Culture

The greatest treasure of counterfeit coins in Hispania is in Badajoz

Felicissimus was the head of the Treasury of Rome between the years 270 and 271. But, instead of looking after the empire’s mints, he dedicated himself to keeping a part of the silver with which the coins were made and to minting others of lesser quality. The fraud was discovered by the authorities, which caused a gigantic revolt among the workers, who had to take their part in the scam, known as Bellum Monetariorum (the war of the Purses) , which could only be put down by sending the legions. More than 7. 000 soldiers lost their lives, as did Felicissimus, who was killed. Even the mint itself of Rome had to be temporarily closed.

When it was all over, abundant and irregular series of Divoclaudian Antoninians ―coins in honor of Emperor Claudius II and issued from the year 270, Aureliano’s reign began – they were already running throughout the empire. Not only those minted in Rome, but the counterfeit model was exported to Gaul and North Africa, where new mints dedicated to mass imitation of these copies were created. And so they arrived in Hispania, at an economically bad time, where the small coin did not exist and where the factories of imitation pieces alleviated that shortage.

In 1986, during excavations in the city of Regina Turdulorum (Casas de Reina, Badajoz) a group of 818 of these coins minted in copper and a fibula that tied the bag where they were hidden, possibly by a merchant or a tavern keeper. Perhaps because they did not seem of much value, they were not analyzed after being discovered and were stored in the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Badajoz. But now the study El tesoro de Regina Turdulorum (Casas de Reina, Badajoz) , published by the publisher Archaeopress (Oxford), by the historian and doctor in archeology David Martínez Chico, turns it into “The most outstanding Divoclaudian imitation money set in Hispania.”

Most of the coins, minted in copper, are of the Divo Claudio and bear the legend consecratio (consecration) on the reverse. The most common figure of this face is the funeral pyre in front of the eagle, symbols that made reference to the conversion of the emperor into a divinity.

Regina Turdulorum was a Betic city that was in the Plain of San Bernardo, in the foothills of Sierra Morena. Its location allowed easy access to the mining resources of the south of the peninsula and to the fundamental road axis that linked two large cities: Híspalis (Seville) and Emerita Augusta (Mérida). Regina had its origin in a oppidum túrdulo ―Iberian people between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC, which became municipium during Vespasian’s reign (1st century) and disappeared in the late 4th or early 5th centuries, when the treasure was hidden.

Fíbula para atacar el bolso con las monedas hallado en Casas de Reina (Badajoz).
Fibula to attack the bag with the coins found in Casas de Reina (Badajoz) .

Regina has been excavated since the eighties of the last century. Archaeologists have determined that it had an orthogonal base, with paved roads and a powerful drainage network, as well as public buildings such as a theater, a forum, a temple dedicated to Pietas Augusta and a construction of a commercial nature. The coins were found compacted between the walls of the southern façade of the latter building, some 90 meters from the road. Next to them, a fibula was also located that “must have served as a lock for a linen, cloth or leather bag, and where the coins must have been hidden in origin.” The southern walls of the building where it was found currently conserve its plinth and part of the elevation, and in it a significant number of amphorae embedded in the sand have been exhumed, which allows archaeologists to suggest that it was a shop or tavern.

Martínez Chico recalls that “this set, despite the years that have passed since its discovery, had never been studied” and that “it raises more questions than answers.” The historian details that the fibula was manufactured between the 2nd or 3rd centuries with “a beautiful polychrome of brightly colored enamel” and that the bag was made of “linen, cloth or leather”.

“Regina’s treasure deserves to be interpreted from various points of view and the main thing is that perhaps we are talking about pieces withdrawn from circulation and intentionally because they have been identified as imitations,” explains Martínez Chico. “Be that as it may”, he continues, “this does not exclude their implicit acceptance by their eventual users, knowing that they were imitations. If the intention was to proceed with their smelting, exchange them for other currencies after a legal demonetization or, even, to launch them again in a timely manner into the monetary circuit, it is something that we will not know for sure “. That is a secret that the shopkeeper took to the grave.

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