509/5 Cornuficia Denarius Q.CORNVFICI AVGVR IMP. head Ceres or Tanit, Cornuficius crowned by Juno Sospita. Utica 42BC. AM#09158-42
Denarius. 42BC. 4.16grams. Utica mint. Cornuficia. Crawford 509/05 Q.CORNVFICI. Obverse: hd Ceres l. Reverse: Cornuficius crowned by Juno Sospita . Extremely Rare.
Quintus Cornuficius was the republican governor of Africa Vetus (the "old" province) from 44-42 BC, during the civil wars. He was a man of considerable refinement, a poet and orator and a close friend of Cicero and Catullus. In 43 BC, Cornuficius refused to hand over his province to Antony's nominee, and he was proscribed by the triumviral government. In 42 BC, he was attacked by Titus Sextius, the governor of the neighboring province of Africa Nova. The course of this local conflict mirrored that of the wider civil war. Cornuficius enjoyed some initial success, even briefly invading Sextius' province, but he was utimately defeated and killed outside Utica in 42 BC. Before his defeat, Cornuficius produced a remarkable coinage in gold and silver, of astonishing artistic achievement. The three obverse types, heads of Africa, Jupiter Ammon, and Ceres-Tanit, all refer to his province of Africa. They share a common reverse, which depicts Cornuficius as augur being crowned by Juno Sospita, seemingly a reference to his own Lanuvine origin. All of these coins are of considerable rarity today. In Tresors Monetaires XX, 2002, p. 1-4, Michel Amandry published a definitive die study and corpus of this fascinating issue. Amandry knew of only 24 denarii of all types, including 12 with the head of Ceres-Tanit. These latter were struck from only three obverse and six reverse dies; three of these reverses were also paired with the Jupiter Ammon obverse. The present cataloguer is aware of two additional specimens of Ceres-Tanit; thus, the coin offered here is perhaps the fifteenth known example. Following Crawford, the "conventional wisdom" is that all plated Republican silver coins are contemporary forgeries. The coins of Cornuficius seem to present an umistakable exception to this general rule. Three coins in Amandy's Corpus are also fourrees; thus, including the present coin, out of 15 known examples, four are plated. This is an almost inconceivable percentage, if these fourrees are indeed ancient forgeries. They are struck from two obverse and two reverse dies; thus the hypothetical forger would have needed to possess by happenstance at least two examples of this exceedingly rare coin. There is good reason however to believe that in this particular case the plated coins are just as "official" as the good silver ones, especially as the plated and good silver coins share dies. It is possible to construct a persuasive scenario for this claim which doesn't violate Crawford's general dictum. The good silver coins would be the money Quintus Cornuficius minted to pay his soldiers, in the early, successful days of his struggle for North Africa. As the war turned against him, it is easy to imagine him increasingly strapped for precious metal, and resorting to striking more and more plated denarii. His soldiers expected to be paid, and were probably prepared not to examine that payment overly closely. At the end, he was restricted to Utica and its environs; how much silver could have remained there after months of fighting?. Text courtesy Phil Davis, Harlan J Berk, with permission. Photo copyright Ahala. There is additional discussion about this coin on andrewmccabe.ancients.info/Studies.html and also on andrewmccabe.ancients.info/Auctions.html