Obverse, silver denarius, L. Cassius Longīnus, Vestal virgin Obverse, silver denarius, L. Cassius Longīnus, voting

This coin is part of a presentation done by University of Glasgow in relation to a seminar on coinage and numismatics. The coin is introduced in a video done by the Hunterian Museum, and I have found some further information on the coin via Dartmouth.edu. Three symbols are present: The Vestal virgin herself; what looks like the letter ‘C’; and a vessel, looking like an oil lamp. Dartmouth explains them as such:

Coin Information

Silver Denarius of Lucius Cassius Longinus
Rome, 63 BCE

Obverse: Veiled female bust facing left, likely representing a Vestal Virgin. Behind, a shallow vessel with a short base and two upright handles, identified as a culullus. Previously she has been identified with the goddess Vesta, but her headdress and culullus link her with the only permanent female priesthood in Republican Rome. The lack of descriptive legend makes identification more difficult and infers that the ancient Romans would know what was being represented.

(As a note: THM does not agree with Dartmouth on whom is being depicted; THM states it is the goddess whilst Dartmouth specifically denies this, as per the above.)

The Hunterian Museum does not detail anything about that which looks like a letter, and the coin demonstrated in the video, does not have the C-like symbol, but rather something that I at first thought was a phallos (which would make sense, considering the scandal for which they were convicted and sentenced to death), but (considering what is written at Dartmouth) must rather be an ‘L’ (v.i.).

Obverse, silver denarius, L. Cassius Longīnus, Vestal virgin, from the Hunterian Museum

Reading further at Dartmouth, they tell the following:

Based on the coin seen at left, tentatively minted with the same pair of dies, the lower left edge of the obverse field can be reconstructed and the mint mark can be determined as a C. The known mint marks of these coins use the letters of the praenomen and nomen of the tresvir monetales responsible for the minting: L C A S I.

Are the minters’ names lost to history, or do we know whom they were? Further, how common was it for them to identify themselves at this time, and would the general population be able to understand and identify the minters? They would hold quite a lot of power, given their official function as basically imperial houses of propaganda, and as far as I understand, by the time of the late Republic, we know more about these officials.

  • 1
    If I missed something in the above (and in the sources), I do apologise; I am trying to prepare for two seminars with little time to spare, so I have not had the time to re-review the information too thoroughly.
    – Canned Man
    Feb 10 '21 at 23:51
  • No, I generally have a tendency to forget about Wikipedia when investigating things like this; I shouldn’t. My Q: In short: Can we know who actually minted the coin, and is the letter a minter’s mark telling us who they were? @sebastian-koppehel answered this below. Thank you for your question.
    – Canned Man
    Feb 11 '21 at 11:34

The triumvir monetalis (not tresvir monetales, as the Dartmouth site writes – that is gibberish) responsible was L. Cassius Longinus. His name and job title is on the reverse in big fat letters.

I believe the single letter on the obverse is a “control letter” or die mark. It is my understanding that the purpose of these marks – sometimes letters, at other times graphical symbols – which were very commonplace on republican coins, is not well understood and may have varied, but it probably had to do with the internal organisation of the mint. It may have had the purpose of preventing or tracing fraud and counterfeiting. All the Dartmouth site is saying is that for this particular coin, only the letters L C A S I have been found, and it certainly looks like they may have been taken from the name of L. CASSIUS.

  • Excellent answer! I did not realise that LCL was the same as the minter. I understand from the answer that the only thing we can know about the minter, is who his boss was, and not who the actual minter was. The information you provide on the letters being control letters was completely new to me, so this will be valuable when I am doing my seminar today. Thank you very much!
    – Canned Man
    Feb 11 '21 at 11:31
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    @CannedMan The tresviri monetales were an entry-level public office typically held by young Romans hopeful for a senatorial career. I doubt they performed the actual physical labour of minting themselves. Even at the time it would presumably not have been possible to link any coin to the precise worker who made it -- though to those in the know, the die marks might have given a clue. It's also possible they only indicate a particular lot of silver, or whatever. Feb 11 '21 at 17:51

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