Medallions

There are currently three large medallions known of the usurper Carausius that all came to light during the twentieth century. There are no known find spots for these items and all now reside in the British Museum, having been acquired between 1967 and 1997.

All the medallions are in base metal and are of a size, greater than 30mm in diameter, that woud preclude their insertion into the normal denominational structure. This, combined with their iconography, the bust left of Carausius wearing the trabaea, or consular robes, suggest that these are a special issue. I use the singular here as there are similarities between the three pieces that do suggest a coherence.

The first medallion to surface was the one pictured below:

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IMP C M CARAVSIVS P F AVG

VICTORIA CARAVSI AVG, I.N.P.C.D.A in exergue

Victory in quadriga galloping right

The piece was brought to the British Museum in 1931, but not in time for its inclusion in the second part of RIC 5, although it was 1967 before they could finally acquire the item.

The second medallion has a different reverse and in the exergue the more familiar RSR mark:

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IMP C [M A]VR CARAVSIVS P F AVG GER

VICTOR CARAVSIVS AVG GERM MAX, RSR in exergue

Carausius standing left holding globe and spear in his right being crwoned by Victory

This medallion was acquired in 1972 and it has been suggested by Robert Carson that the two medallions may even have been originally found together, based on their similar appearence.

The final medallion is in much poorer condition although it is clear that this is a medallion of Carausius:

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IMP C M AVR CARAVSIVS P F AVG GER?

PACATOR ORBIS, RSR in exergue?

Carausius standing left holding globe and spear in his right being crwoned by Victory

This was the latest one to surface and was acquired from the Mabbott collection (via A H Baldwin) in 1997. The obverse is unclear but it is not outside the bounds of possibillity that it is an obverse die duplicate of the previous medallion. She similarity of the reverse type should also not go un-noticed. Although the reverse die is smaller than the obverse and the used flan the device of the emperor being crowned by Victory could come from the same master punch.

Guy de la Bedoyere has put forward a theory that explains both the RSR (also found on gold, silver and base metal coins) and the I.N.P.C.D.A exergue marks. He suggests that RSR is an abbreviation of Redeunt Saturnia Regna (“the return of the Saturnalian kingdom”) whilst the latter mark is Iam Nova Progenies Caela Demittitur Alto (“the goden age returns”). He made the discovery that in Vergil’s Eclogues iv, 6-7, that exact phrase occurs. The Virgilian derived phrase, Expectate Veni, already being familiar in the Carausian numismatic repertoire means that this explanation is very convincing.

It is clear that the RSR mark is also the same mint that struck some un-marked issues (and therefore suggesting that RSR is not an office or mint signature and enhancing the de la Bedoyere hypothesis) can be demonstrated by the radiate coins struck from the VICTORIA CARAVSI A obverse die, of which three examples are known all with different reverses. One has RSR in the exergue (BM), one doesn’t (my specimen) and the third one being sadly unclear but probably doesn’t have a mark BM, (ex Little Orme hoard):

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[..............] MIL AETERN, RSR

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LI[.......]I AV

FORTVN[.......] CV

There is an inherent similarity between the VICTORIA CARAVSI A coins with their martial busts and the three medallions two of which give Carausius a German title and two give him a victory. The use of the RSR mark demonstrates the contemporaneity of the coins and medallions. It looks that all these coins and medals are promoting a German victory early on in his reign, although it is not outside the bounds of possibility that the victory he was celebrating occured before his elevation to Augustus. One cannot help but notice the occasional trophy reverses of Gallienus that continue to promote German victories that are recorded through Carausius’ reign and these could reflect an ongoing campaign against the free Germanic tribes.

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VICTORIA GERM

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