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443/1 #09214-37 CAESAR Julius Caesar Spain mint 49BC  Elephant snake Simpulum sprinkler axe apex Denarius | by Ahala
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443/1 #09214-37 CAESAR Julius Caesar Spain mint 49BC Elephant snake Simpulum sprinkler axe apex Denarius

Denarius. 49BC. 3.74grams. Gaul Narbonensis Caesar camp mint. Caesar. Crawford 443/01v CAESAR. Obverse: elephant r, dragon CAESAR. Reverse: simpulum, sprinkler, axe, apex. Variation with non serif lettering, narrow reverse devices, and naïve style elephant. Likely from a subsidiary mint. Common (but much less common than the main variety!)


Dating and mint location as per Bernhard Woytek's, Arma et nummi, 2003, updated to reflect his views that this specific issue is from Narbonne due to manufacturing commonality with other coins from that place, specifically the use of multiple parallel dies. The other elephant type is perhaps from further west - in the region of Marseillr.



Woytek in Arma et Nummi suggests that the production was possibly transferred from Gallia Narbonensis to Spain Citerior, or possibly that there were parallel mints, but in any event concentrated in 49BC. In his paper on parallel-die striking he concludes that this variety is probably from Narbonne; the other variety (adjacent coin) is also probably from Gaul but a different mint, suggesting neither type was struck in Spain. Caesar was in Spain June-August 49BC; in Gaul March-May on his way to Spain, where he commenced the seige of Massilia, and September 49BC where he finishes the Massiliot seige before going to Rome.


In my personal view, I find these style of Crawford 443 denarii utterly charming. The form of the elephant is more sinuous and plastic than the main type even though quite wrong, and the reverse has much more slender elegant devices, as are the elephants legs (although elephants are not generally known for their slender legs!). It is pretty in a naive sort of way, the sort of elephant a child would paint but charming as such. I like the rather human form ear on the "bad style" coins! With the "bad style" being much scarcer I am surprised they are not recognised as such. In the illustrated example its feet are not touching the ground so it seems to be a flying elephant. This probably stems from them not being recorded as a separate type, which they should be given they are so easily distinguished, and Crawford classifies much closer varieties separately for other issues.


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Taken on September 19, 2009