A 1,700 year-old Roman Antoninianus

Back in 2013, I went looking for an old English coin in the basement, which I couldn’t find, and found this 1,700-year old Roman coin instead.

It took me an hour to go from knowing precisely dick about Roman coinage to being 99% certain about what this one is, when it was minted, etc. I love the internet!

I believe it’s an Antoninianus from the reign of Probus, minted in Antioch in 281 AD. The obverse (above) is a bust of Probus, and reads IMP C M AVR PROBUS P F AVG (“Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Probus the Dutiful and Fortunate Augustus”). The reverse (below) depicts the emperor receiving Victory from Jupiter, and reads CLEMENTIA TEMP (“Clemency of the Emperor”). Probus was assassinated in 282, the year after this coin was minted.

Had I been able to read much of that initially, it would have been easier to identify the coin. But I had to back into it from the bits I could read, paring down results that didn’t fit the other stuff I could make out. I felt like I was making a Library Use roll in Call of Cthulhu (paid link).

I also learned that the Romans minted a metric fuck-tower of coins in a billion denominations and variations. This one’s not worth much of anything, but it’s neat. I bought a little case for it so I could carry it in my pocket, which I did for a year or so; now it sits on my desk, alongside myriad other doodads.

Back in high school, my favorite teacher once said, “Everything is interesting if you look close enough.” It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten, and it fits this sort of thing perfectly.

2 thoughts on “A 1,700 year-old Roman Antoninianus”

  1. Randal

    Just out of curiosity, why were you expecting to find an old English coin in your basement??

    1. Martin Ralya

      My maternal grandfather gave me a 12th century English penny when I was a kid, and I lost track of it over the years. I’d always kept it somewhere safe, with other sentimental things, so I assumed I’d misplaced the safe spot rather than the coin.

      I couldn’t find it, but it may still be tucked away somewhere, even post-move.

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