Alföldi table.

5th emission of Siscia, 278 CE. (?)

Not listed in RIC; Alföldi type 14, n° 1; cf. Cohen 83, Siscia. Bust type H. Denomination: Antoninianus.


Radiate bust left in imperial mantle, holding sceptre surmounted by eagle.


The muse Calliope standing right, playing large lyre supported on a column.

Mintmark: // [Exergual line only]

Weight:: 4.67 g.
Die axis: ?
Diameter: ?

Image provided courtesy of Dr. Hubert Lanz, NUMISMATIK LANZ MÜNCHEN

Lanz Auction 100, November 20, 2000
Ex Harlan J. Berk, 91

The following appeared in its full and unmodified form in a Harlan J. Berk auction catalogue 91, June 1996,
re-published here with permission of the author Dr. Curtis Clay, and Harlan J. Berk Ltd.


    The nine Muses, the goddesses presiding over the different types of poetry and
over the arts and sciences, appeared on Roman coins on only two occasions.

    First, in order to illustrate and advertise his own name, the senator Q. Pomponius
Musa placed all nine of the muses, plus their leader Hercules, on the Republican
denarii that he struck as a moneyer c. 65 BC (Crawford 410). On these coins the
individual muses are distinguished by their posture and attributes and by the
symbols that appears behind the head of Apollo on the obverse but they are not
named; Pomponius' cognomen MVSA, the Latin word for Muse, appears as a
general designation alongside all of them. It is curious that whereas Pomponius'
denarii for eight of the muses are scarce only, his denarius for the remaining
Muse Erato is one of the most sought after rarities in the Republican series.

    Secondly, the muse of epic poetry alone, Calliope, appeared with the legend
CALLIOPE AVG on an extremely rare antoninianus struck by the emperor Probus
at the mint of Siscia. A coin of these types was first described in 1791
by Tanini in his supplement to Banduri's corpus of late Roman and Byzantine coins
(1718). Both Eckhel (1797) and Cohen (first edition 1865, second edition 1886)
knew the type only from Tanini; Eckhel called it "singular in the extreme" and Cohen
valued it at 100 francs, an immense price for an antoninianus of Probus, the
common types of which were then worth under one franc a piece. Percy Webb too
knew Tanini's description only and no actual specimen of this coins, so was unable to
attribute it to a specific mint and omitted it from RIC V, 2 (1933). Probus' CALLIOPE
AVG antoninianus eluded even the Viennese collector Missong, who specialized in
Probus and whose extraordinary collection of the coins of that emperor was
acquired after his death by the national coin cabinet in Vienna. However, according
to A. Alföldi's corpus of coins struck by Probus at Siscia, which was published in
1939, two famous private collectors of the beginning of this centurty, Francesco
Gnecchi and George Weifert, whose collections are now at the Museo Nazionale in
Rome and the University of Belgrade respectively, were each able to acquire a
a specimen of Probus' CALLIOPE AVG antoninianus, which Alföldi attributed to the
mint of Siscia. The specimen shown here is thus apparently only the third to
come to light since 1791, and the only one of the three that does not reside
permanently in a museum collection. This coin is a great deal rarer than Pomponius'
denarius of Erato, and it is the only Roman coin to actually name one of the nine

    What was the reason for this brief and isolated appearance of the muse of epic
poetry in an age of barbarian invasions and civil war that might seem singularly
unsuited for the cultivation of literature? Eckhel viewed the type as a general
tribute to Probus' excellence: Calliope may have been placed on the coins, he said,
in order that she might seem to be sounding the praise due to Probus' virtue. But it
seems preferable to suspect a more specific cause: perhaps an author of the time
had actually published an epic poem celebrating Probus' accomplishments, or could
it be that Probus himself composed epic poetry and perhaps even sang his own
compositions while accompanying himself on the lyre, like his infamous predecessor
Nero, more than two hundred years earlier? Literary and especially histrionic
ambitions would not have made Probus popular with the army and the Roman ruling
class, so it would be no surprise that the CALLIOPE AVG type did not meet with
the emperor's approval and was immediately discontinued. In any case, the type was
clearly experimental since it lacks the value and officina marks that appear
on almost all other Siscian antoniniani of Probus.

    For help in tracking down the literature relating to this coin we are grateful
to Dr. William E. Metcalf of the American Numismatic Society, Dr. Andrew Burnett
of the British Museum, Marcus Weder of Pratteln, Switzerland and Mrs. Maria E. Clay.

C.83 "IMP PROBVS P F AVG, son buste radie et cuirasse a droite.
CALLIOPE AVG . Calliope debout a droite, jouant d'une lyre placee
sur une colonne, sur a base de la quelle elle pose le pied gauche. Tanini. P.B. 100"

(Alföldi type 14, n° 2)

"IMP PROBVS P F AVG, his radiate and cuirassed bust right.
CALLIOPE AVG. Calliope standing right, playing a lyre placed
on a column, on the base of which she rests her left foot. Tanini. Small Bronze 100 Francs."