The Roman Empire





Coin Details

Design Description: Arcadius Siliqua
Item Description: AR Siliqua Gussage All Saints Hoard Milan. PAS ref.DOR-A1CCB1
Full Grade: NGC MS Strike: 5/5 Surface: 4/5
Owner: Kohaku

Set Details

Custom Sets: The Roman Empire
Competitive Sets: This coin is not competing in any sets.
Research: NGC Coin Price Guide

Owner Comments:

What if a coin could talk?

The curious notion dates back to at least Charles Johnstone’s sixteenth century best-selling satire, Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea, and probably closer to the invention of coinage itself. If numismatic narrative were possible, it follows that ancient coins would rank as the most prodigious storytellers. Consider the current coin, for example, and its own history from the beginning...that is, the very beginning.

According to widely accepted theory, everything in our universe (including you and I, and every being and every coin that ever existed on this and every world) originated from an explosion at a single point in space 13.799±0.021 billion years ago, referred to as the Big Bang. Within a few minutes, conditions within the early universe promoted nucleosynthesis, i.e., the creation of light gaseous elements, mainly hydrogen and helium. The universe expanded, at first uniformly. Inevitably, irregularities arose that gravitationally coalesced into clumps, forming myriad stars and galaxies, including our own Milky Way. The intensely hot and dense cores within stars now allowed for nucleosynthesis of larger elements, for example up to iron (including all the carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen supporting organic life as we know it). The nucleosynthesis of even heavier atoms, such as the silver comprising this coin, occurred when large, primordial stars ran out of fuel and exploded to form clouds littering interstellar space. About five billion years ago, one such cloud began to collapse and rotate. Most of the cloud’s mass concentrated in the center, forming our Sun, while the rest flattened into an accretion disk giving rise to planets, including our own precious earth. Owing its closeness to the sun, it is possible that the young earth was relatively devoid of volatile elements, even moderately volatile ones like silver. Thus, the silver comprising this coin, like much (if not all) of the accessible silver on earth, may not have been present initially, but perhaps was acquired over time, for example, from meteorite impacts.

Human’s fascination with silver’s beauty and usefulness as an alloy dates back to the earliest recorded histories. By 7th century BC, silver alloys were stamped into forms of consistent weight, i.e., coinage. Soon, the precious metal served for the exchange of goods and services. At the Roman Empire’s height, the capital of silver production was the Hispania province, where the silver for this coin may have been mined. The ancient Romans also extracted silver at other mines throughout the Empire, notably in Gaul, Asia Minor, and Britannia.

The Romans advanced other ancient cultures’ metallurgical methods, such as melting (to separate slag and metal), smelting (heating in low oxygen to reduce metal oxides), casting (pouring molten metal into a mold), and hammering (pounding metal into sheets). To separate silver from natural alloys, the Romans invented a sophisticated system wherein the molten metal was granulated by pouring into cold water, and the granules smelted in the presence of salts. To increase throughput, the Romans mechanized many of these processes, for instance employing hydropower, providing for dramatically increased throughput.

In 393-394 AD, this silver comprising this coin was refined and fashioned into a flan (or blank) that was struck between obverse and reverse iron (or bronze) dies. This die pair was one of hundreds (if not thousands) formed by unknown numismatic artisans, engineered to last thousands of strikes before wearing out. To support its armies, ancient Rome extracted hundreds of tons of silver per year, and its coffers stocked thousands of tons. The denomination of this particular coin, a siliqua, equal to 1/24 of a gold solidus, represented about two days soldier’s pay. At the time, the number of Rome’s soldiers totaled hundred of thousands.

The coin’s obverse depicts the pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust of Augustus Arcadius, son of Augustus Theodosius I. By the time this coin was struck (393-394 AD), Theodosius had defeated all rival usurpers, and, for the last time, had re-united the Roman Empire. Upon Theodosius' death a few years later, the Empire split again, between Arcadius in the east and his younger bother, Honorius, in the west. Although this coin bears Arcadius’ name, it was struck in Mediolanum (Milan), the capital city of brother Honorius’ Western Roman Empire. The capital had recently been relocated from Rome, whose personified namesake, Roma, adorns the coin’s verso along with an inscription touting Roman virtues.

At the time, Honorius was only eight years old. Therefore, leadership fell to his general and reagent, Stilicho, who was of mixed Roman and Vandal ancestry. Stilicho bore the responsibility for maintaining stability, and that meant repelling wave upon wave of various barbarian tribes threatening the Empire’s territories. To this end, Stilicho travelled to Britannia in 396 AD with his western army; he also took with him coffers of coins that probably included this one, for his soldier’s compensation. Stilicho abruptly withdrew in 401 AD: Italy required defending against the Goths. Left behind in Britannia were some troops, re-forged alliances and defenses, and this coin (along with presumably many, many others). Although some progress had been made, Rome’s influence over Britannia continued declining after Stilicho's withdrawal, and essentially ended by 410 AD. Britannia became even more vulnerable to raids and invasions, prompting this coin’s previous owner to stash it within an earthenware flagon, and bury it.

Safely within the flagon, this coin lay buried and undisturbed for sixteen centuries; it was uncovered on March 21, 2010 in Dorsett, England. All 662 coins of the Gussage All Saints Hoard were taken to the British Museum, where they were cleaned, identified and catalogued, in accordance with the United Kingdom's Treasure Laws. This coin was subsequently placed on auction, and acquired by its current owner, who has sealed it away once again. This time, the coin’s beauty and history remain in clear view: it has been safely encased within a coin holder forged by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. The duration that this coin will reside in its current setting remains to be seen.

Coin Details: EASTERN ROMAN EMPIRE, Arcadius, 383-408 AD, AR Siliqua (15mm, 0.95 g, 6h), struck in Mediolanum (Milan) AD 393-394, NGC Grade: MS, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 4/5, Clipped, Obverse: Pearl-diademed, draped, and cuirassed bust right, D N ARCADIVS P F AVG, Reverse: Roma seated left on cuirass, holding inverted spear and Victory on globe; MDPS in exergue. Reference: RIC IX 32b; RSC 27b, Ex 2010 Gussage All Saints Hoard (PAS Ref. DOR-A1CCB1; NC 171 [2011], no. 54).

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