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Admiral Domenico Carro wrote:

I "discovered" your great website through the "Pomoerium Classics links" and I immediately posted some links to your pages "Roman Warships", "The Basic naval Tactic of Ramming", "Parts of a Roman Warship", "The Battle of Actium" and "Transportation and Voyaging by Sea in Roman Times" in the links page ("Accreditamenti - Credits") of my site "Navigare Necesse Est" on the naval and maritime history of ancient Rome (mainly in Italian).

Now I would like to put other three links to the following images of coins illustrating Roman ships:

To that aim, could you be so kind to give me some information about these three coins? (i.e.: name of the coins, if any; date and/or name of the relevant emperor; type of ship, id known). I hope that you will find as soon as possible a new server hosting your site, and that you could advise us when the new URL is activated.

Thank you in advance for your attention. Happy new year,

Domenico Carro


Dear Admiral Carro:

Here is the information I promised. The site is back up and running but I have not designed a new "front door" for it yet. I checked most of the links and they were working.

Let us start with the earliest coin image first:

This is a tetrashekel (roughly equivalent in weight to two Attic tetradrachms) issued by the Phoenician city of Sidon, probably during the reign of King Bodashtart and later. David Sear states that the coin was issued "before 333 B. C." and that Bodashtart reigned from 284 - 270 B. C. As there is no regnal inscription on the coin, indeed no lettering except for the solitary Phoenecian legger "g" above the ship, the coin is not directly attributable to this ruler. Approximate dating was probably done contextually, as many of these coins were found in sites along with other datable artifacts and coins. The ship is mosd definitely a warship, the shields along her gunwales showing clearly, the mast stepped (not evident in image but this fact can be implied by what we know about Phoenician warships) and her oars deployed. The ships most powerful offensive weapon, her ram, is visible though not boldly struck on this coin example but on other examples of this type I have examined the ram was more boldly struck. Sear states that the stern of the ship bears a standard, but, in my opinion that might possibly be a steersman and steering oar. Also, on my example, the ship's beak is visible in the bow. This structure limited penetration of the ram, while crushing the enemy gunwales during ramming.

The reverse of this coin bears an image of a bearded god riding in a two - wheeled cart followed by a figure on foot carrying a sceptre, presumably King Bodastart. I have not published the reverse image as I haven't gotten around to doing a section on the Phoenecians yet.

This particular coin bears one of the best images of ancient warships on coins. One needs to be careful in studying coin images of ancient ships. Most of the artisans who cut the die images for coins knew little about current naval architecture, tactics, and technology. Popular rumours and half - truths concerning naval tactics and capabilities of weapons systems were as common then as now. Also, the Romans tended to superimpose allegorical images on their ship images on coins. Fortunately, the two others you asked about are reasonably accurate portraylas.

The next image:

actually appears again in a separate updated section on military images on coins at:

while a nice clear example of this coin type and an accompanying article can be viewed at:

These two coins are examples of a series of coins struck by Marcus Antonius to pay his troops during the struggle with Octavian for control of the Roman world during the period of imperatorial civil war from 35 - 30 B. C. The better of these two images clearly shows the ram. Recovery of at least one example from an ancient shipwreck shows that this structure by now was a bronze casting weighing several hundred pounds and bearing three horizontal cutters cast with the vertical blade, as the coin image attempts to accurately portray. The oars are distinctly shown and the heads of the troops rowing the ships appear as dots.

The reverse bears an image of the aquila or Roman eagle standard that was the prized and sacred emblem of the legion. These were carried into battle by the aquilifer (eagle - bearer) and their loss to an enemy was considered an awful disgrace. In fact, the return of eagle standards captured from Crassus' legions after their annihilation by the Parthians was ine of the terms of a future peace treaty.

The Legionary Denarii of Marcus Antonius were struck with each coin bearing the number of the legion to which it was issued as pay. With wartime scarcity of silver as an excuse, the coins were debased until they were about 80 percent silver. Examples can be found with the legionary ordinal I through XXX but Seaby states of numbers XXIV through XXX that "It is doubtful if any authentic specimens of these numbers exist."

The last coin about which you asked:

is the reverse of a quinarius of the British usurper Allectus (A. D. 286 - 293). I have included a short biographical sketch and the image of the obverse of this coin in the link below:

This crude image is possibly of one of the ships of the Saxon Shore fleet.



Thubron, Colin The Ancient Mariners (The Seafarers)   Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1981.

Nelson, Richard B. The Battle of Salamis   London: William Luscombe, 1975.

Casson, Lionel Ships and Seafaring in Ancient Times   Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1994.

Warry, John Warfare in the Classical World   Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995.

Seaby, H. A. Roman Silver Coins, V. I : Republic to Augustus   London: Seaby Publications Ltd., 1978.

Sear, David R. Greek Coins and their Values Vol. II Asia and North Africa   London: Seaby Publications, 1975.

Sear, David R. Roman Coins and Their Values, Fourth Revised Edition    London: Seaby Publications Ltd., 1988.


Jay King


Dear Mr. King,

Thank you very much for your so detailed and exhaustive information! I immediately posted the new links to the two coins of Marc Antony and to the coin of Allectus. Unfortunately I could not put a link to the first coin you described (the tetrashekel of Sidon) because it was issued before the Romanisation of the Eastern Mediterranean; and the Sidonian ships were not (yet) contributing to the Roman maritime power (I think that they gave their first contribution to the Roman fleets during the civil war carried out by Pompey the Great against Caesar). It's a pity, because it is really a very interesting warship. However I included several additional links to other pages and images of your nice site: The Rulers of the Roman World (Pompey the Great, Sextus Pompey, Marc Antony, Octavian and Agrippa) and Reverse Symbols (Rudder and Rostrum).

I am writing a Roman naval and maritime history, named "Classica", in twelve books (one per year): the firsts seven of them (from the landing of Aeneas in Italy until Julius Caesar) are already published, as shown in my website "Navigare Necesse Est". I am presently working on the history of the Octavian's period for the book VIII, which will be published at the end of this year. In order to illustrate the battle of Actium I would like to use an image of a denarius of Marc Antony (some that are on your site.

If you agree that I use an image of yours, I will write under it: "taken from the Internet site ...", followed by the name of your site and its URL; and "The reproduction was kindly allowed by Prof. Jay King". These sentences will obviously be written in Italian, in a more correct way than my bad English. Please let me know if you have anything against that idea.

Best regards,

Domenico Carro

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