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FRVGI, Father & Son

Updated: Mar 31

Here are three coins from father and son, the last one a coin that just arrived today. The denarius of the father, from the time of the Social Wars, 91-87 BC, that led to the Romanization of Italy. The son, with a similar coin, minted in 61 BC about 30 years later - the reported dates for the son's coin are varied - I prefer the dates of Hersh-Walker which use Mesagne hoard evidence to reorder some of the dates from Crawford. For more on the Charles Hersh and Alan Walker publication on the Mesagne hoard, which was found in Calabria ~1980, you can read this post Hoards and Proserpina.


Doug Smith's post, on these coins "from the Roman oligarchy" is also worth reading and made me smile with this observation: "Others may find humor in the epithet FRVGI (the frugal) used by the man responsible for more denarii than any before him. He was frugal in his duties. Both this coin and the next are good silver weighing 3.7g. We will each see different things of interest in our coins. Such is the hobby."

L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, 90 BC, AR Denarius

Obv: Laureate head of Apollo right; star behind; P below chin

Rev: Naked horseman galloping right, holding long palm; above, D/•

Ref: Crawford 340/1; Sydenham 664; Calpurnia 11


The Victory perhaps a sign of progress in the Social war or hoped for progress. Livy writes of the move to make the Ludi Apollinares permanent in 211 BC (Calpurnius, praetor, and the ancestor of the moneyer).


"The Games of Apollo had been exhibited the previous year, and when the question of their repetition the next year was moved by the praetor Calpurnius, the senate passed a decree that they should be observed for all time."

-Livy XXVI.23.3


Livy challenges the alternate version that the games were made permanent in 208 in response to a severe plague. Here's the quinarius from this series.

L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, 90 BC, AR Quinarius, Rome mint

Obv: Laureate head of Apollo right; bow control mark behind, S: control mark below chin

Rev: PI-SO with victory between, standing left, holding wreath and palm frond over shoulder, FRVGI in exergue

Ref: Crawford 340/2g (control on obv both behind and below chin)


Savings the best for last, I am particularly pleased to have acquired this coin of the son, C. Piso Frugi, Cicero's son-in-law. The overall artistry of this coin and the control marks are exceptional. This is one of the earliest dies from this moneyer. The winged rider only appears on only 5 dies. The light graffiti, perhaps initials of an ancient owner? AΠ, on the reverse only adds interest. Gaius was betrothed to Tullia around 66 BC and they subsequently married in 63 BC when both were in their teens.


As Hersh points out in his die study "The physical appearance of the coins themselves is most satisfying and interesting. The laureate heads of Apollo...are of superior workmanship and have some of the most artistically excellent portraits in the entire Roman Republican series". He also wonders if Greek engravers might have been used as the coins show Hellenistic influence. Among some excellent coins, this one particularly exceptional in my view.

C. Calpurnius L.f. Frugi, 61 BC, Denarius, Rome

Obv: Laureate head of Apollo to right; behind, standing eagle behind

Rev: C PISO L F FRVGI Horseman galloping right, winged, not wearing a hat, carrying nothing, with scorpion behind

Ref: Babelon (Calpurnia) 24. Crawford 408/1b. RBW, 319 in Hersh's 1976 catalogue of die combinations which is Obverse die 4 with Reverse die 10007 from Hersh C. (1976). A Study of the Coinage of the Moneyer C. Calpurnius Piso L. F. Frugi. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-),16 (136), 7-63.

Gaius died in 56 BC and Tullia married Furius Crassipes. Cicero was exiled at the time of Gaius' death and wrote of him:


"That excellent man, Piso, my son-in-law, who was not allowed time to receive the reward of his affection, either from me or from the Roman people, kept beseeching his relation to give him back his father-in-law."

-Cicero, Pro Sestius 68


He also wrote of him in Brutus:


"As to C. Piso, my son-in-law, it is scarcely possible to mention any one who was blessed with a finer capacity. He was constantly employed either in public speaking, and private declamatory exercises, or, at least, in writing and thinking: and, consequently, he made such a rapid progress, that he rather seemed to fly than to run. He had an elegant choice of expression, and the structure of his periods was perfectly neat an harmonious; he had an astonishing variety and strength of argument, and a lively and agreeable turn of sentiment: and his gesture was naturally so graceful, that it appeared to have been formed (which it really was not) by the nicest rules of art. I am rather fearful, indeed, that I should be thought to have been prompted by my affection for him to have given him a greater character than he deserved: but this is so far from being the case, that I might justly have ascribed to him many qualities of a different and more valuable nature: for in continence, social piety, and every other kind of virtue, there was scarcely any of his contemporaries who was worthy to be compared with him. "

-Cicero, Brutus, a History of Famous Orators, 272

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