AN ESSAY ON THE DIES OF COINS SIGNED BY
TERTULLUS AT NICOPOLIS AD ISTRUM
TERTULLUS AT NICOPOLIS AD ISTRUM
IV: The coins that look "quaint" and their links
|29 IX 99 AE 26 Nicopolis ad Istrum (Moesia Inferior). Caracalla. .AV.K.M AVR | [traces of Antoninus]. Reverse: standing divinity or personification pouring offering from a patera. The tell-tale OOV of Ovinius in Greek can just be made out, and Pick 1518, with same obverse die, confirms deduction that issued under Tertullus. Not in Pick.|
Before I owned scales in grams or accurate calipers, when all I knew of Tertullus was his lovely young Domna, of Pick nos. 1450-1452, and his Caracalla for the variant Apollo Sauroktonos, of Pick no. 1518, I saw and bought this coin on line. The figure looks like some statuette in a small Franciscan mission in the California West or like those that may be carried in Saint's day processions in rural villages. She leans on a scepter (it has a knob), veiled, before a flaming altar (I think not a vase of flowers), and holds a forked twig in her right hand. Though the last is inappropriate, by elimination she must be Hera. Her simplified garment, shared with Athena and Demeter in this set of reverse dies, is characterized by the trapezoid below the waist; it stands for an overgirt peplos, where the cloth is brought to a length that clears her feet and tied up around the waist, and the overfall is kept manageable by being overgirt. Familiarity with red-figure vase-paintings provides the evidence (which may have been unknown to this engraver). Athena leans on her shield, and Demeter has one of those Eleusinian tall torches made, we suppose, of pitchy pine bark and pine needles bound together in stages.
Most of the coins with such reverse types are for Septimius. Like the Caracalla above, with an obverse die like those in III (b), they use current obverse dies not made expressly for them. That is, this situation is not like that of the sub-group of anonymous Auspex dies in a style inherited from Commodus. They do seem to be, however, outliers to the strongly Greek taste of the most consciously artistic Tertullus dies.
If the lower coin can possibly be the same die pair as the upper one, then they both are HrJ 188.8.131.52. The dies were worn, and the second coin has a thick patina, but feature for feature, so far as preserved, and letter for letter (and with the reverse legend beginning at noon), they match. The obverse legend for this die is AV•K•L•SEP• — SEVÊROS P (not a ligate PE or PER). If you look closely, yes, Athena has a helmet.
This beautiful Septimius die, if you study them carefully, is stylistically extremely close to the boy Caracalla of Pick 1518, the Apollo Sauroktonos.
Here, at the top, and a perfect companion to Caracalla's tetrastyle naos, is Caracalla's father with curls, laurel ties, speaking mouth, alert eye, and delicate facial modeling. We are not dealing with much time here, but the Caracalla of the Sauroktonos coin cannot be placed far from these. The River, recalling the big sculptural ones as is appropriate for Father Danuvius or Ister, holds wet marsh plants (something like cattails?) and rapid water streams past his figure below, and in a second Herakles and the Nemean Lion (that with a bare bust portrait is in Essay II), the composition is perhaps a bit less formal.
There are also an Homonoia, the aforementioned Demeter, and an eagle on a garlanded altar. Two others I shall leave for the next essay.
As I said above, the Demeter leans on a tall torch characterized by its rough joints.
The Homonoia is only a little less stiff than the unwontedly stiff doll-like goddesses, and she has, very worn once again, this obverse die.
The Eagle coin, which found me only a year ago, is Pick's no. 1282. But I failed to submit it early enough for inclusion in HrJ Nicopolis.
It belongs, however, in section 8.14.1.x (the eagle being Zeus's).
It is worthwhile to click on the images in these essays, to make them Zoom. Where specimens are in mediocre condition, enlarging them helps a lot.