An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in London, Volume 3, Roman London. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1928.
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Roman Coinage in London. (Plate 65) By G. F. Hill
(1) The Roman Mint of London.
The essential facts in the history of the Roman Mint in London were stated sixty years ago by Count J. F. W. de Salis, and nothing since discovered has made it necessary to modify the main lines of his sketch. (fn. 1)
The Mint, if it was functioning before the reign of Carausius (286–293), produced no coins which can be assigned to it on grounds either of style or of mint-marks. The suggestion that it existed in the 2nd century, and that such coins as the Britannia types of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius were its work, (fn. 2) is without probability. The barbarous imitations of early Imperial coins, which were without doubt made in Britain, need not have been manufactured in London any more than in any other part of the island where Roman coins circulated.
Carausius (fn. 3) issued gold, silver, and copper washed with silver in London, which was probably the first of his British mints to operate. The aurei, reading conservat. aug. and conservatori auggg., bear the mintmark M(oneta) L(ondinii); the inscription on the latter shows that it can hardly be earlier than the understanding with Diocletian and Maximian in A.D. 289–90. Other aurei of Carausius without any mint-mark are also supposed to have been struck at London. But the extreme rarity of all his gold coins suggests that the provision at the mint for issues in that metal must have been small. It is to be observed that Carausius struck his gold on the low standard of about 4 gr. 36 (average), apparently intended for the standard of 1/70 lb. or 4 gr. 68 introduced by Diocletian. Although this standard seems to have been abolished by its author as early as 286, the date cannot be taken as a terminus ante quem for the gold coins of Carausius, since (as has just been stated) some of them refer to the three Augusti and must belong to 289 or later. Moreover, Allectus followed his predecessor's example. Many coins on the low standard must have remained in circulation throughout the Empire after its official abolition and Carausius would make these his model.
The silver coinage, consists, with one or two exceptions, of denarii without the mark of London, but with the letters RSR in the exergue; on the analogy of COM(itis) on later Roman solidi, these letters are to be explained as R(ationalis) S(ummae) R(ei) rather than as a local mint-mark. The fabric and style of these coins associate them with London rather than any other mint. Exceptional denarii are those inscribed virtus inv(icti) aug(usti) with the mint-mark L.
The bulk of the coinage issued by Carausius from the London mint consists, however, of "antoniniani" of copper washed with silver, bearing the mint-mark ML or S(acra) M(oneta) L(ondinii); many have also other issue-marks which have not yet been explained.
In addition to the pieces already described, Carausius struck at London aurei with the name and portrait of Maximian and the legend salus auggg. on the same low standard as those in his own name, as well as copper of Maximian and Diocletian with the London mark. That he also struck aurei with the name and portrait of Diocletian is to be presumed, though no example has survived. The famous copper coin with the portraits of the three emperors jugate, Carausius et fratres sui, was not issued from London; it has the mint-mark C (Camulodunum? Clausentum? Corinium?).
The number of officinae operating at the London mint is uncertain; it has been thought that there were as many as six; but so elaborate an organization is unlikely to have existed in the circumstances.
Allectus (293–296) (fn. 4) issued from London gold (on the same standard as had been used by Carausius) and copper (silvered) with the mint-marks ML or MSL, but no silver. With the disappearance of the usurper and the capture of London (commemorated on a remarkable medallion of Constantius I, which was, however, struck not at London but at Trier), (fn. 5) the London Mint came into line with the other mints as reorganized by the reform of 296. It was, however, never again to issue gold or silver, except for a brief spell in the reign of Magnus Maximus. If we set aside the coins of Lugdunum which have been wrongly assigned to London, we find that, under the tetrarchy, the Mint issued folles of the usual types, with the marks LN, LON or PLN (percussa Londinii), as well as a large number without any mint-mark, the attribution of which to London is based on their comparative commonness in British hoards. Not all unmarked folles, however, are necessarily of the London Mint. During the next period (fn. 6) from 305 onwards, a greater variety of mint-marks is found; PLN as before, PLON, MSL, MLL, MLN, possibly also PL— not to mention minor differentiae in the field of the coin. Of these, the form MLL still awaits explanation. A few unmarked coins have also been assigned to London. It would appear that this Constantinian coinage at London came to an end after the deaths of Crispus and Fausta, which took place in July and August 326; or perhaps earlier, since there are no coins of Constantius II, who became Caesar in Nov. 324. The coins offer no evidence of the existence of more than one offcina during this period.
Hereafter Britain had to depend almost entirely on the Gallic mints for its new money. The coins of Valentinian I, Valens and Gratian inscribed S.M.L.A.P. which have been assigned to London (fn. 7) are of Lugdunum. (fn. 8)
There are, however, gold solidi and silver siliquae of Magnus Maximus (383–388) bearing the letters AVGOB (Augustae obryzum) and AVGPS (Augustae pusulatum) or AVG alone. These mint-marks have been explained in the light of the fact that, probably about A.D. 368–9, Londinium received the name Augusta. (fn. 9) One of the siliquae mentions the quinquennalia of the Emperor; unless, therefore, as is very probable, the vows were anticipated, the Mint must have been working down to 388, the last year of his reign. Otherwise we should have supposed that Magnus Maximus did not require to use the London Mint after he had secured his position in Gaul. In this connexion it is necessary to mention a base-metal coin of Theodosius I, of the types and fabric of the solidus, with the mint-mark AVGOB. The only recorded example, which is in the British Museum, appears to be cast from a genuine solidus; it seems to be not, as Count de Salis supposed, an ancient imitation, but a modern one. It is, however, evidence that genuine solidi existed. But, just as the coins of Maximian and Diocletian with the London mintmark were issued by Carausius, it may be supposed that it was issued not by the Emperor whose name it bears, but by the usurper Magnus Maximus.
(II) List of The Chief Finds.
2. Clapton. "During some repairs at Temple Mills, on the borders of Hackney Marsh, in the year 1783, an urn was found full of Roman coins .... from Julius Caesar to Constantine the Great" [Trans. Lond. and Midd. Arch. Soc, III, 196].
3. Fenchurch Street. Found in July, 1922, at a depth of 18 ft., in relaying house-drain by No. 146, 12 denarii (perhaps part of a larger hoard), now in Guildhall Museum. Vespasian (3), Trajan (4), Hadrian (2), Antoninus Pius (1), Faustina I (1) and M. Aurelius (1). The last: M ANTONINVS AVG ARM PARTH MAX, Head r. laureate, bearded. Rev. TR P [XX] IMP III COS III and in exergue PAX. Peace standing 1, holding branch in r., cornucopiae in 1. Cohen, 434–A.D. 166.
4. Fenchurch Street. 1926. 23 antoniniani of Valerian I (3), Gallienus (2), Salonina (1), Saloninus (2), Postumus (13), Tetricus I (1), Tetricus II (1); 20 attributable to Gaul (Lugdunum), three to Rome; now in London Museum. Note by H. Mattingly (unpublished).
5. Fetter Lane. Autumn, 1908. Pot containing 46 billon and copper tetradrachms struck at Alexandria, said to have been dug up during excavations for the erection of a house. The coins range from Nero, year 5, to Carinus (A.D. 283–285), year 2. In spite of the long period covered, the appearance of the coins (which are in the British Museum) favours the assumption that they come from one find, and, since Alexandrian coins are very frequently found sporadically in this country, both alone and in association with Roman, there is no strong reason to doubt the authenticity of this discovery [F. D. Ringrose in Num. Chron., 1911, pp. 357–8].
7. Lime Street, 1882. Pot found at a depth of 17 or 18 ft. containing a gold ring and about 500 denarii and antoniniani, silver and billon, of Commodus and nearly all emperors and empresses from Albinus to Trajan Decius. Date of deposit in or after 249 or 250 TJ. Evans in Num. Chron., 1882, 57–60; 1883, 278–281].
8. Lombard Street and Birchin Lane. 1786. Found in digging a sewer in these streets. "Near 300 brass" of "Constantinus and Tetricus" were found in the ground together. Other finds, apparently disconnected, comprised gold of Nero, Galba, and Antoninus Pius, a denarius of Severus Alexander, and æs of various persons from Claudius to Diocletian [Gough in Arch., VIII (1787), 126; T. Allen, Hist. Lond., I, 29].
9. London Bridge Approach. On the site of Lloyd's Bank, 17 burnt bronze coins, 2 of Agrippa and the remainder of Claudius were found together at a depth of about 15 ft. [F. Lambert in Arch., LXXI, 57; subsequently reviewed by H. Mattingly].
10. Nicholas Lane. Eleven brass coins—5 of Trajan, 1 of Hadrian, 1 of Aelius Caesar, 1 of Lucilla, 1 of Faustina the Elder and 2 of Antoninus Pius from a rubbish pit at a depth of 22 ft., are in the London Museum. Identified by H. Mattingly.
11. Old Ford. February, 1866. A quarter of a mile from the Ferry towards London, in a fork between the two roads which branched off, one to the N.W. to cross Cambridge Heath, the other to the S.W. to Bethnal Green. Pot full of "3rd brass" coins of Allectus; about one-third examined, all with "galley" reverse. Number not stated [Wm. Allen in Num. Chron., 1866, 304–5].
12. Southwark. Seen April, 1902. Found during excavations for "tube" railway, close to the river, 18 ft. below surface, on a bed of peat moss, 17 æs of Agrippa (1), Claudius (3), Nero (11) and Vespasian (2) [G. F. Hill in Num. Chron., 1903, 99–102].
13. Southwark. In or before 1825, "in digging for the erection of a steam-engine at Messrs. Barclay and Perkins' Brewery [on the W. side of Borough High Street], a human skeleton was discovered, and between the legs was found a vessel with several Roman coins, chiefly of the lower empire, in it" [Gent. Mag., 1825, II, 633].
14. Southwark. In Grove Street (probably The Grove, now part of Ewer Street) in 1864, "on May 1 there was discovered, in digging a trench at the corner of Grove Street, Southwark, two skeletons; and between them remains of an earthen olla which had been filled with small brass coins, 554 of which . . . . consisted entirely of rude imitations of the imperial money of the second-half of the 3rd century, some bearing the busts and names of Victorinus, Tetricus I and II, and Claudius Gothicus" [Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc., XX, 339].
15. Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury. November, 1924. Some 700 bronze of the Constantinian period. Of these 667 were examined: Licinius I (12), Constantine I (308), Crispus (113), Constantine II (148), Constantius II (46), Helena (26), Fausta (12), Constantinopolis (2). Mints: Aquileia (7), Arelate (41), Constantinopolis (1), Cyzicus (4), Heracleia (5), Londinium (47), Lugdunum (71), Nicomedia (5), Rome (26), Siscia (31), Thessalonica (21), Ticinum (22), Treviri (375), Uncertain (11) [H. Mattingly in Num. Chron., 1925, p. 398].
16. Well Street, Jewin Street, 1846. "Close by the old London Wall, a few yards from the outside of the circular bastion still remaining in Cripplegate churchyard." Between 70 and 80 denarii of Galba, Vespasian, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Sabina, Antoninus Pius and Faustina, in good preservation [Num. Chron., 1846–1847, 85]. A note in Journ. Brit. Arch. Assoc., II, 272, implies that this was a hoard.
1. Christ's Hospital. Discovered separately during the digging of the site in 1908–9: æs of Nero (1), Vespasian, (4), Domitian (1), Trajan (1), Hadrian (1), Ant. Pius (1). Faustina (2), Tetricus I (4), Carausius (2), Allectus (2), Constantius I (1), Constantine I (1), Licinius (3), Constantine II (1) [F. Lambert in Arch., LXIII, 338].
2. London Bridge. Coins found at various times from 1834 to 1841, in the bed of the Thames along the line of London Bridge. Several thousands, ranging from the Republican period (silver, base silver, and lead plated) to the time of Honorius; three brass medallions of M. Aurelius, Faustina Jun. and Commodus; 2 gold of Maximian (one struck by Carausius), 1 gold of Crispus; Imperial denarii and antoniniani (the greater proportion of bronze washed with silver; these especially abundant of Severus and Julia); silver of Caracalla and Otacilia purposely broken in half; also a half of the Urbs Roma type in silver. Aes of the Empire from Augustus to Honorius; and some hundred minimi [C. Roach Smith in Num. Chron., IV, 1841–2, 147–168, 186–194, and Arch., XXIX, 161 ff. (Cp. Arch., XXV, 600, for coins found from 1824 to 1831)]. Roach Smith's theory that these coins came, at least in part, from dedicatory deposits, is confirmed by the prevalence of the plated or base metal coins [see G. Macdonald on the use of tin and lead coins for dedication, Num. Chron., 1905, 14 ff].
3. London Wall and Throgmorton Avenue, corner of. About 1872. Found in excavation of site of the Hall of the Carpenters' Company, 44 Roman or Byzantine coins, mostly in poor condition; 7 denarii from M. Aurelius to Severus and Domna; 37 æs from Augustus to Constantine II; also 9 bronze of Byzantine emperors from Justin II (565–578) to Andronicus II (1282–1328) and 15 modern coins. No record of the numbers of separate finds [P. H. Webb in Num. Chron., 1903, 102–104].
4. Post Office, St. Martin's-le-Grand. Excavations on the site of the old Post Office in 1913 produced: Claudius (1), Nero (1), Domitian (1), Trajan (2), Antoninus Pius (2), Faustina I (1), Jewish, Second Revolt, A.D. 132–135 (1), Victorinus (1), Valentinian I (1). The Jewish coin of bronze; metal of others not stated [F. Lambert in Arch., LXVI, 240–241].
5. Queen Street, Cheapside. 1842. Coins of Carausius and Allectus found at a depth of 12 to 15 ft. not many yards from the spot near the Wall from which the bronze figure of an archer came [W. Chaffers in Arch., XXX, 544].
6. Tower. September, 1777. "Found in digging for the foundations of a new office for the Board of Ordnance": Two gold solidi of Arcadius (Rome and Milan), one of Honorius (Milan) and a stamped silver ingot [J. Milles in Arch., V (1779), 291–305; A. J. Evans in Num. Chron., 1915, 509].
In considering the evidence of finds on the question of the relative intensity of occupation at various periods, the number of coins found dispersed is more important than the numbers found in hoards. For hoards may be imported, and their discovery is so much a matter of accident, that a single hoard of large proportions may completely throw out the balance. It has also been observed that, whatever the civil population, the legions had to be paid, and silver hoards may be explained by that necessity. The following table, combined from the details given above, shows in column A the numbers of coins of all metals when hoards and dispersed finds are included together, in column B only the numbers of coins found dispersed. In compiling the table it has been necessary to ignore such indications as "near 300 brass of Constantinus and Tetricus found in the ground together" and "a pot full of third brass of Allectus"; and even so, the data available are so vague that only a very distant approximation to accuracy is possible. Obviously, if figures were to be had for all hoards, the difference between the two columns would be more striking. As it is, the Lime Street silver hoard alone would make the slackening of occupation in the early 3rd century seem much less obvious were it not for the observation as to the necessity of pay for the legions above recorded.