Sylviane Estiot, Aureliano. Volume II/1: Ripostiglio della Vene\ra: Nuovo Catalogo Illustrato, a cura di Jean-Baptiste Giard. Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, 1995. Pp. 270, including 1 black-and-white photograph, 1 line- drawn map, 93 black-and-white photographic figures, 22 graphs, 1 fold-out synoptic chart. 56 black-and- white plates. ISBN 88-7062-892-2. Lit. 250.000.
University of Natal
The huge third century hoard of Vene\ra, now in Verona, includes well over ten thousand coins of Aurelian and his consort Severina. It thus comprises by far the largest single repository of numismatic evidence for Aurelian, but has not hitherto been easily accessible. Sylviane Estiot began working on the coins in 1981, a century after the publication of a catalogue by L. A. Milani,[] and conceived the idea of republishing the collection in the form of several volumes, under the general supervision of Jean-Baptiste Giard. Giard was responsible for Vol. I., Estiot for Vol. II/2, while Vol.III and Vol. IV are in preparation.[] The volume under review was translated from the French by Denise Modonesi, who also carried some editorial responsibility.
An introductory note on the dedicatory slab to Ulpia Severina Augusta, the wife of Aurelian, in the Museo Maffeiano in Verona (pp. 8-10), touches on the gentile name and the probability that the Ulpius Crinitus of the Historia Augusta, presumed by historians to be Severina's father, is in fact an invention of Aurelian's biographer. Other inscriptions referring to Severina are listed, and it is noted that it is the evidence of the coins that establishes the date at which she received the title of Augusta and the fact of her sole regency between the death of Aurelian and the accession of Tacitus; Severina is not mentioned in the literary sources.
The reign and coinage of Aurelian (pp. 13-138) are discussed under the following headings:
I. Storia Monetale Del Regno Di Aureliano: Storia Degli Studi (p. 13): a brief outline of the development of the study of Aurelian's coinage in the course of the last century or so, with mention of the more significant hoards.
II. Inquadramento Storico Del Regno (pp. 15- 18): a useful and clear basic chronological survey of the historical events of the reign, with problematic questions and literary, epigraphic and papyrological sources discussed in the footnotes.
III. La Circolazione Monetaria (pp. 19- 21): here the account of the circulation of Aurelian's coinage is supplemented by two tables, one showing the pre- and post-reform coinage in the Vene\ra collection by mints, the other enumerating the outputs of the various mints in seventeen other significant hoards and by a map showing mints and find-sites.
IV. La Monetazione (pp. 22-107) deals first with the mint of Rome, and then with Aurelian's other mints; in each case issues are described chronologically, and occasional comparison between mints and with the evidence of other hoards assists the overall picture of the monetary policy of the reign and the organisation of individual mints at different periods. Clarity both in the discussion and in the various tables makes this section useful not only in investigating the relative numbers of the different issues represented in the hoard but also as a general survey of Aurelian's coinage (it is noteworthy how often the bibliography given for the Vene\ra coins indicates coins not represented in Cohen or RIC, a fact which adds to the usefulness of this catalogue). A fold-out synoptic tabulation of the production of the mints by year and by mint, with diagrammatic indication of the whereabouts of the emperor during the period under consideration, follows p. 138.
V. Metrologia (pp. 108-126) again discusses analytical studies according to weight and other metrological considerations mint by mint.
VI. Conclusione: La Riforma Monetale Di Aureliano (pp.127-129) contains a brief discussion of the changes introduced, summarising the new weight standards and inter-relationships of the tri-metallic coinage, and emphasising similarities between the reforms of Aurelian and Diocletian.
A catalogue of this nature is perhaps not the place for discussion of problematic or disputed questions, and Estiot's presentation is generally straight-forward; nevertheless, where problems of chronology, mint identification or the like exist, these are generally briefly indicated and footnotes provide a guide to the relevant literature.
The hoards cited are listed on pp. 139-140, with details of their publication; major museum collections are listed on p. 141.
The Catalogue (pp. 143-265) is followed by indices of titulature, reverse legends, reverse types and a general index (pp. 266-270), and by fifty-six black-and-white plates, illustrating a very high proportion of the more than 10,800 coins listed. These photographs, and those in the body of the text, which include coins from other collections and inscriptional material, are of high quality; the photographs even of worn coins are remarkably clear. This will surely be one of the most appealing and helpful features of the catalogue to students of the coinage who do not have ready access to the great collections of Europe and the United Kingdom. Visual effectiveness is a characteristic also of the map of mints and hoard sites (p. 20) and of the lay-out of all the tables and catalogue, and this visual clarity is matched by clarity of argument in the text. It is altogether a handsome production. This said, it seems a little ungracious to remark that this is strictly a desk-top book: within its paper covers its weight of almost 1.7 kg. and format - 21 cm. high and 30 cm. broad - make it inconveniently flexible just to take down off the shelf and page through for a quick check of any single item.
Apart from its obvious value to numismatists, the catalogue will be welcome to historians of Aurelian's reign for the wealth of numismatic evidence and its bearing on the events of the period.
[] L.A. Milani, Il ripostiglio della Venèra. Monete romane della seconda metà del terzo secolo (Rome 1880).
[] Ripostiglio della Vene\ra: Nuovo Catalogo Illustrato, a cura di Jean-Baptiste Giard. Vol. I, a cura di Jean-Baptiste Giard, Gordiano III - Quintillo. (Rome 1995); Vol. II/1, a cura di S. Estiot, Tacito e Floriano. (Rome 1987); Vol. III, a cura di J. Guillemain, Probo (forthcoming); Vol. IV, a cura di D. Gricourt, Caro-Diocleziano (forthcoming).