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New Ancient — Not an Oxymoron

Here’s a nice Roman Republic coin I acquired this month. It dates to 81 BCE and was issued by the moneyer Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius. It is a standard-ish silver Denarius (18mm, 3.46h). The reverse is a cool looking elephant and needs little explanation (but surely some appreciation).

The obverse features the head of the goddess Pietas and her frequent consort/familiar, a stork! (Hello to Cathy!) Pietas personified more than mere religious faith, but also a broader love of family, community and country. Why a stork? The ancients observed that seasonally storks returned from migration to the same nest, year after year, showing ancient family values. They were also seen as monogamous and therefore superior.

Crawford catalogs this as 374/1. NGC gives it a grade of XF, assessing the strike as 5 out of 5, with the surface condition gaining a 3 out of 5. It was around this time that reverses strayed more frequently from the previously predominant quadriga designs.


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