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Roman Empire

Ruler: Tacitus
Reigned: 275 - 276 AD
Denomination: Base silver (10%) Antoninianus/Aurelianus
Mint: Tripolis
Date of Issue: January - June 276
Obverse: Bust right, radiate, cuirassed and draped with paludamentum." IMP. C.M. CL. TACITVS AVG."
Reverse: Mars in military dress standing (or walking) left, holding olive branch in right hand, spear and shield which rests on ground in left hand "CLEMENTIA TEMP•"
Mint marks:

Reference: RIC V.1 214 but see comment below.*** New RIC temp. no. #4114
Weight: 4.0 gms
Diameter: 21.6 mm
Comment: This coin is an example of an extremely rare denomination. The exergal mark "IA" is greek for "XI". These coins (marked IA at the Tripolis mint and XI at the Antioch mint [example]) have been shown to contain 10% silver (1)(2) (hence XI means a ratio of 10 parts copper to 1 part silver) as opposed to the normal XII meaning 20 to 1 (5% silver).

The discovery that these coins contained silver in a 10:1 ratio has given credence to the theory that the XXI marked coins of Aurelian's reform were meant to signify a 20:1 silver/copper ratio, rather than being a fraction or multiple of another denomination.

***The entry for RIC 214 gives both types, IA (XI) and KA (XXI), but deserves separate classification since they are clearly separate denominations.

(1) "Analyses de Series Atypiques" by J. P. Callu, Cl. Brenot, and J. N. Barrandon, in Numismatica e Antichita Classiche, VIII, 1979, pages 241-254.
(2) "The alloy of the 'XI' coins of Tacitus" by Warren Esty, Nancy Equall, and Richard Smith, in Numismatic Chronicle, 1993, pages 97-226

TACITUS (M. Claudius Tacitus)

  • When Aurelian was murdered in September 275, the soldiers who were with him, unusually, wrote to the senate in Rome, asking it to nominate one of its own members as emperor. This they did, electing their leading member, the elderly Marcus Claudius Tacitus.
  • His claim to be related to the famous historian Tacitus, was untrue.
  • Early in 276 he joined the army in Thrace, probably the same that Aurelian had assembled for a Persian offensive.
  • He advanced into Asia Minor claiming a victory over the Heruli in the spring of 276, and winning the title of 'Gothicus Maximus'
  • In July 276 he was murdered at Tyana in Cappadocia (southern Turkey), while preparing to return to Europe, after a reign of only six months.

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