse. VICT BRIT TR P III COS II. Victoriae Brittannicae, Tribunitia Potestate tertium, Consul iterum. A type similar to No.1.

This coin was struck in the year that Severus died, and probably records the last successful encounter with the Britons of the north.

Other coins of Geta bear the legends VICTORIAE AVGVSTORVMVICTORIAEAETERNAEAVGG (Augustorum), which may probably have allusion

Coins of the Romans Relating to Britain, Plates I - VI

Coins of the Romans Relating to Britain By John Y. Akerman. Part 2



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