Towards a Revision and New Edition of RIC X:
The Western Gold, 425-476
Anyone who collects or studies fifth-century coins
recognizes the value and importance of The Roman Imperial Coinage, volume X: The Divided Empire and the Fall of the
Western Parts, AD 395-491 by John
Kent, first published in 1994. The
work is a testament to the years of work and scholarship that went into its
compilation by Kent and his predecessors.
Unfortunately, those who rely upon it for collecting or serious research
soon also become aware of its enormous and often crippling omissions, inconsistencies,
and errors. From things as simple
as the incorrect reporting of obverse and reverse legends; mistaken descriptions
of busts and types; and misattributions, to inattention to die links for
establishing sequence; an inconsistent basis for the assignment of catalogue
numbers; confused, misidentified, and missing photos; lack of adequate descriptions
and illustrations of style differences; inconsistency of analysis; and errors
of interpretation, RIC X is in places, quite frankly, a mess. I
on occasion worked with John Kent in the mid-1980s while working on my
DPhil thesis with Cathy King and John Matthews and even then I could
see that Kent was headed for a number of
major errors, such as his phantom ‘second reign’ of Julius
Nepos, an invention
unsupported by any ancient evidence (apart from a supposed lack of die
between solidi of Nepos and Leo II) and espoused for the most part by
himself. My impression was that he was very much overwhelmed by
the material, and the more I become involved in it myself the more I
can understand how this could have happened: not only is the coinage
extremely difficult to interpret in and of itself, but it really has
not been studied to the same extent as earlier imperial coinages.
It is for the most part pretty ugly stuff and has not attracted
the same number of admirers or researchers as, say, second century
aurei or even fourth century bronze.
The only other modern catalogues available for this
period are those of Guy Lacam and Georges Depeyrot. Lacam was not a numismatist (Kent told me he was a retired
zipper manufacturer) and although his photographs are invaluable the organization
of the book and the attributions of the coins are confused and confusing, the
descriptions are often inaccurate, and the text is downright bizarre in
places. Depeyrot, a well-known
French numismatist, was trying to catalogue and describe over 30,000 coins from
the time of Diocletian to the time of Zeno, an extremely difficult it not
impossible task if done with the proper attention to detail. He was simply overwhelmed by the
evidence, as anyone would be. The
inevitable result is that his work is incomplete and
inaccurate, as my concordances for Anthemius demonstrate.
Although I studied the gold of the West between 455
and 476 during the 1980s while a doctoral student at St John’s College Oxford,
it has only been recently, when financial security allowed me to actually begin
collecting again, that I have started working closely with RIC X alongside my earlier research, none of which ever
did actually make it into my DPhil (my supervisors felt I would be pegged as a
numismatist, rather than a historian, and so would never be able to get a
job). I have come to the
conclusion that RIC X needs a
fundamental and thorough revision.
Since I have a large photo catalogue from major museums and collections
for the western material between 455 and 476 as well as recent sales (I have
not yet had the opportunity to start searching the printed sale catalogues,
though Cambridge and Vienna are on my list for my next sabbatical) I have begun
carefully sifting through RIC and
collecting my various notes and observations.
It is my intention, then, over the next few years
(and more, since I have other long-term projects under way at the moment), to
present scholars, collectors, dealers, auction houses, and anyone else
interested in the fifth century with a comprehensive revision of RIC X for Western gold between 425 and 476, starting
with the solidi of Anthemius (for no particular reason other than that an anomaly
with a coin sold last year on FORVM Ancient Coins caught my eye and I had an
afternoon to spare). It is my intention
to publish these studies, first as a web archive, very much like Chris
Howgego’s Roman Provincial Coinage site that is run through the Ashmolean, and then collected
together in a book and catalogue.
The result of this study will be the most detailed, comprehensive, and (I hope) accurate analysis of Western gold of the Roman empire of the fifth-century.
R. W. Burgess, BA (Trin. Coll.), MA (Tor.), DPhil (Oxon)
Dept of Classics and Religious Studies
University of Ottawa
Although I have photographs of all the specimens described in this study I do not as yet have permission to publish them all on the web. In many cases I was given permission twenty years ago for publication in a book or article, but even in those cases I am not publishing those photos here simply because of the lapse of time. I am now attempting to obtain permissions to publish all the photographs that I have as well as obtain new digital photos of those that I have only as non-digital photos. I am also endeavouring to obtain new photographs from public collections not in my photo file. As I obtain permissions I shall add the photos to this site. I have not been able to ascertain where I might obtain permission for the Ulrich-Bansa photographs, so if anyone has any idea, please let me know.
COLLECTORS AND DEALERS
I encourage anyone interested in this material to contribute suggestions, corrections, comments, and most especially PHOTOGRAPHS. I am interested in digital photos of material in your personal collection and, if you are a dealer yourself, I would be particularly interested in any photos of stock you have sold. I have already been through CoinArchives.com and regularly troll the web pages of major auction houses so I do not need that material (lesser known sales and auctions are welcome, though). If you send me photos, please include the following information: provenance, die axis, and weight, but most important please make sure that you send me your name since it is my hope to eventually publish this work formally and everyone who contributes in a significant way will receive credit. For now contributors will receive a special page of acknowledgement (contributors and permissions page).
2. Up Next: how to recognize the different solidi of Valentinian III: what's the difference between 2010, 2011, 2018, 2019, and 2024?