Much has been written on the reign and coinage of Carausius and it is not my intention to add another numismatic biography here. What I would like to do is explore a couple of themes surrounding his mints.
The “L” Mint
This mint is taken by most to be located at London, although a recent suggestion is that it may stand for Legionensis (ie of the legions) with the C mnt being a Civil Service branch (Williams, 2004). I guess this idea is an expansion of the RSR being the mark of the Rationalis Summae Rei, but one that I do not find attractive.
A range of marks are known for London and the sequence would appear to be thus:
The S/P//ML mark continues through into the reign of Allectus so we can be fairly sure that this is the latest mark. It is further borne out by its scarcity compared to, say, the previous mark as if it were terminated before the usual volume of coins were struck.
The coinage of Carausius can generally be divided into those that give him the title Caesar (later) and those that do not (earlier). This change appears to have taken place during the B/E//MLXXI mark.
Can anything be deduced about the issues and officinae as with the coins of other reigns? It would, on the face of it, appear easy. The reign of Carausius fits between 286/7 and 293 so why not just give one mark per year? Well, for a start that makes an assumption that the marks were changed at regular intervals. That would appear to have been the case with the late Constantinian coinage but why should it apply here. Secondly that would not explain the relative scarcity of some marks. It is true that the scarcity of S/P//ML can be explained but not the rarity of L/-//ML compared to other marks. So how do the various authors classify the London mint?
Webb, interestingly, has the S/P//MLXXI issue flanked by the B/E//MLXXI issues but there is no evidence to suggest that this is really the case. Shiel does not discuss the placing of the L/-//ML mark however he does acknowledge that it is a rare mark and that it possibly doesn’t represent a full or substantive issue. Similarly Williams, in his 1994 MPhil thesis (published as a BAR volume in 2004) only gives this mark one six month period whereas he gives two or even three six month issue periods to some other London marks.
The “C” Mint
The debate over this mint location continues, Camulodunum, Clausentum, even Classis, Colonia Lindum and Glevum (recognising the similarity in die cutting between C and G) have been considered. Williams (2004) undertakes an analysis of Carausian coin hoards to see if this can tell us anything about the mint location of the C marked coins. This relies on the assumption of distance decay in that the coins will be over abundant in deposits closer to the mint before being diluted out with other coins the further from the mint you travel. Such analyses have been done to delimit tribal areas with Celtic gold in Britain. The Roman world was somewhat different to pre-Roman Britain and takes no account of any centralised mixing and distribution of coin.
Once again if there is a gap it means that, although the marks were known to the author, the mark was not specifically tabulated in their work.
Interestingly both Williams and Lyne consider the products of the coins marked S/P//- and S/C//- as being the late products of an “unmarked” mint, whereas Casey lumps these coins in with the produscts of the “C” mint c. 291 AD. I have to say that I like the idea of a third British mint. Why else bother to give the coins field marks if the exergual mint identifier were to be missed off unless it was a discrete identity?