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Coins from the Dattari Collection

Today's coins of interest are both published "plate coins" from the Giovanni Dattari collection. For an excellent article on Giovanni Dattari and the source of the opening image of the collector sitting at his desk in front of a pile of coins (or ancient rubble) see Lucia Carbone, “Giovanni Dattari and His Fabled Collection of Alexandrian Coins”, ANS Magazine, 2018 Issue 2. The pencil images shown with the coins below are from Dattari-Savio, which is overwhelming in its number of coins, and as well a testament to the commitment of the collector who created pencil images of these coins.

The first, a coin of Faustina Jr., who lived AD 120-175 and was married to Marcus Aurelius in 145 AD. This coin was issued during the reign of her father Antoninus Pius AD 151-152 (dated on the coin L IE the 15th year of his reign). Marcus Aurelius wrote in his meditations:

"I thank the gods... that I have such a wife, so obedient, and so affectionate, and so simple"

-Marcus Aurelius 1.17.18

The reverse features the goddess of righteousness, Δικαιοσύνη (Dikaiosyne), shown on this coin with cornucopia and scales. In an article entitled "Dikaiosyne in The Usage of Paul", Leland Jamison quotes Lewis Carroll to open his article on the Paul's use of Dikaiosyne in the Bible.

"There's glory for you," remarked Humpty Dumpty.

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory', " Alice said.

"I mean 'there's a nice knockdown argument for you'".

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knockdown argument', "Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean-neither more nor less."

-Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass p.246-247

δικαιοσύνη translates to "justice" or "righteousness". The Jamison article describes the ways in which Paul uses the word, and extends the meaning familiar to the Greeks of "ethical goodness", with righteousness though faith, redeemed or acquitted by God, and in relationship with God and God's righteousness. Paul died in AD 62-64, ~100 years earlier than this coin was issued. After a relatively quiet period under Antoninus Pius, persecutions of Christians grew under Marcus Aurelius. The emperor's personal role in this is debated.

Faustina Junior, BI Tetradrachm of Alexandria, Egypt, Year 15 = AD 151-152

Obv: Draped bust right

Rev: Dikaiosyne standing left, holding scales and cornucopiae; LI-E across fields

Ref: Dattari 6081 (this coin), Emmett 1937

This particular coin of Marcus Aurelius, ticked a number of boxes for me with a modest ✅ price, a Nilus reclining with crocodile (✅ subject), an Alexandrian drachm (✅ denomination), and an Alexandrian Marcus Aurelius (✅ history). This coin is also rare: a quick search on vcoins will show you that there are none for sale today. This particular coin (regnal year 6, bust right, nilus left) doesn't have a single example in ACSearch(✅ scarcity). And I almost forgot an additional box - ✅ provenance - it is "the coin" from Dattari Plate 187 9283 and RPC plate coin 2837.2 (currently with a temporary ID in RPC online).

Egypt, Alexandria, Marcus Aurelius, 161-180, Drachm circa 165-166 (year 6), Æ

Size: 32.4mm., 20.90g

Obv: Μ ΑVΡΗΛΙΟϹ ΑΝΤƱΝΙΝΟϹ ϹƐ, Bare-headed, draped and cuirassed bust right

Rev: Nilus, with crocodile beside him, reclining left, holding reed and cornucopia;in left field, LϚ

Ref: RPC 2837.2 (this coin). Dattari-Savio Pl. 187, 9283 (this coin).

War & Plague

There are so many good resources on the Emperor and Stoic Philosopher Marcus Aurelius that in the interest of keeping this post to a bearable length, I won't attempt a survey. I will only mention the context for this coin which is the end of the 5 year long war with Parthia (AD 161-166). For Rome it was a decisive victory and Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius both enjoyed a triumph in Rome and gained new titles from the war including Armeniacus, Medicus, Pater Patriae, and Parthicus Maximus. The "Antonine Plague" first struck near the time of this coin, AD 165-180 and is thought to have been small pox carried from the East with returning armies. This plague may have been cause of death of Lucius Verus in AD 169.

References (others referenced in context above)

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Curtis JJ
Curtis JJ

Great coins and post! Lucia Carbone's article is a valuable reference on Dattari. Did you have trouble finding a copy of Dattari-Savio? That was my biggest obstacle to collecting Dattari coins, but once I got a copy it became a lot more fun!


Hi Curtis JJ, Thanks for your comment, Dattari-Savio not an easy book to find, but I got lucky and did find one a few years ago.




Alfred Kowsky
Alfred Kowsky

Sulla80, Another interesting article with two excellent coins from an important collection 😊. The Faustina Tet has an attractive portrait & well engraved reverse. I'm glad you included the old photo of Dattari, who looks like a kid exploring his bag of Halloween candy 🤣.

Curtis JJ
Curtis JJ

One wonders if that tiny bowl on the left are the few he kept for his collection... The proportions would work out: collection included at least 13,200 Alexandrian, but he claimed to have sold a million! (Perhaps it was hyperbole, perhaps not.)

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