Home World & Ancient Coins Forum

Pompeii and Roman gold

Much to the chagrin of history buffs, the new Pompeii movie has very little to do with life in Ancient Rome. In the interest of leveling the scales, I felt the need to post a particularly relevant numismatic connection to daily life at Pompeii.

Starting on August 24, 79 AD, Mt. Vesuvius erupted for two days, burying the Roman settlements of Pompeii and Herculaneum. There were warning signs: small earthquakes started a few days earlier, but small tremors were frequent in the area so they were not heeded as indicating an imminent threat. In the afternoon on the 24th, the eruption began, shooting a cloud of ash 20 miles into the air and throwing molten rock at a rate of a billion pounds per second. 80% of the residents of Pompeii managed to escape in the first day to neighboring villages, but, by the end of the day on the 25th, flows of lava began, covering the area in nine feet of ash and molten rock and the 2,000 people who remained, hoping to wait out the disaster ultimately perished.

Among those who escaped were the owners of a popular wine producing villa rustica on the south eastern slopes of Vesuvius near the modern-day village of Boscoreale. Incidentally, the soil around volcanoes is highly fertile and great for growing crops, allowing the owners to amass significant wealth. In 1895, excavators uncovered 109 gold and silver plates and hundreds of gold aurei. The coins were stored in an empty cistern in the wine cellar of the villa when the owners fled. With a general exchange rate of one aureus as pay for one month of work, this amount of gold would constitute a lifetime of profit.

These coins are known as “Boscoreale” aurei because of the distinctive toning found on many of them. Gold itself is inert and does not tone but when made into coins, it is alloyed with small amounts of silver and copper which are susceptible to toning. Over the 1,800 years that the coins were buried beneath the ash and pumice from Vesuvius, some examples developed significant toning. Because of the highly sulphuric atmospheric conditions in the area around Pompeii, some other coins from the region have more subtle toning, but the most vibrantly toned are clearly from within the original hoard.

I’ve recently acquired a new example of a Boscoreale aureus which is pedigreed to the Biaggi collection and is the pictured book in the Calico reference. I consider myself lucky because the pictures I bought it from did not even remotely reflect the reality of its toning: it is without a doubt one of the most dramatically toned gold coins I’ve ever seen.

This aureus was minted by the emperor Vespasian, with the reverse of Aequitas holding scales and a scepter.

image

My other Boscoreale aureus is of Nero, with a reverse of Jupiter sitting in a throne holding a thunderbolt. I’ve posted this coin here before but here are new pictures which capture its in-hand look.

image

I hope this makes up, in some part, for some of the cinematic creative license taken by the Pompeii movie!
Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection

Comments

  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭
    O

    M

    G

    imageimage

    It's hard to imagine a more fascinating provenance.

    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭
    That Vespasian aureus just BLOWS MY MIND.

    Probably one of my favorites amongst all the other mindblowing stuff you've posted.

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • ZoharZohar Posts: 6,627 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Thanks for sharing along with the detailed write-up. I had visited Pompeii and stayed in Sorrento which had a clear view of the volcano. The state of preservation of the town is unique as if frozen in time which allows for a peak at Roman life at the time. Found this interesting - LINK
  • SwampboySwampboy Posts: 12,864 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Superb.
    Just superb.
    image
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I'm really glad you keep us supplied with a regular diet of eyecandy here.

    If memory serves, you didn't post much here until I lured you out of your shell? image

    (I was gonna say you enable us to dream, but I couldn't even dream of owning some of the kind of stuff you post.)

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • IosephusIosephus Posts: 872 ✭✭✭
    Awesome coins and history, thanks for sharing!
  • STLNATSSTLNATS Posts: 1,597 ✭✭✭
    Lovely aurei made the more meaningful with the great historical tie. Thanks for sharing!

    image
    Always interested in St Louis MO & IL metro area and Evansville IN national bank notes and Vatican/papal states coins and medals!
  • ZoinsZoins Posts: 33,811 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>O

    M

    G

    imageimage

    It's hard to imagine a more fascinating provenance.

    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage
    imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage >>



    Awesome coins and awesome WOW! imageThumbsUp;

    I'm really fond of Roman coins but would need some time on counterfeit detection before jumping in.
  • SaorAlbaSaorAlba Posts: 7,459 ✭✭✭✭✭
    My son saw the movie and said it was "dumb". The upside to the movie has been the documentaries on some of the cable stations lately about Pompeii. Having a coin with a probable connection to the event would be very cool.
    In memory of my kitty Seryozha 14.2.1996 ~ 13.9.2016 and Shadow 3.4.2015 - 16.4.21
  • STLNATSSTLNATS Posts: 1,597 ✭✭✭
    My son saw the movie and said it was "dumb

    I love period flicks, but he's right, it was dumb. The special effects were fun (who doesn't like a volcano exploding?) and it does look like they made an effort to make sets, clothing etc authentic, but it was a really just a tissue thin, schmaltzy love story that made no sense since the key part of the film just covered 2-3 days. Think Titanic with a volcano instead of an iceberg.

    I have a local theater that offers cheap first runs so at least it didn't cost much.

    image
    Always interested in St Louis MO & IL metro area and Evansville IN national bank notes and Vatican/papal states coins and medals!
  • Simply amazing

    You own two gold aureii that were buried in the Pompeii area from Mt Vesuvius and because of the volcano the Vespasian has absurdly beautiful toning

    What fun historical artifacts :-)

    Thanks so much for sharing
    =Recipient of the coveted "You Suck" award 4/28/2014=
  • SaorAlbaSaorAlba Posts: 7,459 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>My son saw the movie and said it was "dumb

    I love period flicks, but he's right, it was dumb. The special effects were fun (who doesn't like a volcano exploding?) and it does look like they made an effort to make sets, clothing etc authentic, but it was a really just a tissue thin, schmaltzy love story that made no sense since the key part of the film just covered 2-3 days. Think Titanic with a volcano instead of an iceberg.

    I have a local theater that offers cheap first runs so at least it didn't cost much.

    image >>



    I just thought it was funny that even a 15 year old thought it stunk. My wife and I saw "Labor Day" and it was only slightly better. Saturday evening was one of those days the whole family went to the theatre, but went and saw five different movies.
    In memory of my kitty Seryozha 14.2.1996 ~ 13.9.2016 and Shadow 3.4.2015 - 16.4.21
  • worldcoinguyworldcoinguy Posts: 2,998 ✭✭✭✭
    I love these threads! Great writeup and beautiful pieces. The connection to the specific historical event is extraordinary.
  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,135 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>I'm really glad you keep us supplied with a regular diet of eyecandy here.

    If memory serves, you didn't post much here until I lured you out of your shell? image
    >>



    You're correct image It is indeed your fault that I'm going to be posting more! I'm hoping to get in a somewhat regular cadence of posts, possibly weekly if I can manage it alongside everything else. I have quite a few new coins which I have yet to share!

    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • DorkGirlDorkGirl Posts: 9,994 ✭✭✭
    image
    Becky
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>You're correct image It is indeed your fault that I'm going to be posting more! I'm hoping to get in a somewhat regular cadence of posts, possibly weekly if I can manage it alongside everything else. I have quite a few new coins which I have yet to share! >>

    I look forward to that.

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • ColonelJessupColonelJessup Posts: 6,442 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Great story. Gorgeous coins. Thanks. . image
    "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - Geo. Orwell
  • MacCrimmonMacCrimmon Posts: 7,050 ✭✭✭


    << <i>

    << <i>I'm really glad you keep us supplied with a regular diet of eyecandy here.

    If memory serves, you didn't post much here until I lured you out of your shell? image
    >>



    You're correct image It is indeed your fault that I'm going to be posting more! I'm hoping to get in a somewhat regular cadence of posts, possibly weekly if I can manage it alongside everything else. I have quite a few new coins which I have yet to share! >>




    Oh, goodie!! Can't wait to see more of your ancient treasures. Do you image your coins? I've always loved the 'floating' effect of this template. image
  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,135 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>

    << <i>

    << <i>I'm really glad you keep us supplied with a regular diet of eyecandy here.

    If memory serves, you didn't post much here until I lured you out of your shell? image
    >>



    You're correct image It is indeed your fault that I'm going to be posting more! I'm hoping to get in a somewhat regular cadence of posts, possibly weekly if I can manage it alongside everything else. I have quite a few new coins which I have yet to share! >>




    Oh, goodie!! Can't wait to see more of your ancient treasures. Do you image your coins? I've always loved the 'floating' effect of this template. image >>



    Thanks! I do image my own coins, and I've recently re-imaged all of them with an improved approach and I think I'm almost happy enough with them to start posting a wider array. I'm pretty picky about having to get as close as possible to the in-hand look and I'm unfortunately a neophyte at any form of photography, so I'm learning as Igo.
    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i> I'm unfortunately a neophyte at any form of photography, so I'm learning as Igo >>

    Wait... wait... those are NOT "neophyte" photos. No way, Jose.

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.


  • << <i>Thanks! I do image my own coins, and I've recently re-imaged all of them with an improved approach and I think I'm almost happy enough with them to start posting a wider array. I'm pretty picky about having to get as close as possible to the in-hand look and I'm unfortunately a neophyte at any form of photography, so I'm learning as Igo. >>



    Dude you have museum quality pieces with PCGS Truview level of photography and I look forward to each post
    =Recipient of the coveted "You Suck" award 4/28/2014=
  • bidaskbidask Posts: 13,825 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I enjoyed seeing the frescoes in the museums when I was there.....really depicted life then.
    I manage money. I earn money. I save money .
    I give away money. I collect money.
    I don’t love money . I do love the Lord God.




  • lordmarcovanlordmarcovan Posts: 43,194 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I just had to come and look again.

    That Vespasian aureus has haunted my dreams since I first opened this thread.

    Explore collections of lordmarcovan on CollecOnline, management, safe-keeping, sharing and valuation solution for art piece and collectibles.
  • I haven't posted in 5 or 6 years, but that coins is simply amazing. Thank you for posting this thread!
  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,135 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>I just had to come and look again.

    That Vespasian aureus has haunted my dreams since I first opened this thread. >>



    You'll be visited by several more ghosts of emperors past soon image
    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,135 ✭✭✭✭✭


    << <i>I haven't posted in 5 or 6 years, but that coins is simply amazing. Thank you for posting this thread! >>



    Thanks! I have some long flights coming up soon and my inability to sleep on planes will likely result in more posts, so stay tuned image
    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • OnlyGoldIsMoneyOnlyGoldIsMoney Posts: 3,252 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Fair Warning. I am reviving a nearly 9 year old thread.

    It would be great is SmEagle1795 could post his Vespasian "Boscoreale Toned" Vespasian Aureus again. I believe it have seen it elsewhere and it is awesome example of Boscoreale toning.

    Today I joined the Boscoreale club with a winning bid at Heritage. Although no one can be sure if their aureus came from the Villa della Pisanella owned by the family of L. Caecilius Lucundus, this coin surely looks like a coin that felt the hot breath of Vesuvius.


  • SmEagle1795SmEagle1795 Posts: 2,135 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Congratulations! That's an excellent addition and I would certainly say that's a confident Boscoreale coin. I'm coincidentally waiting on two new Boscoreale aurei from recent purchases as well; here are a few of mine:

    My best toned is the Vespasian that started this thread:

    This Domitian needs to be seen in-hand to fully appreciate but it's a rainbow of color:

    This Claudius is awaiting shipping from NYINC:

    Also waiting to be shipped and what will probably be my best coin of the year: a Judaea Capta aureus with a lengthy pedigree and most likely a Boscoreale origin:

    And finally, Nero with the Colossus statue. The toning is subtle but the Boscoreale hoard was found in 1895 and I have this coin pedigreed to 1905 where it was mentioned it came from the Boscoreale hoard:

    Learn about our world's shared history told through the first millennium of coinage: Colosseo Collection
  • OnlyGoldIsMoneyOnlyGoldIsMoney Posts: 3,252 ✭✭✭✭✭

    SmEagle1795, the toning on the Vespasian is spectacular - the most attractively toned aureus I have ever seen - thank you for posting it again.

    It is likely that all of these coins were once together at the villa in Boscoreale - its not often that ancient coins can be placed with such certainty.

    Congratulations on your NEWPS from the NYINC. Both the Claudius and Vespasian Judea Capta are superb coins.

Sign In or Register to comment.