Relative rarity of the types

As soon as from the first studies in this series (1), it was known that some of the types were more common than others. As mentioned in the introduction, this may give rise to speculations about whether this difference comes from origin, occurring at the time of minting of the coins, or if there was a subsequent selection: such as by a damnatio memoriae. This question is easily resolved by a methodical estimate of the original number of dies that were created for each emperor. We will see the methodology used to estimate original dies later in a specific section.



The study of this data clearly shows that the obverse types that have survived in greatest number are the result of the greatest number of original dies created for them; with significant differences between the more common coins of Antoninus Pius and Trajan and the rarer ones of Nerva, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus.

As we see in the graph, the distribution of the coins found in the Dorchester hoard is practically identical to the estimates of the original dies. We can therefore consider the distribution of the different types of the obverses in this hoard as a precise indicator of the Divi coins participation in the general monetary circulation of that time.

Therefore, there has been no selective elimination process of any type over time, random loss has affected each type equally. In other words, if a type of coin from the Diviseries is found in lower proportion, it is because fewer resources were dedicated to its production. The true reason for the uneven distribution of obverse dies is subject to a wide degree of speculation and is beyond our current study.

That the reverse of 2/3 of the coins show a pyre while only 1/3 show an eagle can be explained by the lower difficulty of producing dies with the pyre, compared to the more complex task of engraving the details of an eagle. Here only technical arguments seem sufficient to explain the disparity in the number of original reverses of each type, since it is expected that both, the pyre and the eagle, had a similar value in terms of symbolism.

(1)    Cohen H., Description historique des monnaies frappées sous l’empire romaine (2nd ed. Paris, 1880-1892).

        Mattingly H., Sydenham E. A. et al., Roman Imperial Coinage Vol. IV. Part 3 (London, 1923-1994).