Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sorting Caracalla's dies

Sorting Caracalla's portrait dies


III. Caracalla's Principal Obverse Dies (a)

Pick's AMNG 1518

Six years ago, when I was still using a one-piece Nikon 5700 camera, and using it with pre-set white balance but otherwise in automatic mode, I took one set for Apollo Sauroktonos in grayscale, with a view to hard-copy publication.  This photo shows the coin most faithfully.
I think that this, the Tertullus Sauroktonos, my no.11occupies the place of privilege for the new Augustus as Tertullus's first portrait die for Septimius does for his father.  Both of these portraits have qualities usually seen in Rome sestertii and aurei: the tender modeling of the face, the speaking quality of the mouth, the slightly sassy tilt of the head, the attention given to the folds of drapery in a standard draped over cuirass, as from behind, as on Septimius's.

What I do not understand is why every Sauroktonos of this die pair that has turned up has been very well preserved, while the other reverse-die combinations survive badly worn, or badly corroded (with the usual damage in cleaning before they came on market); some of them, too, show the lovely die in far from pristine condition.
For this reason, and because there is a second die of the same type, it has taken me years to sort them with any confidence.  In this essay I'll post the first kind.

Alternative lighting helps in identifying the obverse die.  The three laurel leaves above his head, the oversize C at the end of Antoneinos (opposite the foreshortened, I think, fold of his cloak, not below it), the lines of the ties of the laurel, and details of the drapery (not least the beaded tassels of the epaulet), all confirm the alert and sassy expression of the face.

HrJ (patina missing on one,  damaged on the other, but the same dies)

It is not only serious corrosion but also the ties of the laurel and the simplified folds of the cloak and the stiff Tyche that make this a secondary die pair.


Here, furthermore, for the obverse die, we have a Septimius so like Caracalla's that it is almost the son given his father's beard, and the reverse is a die match.  The coin-cleaner had a hard time imagining the hip-shot pose of Hermes; Caracalla's bright green one perhaps preserves it best.
The Naos-reverse coins seem also to have primary and secondary dies.  Here are those I regard as primary, i.e., like the obverse at the head of this essay.
Especially like the Sauroktonos obverse, above, because of its fine preserveation

 HrJ (Pick AMNG I, 1, no. 1529 (yet I do not have its mate, with Asklepios, HrJ
The god in this four-column naos is, as Pick said, unidentifiable, since it cannot be an Asklepios or a Serapis, and Zeus is not usually draped down to his calves.  But in the Acclamation set, with Caracalla facing Geta we have a reverse with a nearly frontal Zeus in long clothes, and we have one such for Macrinus and Diadumenian at Marcianopolis, so I am inclined to think that one of that kind is shown in this naos.  
We shall have to consider it also in another context, but the naos for Septimius with Dionysos in it is like these, too.

Finally, here is a coin, perfectly useful as recording this Caracalla with the Herakles leaning on his club and (when preserved) holding a bow in his left hand.
See HrJ, this coin and one very worn.  The obverse is damaged past recall, but it may have been from this primary die.

1 comment:

  1. This posting comes up with terrible excessive spacing on screen, and when I have finished with the dies I'll make it all over from scratch, and only delete this when I've done that successfully.