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Arca Ferrata

In 1868, Henri de Longpérier described two well preserved chests found in Pompeii in his book on "money containers".

"The boxes were found in the courtyard of these houses, leaning against a column on the right side. They rested on a small masonry base to which they were fixed by a large iron nail or pin which, crossing the bottom of the furniture, kept it securely attached to the floor. This precaution shows quite clearly that the boxes of Pompeii were intended to contain money and other precious things, and that they could not be confused with the trunks used for transport, or even for movement within the household."
-Henri de Longpérier, 1868, p.59

Here is one of the two boxes illustrated by de Longpérier on Plate XX.

Andersson (2022) reports 30 chests have been found in Pompei. This cassaforte (safe or strongbox) is found in the Archeological Museum in Naples:

A arca ferrata (iron covered wood chest) with divine busts, 1st Century AD, Naples, National Museum of Archaeology (inventory number 73022). Image from Restituzioni 2016.

Although many of the chests were destroyed over time, the bases can be found with their iron bolts:

These chests would store money and valuable goods and could be found in temples, stores, and the houses of rich families, who displayed them in the atrium of the house to show off their wealth.

Mutua viginti sestertia forte rogabam,
Quae vel donanti non grave munus erat.
Quippe rogabatur felixque vetusque sodalis 
Et cuius laxas arca flagellat opes.
Is mihi 'Dives eris, si causas egeris' inquit.
Quod peto da, Gai: non peto consilium.
-Martial, Epigrammata, 2.30

Translation: I happened to ask a loan of twenty thousand sesterces, it was not a difficult ask. He of whom I asked was a prosperous friend, whose arca (chest) overflows with his ample wealth. He says to me: “You’ll be a rich man if you plead cases.” Give me what I ask, Gaius; I’m not asking advice.

An arca ferrata with three money bags sitting on top, can be seen on this beautiful coin with excellent details from Pamphylia with Trebonianus Gallus on the obverse.

Roman Provincial, Pamphylia, Perge.,Trebonianus Gallus (251-253), diassarion (Bronze, 21 mm, 5.79 g, 11 h)

Obv: ΑΥ•Κ Γ•ΟΥЄΙ•ΤΡЄ•ΓΑΛΛΟΝ Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Trebonianus Gallus to right, seen from behind; below, globe

Rev: ΠЄPΓAIΩN Three-legged chest with folding doors, with three money purses upon it

Ref: RPC IX 1119. SNG von Aulock 4714

This reverse used consistently across many years in Perge, as it was provincial center for the Roman treasury. There are coins in ACSearch for the following emperors and their family.

  • Maximinus I Thrax AD 235-238

  • Maximus. Caesar, AD 235/6-238

  • Gordian III AD 238-244

  • Philip II (Caesar, 244-247)

  • Herennius Etruscus (251)

  • Volusian (251-253)

  • Gallienus (253-268)

  • Salonina (Augusta, 254-268)

There may be others known. I only find 2 in ACSearch of this coin from Trebonianus Gallus. Only 4 are known in RPC and this coin has particularly nice detail.

Pamphylia is literally the land of "all tribes or races" -

Trebonianus Gallus (June 251 to August 253) was only emperor a bit more than two years before he was overthrown by Aemilianus who only reigned 3 months before being overthrown by Valerian.


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