The Tripolis mint of late third century Rome
A list of all the coin types. An educational resource for collectors.
    by Warren Esty

Diocletian 330

 

A Tripolis coin of Diocletian with the distinctive "TR" mintmark in the field.
Poorly engraved portraits are also a characteristic of the Tripolis mint.

map

Tripolis minted Roman coins, radiate "aureliani" (a.k.a. "antoniniani") and a few aurei, for a limited time during the reigns from Aurelian (AD 270-275) through Diocletian and Maximian (284-305). The mint was probably closed about 286. The Tripolis coins of Aurelian and Tacitus are not clearly mintmarked, but after Tacitus, Tripolis coins are marked "TR" in the reverse field. The mint city is normally identified with the Tripolis south of Antioch (lower right on the map). However, one scholar, F. Redö, argued the coins were minted at a different Tripolis (in Phrygia, in Asia Minor, center left on his map reproduced here) and argues that it was also the city of the enigmatic mint with mintmark "SPQR" in the exergue under Gallienus and Claudius II.
    I think the mint is the Tripolis south of Antioch. I list coins according to RIC which first assigns coins to Tripolis under Aurelian. This site lists only aureliani, not aurei.

References
Roman Imperial Coinage, volume V, part I, by Percy H. Webb, 1927 and volume V, part II, by Percy H. Webb, 1933. Spink & Son, London. (RIC)
D'Aurelien a Florien (270-276 apres J.-C.) by Sylviane Estiot (Estiot), Biliotheque National de France, Monnaies de l'Empire Romain, XII.1.  The new (2004) standard reference for coins of Aurelian, Tacitus, and Florian.  2004 in two volumes.
Aureliano, volume II.1, Ripostiglio della Venera Nuovo Catalogo Illustrato, by Sylvane Estiot (Est) . 1995.
"The history of the SPQR mint," by F. Redö, in Mitteilungen des Archäolgischen Instituts der Ungarnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 12/13 1982/1983, Budapest, pages 85-111.
"Analyses de Series Atypiques" by J. P. Callu, Cl. Brenot, and J. N. Barrandon, in Numismatica e Antichita Classiche, VIII, 1979, pages 241-254.
"The alloy of the 'XI' coins of Tacitus" by Warren Esty, Nancy Equall, and Richard Smith, in Numismatic Chronicle, 1993, pages 97-226.
Roman Imperial Coins in the Hunter Coin Cabinet, volume IV, by Anne Robertson, 19878, Oxford University Press.  (Hunter)
Ripostiglio della Venera Nuovo Catalogo Illustrato, Aureliano, volume II/1, by Sylviane Estiot, 1995
 
Key to the Format of each entry:
Obverse legend
Reverse legend

(obverse legend variety,
if applicable)
RIC number
and page.
Estiot BN reference (for Aurelian and Tacitus)
Estiot Aureliano reference (for Aurelian)
Hunter reference
Other references
Reverse type description                                
(as given in RIC)

mintmark, including field marks

IMAGE of obverse and reverse
 
For a short note on the rarity of the types, click here


RIC notes on the Tripolis mint  

RIC V,I:  p.25:  Mint established by Aurelian and continued by his successors.

Aurelian (AD 270-275)        RIC V,I
RIC p.261 a small number of coins from late in the reign, marked * in field or KA in exergue, or both
Obverse legend:  IMP C AVRELIANVS AVG
RESTITVT ORBIS RIC#389, p.309.
"C"
Estiot emission 3-5, pages 438-9. Spring 274 - end of 274.
Plates 45-6, 1374-1393

Est 10827-9.
Hunter --
Woman presenting wreath to emperor
* in middle field
KA in exergue
 
Aurelian 389
SOLI INVICTO RIC#390, p.309.
Estiot emission 1-2, page 438.
Plate 45, 1368 (nothing in ex.) 1371 (KA in ex.)

Est 10826.
Hunter 34.116-7.
Sol stg l, r hand raised, l holding globe; at foot to l, captive.
* in left field, KA in exergue.
Obverse bust left on the 2 pieces illustrated in Hunter 34.116&117
Hunter:  2 photos of #390  (gF, wk aVF)
 
RIC 390
SOLI INVICTO RIC#390, p.309
Estiot emission 1-2, page 438.
Plate 45, 1367 (nothing in ex.). 1369- 1370 and 1372-1373 (KA in ex.).
Same as above, but bust right.
Both have the same RIC number.
I list them here separately as distinct collectable types.
Aurelian 390, bust right



The bust left type is rare.

Tacitus  (AD 275-276)    
RIC p.325  Still no "TR" mintmark.  * over KA or IA.  Letters of irregular sizes; especially "S" and "C" larger than others
Obverse legend:  IMP C M CL TACITVS AVG  (only the first type has IMP C M CL TACITVS PF AVG)
PROVIDENTIA
DEORVM
(with PF in obverse legend)
Not in RIC.
Estiot emission 1, Nov.-Dec. 275, page 258.
Plate 64,
1838-1840
Emperor standing r holding scepter, receiving globe from Jupiter stg. l, holding scepter
* over dot over KA, or * over KA
Tacitus
PROVIDENTIA
DEORVM
(same type as above but without PF, as are the following issues)
Not in RIC.
Estiot emission 1, Nov.-Dec. 275, page 258.
Plate 64, 1839-1841
Emperor standing r holding scepter, receiving globe from Jupiter stg. l, holding scepter
* over dot over KA, or * over KA
PROVIDENTIA DEORVM
CLEMENTIA TEMP RIC#213, p.348
KA variety
Estiot emission 2
Jan.- June 276
Plate 64, 1845
Emperor stg r holding scepter, receiving globe from Jupiter stg. l, holding scepter
* over KA
no image
[See Diocletian 328 below for the reverse type.]
CLEMENTIA TEMP RIC#213, p.348
IA variety
Estiot emission 2
Jan.- June 276
Plate 64, 1848
Emperor stg r holding scepter, receiving globe from Jupiter stg. l, holding scepter
* over IA
no image, same type as previous.
CLEMENTIA TEMP RIC#214
KA variety
Estiot emission 2
Jan.- June 276
Plate 64, 1842-1844
Mars stg. or walking l, holding olive branch and spear and shield.  "R" 
* in field left, KA in exergue
Tacitus 214 KA
CLEMENTIA TEMP RIC#214
IA  variety
Plate X.154
"double anoninianus"
Estiot, emission 2, Jan.- June 276
Plate 64, 1846-1847
Mars stg. or walking l, holding olive branch and spear and shield.  "R" 
* in field left, IA in exergue
IA coins are slightly larger in diameter than KA coins. 
K is 20 in Greek] and "10 parts copper and 1 of silver" [I is 10 in Greek]. Therefore the very rare "IA" coins probably indicate a short-lived and ill-fated coin reform. They certainly would have been regarded as different by the issuer and users, and deserve two different reference numbers.
Tacitus 214 IA

There are no Tacitus examples in Hunter.
The "IA" type is extremely rare. The "KA" type is scarce to rare. Callu et al. showed that the "XI" type of Antioch and the "IA" (Greek for "XI") type of Tripolis had about twice the silver content of the usual "XXI" and "KA" (Greek for "XXI") types, conclusively proving that "20 - 1" had to mean either "twenty of these coins make one [of some higher standard]" or "twenty parts base metal to one of silver."  The latter interpretation has come to be accepted. Esty, et al. did further work on the alloy of these coins of Tacitus and again showed that the silver content of the "XI" and "IA" coins was about twice the silver content of the regular coins and consistent with the "ten parts base metal to one part silver" hypothesis. The conclusion is that Tacitus instituted a short-lived and ill-fated coin reform shortly after they initial reform of Aurelian in 274. Very few of these coins with higher silver content are extant. This "XI" = "IA" denomination is extremely rare.

Probus  (AD 276-282)         RIC V,II
p.16-17 "considerable output under Probus"
The difference between the two numbers is in the obverse legend -- the second lacks the "PF" of the first.
CLEMENTIA TEMP
(sometimes followed by a dot, as on this example)

IMP C M AVR PROBVS PF AVG
#927
p.121
plate V, 15

Hunter 353-354
Emp. stg. r holding scepter rec. globe from Jupiter stg l, holding scepter. Wreath in upper middle field.
XXI in exergue on this example.  Other mintmarks include
* in lower middle field above XXI,  and nothing, crescent, or T above KA in exergue ("T" for "Tripolis" according to Carson, Principate, #1034)
[The key difference between #927 and #928 is the obverse legend, not the mintmark]
Probus 927
CLEMENTIA TEMP

IMP C M AVR PROBVS AVG
#928
p.121
plate V, 16

Hunter 349-350
Emp. stg. r holding (eagle-tipped) scepter rec. globe from Jupiter stg l, holding scepter.
Crescent in lower middle field and KA in exergue on this example. Other mintmarks include nothing, T, or * above KA.
Probus 928


Hunter 348-355, plate 48, 4 photos.
RIC lists one aureus, "R3".
 
Carus and Family
p.131  The mintmark always TR over XXI, sometimes with * in upper field
    There is some resemblance to the coins of Antioch, but the portraits are coarse and ugly. Busts occupy a greater portion of the field, portraits are less pleasing, and the lettering is much less regular. As at Antioch, the emperor is always depicted radiate and draped and cuirassed to the right.

Carus  (AD 282-283)
Obverse legend:  IMP C M AVR CARVS PF AVG
VIRTVS AVGG
(sometimes followed by a dot)
#128, p.150
Hunter --
Emperor standing right, holding sceptre, receiving globe from Jupiter (or Carinus) standing left, holding sceptre.
* in upper field, TR in lower field, XXI in exergue.
Carus
DIVO CARO AVG
/CONSECRATIO
 
#129,
p. 150
Hunter --
eagle standing or looking left
T to left, R to right
XXI in exergue
no image
DIVO CARO AVG
/CONSECRATIO
not in RIC
(seen in trade)
altar, with garland, T to left, R to right
XXI in exergue. 

 






The CONSECRATIO types are extremely rare.

Numerian  (AD 282-284)
VIRTVS AVGG

IMP C M AVR NVMERIANVS NOB C
#380, p.191,
as Caesar
Hunter 16
plate 51.16
(worn aVF)
Emperor standing right, holding sceptre, receiving globe from Jupiter (or Carinus) standing left, holding sceptre .
* in upper field, TR in lower field, XXI in exergue.
Numerian
VIRTVS AVGG

IMP C M AVR NVMERIANVS PF AVG
#470, p.202,
as Augustus
Emperor standing right, holding sceptre, receiving globe from Jupiter (or Carinus) standing left, holding sceptre .
* in upper field, TR in lower field, XXI in exergue.
as Augustus


These two types differ only the change from Casear to Augustus in the obverse legend.


Carinus  (AD 282-285)
VIRTVS AVGG
or VIRTVS AVGG<dot>

IMP C M AVR CARINVS NOB C
#209, p.165
as Caesar
Prince standing right, holding sceptre and receiving globe from Jupiter (or Carus) standing left, holding sceptre.
[See #329 below for this reverse, but with obverse as Augustus.]
 Carinus.
VICTORIA AVG

IMP M AVR CARINVS PF AVG
 
#328, p.179
as Augustus
Emperor standing left, holding sceptre and receiving wreath from Victory, standing right, holding palm no image
[See Diocletian 330 for the reverse type]
VIRTVS AVGG
or VIRTVS AVGG<dot>

IMP C M AVR CARINVS PF AVG
#329, p. 179
as Augustus
Emperor standing right, holding sceptre (sometimes eagle-tipped), receiving Victory (with or without globe) from Jupiter (or Carus) standing left, holding sceptre.
This example has the globe, but not Victory on it.
* in upper field, TR in lower field, XXI in exergue.
Carinus, #329

None in Hunter. The fact that #209 as Caesar and #329 as Augustus are otherwise similar suggests that type #329 preceded type #328. Also, type #328 was continued by Diocletian, and #329 was not, suggesting the same thing.


Diocletian
p.218    "no great numbers" probably ceased between "290-293 " AD.  There are none for the Caesars elevated in 293.
p.257     7 varieties, 3 common, 4 rare, still TR in field low
Obverse legend:  IMP C C VAL DIOCLETIANVS P F AVG (except #333 omiting PF)
IOV ET HERCV CONSER AVGG
[note: two G's]
#327
p.257
Jupiter standing right holding globe and sceptre, facing  Hercules standing left, holding Victory, club, as lion's skin
XXI with palm left to right in exergue
IOV ET                    HERCV
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVG
[note:  one "G"]
#328
Hunter 75, plate 54.75
(Fine)
Emperor standing right, holding sceptre, receiving Victory on glove from Jupiter standing left, holding sceptre.
XXI in exergue
Diocletian 328
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG
[note: two G's]
#329
 
Emperor standing right, holding sceptre, receiving Victory on glove from Jupiter standing left, holding sceptre.
<palm>XXI in exergue
[The object held by the emperor is described by RIC as a "sceptre", but this may be the same object described by RIC and below as a "parazonium" (a short sword worn at the waist) under Maximian #626.]
Diocletian 329
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVG
[note:  one "G"]
#330 Victory right holding palm, presenting wreath to emperor holding globe and scepter
XXI in exergue
Diocletian 330
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG #331 Victory r holding palm, presenting wreath to emp holding globe and scepter
XXI<palm> in exergue
Diocletian 331
VICTORIA AVG #332 Victory r holding palm, presenting wreath to emp holding globe and scepter
XXI in exergue
no image
[See the next type for the reverse type.]
VICTORIA AVG
[same as above except PF omitted in the obverse legend]
#333 Victory r holding palm, presenting wreath to emp holding globe and scepter
XXI in exergue
333

#328, #330, and #333 have reverse legend with only one G, which probably means they were minted in the time before Maximianus was made co-Augustus. I argue the mint closed c. 286-287. The ratio of the number of examples of Diocletian as sole Augustus to Diocletian as joint Augustus suggests the mint was not open long under Maximian. Also, the ratio of the number of examples of Diocletian to the number of Maximian suggests it was not open long under Maximian. I conclude it was open about as long under Maximian as it was under Diocletian before Maximian was elevated -- say, a only year or two -- that is, until 286 or 287.


Maximian       
p.294-5 3 varieties, 2 common, 1 rare.
Obverse legend:  IMP C MAXIMIANVS PF AVG
IOV ET HERCV CONSER AVGG
(as Diocletian 327)
#624, p.294
Hunter 62, 63,
plate 56.63 (EF, sl. o/c)
Emp stg r holding globe and scepter,
facing Hercules stg l holding Victory,
club and lion's skin
XXI<palm> in exergue
or <palm>XXI
Maximian 624
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG
(as Diocletian 331)
#625, p.295 Victory walking right holding palm, presenting wreath to Jupiter left holding globe and scepter
XXI<palm> in exergue
Maximian 625
IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGG
(as Diocletian 329)
#626. p.295 Emperor standing right, holding parazonium, receiving Victory on globe from Jupiter.
XXI or <palm>XXI or XXI<palm> in exergue.
[This may be the same type as Diocletian 329, with the "sceptre" there called a "parazonium" (a short sword worn at the waist) here.]
#626 


Issues from the Tripolis mint were discontinued before the coin reform of c.293-296. I argue above under Diocletian that the mint closed c. 286-7.
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First posted Jan. 2003. 

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