Ancient Coins (27 September 2007)

Date of Auction: 27th September 2007

Sold for £52,000

Estimate: £20,000 - £25,000

EARLY MEDIEVAL COINS, EARLY MEDIEVAL COINS, temp. Rechiar (448-55), in the name of Honorius (395-423), Solidus, Bracara, d n honorivs pf avg, pearl-diademed, draped and cuirassed bust right, rev. victoria avggg, Emperor standing right, holding labarum and Victory on globe, left foot on barbarian, b r in field, comob in exergue, 4.38g/12h. Extremely fine, unpublished, UNIQUE (£20,000-25,000)


Michael Metcalf writes: “An extended series of imitative solidi in the name of Honorius (393-423), and with the mint-signature m d (Mediolanum) was attributed to the Sueves as long ago as 1942 by W. Reinhart. They are represented in Portuguese public and private collections. Finds of related coins have been reported from Coimbra, Castelo Branco, Covilhã and Badajoz. The present specimen, which is stylistically similar to the imitative m d series, differs in having the mint-signature b r, seen also on the silver siliquæ of the Suevic King Rechiar (448-56). Given the Portuguese origin of so many specimens of the main series, there can be no reasonable doubt but that b r stands for Bracara (modern Braga). The new specimen is stylistically superior to almost all the imitative m d coins, and doubtless stands at or near the beginning of the sequence. It may very well be from the time of King Rechiar. The style of the dies should be compared in detail with Cabral and Metcalf, Suevic Coinage (Supplement n.4 to Nummus), Porto, 1997, p.236 and plate 1, no. 2. The workmanship is of imperial quality, except perhaps for the rather flamboyant seriffing of the letters vs in the obverse legend”.

For the contemporary silver issue with b r see J.M. Peixoto Cabral and D.M. Metcalf, A moeda sueva - Suevic Coinage, Porto 1997, p.236, 1; W. Reinhart, Historia general del reino hispanico de los Suevos, 1952, pl. 5, 43-4; W. Reinhart, ‘Die Münzen des Schwebenreiches’, in BNG 55, 1937, pl. 36, 1; RIC X, 3786; Gomez 2003, 01.01. For contemporary solidi see Cabral and Metcalf, pp.236-55; Reinhart 1942, fig. 1-3; MEC 285.

Historical note: The Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples, the core tribe of which were the Senones, which migrated from north Germany to the Rhineland. In 406 much of the tribe joined the Vandals and Alans in breaching the Roman frontier at Mainz, launching an invasion of Gaul. Those that did not fight moved south, under King Hermeric (409-38), eventually crossing the Pyrenees and settling in the Roman province of Gallæcia (modern-day Galicia, northern Portugal) where, swearing loyalty to the Emperor Honorius (395-423), they were permitted to settle in 410. Bracara Augusta (modern-day Braga), the former capital of Gallæcia, became the capital of the Suevi, but the indigenous Hispano-Roman population did not take kindly to the new settlers and it was not until the mid-5th century that the situation became more peaceful. Hermeric abdicated in favour of his son Rechila in 438; on the death of Rechila his son, Rechiar, newly converted to Catholicism, inherited the crown. Rechiar died in 456 after being defeated by the Visigothic king Theodoric II; subsequently the Suevian kingdom in Gallæcia was divided in two, with the boundary line the River Minho, with differing kings ruling each side of the river. The last king of the Suevi, Andeca, was defeated by the forces of the Visigothic king Leovigild in 585