Choice Social War Denarius of the Marsic Confederation

Welcome to 2015! All of us at Stack’s Bowers Galleries hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! Today we have just one final ancient coin highlight from our official auction of the New York International Numismatic Convention, which is just a week away. This choice Denarius comes from a turbulent period in the late Roman Republic, the Social War. Named after the Latin word socii meaning allies, this term applied to various Italian tribes who were allied to Rome. These conflicts began after decades of Roman tax exploitation compounded by the exclusion of citizenship for these tribes. Driven to martial conflict, the tribes united under the leadership of the Marsi people, lending another name to this conflict, as it is sometimes known as the Marsic Wars. Modern scholars have likened this conflict to the American Civil War, whereas the North represents Rome and the Southern Confederacy represents the Italian tribes. At the onset of the conflict the Italian tribes were more prepared and led by more capable generals. Despite these advantages they were unable to deliver a crippling blow, while the superior resources of Rome provided an ever-increasing advantage leading to their inevitable success. Bitterness and heavy losses on both sides form another parallel to the American Civil War. These forced Rome to gradually cede citizenship to the Italian tribes warring against it. In effect, Rome won the war but the Italian tribes won the dispute, with all Italians south of the Po River gaining Roman Citizenship.

The Marsic Confederation minted Denarii during this conflict, with this example bearing the effigy of their proposed nation, Italia. An Oscan legend appears behind the left facing laureate head, which states “Viteliv” (Italia). The reverse design evokes the militaristic circumstances that forced this confederation: a soldier stands facing, his head right as he holds a spear and sword. His left foot is trampling a Roman standard, a physical manifestation of their defiance toward the Romans. A recumbent bull is seen to the right of the soldier. The bull serves as another symbol of the Italians, and other Italian tribes’ Social War coinage issues feature an Italian bull goring a Roman wolf (from the Romulus and Remus myth). A sharp strike and exceptional luster combine with the impeccable reverse centering to highlight the details of this choice issue. Attractive old cabinet toning adds further appeal.

Look for this and other ancient and world numismatic rarities in our upcoming January New York International Numismatic Convention Auction and Sale. Preview this impressive coin along with the rest of our auction this December at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio office located in Irvine, California. For details please refer to the Events Calendar link at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646. While our Stack’s Bowers Galleries January New York International Numismatic Convention Auction is no longer open for consignments, we are currently taking consignments of ancient and world coins for our August 2015 ANA World’s Fair of Money Showcase Auction and our April 2015 Hong Kong Showcase Auction of Asian Coins and Currency. If you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.

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