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A small number of inscribed bronze tesserae from the fifth and sixth centuries are an essential source for the history of the urban prefecture and the praetorian prefecture. This article presents a complete catalogue of these objects, both certainly attested and genuine and uncertainly attested or false, including two previously unknown examples. It considers the various, inconclusive hypotheses for the function of the tesserae. It then considers the prosopographical novelties and revisions to PLRE required by this category of evidence.

The history of the late antique urban prefecture becomes much more difficult to write in the middle of the fifth century, when the evidence of the Theodosian Code dries up and the comparatively rich epigraphic attestations of the fourth century grow less and less robust. As a result, whereas the fasti of the prefecture are to all intents and purposes complete from the late third century to about the year 400, the fifth-century fasti show many gaps, along with many insecure, uncertain, and potentially duplicate attestations. That remains true for the rest of Late Antiquity and the early middle ages, despite the longevity of the prefecture itself, which continued to retain its local and symbolic importance after the fall of the western empire, and through the Ostrogothic and Byzantine exarchic periods, until the ninth century.1

As legal and monumental epigraphic sources decline, one new category of evidence emerges to document the post fourth-century prefecture: tiny bronze tesserae, often with invocations to the health of the reigning emperor by an urban prefect, or far more rarely a praetorian prefect, who has created [End Page 3] something or put on some sort of event (fecit).2 These tesserae are extant for the better part of a century between the reign of Valentinian III and Theodoric the Amal, but their precise function is quite unclear. The corpus was initially published by Dressel in the instrumenta domestica volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL 15. [1891]), where he classified them as tesserae monumentorum, that is, dedicatory inscriptions for buildings or other similar monuments.3 A recent mise à jour of the corpus by Elvers augments the corpus with one certainly new specimen, and another possibly new one; publishes images of every extant piece for the first time, including the three that appeared on the antiquities market during the twentieth century (one of which had previously been illustrated in a line drawing); and confirms the wartime loss or destruction of several pieces positively known to Dressel in 1891.4 Elvers's excellent publication is not, however, definitive. It retains Dressel's ambiguous and improbable classification of the pieces as tesserae monumentorum, though it adds a "sogenannt," because in dealers' lists and auction catalogues they are invariably described as exagia or solidus weights.5 To be sure, defining what these artifacts actually are is extremely difficult, but they are certainly neither exagia nor tesserae monumentorum (see part VII below), so retaining that nomenclature serves only to mystify things. Elvers's corpus likewise perpetuates as many as thirteen duplicate and phantom attestations in the Dressel corpus and accepts as genuine one tessera that is almost certainly a modern forgery confected from the text published in Dressel.6 All told, fourteen of the thirty-five examples published by Elvers are too insecurely attested or otherwise doubtful to be accepted as certainly genuine.

Despite the great advance that Elvers's work represents, the function, purpose, and value of these tesserae has not yet been established. Furthermore, two entirely new specimens have surfaced since its publication. One tessera, which appeared on the antiquities market in 2015, confirms the cursus honorum of the sixth-century patricius Marcius Caelianus and is published here for the first time.7 A second, which appeared on the market a year later, belongs [End Page 4] to the urban prefect Bacauda, and is likewise newly published here.8 Doing so provides an opportunity to consider the entire corpus of these tesserae afresh and to examine the surprising number of historical questions they leave open. In three prosopographical cases, the tesserae can offer information unavailable anywhere else to supplement or correct the standard account in the Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (PLRE) (see parts III–VI below), but the first step is to present a complete corpus of twenty-four genuine tesserae, in proper chronological sequence. Although this involves inevitable duplication of Elvers's labors (to which the present exercise is deeply indebted), the revised corpus here presented has been re-ordered chronologically with due regard for the tangled prosopography and polyonymy of the late fifth-century aristocracy of Rome, and has been pruned of thirteen dubia or phantoms, as well as the modern forgery, which are presented in part IV as dubia vel falsa.

As physical artifacts, the extant genuine specimens are largely of a piece. Most striking is their size—they are tiny, smaller than many modern postage stamps. All vary between 18−20 × 15 millimeters, and weigh between 2.97 and 4.30 grams. Most of the extant tesserae are double-sided, with three lines of text on each side, standing at 180 degrees to one another. Although the (almost certain) forgery in the catalog of Elvers is uniface, enough other examples were personally examined by Dressel to suggest that uniface tesserae are a genuine if not prevalent type, and the second new tessera is also uniface. On all but one tessera, letters are incised into three raised bands standing on a rectangular bronze planchet. The one exception is now in private hands, having reached the antiquities market twice in the past three decades: from its published photograph, its letters appear to stand in relief, rather than incuse, an anomaly that would raise suspicions were it not for the other markers of authenticity. With one or perhaps two exceptions among the genuine extant specimens, the standard of the engraved lettering is very high, comparable to that of contemporary celatores of the Rome mint (the one near-certain forgery is distinguished inter alia by its grotesquely deficient hand).

All extant or photographically recorded specimens seem to have been engraved individually. None appears to have been cast, though it is not inconceivable that some issues were struck; too many genuine specimens are no longer extant for one to speak definitively on that point, and a provisional assessment has to rely as much on an intuitive sense of how many pieces of each type were initially issued as on the extant evidence. On the other hand, the silvering applied to the raised bands on all extant examples would certainly have needed separate application on each specimen. That is to say, regardless of where on the scale of quality or prestige one places these items, they could [End Page 5] not have been mass produced on the scale of bronze nummi from the fourth and early fifth century. Along with the physical form, the textual format is substantially uniform. The obverse of each tessera begins with a salvo or salvis to one (DN) or two (DDNN) emperors, who are either named or unnamed, but always in the ablative absolute; the reverse gives the name of the prefect in the nominative (once in the genitive), sometimes his rank (v.c.; patricius), almost always his office (praefectus urbi, more rarely praefectus praetorio), and the word fecit. Uniface examples usually include the generic imperial invocation, the issuing magistrate's name, and the verb fecit. A third anomalous type has the generic invocation, one person (Albinus) named on the obverse without reference to his office, along with the verb fecit, while on the reverse we have a second person (Basilius) named without reference to his office, and the verb reparavit. This type requires separate discussion, in part III below.

Parts I and II of this article offer catalogues of all genuine, doubtful, and spurious examples presently known. Each separates the tesserae into four types.

  • Type A: bi-face tesserae of a single magistrate dedicated under one or more emperors

  • Type B: uniface tesserae of a single magistrate dedicated under one or more emperors

  • Type C: bi-face tesserae of two magistrates dedicated under one or more emperors Type D: uniface tesserae with neither imperial nor regnal invocation

I. Tesserae genuinae ad praefectos urbi praetorioque pertinentes

Type A: Bi-face Tesserae of a Single Magistrate Dedicated under One or More Emperors

  • A1: Elvers 2b = NAC 5 (1992): 621 = NAC 54 (2010): 1339 (extant, private collection)

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ VALNTINIA/NO PP AVG// (sic)

  • Rev.: PAVLINVS/ VC PRAEF/ VRB FECIT

  • weight: 4.27 grams

Two Paulini are known to have held the prefecture during the fifth century. For the question of their identity see part III below. This specimen, which was sold by the Zurich firm Numismatica Ars Classica in 1992 and again in 2010, is not, as Elvers thought, a new find. It is, on the contrary, the piece published as Elvers 2a = CIL 14.4120, 4 = CIL 15.7106, and below as *A1. Dressel had not seen this tessera, but instead reported it in CIL from an 1862 publication by Garrucci. There are two small discrepancies between the text of the [End Page 6] extant specimen and the text reported by Dressel following Garrucci (the E in the imperial nomen is missing and the line breaks after A rather than after I in line 2 of the obverse), but either Garrucci or Dressel could have silently corrected or overlooked these trivial distinctions. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we should conclude that the extant piece had been part of an Italian private collection from the time of Garrucci's publication until it emerged onto the market in 1992.

  • A2: Elvers 3 = CIL 5.8119, 2 = ILS 810 = CIL 15.7107 (lost, formerly Venice, Museo Correr)

  • Ob.: DD NN LEONE/ ET IVL' MAIORI/AN' PP AAGG//

  • Rev.: CAECINA DECI/VS BASILIVS/ P P FECIT

  • weight: 3.82 grams

This specimen, of which only a single lost example is known, was published as number 960 (on p. 181) in Vincenzo Lazari's 1859 catalogue of the collection of the Museo Correr, Venice. It was examined by Mommsen in the museum and the transcription confirmed, with the eccentric AAGG for AVGG, but it has since been lost.9 Fl. Caecina Decius Basilius (PLRE 2: 216 Basilius 11) is well-attested as praetorian prefect in 458 and 463–465; this tessera dates to the first prefecture. It is one of only two genuine specimens certainly dedicated by a praetorian rather than an urban prefect. However, given the number of Basilii that decorate the fasti in the fifth and earlier sixth century, we should not be too hasty in identifying him with the Basilius of our C1 and C2 (for whom see part III below).

  • A3, 1: Elvers 4b = CIL 15.7108b (Extant, Vienna KHM, ANSA 6 1124)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ LEONE ET LIBIO/ SEVERO PP AVGG//

  • Rev.: CAELIVS ACONIV[S]/ PROBIANVS PRAEF/ PRAET FECIT

  • weight: 3.29 grams

  • A3, 2: Elvers 4c = CIL 15.7108c (lost, formerly Louvre)

  • Ob.: [excidit versus prior/ LEONE ET LIBIO/ SEBERO PP AVGG// (sic)

  • Rev.: CAELIVS ACONI[VS]/ PROBIANVS PRA[EF]/ PRAET FECIT

  • weight: unrecorded

These specimens belong to Caelius Aconius Probianus (PLRE 2: 908 Probianus 4), attested as praetorian prefect only by these tesserae, but well known as consul of 471. A3, 1 is extant in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum and was already described and accurately transcribed by Mommsen [End Page 7] for publication in CIL 15. This specimen may be identical with one or both of *A2, 1 and *A2, 2.

A3, 2 is well-attested: Dressel had seen a cast supplied to him by Mowat from the collection of bijoux in the Louvre, damaged on the reverse, and with the first line of the obverse expunged. Although this specimen is no longer extant and was perhaps lost or stolen during the war, it is both securely attested and distinct enough from the extant A3, 1 to be accepted as a second genuine tessera of Probianus.

  • A4, 1: Elvers 5a = CIL 10.8072, 4 = ILS 813 = CIL 15.7109a (lost, formerly Berlin, Münzkab. 1880/344)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ ET PATRICI/O RICIMERE//

  • Rev.: PLOTINVS EVS/TATHIVS V C/ VRB PR FECIT

  • weight: 4.0 grams

  • A4, 2: Elvers 5c = CIL 15.7109c (lost, formerly Paris, Cabinet de Médailles)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ ET PATRICI/O RICIMERE//

  • Rev.: PLOTINVS EV/STATHIVS V C/ PF VB FECIT

  • weight: 3.92 grams

This Plotinus Eustathius is known only from these two tesserae. The second name is common and there is no reason to identify him with the son of Macrobius (contra PLRE 2: 436 Eustathius 13). His prefecture must have fallen between 457, when Ricimer became patricius, and 472 when he died, but the fasti are lacunose enough to make further precision impossible. To insist upon a date during the reign of Libius Severus (461–465) because Ricimer was then at the height of his power is wholly unjustified, contra Henning 1999, 85.

Both specimens are lost (A4, 1 is listed specifically as Kriegsverlust by Elvers), but are well attested. A4, 1 was examined and published by Friedländer (in the Zeitschrift für Numismatik of 1882) after its acquisition by the Berlin Münzkabinett from a Neapolitan dealer in 1880, and Dressel had seen it as well. Dressel likewise examined a plaster cast of the Paris specimen, A4, 2, which was provided to him by Mowat, who also reported on the weight of the original. The texts and line breaks, as well as the secure attestations, confirm these as two separate pieces. It seems likely that the Berlin example is identical with *A3, 1 below.

  • A5: Elvers 9b = AE 1991, 586 (extant, Italian private collection)

  • Ob.: SAL DD NN LEO/NE ET ANTHE/MIO PP AVG//

  • Rev.: FL EVGENI/VS ASELLVS/ V C PF VRB FC

  • weight: 4.2 grams

Flavius Eugenius Asellus (PLRE 2: 164 Asellus 2) was comes sacrarum largitionum at Rome in 468/469, during the trial of the Gallic praetorian prefect [End Page 8]

Figure 1. Tessera A3, 1 (Vienna KHM, ANSA 6, 1124). Photo by permission KHM-Museumsverband; Tessera A6 (Vienna KHM, ANSA 6, 1125). Photo by permission KHM-Museumsverband; Tessera A7, 2 (Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, inv. 56.5.88). © Hungarian National Museum © MNM; Tessera A10 (private collection). Photo by permission Roma Numismatics.
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Figure 1.

Tessera A3, 1 (Vienna KHM, ANSA 6, 1124). Photo by permission KHM-Museumsverband; Tessera A6 (Vienna KHM, ANSA 6, 1125). Photo by permission KHM-Museumsverband; Tessera A7, 2 (Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, inv. 56.5.88). © Hungarian National Museum © MNM; Tessera A10 (private collection). Photo by permission Roma Numismatics.

[End Page 9] Arvandus, as shown by Sid. Ap. Ep. 1.7.4. His prefecture, which is also attested by the undated CIL 6.1668, must fall after his comitiva, hence in 469 or later.

This tessera, which was examined by Cordella and Criniti and has been published by them repeatedly (most recently Cordella and Criniti 2008) since the initial publication that was noted in AE 1991, is presumably still extant in an Italian private collection. It is reported as having been found in 1989 at the margin of a ploughed field near Norcia, but nothing further is known of its provenance. The photo published by Cordella and Criniti (see Elvers 9b) shows an artifact that conforms to the normal dimensions and orthography of these tesserae and we should accept it as a genuine specimen that confirms the cursus of Asellus.

  • A6: Elvers 10 = CIL 15.7118 = ILS 812 (extant, Vienna KHM, ANSA 6, 1125)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN LEONE/ ET ANTEMIO//

  • Rev.: PVBLI/ RVFINI/ VALERI

  • weight: 2.98 grams

Publius Rufinus Valerius (PLRE 2: 1146 Valerius 11) remains certainly known only from this tessera, which is unique in that the prefect's name is given in the genitive, not the nominative.10 There is no obvious way to account for this. Orlandi 2004, 397–98 (numbers 17.103, N; 17.103, Q) attempts to identify our Valerius with a senator possibly named in the Flavian amphitheater in a badly damaged inscription whose original text was deliberately excised; while attractive, the identification must remain uncertain. The dates of our Valerius's prefecture will have fallen between 467 and 472, that is, during the reign of Anthemius, but further precision is impossible.

The provenance of this tessera is unknown, but it entered the collection of the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum from the collection of Michael Graf Wiczay (died 1831). The photo (figure 1) shows an artifact that conforms to the normal dimensions and orthography of these tesserae and we should accept it as a genuine specimen.

  • A7, 1: Elvers 6b = CIL 15.7110b (lost, formerly Strasbourg, Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire)

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ IVLIO NEPOTE/ PP AVG//

  • Rev.: AVDAX/ PREFECTVS/ VRBI FECIT

  • weight: 4.1 grams.

  • A7, 2: Elvers 6c = CIL 3.6335 = CIL 15.7110c (extant, Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, inv. 56.5.88)

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ IVLIO NEPOTE/ PP AVG// [End Page 10]

  • Rev.: AVDAX/ PREFECTVS/ VRBI FECIT

  • weight: 3.6 grams

Part of the prefecture of this Castalius Innocentius Audax (PLRE 2: 184–85 Audax 3) must fall between 24 July 474 and 28 August 475, the short period during which Julius Nepos was recognized at Rome, but the fasti are so lacunose that he could have been appointed before the accession of Nepos and/or continued to serve after Orestes had driven that emperor from Italy. Neither CIL 6.1663 (= Panciera 1996, 327–29, number 162), which records his restoration of a building barbarica incursione sublata, nor the undated Sid. Ap. Ep. 8.7 congratulating Audax on his accession, help confirm the chronology of his prefecture.

These two tesserae are clearly different specimens, although Dressel suspected that they might be identical. This seemed possible to him because A7, 2, initially acquired by the National Museum in Budapest in 1809 after supposedly being discovered in Belgrade, could not be located when Dressel was writing in 1891. It has been relocated in the course of the intervening century, and is now confirmed as extant (see figure 1). That fact definitively proves its distinctness from A7, 1, which Friedländer had personally examined in Strasbourg but not published, and a plaster cast of which Dressel had examined in Berlin. That having been said, this same A7, 1 is almost certainly the original source for the phantom tesserae *A4, 1–3, below.

  • A8: Elvers 11 = AE 1904, 148 = ILS 8955 (extant, French private collection)

  • Ob.: SALVO D N ZEN/ONE ET DOMNO/ ODOVACRE// (sic)

  • Rev.: SYMMACHVS/ V C PRAEF/ VRBI FECIT

  • weight: 3.70 grams

This is Q. Aurelius Memmius Symmachus (PLRE 2: 1044–46 Symmachus9), whose career straddled the reigns of the last western emperors, Odoacer, and Theodoric the Amal. His prefecture, attested solely by this tessera but very much to be expected from the rest of his cursus, must be dated between the coup of Odoacer in 476 and the death of Zeno in 491, with further precision impossible.

This indisputably genuine tessera was first published with a very clear line drawing of it in 1904 by the Byzantinist Gustave Schlumberger (whence the AE reference), who had acquired it from the Paris numismatic firm of Rollin et Feuardent. No such piece is to be found in the firm's auction catalogues of the period, so it was presumably a private sale. Its whereabouts after this first publication were unknown. Ninety years later, a photograph of a tessera identical to Schlumberger's line drawing was published in a pamphlet aimed at collectors (Bendall 1996, 72, number 172), identifying it as an exagium or solidus weight and giving its location as the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. This is clearly incorrect, as the piece is not now, and seems never to have been, [End Page 11] in that public collection. The unprovenanced photo and the (possibly deliberate) misattribution of the item's location suggest its presence in a private collection, perhaps in France, as Elvers 2011, 218 speculates.

  • A9: Elvers 12 = CIL 15.7119 = CIL 6.37130 (lost)

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ SPECLOSVS/ PATRICIVS// (sic)

  • Rev.: PRAEFECTVS/ VRBIS/ TERTIO

  • weight: unrecorded

Speciosus, a distant relative of the emperor Olybrius, was consul under Theodoric in 496 (PLRE 2: 1024–25 Speciosus 1). This lost tessera is the only reference to his urban prefecture(s) and his patriciate, neither of which can be dated, but both offices are very much to be expected in the cursus of a Roman senator of this period. Dressel published this inscription on the basis of manuscript reports with the I in Speciosus transcribed as L. He conjectured that the TERTIO reported in the final line must actually have read FECIT, which may be correct—though that would be a very odd mistranscription. PLRE and Elvers 2011 accept the transmitted reading and place this third prefecture close to his consulate in 496. Géza Alföldy notes "Periit" of this piece in his addendum to CIL 6.37130 (p. 4822), but its location must already have been uncertain when Dressel wrote in 1891. Although the piece has long been missing, and the original transcription was almost certainly faulty, there is no reason to exclude this example from the corpus.

  • A10: Unpublished (extant, American private collection)

  • Ob.: SALVO/ DOMNO/ NOSTRO// (sic)

  • Rev.: CAELIANVS/ PATRICIVS/ PRAEF VR

  • weight: 3.66 grams

On the identification of this figure with the Marcius Caelianus of PLRE 2: 247–48, see discussion in section V below.

This is the first new specimen to appear since A6, which was reportedly discovered in 1989 (see above). The present example was sold in Roma Numismatics auction 10 (27 September 2015) lot 916 and is now in an American private collection, where I have examined it.

Type B: Uniface Tesserae of a Single Magistrate Dedicated under One or More Emperors

  • B1: Elvers 1 (extant, Archäologisches Museum, Universität Münster, inv. 2170)

  • Ob.: SALBIS DD/ NN AVXEN/TIVS FICIT// (sic)

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: 4.19 grams

Two certain Auxentii held the urban prefecture during the first half of the fifth century. Flavius Olbius Auxentius Draucus (PLRE 2: 380 Draucus) [End Page 12] was granted a gilt statue by Theodosius II and Valentinian III. Fonteius Litorius Auxentius (PLRE 2: 205–6 Auxentius 9) is well attested as prefect in inscriptions (CIL 6.1669; 6.31993 = 41397), also during the reign of Theodosius II and Valentinian III. The prefectures of both men must therefore fall between the accession of Valentinian in 425 and the death of Theodosius in 450. Another Auxentius (PLRE 2: 205 Auxentius 6) is attested as urban prefect of Rome in 441 by Nov. Val. 8.2 and again in 445 by Nov. Val. 20 and should be identical with one of the two foregoing. The uniface tessera now in Münster should likewise be attributed to one of those two, but further precision is impossible.

This specimen is the most crudely made of all known genuine examples. Not only is the orthography vulgar (salbis, ficit), but the letter forms are badly cut, lacking the celator-style hand of most examples; that said, the letters are well centered, as are the raised silvered bands, which themselves correspond in shape and style to those of most extant examples. One would be tempted to cast doubt on the authenticity of this specimen on grounds of its quality but for three things: first, there is no model for this text in the CIL corpus; second, the historical obscurity of all known Auxentii makes their name an unlikely candidate for forgery; and third, even if a counterfeiter were trying to take account of the orthographic and linguistic evolution of Late Antiquity, he would be most unlikely to risk both salbis and ficit in a single piece. Assuming, then, that this piece is genuine, it is the earliest such tessera presently known.

  • B2: Elvers 7 = CIL 9.6090, 8 = CIL 15.7111 (lost)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ PASSEFILVS V C/ PREF VRBI FEC//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: unrecorded

Fabius Felix Passifilus Paulinus (PLRE 2: 848 Paulinus 13) is known from many undated inscriptions in Rome. For discussion of his identity see section IV below.

This specimen was found at Monteleone Sabino in Samnium and was in an Italian private collection when Dressel examined it for his editio princeps in CIL 9. The variant forms Passifilus and Passefilus appear in stone inscriptions as well, and there seems to be no doubting that the piece is genuine.

  • B3: Elvers 8 = CIL 15.7112 = CIL 6.37131 (lost)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD N/N VALENTIN/VS P V FECIT//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: unrecorded

A Vettius Iunius Valentinus is known to have been urban prefect at some point during the fifth century (PLRE 2: 1140, Valentinus 5; Alföldy's new [End Page 13] reading of CIL 6. 41391 in CIL 6/8, page 5096, supplies the Vettius, unknown to PLRE). Unfortunately, none of these inscriptions is securely dated. The restoration suggested in CIL 6.41405 (in CIL 6/8, pp. 5104–5), showing a dedication by a prefect Valentinus to Marcian and Avitus, with the latter emperor's name having been expunged after his damnatio memoriae, cannot be regarded as certain. If correct, however, it places the prefecture of this Valentinus in very late 455 or the first half of 456. That would be consistent with the reading of CIL 6.41404 = 1788 = 31891, in which this Valentinus restores something hostili impetu sublata, presumably a reference to the Vandal sack of 455. For all its plausibility, however, the dating and identity of this Valentinus must be regarded as provisional.

Dressel had not seen this piece, which he reported on the basis of manuscript descriptions. Its provenance was unknown to him, but it otherwise shows every sign of authenticity.

  • B4, 1: Elvers 13a = CIL 15.7114a (lost, formerly Rome)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBIN/VS FECIT//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: 3.25 grams

  • B4, 2: Elvers 13b = CIL 10.8072, 5 = CIL 15.7114b (lost, formerly Rome)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBIN/VS FEC[IT]//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: unrecorded

For the identity of Albinus see part III below. Dressel had seen neither of these tesserae, but he accepted Garrucci's report of B4, 1, while Friedländer had personally inspected B4, 2. Neither was properly provenanced (B4, 2 was said to have been found in Naples), and the possibility that we have two reports of a single specimen cannot be excluded. That said, the specificity with which their nineteenth-century whereabouts is recorded suggests that they were in fact distinct: B4, 1 was in the Museum Kircherianum prior to its secularization and closure; B4, 2 was in the Museo di Propaganda Fide from the collection of Cardinal Stefano Borgia (died 1804). Another indication that we are dealing with two different pieces is the damage to or expunction of the last two letters of line 3 in B4, 2.

  • B5: Elvers 14a = CIL 15.7114c (lost)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBIN/VS S C FECIT//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: unrecorded

For the identity of Albinus see part III below. This tessera, now lost, was acquired by Michael Graf Wiczay (died 1831) and was sold by the Paris dealers [End Page 14] Rollin in 1836. Its whereabouts thereafter are unknown. Its text was known to Dressel from eighteenth-century antiquarian publications. The text is anomalous: the SC printed by Dressel, following earlier reports, resists sensible interpretation. Neither s(enatus) c(onsulto) nor (iudex) s(acrarum) c(ognitionum) is plausible. Pace Elvers 2011, 219, the reading is not confirmed by the specimen extant in the National Museum in Budapest. That piece (*B1 below) is a modern forgery confected from the text reported in CIL. To account for the anomalous SC, a mistranscription of the sensible and well-attested VC remains the single least problematic interpretation.

  • B6: Elvers 15 = CIL 15.7113 (lost, formerly Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, inv. V.C. 17/18)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBI/NVS FECIT//

  • Rev.: P

  • weight: 3.49 grams

For the identity of Albinus see part III below. This tessera, thought to have been lost during the War, was personally examined by Dressel. Not technically uniface, it has an inexplicable majuscule P inscribed on the reverse. Because its weight and size are entirely consistent with the range of other known or extant specimens, it can be treated alongside them here, but it is in fact the only example that lends some credence to the old lay interpretation of these objects as exagia or solidus weights. That is to say, the P might stand for pondus, a possibility Dressel explicitly rejected, or it might be the Greek letter rho and thus stand for the numeral 100. There is, however, no guarantee that the P or rho was inscribed at the same time as the obverse of the tessera; that is, the single letter could have been inscribed at a later date to turn the tessera into a weight. That last scenario is perhaps not likely, but the fact that it is even possible demonstrates how little certainty there is on this point.

Type C: Bi-face Tesserae of Two Magistrates Dedicated under One or More Emperors

  • C1: Elvers 17a = CIL 15.7115a (lost, formerly Louvre)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBI/NVS FECIT//

  • Rev.: [SALVIS DD NN]/ BASILIVS/ REPARAVIT

  • weight: unrecorded

For the identity of Albinus and Basilius see part III below. Dressel had seen this tessera, and Mowat had made a cast of it. The first line of the reverse was excised, but Dressel restored salvis dominis nostris on the basis of a tessera (*C1) reported in older publications. This duplication of the salvis formula on both sides is unique among positively attested examples. [End Page 15]

Figure 2. Obverse of tessera B1; Archaeological Museum of the WWU Munster (Inv. 2170), photo: Robert Dylka; Tessera D2, 1 (Vienna KHM ANSA6.1123). Photo by permission KHM-Museumsver-band. Tessera D2, 2 (private collection). Photo by permission Roma Numismatics.
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Figure 2.

Obverse of tessera B1; Archaeological Museum of the WWU Munster (Inv. 2170), photo: Robert Dylka; Tessera D2, 1 (Vienna KHM ANSA6.1123). Photo by permission KHM-Museumsver-band. Tessera D2, 2 (private collection). Photo by permission Roma Numismatics.

  • C2: Elvers 18d (extant, German private collection)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBI/NVS FECIT//

  • Rev.: BASILI/VS REPA/RAVIT

  • weight: 3.81 grams

For the identity of Albinus and Basilius see part III below. Of all the many possible Albinus fecit/Basilius reparavit specimens, this is the only one certainly extant. It was sold in 1993 by the Zurich firm Numismatica Ars Classica (Auction C [11–12 March 1993] lot 2111) and is extant, according to Elvers, in "westfälischer Privatbesitz." Its editio princeps was in Elvers 1998. Despite minor discrepancies in transcription, it is very possible that C2 is identical with one, two, or all three of *C2, 1; *C2, 2; *C2, 3, none of which are as securely attested as one might like. [End Page 16]

Type D: Uniface Tesserae with Neither Imperial nor Regnal Invocation

  • D1: CIL 6.32006 = 15.7120 (lost, formerly Rome and Perugia)

  • Ob.: IVSTINIAN/ϕ V C PREFE/CTI VRVIS Rev.: vacat

  • weight: unrecorded

Dressel had seen a cast of this piece, which he believed to be in the possession of Francesco Guardabassi after having previously been in Rome, where Schmidt described it for eventual publication in CIL 6. Dressel is dubious about whether to regard this piece as one of his tesserae monumentorum, but the recent appearance of D2 confirms the stylistic similarity of these uniface types to the others in the catalogue. Dressel was wrong to equate this Iustinianus with the prefect of Constantinople (PLRE 2: 645 Iustinianus 4) addressed in CJ 2.7.16, since D1 was said to have been found in Rome and bronze tesserae of this sort are otherwise unknown in the East. The editors of PLRE are correct to identify this Iustinianus as an otherwise unknown prefect of Rome (PLRE 2: 645 Iustinianus 6).11 [End Page 17]

  • D2, 1: CIL 15, page 891 = 3.15130 (extant, Vienna KHM ANSA 6.1123)

  • Ob.: BAC/AVD/A P V//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: 4.0 grams.

  • D2, 2: Unpublished (extant, private collection)

  • Ob.: BAC/AVD/A P V//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: 4.30 grams

On the identification of this Bacauda with a hypothetical urban prefect of that name see section VI below.

D2, 1 is cited in CIL 15 as being in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna where as part of its collection it had been published by Sacken and Kenner, and where Mommsen had seen it. It was thereafter included in CIL 3 (covering Illyricum and thus Vienna), even though Dressel had not assigned it its own entry in the instrumenta domestica volume. Dressel associated this piece with what he called tesserulae nominibus virorum laudabilium inscriptae rather than the tesserae monumentorum, and it is presumably for that reason that, although it is still extant, it does not appear in Elvers's catalogue either; the fact that Mommsen expanded the abbreviation as p(erfectissimus) v(ir) rather than p(raefectus) u(rbi) no doubt also complicated the problem of identification. Noll's catalogue of the Vienna collection describes it as a nomisma weight.12 xAny questions about the authenticity or nature of the Vienna example are now resolved by the appearance of D2, 2. This was sold in Roma Numismatics auction 12 (29 September 2016) lot 1106, and is presumably now in a private collection. As the photo demonstrates, its form matches other examples in terms of the celator-quality lettering and the abbreviation of the prefectural title.

II. Tesserae dubiae vel falsae ad praefectos urbi praetorioque pertinentes

Type A: Bi-face Tesserae of a Single Magistrate Dedicated to One or More Emperors

  • *A1: Elvers 2a = CIL 14.4120, 4 = CIL 15.7106

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ VALENTINI/ANO PP AVG//

  • Rev.: PAVLINVS/ V C PRAEF/ VRB FECIT

See discussion under A1 above. [End Page 18]

  • *A2, 1: Elvers 4a = CIL 15.7108a

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ LEONE ET LIBIO/ SEVERO PP AVGG//

  • Rev.: CAELIVS ACONIVS/ PROBIANVS PRAEF/ PRAET FECIT

  • *A2, 2: Elvers 4d = CIL 15.7108d = ILS 811

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ LEONE ET LIBIO/ SEVERO PP AVGG//

  • Rev.: CELIVS ACONIV[S]/ PROBIANVS PRAEF/ PRAET FECIT

For the Probianus discussed here see discussion under A3, 1 and A3, 2, above. Both these doubtful examples were published by Dressel on the basis of antiquarian publications from the eighteenth century, and he himself speculated that the notices might refer to the same specimen. Because of the lost or missing S in Aconius in *A2, 2, which corresponds to the visible damage to the genuine A3, 1, there is a strong case for identifying both doubtful attestations *A2, 1 and *A2, 2 with the extant specimen A3, 1, despite the omission of the letter 'A' in the transcription of the name Caelius on *A2, 2.

  • *A3, 1: Elvers 5b = CIL 15.7109b

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ ET PATRICIO/ RICIMERE//

  • Rev.: PLVTINVS EVS/TATIVS V C/ VRB P FECIT

This tessera was accepted by Dressel on the basis of humanist reports, but he had not seen it and registers variations in the way its text is reported. While it is possible that Dressel's manuscript witnesses represent a third genuine tessera of Plotinus Eustathius (PLRE 2: 436 Eustathius 13), they might equally have been transcriptions of the well-attested example A4, 1, above, acquired by the Berlin Münzkabinett in 1880 and since lost.

  • *A4, 1: Elvers 6a = ILS 814 = CIL 15.7110a

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ IVLIO NEPOTE/ PP AVG//

  • Rev.: AVDAX V C/ PREFECTVS/ VRBI FECIT

  • *A4, 2: Elvers 6d = CIL 15.7110d

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ IVLIO NEPOTE/ PP AVG N// (sic)

  • Rev.: AVDAX V C/ PRAEFECTVS/ VRB FECIT

  • *A4, 3: Elvers 6e = CIL 15.7110e

  • Ob.: SALVO D N/ IVL NEPOTE/ PP AVG//

  • Rev.: AVDAX V C/ PREFECTVS/ VRBI FECIT

None of these supposed tesserae of Castalius Innocentius Audax is extant, none was seen by Dressel, and all are likely to be phantoms. Dressel himself suspected that *A4, 2 was simply a tralatitious report of *A4, 1. Regardless of that, all three phantoms are likely ultimately to derive from faulty transcriptions of A5, 1 above. [End Page 19]

  • *A5 = Elvers 9a
    [TEXT UNKNOWN]

The text of this tessera is not reported. Elvers includes it in his catalogue by reference to Chastagnol 1966b, 435 note 4. Chastagnol is there discussing building works by praetorian prefects at San Paolo Fuori le Mura and writes, "Une tablette de bronze inédite, que m'a signalée M. H. G. Pflaum, place la fonction sous les règnes de Léon et d'Anthemius." This should be a reference to a tessera similar to A6, now in an Italian private collection. Indeed, had A6 surfaced first in an auction catalogue or dealer's list rather than in an academic publication, we could simply assume that it was in fact our *A5 and that the provenance attributed to A6 (found in a ploughed field near Norcia in 1989) was a deliberate misdirection for a piece that had surfaced as early as 1966. Although that possibility can be ruled out, there are too many open questions for us to include *A5 among positively attested individual specimens.

Type B: Uniface Tesserae of a Single Magistrate Dedicated under One or More Emperors

  • *B1 = Elvers 14b (extant, Budapest, Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum, inv. 56.5.87)

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD/ NN ALBINV/S S C FECIT//

  • Rev.: vacat

  • weight: 3.2 grams

This is the only extant specimen included among our dubiae et falsae, but it seems an obvious forgery. The planchet is thick and irregular; the raised bands of the epigraphic field lack the sharply rectangular configuration of genuine specimens and are not parallel to one another; the letter forms are cruder even than those of B1 above; letter separation is irregular, as it is not in any other specimen; and the final line break is eccentric even for these relatively unstandardized artifacts. *B1 is unprovenanced and its existence was first recorded in 1991. As Elvers points out in his discussion, this specimen is "wahrscheinlich nicht identisch" with our B5 above. However, it is likely that the two pieces are related and that the extant specimen is a modern forgery, confected on the basis of the text of B5 as published in CIL 15. This would account for the abbreviation SC in the last line, which is not recorded on any extant pieces (as noted in the discussion of B5 above, the SC is best interpreted as a humanist mistranscription of the well-attested VC). Similarly, the anomalous word break in the last line (ALBINV/S rather than the grammatically natural ALBI/NVS or the more eccentric ALBIN/VS which is well-attested in B4 and B5) is in keeping with an engraver not fully in control of technique. When taken together, the reproduction of an odd error of transcription in a specimen that is also physically anomalous in shape and execution points very strongly to modern forgery. [End Page 20]

  • *B2: Elvers 16 = CIL 15.7117

  • Ob.: SALVIS DD NN/ ALBINVS FECIT/ BASILIVS REP//

  • Rev.: vacat

For the problem of Albinus and Basilius see part III below. Dressel and Elvers accept this tessera on the basis of its early (1692) publication by Claude Molinet, whence it was republished in various intervening works (see Dressel in CIL for details). The text is reported differently in each of these and it is not clear that anyone laid eyes on the object after 1692. While the text printed by Dressel has no inherently suspicious features, the trail of attestations is too dubious and variable to accept this as a separate genuine specimen. A forgery is perhaps unlikely as early as 1692, when few of these artifacts seem to have been known. More probable is that this is an early reference to C1 or C2, or another version like them, but erroneously showing the piece as uniface, rather than bi-face.

Type C: Bi-face Tesserae of Two Magistrates Dedicated under One or More Emperors

  • *C1: Elvers 17b = CIL 15.7115b
    SALVIS DD/ NN ALBI/NVS FECIT//
    SALVIS DD NN/ BASILIVS/ REPARAVIT

For the problem of Albinus and Basilius see part III below. This example is attested only in eighteenth-century publications and its whereabouts were unknown to Dressel. The formula, with salvis dominis nostris on both faces, would be unique were it not for C1 above, which Dressel had seen in the Louvre and on which a line was excised that he conjectured to have read salvis dominis nostris on the basis of reports of *C1. As with *B2 there are too many variations in the attested transcriptions to accept this as certain, and Mowat 1900, 279 already suspected duplication.

  • *C2, 1: Elvers 18a = CIL 15.7116a
    SALVIS DD/ NN ALBIN/VS FECIT//
    BASILI/VS REPA/RAVET

  • *C2, 2: Elvers 18b = CIL 15.7116b
    SALVIS D/D NN ALBI/NVS FECIT//
    BASILI/VS REPA/RAVET

  • *C2, 3: Elvers 18c = CIL 15.7116b
    SALVIS DD/ NN ALBIN/VS FECIT//
    BASILI/VS REPA/RAVIT

For the problem of Albinus and Basilius see part III below. Elvers, following Dressel's lead in CIL, publishes all three of these inscriptions, along with [End Page 21] C2, as separate specimens, because of the minor differences of transcription (line breaks, for the most part, and the E/I confusion in the final line). *C2, 1 was reported by Garrucci as having once been in the Museum Kircherianum, but Dressel had not seen it and it was lost already by 1891. *C2, 3 was described to Dressel by Johannes Schmidt, who apparently saw it in an Italian private collection in Perugia, but Dressel's CIL entry is the only published witness. Dressel had likewise not seen *C2, 2, which he printed on the basis of earlier published transcriptions, but he rejects the report of this piece's having once been in the Kircherianum on the basis of the differences in transcription. While we cannot exclude the possibility that all three of these pieces might once have had a separate existence, it is equally possible that each and every one of them is in fact a slightly variant report of C2 above, which is extant. It is perhaps more likely that these reports represent two separate pieces: a single piece, reported variously and once in the Kircherianum before being lost, and another that Schmidt had seen in Perugia and that resurfaced on the antiquities market as C2 in the 1990s.

III. The Albinus and Basilius Puzzle

The most difficult of our tesserae are those of Type C, with the formula Albinus fecit/ Basilius reparavit and the probably related B4–6, all of which are variations on salvis dominis nostris Albinus fecit. Even if a number of the attested examples are phantoms, more tesserae of these linked types are known to have existed than any other. Albinus and Basilius are well known names in the clans of the Anicii and Decii, and because members of those clans are attested among the other tesserae in the corpus, attention has tended to concentrate there. The name Basilius also appears on A2, as part of the polyonymous nomenclature of Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius, praetorian prefect in 458 and again in 463–465, with his tessera dating to the first of those prefectures. For that reason, there has been an understandable propensity to identify the Basilius of C1 and C2 with the prefect of 458: Elvers simply assumed as much, and set out to find appropriate Albini from earlier in the century. However, many other Basilii are attested in the fifth and sixth centuries, and nearly as many Albini, most from families in which a varied polyonymy prevailed. There are thus no immediate or necessary grounds for identifying the Basilii of C1 and C2 with the prefect of 458 (A2), and the question requires more extended discussion.13

A brief note on fifth- and sixth-century senatorial nomenclature is in order here, and will be important in our discussion of the Paulinus tessera [End Page 22] as well (part IV below). The Roman aristocracy of the period had a strong tradition of polyonymy, with the same names appearing in multiple generations, agnatic names prevailing but with names annexed from the maternal line if they conferred prestige. The order of a man's names might distinguish him from siblings or agnates of the same generation who shared polyonymous elements, but the number of homonymous men within any three-generation sequence was undoubtedly quite high. In fact, homonymy was probably even more widespread than the extant evidence suggests because men used different combinations of names in different settings. While in quotidian affairs (as Macrobius' Saturnalia and the correspondence of Sidonius clearly demonstrate) aristocrats will have had one or two name-elements that they favored, each also had a diacritic name for use in formal contexts in which only one of a man's nomina, cognomina, or agnomina would be used. The difficulty for us is the large number of aristocrats of this period whose complete nomenclature is not known: where only one or two of several names appear in a particular source, and worse still when only the diacritic name occurs, the potential for confusion is great. That would not have been much of a problem for close contemporaries who possessed crucial contextual knowledge, but the moment any stretch of time intervened, confusion would obtrude. This was especially the case with men who held the consulate and gave their name to the year, and still more so from the time of Ricimer when it became increasingly common to date years by just the single (western) consul. Without a second (eastern) consul to serve as a marker for a particular year, homonymy of consular eponyms could cause genuine misunderstanding. This was solved in fasti by adding the word iunior to the consul's diacritic name, although that iunior was never borne in actual practice by the polyonymous aristocrats of our period. A man was iunior only as a date, not as a person.14

This use of iunior in dating formulae demonstrates that near-contemporaries grasped the difficulties caused by polyonymy and found solutions to them. But it does not help us with identifying our Albini and Basilii: even though two different Basilii are shown as iunior in consular fasti, the word would never have been used in a contemporary, non-retrospective document like a tessera. The aristocratic practice of deploying a diacritic name is nonetheless helpful here. Both Albinus and Basilius occur over many generations among various polyonymous individuals, but where our tesserae register only a single name—as in B4–6 and C1–2, but not A2—we can be sure that it is the diacritic one. This allows us to exclude from consideration men whose nomenclature includes Albinus and Basilius as a non-diacritic element of their polyonymy. [End Page 23]

We can start with the prefect of tessera A2. Fl. Caecina Decius Basilius was praetorian prefect of Italy in 458 and from 463 to 465, holding the consulship in 463.15 His diacritic name was Basilius. Three of his children also reached the consulship in sequence, each of them also holding other high offices: Fl. Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius was consul of 480 and praetorian prefect in 483, when he assisted in the election of Pope Simplicius's successor. As the eldest, he bore the same diacritic name—Basilius—as his father, for which reason he is distinguished as Basilius iunior when his name serves as an eponymous date in the fasti.16 This man's brother, Decius Marius Venantius Basilius, was the last great statue-dedicator in the city of Rome. He was urban prefect in 484, the year of his consulship. His diacritic name was Venantius, so we may exclude him from consideration.17 A third brother, Caecina Mavortius Basilius Decius, was both urban prefect and praetorian prefect, probably before his consulship in 486. Because his diacritic name was Decius, he too may be excluded from consideration.18 The use of the name Basilius continues into the next generation as well. Basilius Venantius, probably a son of the consul of 484, was consul in 508. He appears in the fasti as Venantius iunior not to distinguish him from his presumably long-dead father but from the unrelated consul of 507 whose diacritic name was likewise Venantius (a reminder that homonymy did not restrict itself to within families).19 We can therefore exclude this Basilius, consul in 508, on the grounds of his diacritic. But one final Basilius cannot be excluded on those grounds. Anicius Faustus Albinus Basilius, consul in 541, was the last privatus to hold the consulship in the history of that office. As extant fasti show, his post-consulate lasted for decades as a dating mechanism, and there can be no doubt that his diacritic name was indeed Basilius.20

We may move from Basilii to Albini. The contrast of fecit and reparavit on C1 and C2 almost certainly indicates a family relationship between the Albinus who made something, put something on, or delivered something and the Basilius who repaired or restored that something. It will with absolute certainty indicate the chronological priority of Albinus. If one begins with the assumption that the Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius of tessera A2 (the consul of 463) is also the Basilius of C1 and C2, and if the Albinus of C1 and [End Page 24] C2 is identical to the Albinus of B4–6, then we must be looking for an Albinus earlier in the fifth century than 465 or so.21 That permits two or three possibilities. Caecina Decius Albinus was urban prefect in 402.22 His son, Caecina Decius Acinatius Albinus, was urban prefect in 414 as a very young man.23 That high office may in fact have been the first step in an exceptionally decorated career, but only if he is identical with the Albinus who was consul of 444—that Albinus held the consulship while he was also praetorian prefect of Italy, Illyricum, and Africa, having already been a praetorian prefect once before, and the urban prefect of 426.24 Whether the consul of 444 is in fact already the young urban prefect of 414 is uncertain. But if the Basilius of C1 and C2 is Caecina Decius Maximus Basilius, the consul of 463, then one of these two (or three) early fifth-century Albini must be the Albinus of those same tesserae. Thus far the logic of previous arguments, which assume the identity of the Basilii in A2, C1, and C2—the identification of the consul of 463 with the Basilius of C1 and C2 has been so regularly assumed that attention has focused solely on determining which early fifth-century Albinus is referred to on C1 and C2.

There are, however, other options. Albinus, as we have seen, occurs in the polyonymy of Basilius, consul in 541, but the last consular privatus cannot be our Albinus because of his diacritic name. Yet that still leaves a (Faustus) Albinus, consul of 493, who went on to serve as Theodoric's praetorian prefect of Italy before 503 and perhaps as early as 500.25 This Albinus was certainly implicated in the treason trials of 522 and may have suffered the same fate as Boethius, although that is not explicitly attested.26 Here we have a pairing of an Albinus and Basilius, consuls of 493 and 541, that no one has really considered because of the assumed identity of the Basilius of A2 (consul of 463) with the undated Basilii of C1 and C2.

Nonetheless, a series of historical considerations actually makes the pairing of Albinus, consul of 493, with Basilius, consul of 541, more plausible than any other possibility. The first consideration is relatively trivial: the assumption that the Basilius of C1 and C2 is the consul of 463 requires us to [End Page 25] push the office held by the progenitive Albinus back into the early fifth century, when there is no independent evidence for the existence of these tesserae. That argument from silence might be dismissed as mere petitio principii, but the language of B4–6 and C1–2 itself suggests a late date.27 The Albinus and the Albinus/Basilius tesserae bear the hallmarks of belatedness by comparison with the rest of the corpus. It is not a matter of a decline in technical skill, though one might detect some of that in the extant C2.28 Rather it is the artifact's function as pure sign, conveying meaning through the fact of its existence rather than the precision of its words. In looking at the authentic and dateable examples (whether still extant or adequately attested), neither one- nor two-sided types have clear priority, but in both types referential specificity declines as the sequence progresses. Earlier examples specify imperial names, dedicator's name, rank, and office held; later ones slowly lose imperial or regnal names and either magisterial rank or office. The corpus is too small and uneven for this to be probative, but an evolution from the precision of the earliest dateable tesserae to the vagueness of the undated Albinus/Basilius bi-face specimens is a priori likelier than the converse sequence.

This circumstantial but cumulatively reasonable case for placing C1–2 and B4–6 late in the sequence of tesserae is strengthened by the evolution of aristocratic office-holding from the late to the post-imperial period. Rome's great senatorial families prospered during the reign of Odoacer and the first two or more decades of Theodoric, but the framework of their senatorial activity began to change.29 Probably some years before the coup of Odoacer, active membership in the senate came to be restricted to those members who had held one of the seven illustrious offices (the two praefecturae, the two financial comitivae, the palatine quaestorship, magisterium officiorum and comitiva domesticorum).30 That restriction made necessary some mechanism by which the young generation of aristocrats could begin a public career before they were experienced enough to hold one of the illustrious offices. The mechanism that was settled upon was honorary office holding. In the third quarter of the century, at a time when a serving comes domesticorum was still actively in command of the palatine bodyguard, the comitiva domesticorum started to be used as a way to grant honorary illustrious rank, and thus entry [End Page 26] to the senate. Perhaps as early as 490/491, senatorial cursus are attested in which a young man who had held no actual office is described as vir inlustris ex comes domesticorum.31 By the early sixth century, Cassiodorus can offer sample letters (codicilli) of such an honorary appointment.32 At more or less the same time, probably early in the 490s, Theodoric stripped the domestici of all actual military functions, reserving the task of guarding his royal person to trusted Gothic soldiers.33 The need for an actual comes domesticorum thus disappeared and the ex-comitiva became nothing more than a legal fiction by which to grant illustrious rank to junior senators at the start of their careers: the Variae of Cassiodorus include only an honorary (ex-) comitiva, not an actual appointment.34 During this period, the other illustrious offices continued to fulfill their old functions, as shown not least by the Caelianus tessera (A10) and of course many of the Variae.35 Yet by the 520s, the access of the old families to high offices, and perhaps the very incidence of the offices themselves, had clearly declined. It was possible for Roman aristocrats to register nothing but an ex-comitiva and the by now meaningless honorific patriciate before their consulship.36 It is precisely this change in senatorial career structures that provides a firm date for the consular diptych of Basilius. Attributed to Basilius (consul of 480) on stylistic grounds for much of the twentieth century, the cursus of the diptych's consul can in fact belong only to the sixth century: ex comes domesticorum, patricius, and consul, but nothing else.37 Extremely anomalous in 480, such a cursus is unremarkable by the 520s. The Basilius diptych, accordingly, is now dated to 541 and known to commemorate the noble and wholly mediocre Roman senator who accidentally became the last privatus in history to hold the consulship.38

That has consequences for our tesserae. As we saw, the diacritic name of the polyonymous consul of 541 is in fact Basilius. The tesserae C1–2 give neither rank nor office for their dedicators. Basilius, the consul of 541 never held an actual office; Albinus, consul of 493, is not attested doing so until [End Page 27] after his consulship. The lost tessera B5 may have designated its Albinus vir clarissimus, if the conjectural correction of SC to VC in the transcription is correct. That is consistent with the nomenclature of rank favored on the tesserae earlier in the fifth century, when men holding an illustrious office liked to style themselves as viri clarissimi on their tesserae, a conservative affectation very much of a piece with western consuls' using vir clarissimus et inlustris on their diptychs, when doing so was entirely unknown in the East. Again, though, the last two genuine tesserae of type A (A9: Speciosus and A10: Caelianus) omit their rank, while noting their illustrious office as urban prefects. In other words, the nomenclature of B4–6 is consistent with a date in the 490s, whether or not the emended reading VC on B5 is correct. Likewise, the nomenclature of C1–2 is correct for the 520s or later, when aristocrats could attain illustrious rank, the patriciate, and the consulship without holding any actual office.

One final indicator of late date may be the erasure or expunction of the first line of the reverse of the now lost C1, which Dressel observed and whose text he supplied by reference to antiquarian reports of *C1. The repetition of the salvis dd nn on both sides of the tessera—if that was indeed what was expunged—would make C1 unique among securely attested specimens. If Dressel's conjectural restoration was correct and a repetition of the imperial salutation was in fact expunged, that would be consistent with an engraver of the 530s or 540s, relatively unfamiliar with a recherché and perhaps antiquarian type of object, making a confused but explicable mistake that he had then to correct. By contrast, the engraver of C2 used the full epigraphic field of his reverse for just the words Basilius reparavit. As with nearly everything to do with these tesserae, we cannot disperse an elemental penumbra of uncertainty. That said, all the circumstantial evidence converges on a late date for the Albinus and Basilius tesserae, a date that is consistent with the attenuation of the aristocratic cursus in the last decade of Theodoric and the subsequent Amal dynasts.

IV. Paulinus or Paulini?

Though the Albinus and Basilius puzzle is the most difficult prosopographical issue raised by our tesserae, there are others. Two genuine tesserae (A1, B2) and one duplicate phantom (*A1) belong to Paulini, and PLRE 2 offers two Paulini attested as praefecti urbi. The Paulinus of our A1 is named as such on his sole extant tessera and is Paulinus 9 in PLRE. The second urban prefect Paulinus39 appears only as Passefilus on the extant tessera B2, but [End Page 28] his full name is Fabius Felix Passifilus Paulinus as given in multiple inscriptions from various parts of Rome. Five separate inscriptions were found in the baths of Titus, reusing Tetrarchic and Constantinian statue bases for new dedications by the prefect.40 He had a seat in the Flavian amphitheatre.41 Every one of these inscriptions is undated, as is the lost tessera B2, but the terminus ante quem of Passifilus Paulinus's prefecture has usually been inferred from the presumed date of the Colosseum inscriptions under Odoacer.42 In the past decade, however, the tenuous grounds on which Chastagnol dated these inscriptions to the reign of Odoacer has been exposed, though no more plausible alternatives have been offered in its place.43 All we can say with certainty is that the seat inscriptions must post-date the joint reign of Theodosius II and Valentinian III, which ended in the year 450.44 With the sole date for Passifilus Paulinus (PLRE 2's Paulinus 13) removed, we might well date his prefecture to an earlier period, perhaps the reign of Valentinian III, though he cannot be identical with PLRE 2's Paulinus 9 of our tessera A1—as we saw in the previous section, polyonymous Roman senators did reliably use a diacritic name in contexts where only a single name was used. One might safely conjecture that our two prefects were related to one another, perhaps even brothers, and that their prefectures fell quite close together in time, each using his own diacritic name in this context, whereas Passifilus uses a fuller nomenclature on his inscriptions than on his now-lost tessera. If that is the case, we can place the prefecture of Paulinus late in [End Page 29] the reign of Valentinian III; because the tessera is addressed to Valentinian as sole ruler, it was probably engraved at a time when the western court was still declining to recognize the accession of Marcian in Constantinople. Because his tessera is addressed to two unnamed emperors, the prefecture of Passifilus, for his part, would fall either before the death of Theodosius II on 28 July 450 was known at Rome, or after the western court extended its recognition to Marcian on 30 March 452.45 There is ample room in the prefectural fasti to sustain this conjecture, and to suggest that both men were descendants of the Fabius Pasiphilus attested as vice agens of the praetorian prefect and urban prefect of Rome in 394/395.46

V. Marcius Caelianus, Praefectus urbis Romae 503/507

The text of the recently discovered tessera A10, published above for the first time, reads:

Salvo/ dom<i>no/ nostro / Caelianus/ patricius/ prae(fectus) ur(bi)

The name Caelianus becomes very rare after a handful of attestations under the Antonines. One M. Calpurnius Caelianus was procurator Augusti in Sardinia under Aemilian and Valerian;47 a fake Caelianus Afer is invented for the Vita Diadumeniani of the Historia Augusta;48 a (Ma)rcius Caelianus, inlustris and consistorianus, is attested in the Flavian amphitheater inscriptions;49and a Caelianus appears as vir inlustris and patricius in three of Cassiodorus's Variae.50 Given the relative closeness in dates and the rarity of the name, PLRE 2 is surely correct to treat the Caeliani of the amphitheater and the Variae as a single person. Moreover, because all three of the Variae in which he appears show him serving as a judge alongside a sitting urban prefect, his prior occupancy of that post has long been inferred.51 Given his seniority on the iudicium quinquivirale in 510/511, where he is the fourth of five magnifici et patricii viri,52 he must have held the prefecture, which brought him illustrious rank, after 503. The newly discovered tessera proves [End Page 30] that element in his cursus beyond doubt, and allows the fasti of the prefecture during the early Ostrogothic period to take firmer shape.

VI. Bacauda

D2, 2 is the second tessera to emerge recently on the market, and it corroborates the testimony of D2, 1, extant and cited in PLRE from CIL, although nevertheless excluded by Elvers from his corpus.53 The form of the object and the style of the lettering matches that of the finer extant tesserae and is again of celator-quality. It does not match those of CIL 15.7121–24, whatever one takes those to be. Since it belongs squarely in the Roman milieu of the urban prefects, we can now dismiss the reading p(erfectissimus) v(ir) offered by Dressel and accepted as possible in PLRE 2, and add Bacauda to the fasti of the urban prefecture.

Bacauda is an odd name, conjuring as it does the Gallic and Spanish rebels of the third through fifth century. PLRE 2 registers two examples and PLRE 3 notes a third, which must raise the possibility of their being identical. The urban prefect is dated imprecisely to the fifth or sixth century in PLRE. The second Bacauda appears in the Variae of Cassiodorus, appointing him tribunus voluptatum, probably in 523/526 (before the death of Theodoric, at any rate).54 Given that the holder of this post was a vir spectabilis rather than an illustris, and that this Bacauda was already nearing the end of his career when Var. 5.25 was written, the case for identifying him with the urban prefect might seem quite weak. On the other hand, we cannot exclude the possibility that the Bacauda who was tribunus voluptatum in 523/26 was later appointed praetorian prefect (under Athalaric/Amalasuntha), which would have entailed promotion to illustrious rank. We have one other example of such a promotion in the person of Artemidorus, urban prefect in 509–510.55 One should be cautious with this possible identification, given the scale of promotion it would represent. On the other hand, the name is extremely rare, and the prefect's tessera displays the same sort of belatedness that we saw in the Albinus/Basilius tesserae discussed in part III. That is, a tessera that says nothing but Bacauda p(raefectus) u(rbi) is functioning as pure sign, conveying meaning by its existence, not by what it explicitly says. We are fully justified [End Page 31] in putting Bacauda's prefecture very late in the sequence of prefects attested on tesserae, closer to Basilius the last consul than to the fifth-century prefects who inaugurated the practice.

The final Bacauda built a church of St Michael the Archangel at Ravenna, dedicated on May 6, 545, probably as a thank-offering in the aftermath of the Justinianic plague, which had afflicted Ravenna in 543.56 The evidence for this comes from Agnellus of Ravenna, who transcribed the dedicatory inscription of the church.57 The co-dedicator of the church is a Iulianus known from other evidence to have been an argentarius, or banker, at Ravenna.58 Agnellus goes on to suggest that Bacauda was the gener or son-in-law of Iulianus, though that is probably a posthumous legend deduced from the inscription itself.59 Given the rarity of the name, however, a relationship between the three Bacaudae seems more likely than not. If they were not three separate people, they are equally unlikely to be just one man: it is improbable that the already elderly tribunus voluptatum of 523/26 survived to dedicate a church at Ravenna in 545. That leaves two different options for identifying the attestations with one another. The tribunus might have been promoted to the prefecture some time after 523/526, thus becoming illustris under Amalasuntha or Theodahad. We know surprisingly little about Ostrogothic administration outside the Variae, and the prefectural fasti are lacunose enough to allow such a promotion at almost any time after 523/526.60 On the other hand, it is intrinsically more likely—given the age and relatively lowly rank of the tribunus—that the undated but late urban prefect survived to be codedicator of the church of St Michael in 545. A man with the status of an exprefect might well partner with a very rich banker like Iulianus in retirement. An entirely hypothetical solution that covers all the evidence would make Bacauda the tribunus a Gallic spectabilis who came to Italy after the collapse of the Visigothic kingdom and Theodoric's occupation of Provence against the Franks; who was promoted to the more or less honorific office of tribunus late in life, perhaps on account of a son's success in the Gothic administration; that homonymous son, in turn, held the urban prefecture in the years before the Justinianic invasion, and later in his life engaged in pious works at Ravenna. None of that can be proven, however. What is certain is that we [End Page 32] should revise the dating of Bacauda the urban prefect (PLRE 2's Bacauda 1 entry) to read "E VI" rather than "V/VI."61

VII. What Were These Tesserae For?

The corpus of tesserae relating to urban and praetorian prefects offers at times decisive help with historical and prosopographical puzzles, but still leaves one vital question unanswered: what function did these tesserae serve? What on earth were they for? As artifacts, they fall into a class of objects that we might call "paranumismatic," not in the sense of any necessary connection to coins, but rather in the way that small, portable objects, minimally inscribed or anepigraphic, tend to circulate along networks of coin rather than antiquities collecting.62 Some such paranumismatic objects have found their way into the CIL as instrumenta domestica, as is true of our tesserae and epigraphic weights—pondera, exagia, or so-called "solidus-weights." Others—contorniates, for example—are primarily considered alongside actual coins. Still others—for instance bone dice and gaming pieces, sometimes inscribed with graffiti—circulate on numismatic markets without having found a stable place along the continuum of academic research.

The comparison between our tesserae and these varied paranumismatic objects is not frivolous.63 All of them can potentially illuminate aspects of Roman society, but intrinsically none possesses sufficient historical context, internal or external, to permit clear conclusions that do not depend on their investigator's a priori assumptions. Take bronze spintriae: these are small coinlike bronze discs with Roman numerals from I to XVI on one side and images of heterosexual couplings, in all variety of positions, on the other. They are commonly held to be brothel tokens, because Tiberius is said to have forbidden the use in brothels of coins bearing the imperial image,64 and because sixteen asses make one denarius, rendering the tokens readily convertible to money.65 [End Page 33] Alternatively, they are the lasciva nomismata of Martial, and thus Domitianic.66 Not all of these round tesserae are erotic, however—some have an imperial effigy on one side and a Roman numeral on the other, while some have other scenes, and there are die-links between both types.67 Thus despite the elaborate conjectures, and the confidence with which spintriae are commonly dated to the first century ce (or better still, the "time of Tiberius" or "time of Domitian"), the evidence for doing so is not good.68 They might just as well be game pieces,69 or bread coupons, or something altogether unimagined—their sexual imagery has driven modern analysis, but the Romans depicted explicit sexual acts and disembodied sexual organs in so many contexts that seem outlandish to modern western societies that such reductionist assessments need to be avoided as far as possible.70

The so-called "festival of Isis coinage" from the fourth century poses analogous questions, its analysis driven by presuppositions about the relationship of the senatorial aristocracy of the city of Rome to the ascendant Christianity of its era.71 While these Isis "coins" (which certainly never circulated as specie) are as rare as the only full-length modern study of them, they share the same interpretative problem as do the medallions of the fourth and fifth centuries variously referred to as contorniates, Kontorniaten, or Kontorniatmedaillons.72 These coin-like objects, heavier than a high imperial sestertius and more than three times the size and weight of the largest late antique bronze coin, are unknown in the literature or technical texts of Late Antiquity; we do not know what a fourth-century senator would have called one, or if he would have had a special word it. The word "contorniate" comes from the Italian contorno and refers to the raised hammered edges that are the common defining feature of the artifacts. Portraying early imperial figures and a variety of mythological images, they were easily recruited into a discourse of "pagan resistance" to the Christianizing emperors of the fourth century, and helped fuel the scholarly literature (vast and generally argued a priori) on the supposed death struggle of the old religion against its Christian challengers: the argument still refuses to end despite utterly irrefragable proof, [End Page 34] from die-links between contorniates and actual coins, that the contorniates were issued by the mint of the city of Rome, which was overseen not by pagan senatorial grandees, but by apparatchiks of a Christian empire.73

The point at issue here is not whether spintriae are brothel-tokens, or whether contorniates and "Isis-coinage" are evidence for a pagan revival, but rather the illustration of how at sea we remain with paranumismatic evidence of this sort. None is common, but none is terribly rare; all belong to a category of objects that must once have been so familiar to contemporaries as to be self-explanatory in themselves, and common or invisible enough in actual practice as to leave no residue of comment in literary sources. In consequence, no trace of their use or value has been transmitted to us and so it is far easier to break down hypothetical explanations, and to show what such objects are not, than it is to propose something vaguely persuasive about what they actually are. The tesserae illustrate that point very clearly in one respect: despite the numismatic trade almost uniformly designating them exagia or solidus weights, that is one thing they certainly cannot be. Standard late Roman solidus weights, whether imperial or unofficial, bear no resemblance to our tesserae in shape, size, or weight; at between 2.97 and 3.92 grams, our tesserae weigh less than a solidus (ideally 4.483 grams, but usually around 4.40–4.45 grams) or any of its multiples, but more than a semis or tremissis. The extensive, if ill-catalogued corpus of commercial merchandise weights is equally distinct.74 All come in a variety of shapes and types, sometimes displaying a weight in pounds and ounces, sometimes not, sometimes with an indication of issuing authority, and more often not, sometimes with more or less elaborate figural engravings.75 We have examples of weights issued in the name of the emperor, identified either by a legend or a monogram, in the name of a comes sacrarum largitionum, and a great many bearing the names or monograms of the eparchs of Constantinople.76 Very few weights issued in the names of Roman praefecti urbi are known, though they had possessed issuing authority at least as far back as the time of Marcus Aurelius and are attested regulating [End Page 35] weights and measures both in the Theodosian Code and in Ammianus.77 But the best-known of that tiny corpus bears no resemblance at all to the tesserae.78 Perhaps most importantly of all, the fact that our tesserae vary in weight by almost a full gram strongly suggests that they could not have been used effectively to measure the weight of more valuable items like coins.

But if they are not exagia, what are they? Dressel's understanding of his tesserae monumentorum had the plaques forming some part of the display of a building dedication, which their tiny dimensions might call into question. But even granting that a portable object with lettering as small as that on a coin—lettering, in other words, meant more to be apprehended as image than read as text—could serve as labels in this way, only the uniface tesserae are explicable in these terms. No ancient technology of display, and no readily explicable modern one (double-sided clear perspex?), could explain or justify the laborious engraving of a tessera on both sides when only one would be displayed. Within a decade, Mowat had improved upon Dressel's theory of tesserae monumentorum with an explanation that eliminated the need for their display: the tesserae were dedicatory mementoes. One specimen would be deposited in the foundation of whatever structure was being dedicated by the relevant prefect, the other specimens would be taken home pro memoria by the lucky attendees at the event.79 This proposal made and continues to make a certain amount of sense prima facie. Though we have no evidence for dedicatory deposits of the sort Mowat posits, there is evidence (provincial, not Roman, unfortunately), of coins being deliberately laid into the foundation mortar of new construction.80 There was likewise certainly an early imperial tradition of token apophoreta, party favors "carried away" by guests at Roman dinner parties.81 One could without much effort suggest that our tesserae were part of the commemorative paraphernalia that went along with the dedication of some sort of public amenity or distribution of largesse—the use of fecit (and even more reparavit) does of course point that way. [End Page 36]

On the other hand, the very small size of the corpus of tesserae is in itself a challenge to that interpretation: the spintriae, contorniates, and "Isis-coinage" all have—or are thought to have—similarly short chronologies of half a century, give or take, but exponentially more specimens survive. None are what one might call "mainstream" or commonplace artifacts in terms of the traces they have left for our present-day research, but the tesserae are distinctly less common and that raises the question of the initial pool of artifacts issued.82 Contorniates, so far as we can tell, share some of the commemorative and perhaps festive purpose as do the tesserae, and date from roughly as many fourth-century decades as do the tesserae in the fifth and early sixth centuries. If the comparison has any validity at all, then contorniates survived into and beyond the eighteenth century at roughly one hundred times the rate of the tesserae. Contorniates are widely regarded as having been prestige tokens that were not instantly convertible into bullion (unlike multiples of gold solidi). Their relatively high rate of survival lends credence, or at least plausibility, to that interpretation: they were worth keeping as objects that stored (positive) meaning and cultural capital within a circle capable of grasping that meaning, but were crafted in such a way that no amount of arbitrage or wishful thinking could render them intrinsically valuable to a wider circle of contemporaries (again, unlike multiples of solidi). It is only since the antiquarian revolution of the sixteenth century that contorniates have equaled or surpassed in cost all but the rarest of their contemporary gold solidi, despite the latter's having greater intrinsic value as bullion to this day.

The much rarer tesserae are no more intrinsically valuable than the contorniates of a generation or two before them: quadratic planchets of bronze with a bit of silver washed across their inscriptions, they lacked the pictorial interest of a contorniate (or indeed of a figural exagium), but were disproportionately labor intensive to produce. Exagia could be die-struck on an appropriate flan with no further attention; contorniates could be die-struck but required hand labor to turn up their edges, but neither required individual engraving onto the raised bands of a struck planchet and subsequent silvering. This inverse ratio between difficulty of production and rate of survival raises the question of whether the tesserae were prestige objects meant for momentary display and subsequent disposal. Were they, in a sense, tickets to a gala opening, done up at considerable and economically unjustifiable expense as an advertisement of the importance of a particular event on the senatorial [End Page 37] social calendar? And—as tickets—were they meant to be turned in and disposed of (melted down for reuse) once the moment passed?

In the present state of our evidence, there is no way to say. As a category of artifact, the tesserae are abundant enough to represent a genuine, authentic relic of the (very) late and post-imperial senatorial habitus of the city of Rome. The first traces of the tesserae overlap the decade or two when the long, slow death throes of monumental epigraphy and honorific statue-dedication were finally twitching their last in the western provinces. The final era of the tesserae corresponds to the attenuation of the senatorial cursus into virtual nullity in the late Ostrogothic era and the Justinianic false dawn. Though we must now, and perhaps will always, remain ignorant of the precise context of their production and deployment, a realistic and minimalist assessment of the corpus, and an evaluation of the unique information it provides in light of that assessment, can at the very least add much-needed precision to our vision of the final generations of the imperial ordo senatorius.

Michael Kulikowski
Pennsylvania State University
mek31@psu.edu

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Turcan, Robert. 1987. Nigra Moneta: sceaux, jetons, tessères, amulettes, plombs monétaires ou monétiformes, objets divers en plomb ou en etain d'époque romaine conservée au Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Palais Saint-Pierre) avec un appendice sur l'empreinte en plomb d'un coin de médaillon impérial. Paris: Boccard.
Vagi, David L. 1999. Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, Volume Two: Coinage. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn.
van Berchem, Denis. 1936. "Tessères ou calculi? Essai d'interprétation des jetons romains en plomb." Revue numismatique 297–315.
Wigg, David G. 1995. "Contorniates and the Pagan Revival." Journal of Roman Archaeology 8: 525–29.
Wolfram, Herwig. 1988. History of the Goths. Berkeley: University of California Press. [End Page 41]

Footnotes

This piece, long in the making, was largely written while I was a member of the School of Historical Studies in the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, in 2015–2016. I presented an early version to the Epigraphic Friday seminar, hosted by Prof. Angelos Chaniotis, and am grateful for the feedback I received there. Richard Burgess first drew my attention to the Roma Numismatics auction in which tessera A10 appeared and has since read several drafts. I am also grateful to Gavin Kelly, Chris Lawrence, Noel Lenski, and Ed Watts, for input that saved me from both error and logical failures in the argumentation. As the footnotes will make clear, many of my arguments rest on foundations laid by the late Alan Cameron (1938–2017) in a series of magisterial articles. I hope it can stand as a small, but appropriate, tribute to the memory of a great scholar.

1. The classic study is Chastagnol 1960, though it stops with the reign of Honorius. For the Byzantine prefecture, see Hartmann 1889, 35–46.

2. The majority of these can be found in the Epigraphic Database Roma (EDR), usually with images and bibliography.

3. CIL 15.7106–7120.

4. Elvers 2011. This begins with an inconclusive discussion of the origin and use of these tesserae, continues with a description of the two "new" pieces, and then provides a corpus of all known or attested specimens, with concordances to earlier publications.

5. That designation is probably thanks to the authority of Babelon among collectors, if not scholars (though cf. Carlà 2009, 108). For exagia properly so-called see P–W 6.2: 1547; NP 4: 330–31. Babelon 1873 classified our type of tesserae as exagia in Daremberg's Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines.

6. Elvers 1998, 246 likewise accepts a number of poorly attested duplicates.

7. Roma Numismatics auction 10 (27 September 2015) lot 916.

8. Roma Numismatics auction 12 (29 September 2016) lot 1106.

9. Augustus is not infrequently written as agustus in late Latin (see discussion in Bonnet 1890, 143–44), so it is possible that the AAGG here is connected to that spelling, though a simple error is perhaps more likely.

10. Elvers 2011, 217: "Der Genitiv auf der Rückseite ist ungewöhnlich."

11. Here we may note that while D1 and D2 belong with the other tesserae catalogued here, the bi-faced tesserae discussed in CIL 15.1121–24 are another type of artifact and are more plausibly weights of one sort or another. First of all, none refers to the urban prefect but rather to proconsuls, one to a prefect and a proconsul, three bear the abbreviation "v.c." (presumably viri clarissimi) and seven bear the abbreviation "v.l.," which is otherwise unattested, but expanded to v(iri) l(audabilis) by Dressel. A new example of this latter formula appeared on the market in Nomos auction 13 (7 October 2016) lot 316, among a large group of ancient and Islamic weights advertised as the Eparch Collection. Note that the photograph of this object matches exactly the line drawing of Bendall 1996, 170, there attributed to Carthage Excavations 1976, no. 593, and may be the same artifact; note also that Bendall 1996, 174 = Numismatica Ars Classica/Spink Taisei auction 52, pt. 1 (1994) lot 809 is almost certainly the first item discussed in CIL 15.7121 and there attributed to the Museum Kircherianum. The second and third examples in CIL 15.7121 are extant in the British Museum, and their images are available online through a collection search (items OA.822 and OA.823). All of these pieces are radically different from the tesserae catalogued here. They are square, like contemporary commercial weights, rather than rectangular, and there are no raised bands into which the letters are inscribed. Instead, the outlines of the letters were scratched onto the surface of the tessera and then silver was painted within those lines, often leaving blank patches where the paint no longer adheres or was missed. The letters themselves are very large and are paleographically very dissimilar to the celator-quality lettering of the tesserae of the Roman urban prefects. But the main proof of their complete distinctiveness from our tesserae is the spelling of "proconsul" which ends in a lambda on Bendall 1996, 174 (= CIL 15.7121, first entry?) and CIL 15.7121, a second example (= British Museum OA.823). Whether or not these are commercial or coin weights, and regardless of what the abbreviation V.L. stands for, these square tesserae are almost certainly eastern, Constantinopolitan products dating from after Justinian's reconquest of Africa and the reinstatement of the proconsulate and prefecture there (thus PLRE 3: 877 Menas 11 and PLRE 3: 1323, Tiberianus are correct in their dating, while PLRE 2: 1177 Vitalis 2 should be transferred to the third volume and assigned a date after 534).

12. Noll 1974, 43 no. 57 = Pink 1938, 92 no. 54. Noll correctly expands the abbreviation without reference to Mommsen's improbable conjecture.

14. Cameron 1984 is the essential text, summarized in CLRE 40–46, but see too Cameron and Schauer 1982; Cameron 2012; and Salway 1994, 136–45.

15. PLRE 2: 216–17 Basilius 11.

17. PLRE 2: 218 Basilius 13; Smith and Ward-Perkins 2016, 297. PLRE would have lemmatized him more accurately under Venantius.

18. PLRE 2: 349 Decius 2.

19. The consul of 507 is PLRE 2: 1153 Venantius 2, the son of Petrus Marcellinus Felix Liberius. The son of the consul of 484 is PLRE 2: 1153 Venantius 5.

20. PLRE 3: 174–75 Basilius 3; Cameron and Schauer 1982; Meier 2002; Cameron 2012.

21. That is, there is no logically necessary chronological relationship between C1–2 and A2, which latter indisputably dates to 458.

22. PLRE 1: 35–36 Albinus 10. His diacritic name was Albinus. Although he never held the consulship, he is designated as iunior in legal sources in order to distinguish him from an unrelated near-contemporary, Ceionius Rufius Albinus, who shared the same diacritic name and had held the urban prefecture just a decade earlier, from 389–391. PLRE 1: 37–38 Albinus 15.

23. PLRE 2: 50–51 Albinus 7.

24. PLRE 2: 53 Albinus 10.

25. PLRE 2: 51–52 Albinus 9. He is Albinus iunior in the dating formula of a funerary inscription (CIL 11.4163), an anomaly discussed inconclusively at CLRE 41, n. 28.

27. Orlandi 1997, with references to older scholarship, argues that the formula salvo d.n./salvis dd.nn. is more characteristic of the later fifth century than earlier periods, but it becomes increasingly common from the Constantinian period onwards and cannot itself form a probative dating criterion.

28. We leave aside *B1 as a forgery—to include it, however, would only strengthen the point given the sheer incompetence of its engraving.

29. The classic account is Sundwall 1919, 178–89.

31. Cameron 2012, 517 with the evidence.

32. Cass. Var. 2.15–16; 6.10–11

33. Proc. Anecd. 26.27–28.

34. With Cass. Var. 6.11, see Cameron 2012, 516–18; Jones 1964, 3: 49 note 45. Mommsen 1910, 403–4 had already noticed this.

35. Cass. Var. 6.3–8 (three of them translated in Barnish 1992, 94–100). For further evidence for the activity of illustres see comitiva and praefectus in the index to the MGH edition.

37. Delbrueck 1929, 100–103 is the basic statement of the former communis opinio; see Cameron and Schauer 1982 and Cameron 2012 for the demonstration of sixth-century date and history of the question, with Cameron 2015 for further caution on stylistic arguments for dating consular diptychs.

39. PLRE 2: 848 Paulinus 13.

40. Four of these have identical texts, namely: CIL 6.1120b: Fabius Felix/ Passifilus Paulinus/ v(ir) c(larissimus) et in(lustris) praef(ectus) urbi dedicavit; CIL 6.1166c; CIL 6.1656b; and CIL 6.1656c. On CIL 6.1656a the stonemason has written dicavit for dedicavit. CIL 6.31882, cited in PLRE 2: 848, is simply a note on the further reuse of 1656a,b,c. Another inscription bearing an identical text has been presented as a sixth example: AE 1923: 65 (= Notizie degli scavi di antichità 19 [1922] 219–20). Its text is identical to that of the first four, and it may in fact be one of the inscriptions already published in CIL 6.

41. CIL 6.32173: [Fab] [Pa]sifili/ [ex praefect]to Urbis Rom/ae/ [F]elicis/ adque Patrici, with Orlandi 2004, 401, cat. 17.105, A and 499–500.

42. PLRE 2: 848 gives "before 483" as the date of that office, and is followed in this by Elvers 2011, whereas Chastagnol 1966a, 79 prefers a date before 476.

44. The only certain terminus post quem remains the inscription of Flavius Paulus as urban prefect, an office he held at an uncertain date during the joint reign of Theodosius II and Valentinian III, thus before the former's death in 450. The stone with Paulus's inscription was thereafter reused as the epigraphic field for the seat inscriptions (Chastagnol 1966a, 35). Chastagnol 1966a, 40–43 posited a further terminus post quem of 476, based on a fragmentary inscription of Odoacer on the dedication of nouis gradibus in the monument, and he argued for a terminus ante quem of 483 because Flavius Theodobius Valila was already deceased when his seat was dedicated in that year (that date was adopted as a terminus ante quem in all relevant entries in PLRE 2). However, neither of the latter points can stand for the monument as a whole, and so the only certain date is the first one, the terminus post quem of 450.

45. Orlandi 1997, 38 is inconclusive on this question.

46. PLRE 1: 669 Pasiphilus 2. The use of the nomen Fabius may suggest a kinship relationship with the Symmachi, who also used that element.

47. PIR 22: 256.

48. SHA Diadumenianus 8.9.

49. CIL 6.32185; see Orlandi 2004, 332, cat. 17.24, B and 469–470, for discussion of consistorianus.

50. Cass. Var. 1.23; 1.27; 4.22–23.

51. See PLRE 2: 247–48 Caelianus.

52. Cass. Var. 4.22–34.

53. See PLRE 2: 207–8 Bacauda 1.

54. PLRE 2: 208 Bacauda 2. On Cass. Var. 5.25 see Amory 1997, 363, who rightly identifies this Bacauda as a civilian, correcting Wolfram 1988, 300. See Lim 1996 for what little we know of the magistracy.

55. PLRE 2: 155–56 Artemidorus 3. Cass. Var. 1.43 informs Artemidorus of his appointment to the prefecture and refers to his previous role in looking after the duties of a tribunus voluptatum. PLRE and Lim 1996, 169–72 both register some hesitation on this point because that post is referred to by periphrasis, but the identification of Artemidorus as tribunus nevertheless seems secure.

56. PLRE 3: 162 Bacauda. See Deliyannis 2010: 252 for the plague–church hypothesis.

57. Agnellus, Lib. pont rav. 77: Consecuti beneficia archangeli Michelis, Bacauda et Iulianus a fundamentis fecerunt et dedicauerunt sub die Nonis Mai quater p.c. Basilii iunioris uiri clarissimi consulis, indictioone viii.

58. PLRE 3: 730–31 Iulianus 7.

60. On Ostrogothic administration in general, see Mommsen 1910; Moorhead 1992; Maier 2005; and Hen 2007, 27–58.

61. If the stylistic argument is accepted, the Iustinianus of tessera D1 might fall between Caelianus and Bacauda in date.

62. This is partly a function of price: while there is considerable overlap at the cheaper, hobbyist end of numismatic and antiquities markets, the higher end of the antiquities market is exponentially more costly than the higher end of the numismatics market, and even the most valuable paranumismatic artifacts (spintriae, the least common contorniates and medallic multiples of aurei and solidi) fall into the numismatic rather than "fine art" markets. That this is a pragmatic assessment of commercial realities speaks to the market forces scholars must confront; it is meant as a comment on neither the legalities nor the ethics of these markets.

63. The sheer variety of these paranumismatic objects was made clear by Rostovtzeff 1905, but is better illustrated by Turcan 1987: 51–60 and the accompanying plates.

64. Suet. Tib. 58.

66. Martial 8.78.9, with Rostovtzeff 1905: 57–58.

68. Simonetta and Riva 1981, 27–28 go so far as to attribute the erotic tokens in bronze to Vespasian on the grounds that his notorious parsimony would have led him to regularize the "currency" in use in brothels since the time of Tiberius, when erotic tokens in lead were issued privately by the brothel-keepers. Jacobelli 2000 is a more cautious and plausible assessment.

72. The basic studies are Alföldi and Alföldi 1976 and 1990, which substantially revise Alföldi 1942–1943. See also Mittag 1999.

73. See Cameron 2011, 691–98, for caution about the propagandistic paganism of the contorniates, as made famous by Alföldi. The die-link established by Wigg 1995 between the reverses of early contorniates and official issues of the Roman mint not only proves the broadly imperial sponsorship of these artifacts but decisively shows that they could not have been struck under the authority of the prefect, who had no jurisdiction over minting.

74. The point had been made already by Mowat 1900, 277. See also Entwhistle 2002. Chastagnol 1960, 331 note 5, doubts the identification.

75. See the summary in Bendall 1996 and the illustrations of Forien de Rochesnard [1970?], 38–60. The most important catalogues of weights are Pink 1938 and Campagnolo and Weber 2015.

76. Forien de Rochesnard [1970?]: 42 = Bendall no. 10, noting two examples (Sabatier 9; Geneva 279). Another was sold in Roma Numismatics auction 10 (27 September 2015) lot 904.

77. For issuing authority, Chastagnol 1960, 330–34; Jones 1964, 687–711; Carlà 2009, 99–116, with CTh. 14.4.4; Amm. Marc. 27.9.10; Nov. Val. 16.2.

78. Babelon and Blanchet 1895, 696, cat. 2285, from the Bibliothèque Nationale. It is marked on one side with the Roman numeral III with a line above it inside a crown with fleurons at each corner, in the manner of many imperial exagia. On the reverse, it reads D.N./ THEOD/ ERICI. Along its edge it reads CATV/ LINUS/ VC. ET/ INL.P.F.V., thus Catulinus, vir clarissimus, inlustris, praefectus urbi. The form of the inscription is not that of our tesserae and at 77.5 grams and 36 millimeters a side, we must understand it as a different kind of artifact, a weight authorized by the urban prefect in the name of the king. At least two exagia of the urban prefect Valentinus (whose tessera is B3 above) are also known, see Elvers 1998, 344–45.

80. See, for example, Donderer 1984.

82. If one accepts the interpretation of spintriae as readily monetized brothel-tokens that could be used multiple times within a very small sphere of circulation (individual brothels), then their low numbers explain themselves (Simonetta and Riva 1981, 19). But there are still eighty or more known spintriae (Jacobelli 2000, 35), making them at least four times as common as our tesserae.

Additional Information

ISSN
1942-1273
Print ISSN
1939-6716
Pages
3-41
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-22
Open Access
No
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