AE -an abbreviation of the
Latin "aes, aeris," copper
or bronze. Also the prefix used in the modern classification system for all
copper-alloy coins minted in the late Roman Empire whose
actual names are not known from the historical record. They're classified by
size into groups ranging from AE1 (the biggest) down to AE4 (the
smallest). Most ACE coins are either
AE3's or AE4's. Here's how the sizes break down:
AE 1's are larger than a US half
dollar coin: 28 mm and larger.
AE 2's run from about the size of
a quarter to a half-dollar: about 22 -
AE 3's run from about the size of
a cent to a little larger than a nickel:
about 17 - 21
AE 4's are dime-sized or smaller:
16 mm and smaller
For more information see the FAQ.
Antoninianus -- the modern
name for a coin whose actual name is lost to us, introduced in 215 C.E. and phased out in
294. On this type of coin, the emperor
is always shown with a radiate crown (empresses are shown on a crescent). The Antoninianus replaced the highly debased
denarius as the standard coin of the Empire for a time and was valued as a
double-denarius. Although coins with radiate crowns minted after 294 are often
called "Antoniniani," technically these are "post-reform
augustus -- "revered
one." This title, after it was
assumed by Octavianus Caesar, became the identifying mark of the Roman
emperors. It often appears abbreviated
as AVG at the end of the obverse
inscriptions found on ACE coins.
barbarous imitations --
coins minted on the outer edges of the Empire that copy, with more or less
exactness, official coinage. These pieces have not received the exhaustive
study devoted to official Roman issues and consequently are poorly understood
in terms of the role they played in local economies.
billion - not to be confused
with "billon." One thousand million, or 1 followed by 9 zeros.
billon -- any silver alloy
containing less than 50% silver, and often much less. Many of the 3rd-century coins that
we call "silver" are actually billon.
bullion - not to be confused with "billon." Precious metal, such
as silver or gold, valued solely as precious metal.
bronze -- an alloy of copper with tin. Roman bronze may also
contain significant amounts of other metals such as lead, silver and iron.
bust -- portrait of a person
that shows at least the shoulders and may also include the chest
Caesar -- someone who has
officially been named as heir to the emperor.
The titles and sometimes the headgear of Caesars are different from
those of emperors, so this is potentially an important clue in identifying a
coin. For more information, see the FAQ.
campgate -- a structure
shown on some Roman coins. It is made of
rows of bricks or stones, has domed structures at the top, and usually has a
door or entrance in the middle. There's
an ongoing controversy about whether this actually represents the entrance gate
to a camp (castra), one of the
"Mile Houses" along a defensive wall, or a tower topped with signal
beacons. In any case, the reverse type is usually referred to by this name.
cf. -- abbreviation of Latin
confer, "compare." This
term is used
when a coin is similar but not
identical to a coin listed in one of the standard catalogues.
cornucopia -- the "horn
of plenty," a symbol of abundance, sometimes held by a figure on the reverse
of a coin. Note that coin descriptions
sometimes refer to one cornucopia as cornucopiae. The Latin genitive -ae ending is used to express "of plenty."
cuirass -- a soldier's
armored breastplate, usually including shoulder protection which may be all
that is visible under drapery if a bust is "draped and cuirassed."
cuirassed -- wearing a
debase -- to reduce the amount of precious metal in a coin
denominations - Although the
vast majority of coins you are likely to encounter in the ACE program have had
their denomination-names forgotten by history (See "AE") , it might be useful
to list the familiar and well-known denominations of the early Empire. The "denomination of account" was the
Aureus - gold coin a little larger than a US nickel, worth 25 silver denarii
Quinarius - one-half Aureus.
Denarius - silver coin about the size of a US dime or a little larger, worth 16
copper Asses or 4 Sestertii.
Quinarius - one-half Denarius
(brass) Sestertius - A large coin worth 4 copper Asses
(brass) Dupondius -A medium-sized coin worth 2 copper Asses
- a medium-sized copper coin (these occasionally turn up in ACE lots)
(brass) Semis - One-half As.
Quadrans - one-quarter As.
Other, later denominations for
which we know the names included the Follis, an originally large, but rapidly
shrinking silvered AE coin introduced by Diocletian, and the Centenionalis, a
medium-sized, silvered AE coin introduced about a decade after the death of
Constantine the Great. The Argenteus and Siliqua were silver denominations
during the later empire, and the Solidus replaced the Aureus as the main gold
coin during the reign of Constantine.
diadem -- a jeweled headband
worn as a crown. The most common types
the pearled diadem -- a diadem with rows of
pearls along the edges and possibly on the ends of the ties at the back
the rosette diadem -- a diadem made primarily of
rosettes (flower-shaped designs)
There are also diadems that
combine rosettes and pearls, as well as diadems that incorporate laurel leaves
diademed -- crowned with a
die -- a piece of hardened metal engraved with the mirror image of
a coin's design. Ancient coins were
hand-struck by using a hammer to mash the flan between a pair of dies. This had the effect of impressing the designs
on the obverse and reverse of the coin.
draped -- wearing a cloak,
often over a cuirass or, less often, by itself
exergue -- the area at the
bottom of a coin's design, below the "ground line" on which the character(s) or
objects stand. If there's a mint mark,
found here, on the reverse. Sometimes the exergue contains other
elements, such as stars, pellets, Roman numerals, or Greek letters.
field -- the flat area on a
coin around the main design
flan -- the metal blank on
which the coin is struck
fourree -- a coin made by wrapping a thin foil of precious metal around a core of base metal before
striking. This was done to give the
illusion that the coin was made of solid gold or silver. Fourrees were counterfeits made to deceive,
and should not be confused with officially issued, silvered AE coins.
head -- portrait of a person
from the neck up
imperator -- supreme
military commander. This designation
goes back well before the imperial period of Roman history, but it came to be
one of the emperor's titles and sometimes appears (abbreviated as IMP)
at the beginning of the obverse inscription on ACE coins.
inscription -- the words and
abbreviations of words on a coin
labarum -- a Roman military
standard bearing a Christian symbol. ACE
coins from the Christian late Empire sometimes depict a labarum displaying the
Chi-Rho symbol, or Christogram, made up of the first two Greek letters of the
name of Christ. Note that although the symbol itself is sometimes called a
"labarum," the labarum was
actually the standard on which it was displayed.
laureate -- crowned with a
laurel wreath -- a crown of
laurel leaves, tied at the back
left and right -- somewhat
confusing terms, when applied to coin design!
If the figure on a coin is described as standing, seated, or looking
left, this means that the figure's body or head is turned to the left of the
coin as you are looking at it. The
figure itself, however, might be on the right side of the coin. An example would be: "Emperor standing right,
receiving Victory on globe from Jupiter standing left." This is shorthand for:
"On the left, the Emperor is standing facing to the right, receiving a globe
from Jupiter, who is standing on the right, facing to the left."
legend -- see inscription.
mint -- the place where a
coin is made
mint mark -- an abbreviation
for the name of the mint
obverse -- the
"heads" side of a coin
officina -- an individual
workshop within a mint
patera -- a dish used for
drinking or in religious rituals
patina -- a natural surface
coating on an ancient coin created by the interaction of the coin with its
environment. The patina, which may be
one of a wide range of colors, is often one of the main components of a coin's
beauty and character.
It is also a natural, non-reactive "capsule"
protecting the coin from further damage.
pellet -- a raised dot or
bump on a coin
personification -- a human-looking figure used to symbolize or embody
something intangible such as justice, peace, or liberty. The Statue of Liberty and the Liberty heads or the standing or walking representations of Liberty on earlier coins of the US are familiar examples of an allegorical
phoenix -- As no Harry
Potter fan needs to be told, the phoenix was a mythic bird that was said to be
consumed by fire in its old age and then reborn, young and strong. It sometimes appears on ACE coins in
association with the motto, "the restoration of happy times."
radiate -- crowned with a
radiate crown -- a spiky
crown, tied at the back
reverse -- the
"tails" side of a coin
-- Roman Imperial Coinage, a huge,
multi-volume catalogue of known
Roman imperial coin issues and
variants, each of which is assigned a number.
RIC references usually include the
volume number, the coin number, and sometimes, a letter designating a
particular variant of the coin. Since
the numbering sequences in the several RIC
volumes that cover "our" period all start over again with each mint in each
time period, you must be sure that your coin is exactly the same
as one described or pictured, down to the tiniest detail, before you identify
it with an RIC number -- say, from a similar
coin you've seen on wildwinds. If your
coin is similar but not identical, you can use the term "cf." If you can describe your coin precisely and completely, one of
the numismatists who answer student questions on the ACEhelp list may be able
to supply you with an accurate RIC number.
right -- see left and right
scepter -- a staff carried
as a sign of authority. On Roman coins,
the scepter is often shown full-length, that is, taller than a standing person.
Sear -- David Sear, among
others, has written an extremely important series of handbooks for various
fields of ancient coins. His Roman Coins and Their Values has been
published in several editions over the years and is in the process of being
updated for the new millennium.
silvered -- covered with a
thin wash of silver to disguise the fact that the coin has little or no silver
content and to indicate that it belongs to the silver series of
denominations. This is not unlike the
silver-clad US 50 cent pieces of the 1960's and 70's.
star -- a raised asterisk
shape on a coin
Van Meter -- The Handbook of Roman Imperial Coins, by
David Van Meter, is
one of the standard coin catalogues
often referred to in coin attributions.