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Romans in Bithynia

This first coin was issued during the turbulent times of the Gracchi brothers, with unrest between the social reformers and the conservative elites what would ultimately be the undoing of the Roman republic. Two coins are shared in this article from relatives both


Marcus Tullius Cicero - anyone who studied Latin in school knows him well as Roman statesman, orator, lawyer, scholar, philosopher, writer, skeptic, and even humorist - would write ~75 years later:

"the death of Tiberius Gracchus, and the whole system of his tribuneship divided one people into two parties"
-Cicero, Commonwealth Book 1 

More information on the Gracchi brothers can be found here: Social Reforms in the Roman Republic. This coin was issued the year that the younger Gaius Gracchus was murdered and Lucius Opimius was tried and acquitted of any wrongdoing in the death of C. Gracchus. Opimius' defense was made by Gaius Papirius Carbo, consul in 120 BC, and relative of the Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, the issuer of this coin.

Cn. Carbo, 121 BC, AR Denarius, Rome mint

Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right, curl on left shoulder; X (mark of value) to left Rev: Jupiter, holding thunderbolt and scepter, driving quadriga right, ROMA in exergue

Ref: Crawford 279/1; Sydenham 415; Papiria 7; RBW 1102


Crawford doesn't have much to say about this moneyer of Crawford 279/1, "The moneyer is presumably Cn. Papirius Carbo, Cos. 113". August Fredrich Pauly's Realencyclopedia (RE) catalogs this Papirius and RE: Papirius 37


The Province of Bithynia

  • 76 BC: Nicomedes IV bequeathed the kingdom of Bithynia to Rome

  • ~75 BC: M. Iunius Iuncus, was appointed to organize Bithynia into a Roman province

  • 74 BC: Marcus Aurelius Cotta was sent to protect Bithynia with imminent threat from Marthidates of Pontus, and he stayed fighting the the MIthridatic War until late 71 BC

  • !67 BC: C Papirius Carbo becoming tribunus plebis brought to trial the consul of 74 BC M. Aurelius Cotta on charges of corruption

  • 66 BC: Pompey, tribunus plebis, established a new province, Bithynia and Pontus, adding eleven cities in Pontus to the province of Bithynia

  • 61-58 BC: the first regular governor known in this new province is C. Papirius Carbo


A few more C. Papirii Carbo

We find a relative of this moneyer ~60 years later as governor of Bithynia. August Friedrich von Pauly, has a lengthy description in German for this Parpirius RE:35, the issuer of these two coins.

Bithynia, Nikaia. C. Papirius Carbo, procurator, 61/0-59/8 BC. AE (Bronze, 6,1 gr - 19,80 mm), BE 224 = 59/8.

Obv: NIKAIΕΩN / ΔKΣ (date = 224 - 59/58 BC), laureate head of Apollo to right; monogram to right

Rev: EΠI ΓAIOY / ΠAΠIPIOY / KAPBΩNOΣ Filleted thyrsos

Ref: RG 8-9. Stumpf 110


Bithynia, Nikomedia, C. Papirius Carbo, procurator, 61/0-59/8 BC, AE (Bronze, 25 mm, 8.43g, 12h)

Obv: NIKOMHΔΕΩN, laureate head of Zeus to right.

Rev: EΠI ΓAIOY - ΠΑΠIPOY / KAPBΩNOΣ // PΩMA Roma seated left on pile of arms, holding Victory in her right hand and long scepter in her left; in field to left, monogram.

Ref: HGC 7, 596. RG 1. SNG von Aulock 736. Stumpf 120


RE:35. Gaius Papirius Carbo. His first name is confirmed by my coin from Bithynia, and other similar coins. This corrects the competing statements by Valerius Maximus (Book V, Chapter 4, Section 4), who refers to him as "Gn. Carbonem" (Gnaeus Carbo), and Cassius Dio (Book 36, Section 40, Paragraph 4), who mentions him as Γάιος Κάρβων (Gaios Karbon) - both less reliable sources than the coins.


Papirius was a tribune of the plebs in the year 687 AUC (ab urbe condita = 67 BC). As tribune he charged Marcus Aurelius Cotta, the former consul of 680 AUC (= 74 BC), with severe mistreatment of the city of Heraclea Pontica, which Cotta had captured in 684 BC (= 70 BC), and with embezzlement of booty plundered from the city. For Cotta's conviction, Papirus received the ornamenta consularia (decorations of the consul).


Cassius Dio (36.40.3) reports that in the year 687 AUC (= 67 BC) three trials took place in which Cotta and Carbo alternated as plaintiff and defendant, casting doubt on the precise dating of these trials.

"In fine, the Romans were so concerned at that time to prevent bribery, that in addition to punishing those convicted they even honoured the accusers. For instance, after Marcus Cotta had dismissed the quaestor Publius Oppius because of bribery and suspicion of conspiracy, though he himself had made great profit out of Bithynia, they elevated Gaius Carbo, his accuser, to consular honours, although he had served only as tribune. But when Carbo himself later became governor of Bithynia and erred no less than Cotta, he was in turn accused by Cotta's son and convicted."
-Cassius Dio, 36.40.3

Memnon (History of Heraclea, Section 59, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum Volume III, Page 557) describes the speech held by the representative of Heraclea, Thrasymedes, before the people's assembly, and mentions that Carbo opened with the words: "Καὶ Κάρβων ἀναστὰς 'Ἡμεῖς, ὦ Κόττα', φησί, 'πόλιν ἄλλ' οὐχὶ χανεῖν ἐπετρέψαμεν';" (and Carbo stood up: 'We, O Cotta', he says, 'did not permit you to ruin the city').



Thrasymedes was the main incriminating witness and Carbo the prosecutor in the trial of Cotta and under Roman law both would have been rewarded. (see: Theodore Mommsen, Roman Constitutional Law, page 461 and Criminal Law page 509; Egon Borzsak, Volume XIX, pages 1112 to 1113)


Likely in the year 692 UAC (= 62/61 BC), Papirius became Praetor and administered Bithynia as Propraetor in the following years until 695 AUC (= 59/8 BC). Coins with the inscription "Επι Γάιον Παπίριον Κάρβωνος" (Under Gaius Papirius Carbo) were found in Amisos, Bithynion, Nicaea (my coin illustrated above), Nicomedia, and Tion (see Catalogue of Greek Coins in the British Museum, Pontus and Bithynia, Numbers 117, 152, 179;)


Broughton notes for 61 BC:

Paprius too seems to have been guilty of extortion in the province and was accused by the young son of Marcus Cotta and brought to conviction. Valerius Maximus provides further information about this trial.

"[4.4] This sort of piety was imitated by M. Cotta, on the very same day that he put on the toga of manhood. As soon as he came down from the Capitol, he made an accusation against Cn. Carbo, who had condemned his father; and bringing him to trial, he convicted him; thus making an auspicious start to his youth, and his public career, with a famous achievement."
-Valerius Maximus, Book V.4.4

See also Valerius Maximus and Cassius Dio, mentioned in Elimar Klebs, Prosopographia Imperii Romani, Volume II, Page 2489, Numbers 107 and 108.


Papirius (RE:35) is likely to have been the son of one of two cousins who bore the same name, rose to the same office, the praetor, and met violent ends: one Gaius Carbo in the year 672 AUC (= 82 BC, RE:34), the Gaius Carbo in 674 AUC (= 80 BC, RE: 40). For this reason both can be found in proximity in Cicero's letters to his friends (Epitulae ad Familiares, IX,21,3) In his letter, Cicero generally trashes the plebian wing of the Carbo family. Other than Gaius Carbo, whom Damasippus killed (RE:40), Cicero writes that not one was an asset to his country.

"Then follow the Carbos and the Turdi. These were plebeians, and I advise you to ignore them. For with the exception of the C. Carbo (RE:40, consul of 84) who was killed by Damasippus (82 BC), not one of the Carbos was an asset to his country. We knew Cn. Carbo (possibly son of Marcus praetor circa 114 BC accused of corruption in Sicily) and his brother (RE:34 Tribune in 89) the wag — a pair of rascals if ever there was one. Of my friend who is still with us, Rubria’s son, I say nothing."
-Cicero, Letters to Friends, p 189

Our Carbo (RE:35) is the son of Rubria, the daughter of an insignificant family, his father withe the one killed by Damasippus or the one of the same name called "scurra" ("rascal" or "clown") by Cicero.

References (in addition to those linked above in line)




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