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Research Coins: Feature Auction

Sale: Triton IX, Lot: 1462. Estimate $2000. 
Closing Date: Monday, 9 January 2006. 
Sold For $2800. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

HADRIAN. 117-138 AD. AR Cistophoric Tetradrachm (10.03 g, 5h). Nicomedia mint. Struck after 128 AD. IMP CAES TRA HADRIANO AVG P P, bare head right / COM BIT, octastyle temple set on three-tiered podium, ROM S P AVG across frieze, plain pediment, pellet between central columns. RIC II 461a; Metcalf, Cistophori, type B4 (unlisted dies); BMCRE 1099 note; RSC 240a. Near EF. Well struck from fresh dies. ($2000)

Cistophori were produced in the name of the Commune Bithyniae only once, under Hadrian. The inscription on the frieze, reconstructed as ROM(ae) S(enatui) P(opulo) AVG(usto) and translated as "To Rome, the Senate, the People, and Augustus" tentatively identifies the building as a temple of Rome and Augustus at Nicomedia. No archaeological remains of this structure have as yet been found, and reconstructions of it are based entirely on the second century numismatic evidence. Both Tacitus and Dio Cassius report that in 19 BC Augustus did authorize the construction of a temple to Rome and himself at Pergamum, an event commemorated on his cistophori there. No such evidence for a temple at Nicomedia occurs earlier than this cistophorus.


Called cistophoric tetradrachms because of the sacred basket (cista mystica) on the obverse when the coins first struck in Pergamum in the 2nd century BC, these coins were soon minted elsewhere in western Asia Minor and became the currency of trade throughout the remainder of the Hellenistic period. The Romans continued to strike them, conveniently tariffed at three Roman denarii. Under Hadrian, the type was revived, and a major recoinage was undertaken of the worn cistophori in circulation, with numerous reverse types struck at a variety of mints. The inclusion of Pater Patriae in most of the legends, a title assumed in 128 AD, establishes a terminus post quem for the striking of these cistophoric tetradrachms. Hadrian toured Asia Minor twice, spending part of 123 AD in Bithynia and the whole of 129 AD touring the rest of Asia Minor. It was during this latter trip that the majority of these coins were struck. The emphasis on important local cults like those of Diana Ephesia or local mythological allusions, like those of Nysa, when combined with the clear obverse die links across the various mints, suggests that these coins were struck in each of the mint cities as Hadrian visited those locations.