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initial letters S.C., for a long time presented a problem upon which the acuteness of numismatists was exercised. Some considered them to be simply commemorative medals, some as experiments or proofs of the engravers, some as imperial gifts; others thought they were destined for military insignia, and so forth.
Now however the problem may be considered as solved by the explanation that the Medallions are nothing else than multiples of coins, and that they were themselves coins, whatever the metal may be, whether gold, silver, or bronze. For the gold and silver
there would not be much difficulty in admitting such a theory as it is easy to verify from the weight that they are always multiples of a coin. But it may not be so readily admitted in regard to the bronze because it is much more difficult to verify the weight since
it is always more or less inexact in the multiples just as it is also in the ordinary coinage.
Different hypotheses and errors concerning the differentia of the Medallions arose from the fact that some writers only took the appeurance into consideration; they attributed, that is to say, the greatest importance to the form, and passed over the substance.
For that reason they would not recognize as Medallions of bronze any pieces except from the time of Hadrian when they were distinguished from ordinary coins by their superior art; such writers always remained in doubt concerning the few specimens which bore the initial letters S.C., laying it down as a law that one of the characteristics of the medallions was the decided absence of such initials.
All the difficulties vanish and the subject appears wonderfully simple when we remember the distinction enunciated in chapter XXIII (S 200) concerning the coinage of bronze.
In that chapter it was explained that the Imperial bronze coinage should be divided into two great classes, the bronze coined by the Senate and signed always with the initial letters S.C. the mark of ihe Senate's authority, and parallel with these, the bronze coinage issued by the Emperors on their own authority, lacking the initial letters S.C. Thus it happens that we have the ordinary coinage (I AE, II AE, and III AE), in these two series, and moreover we
have also their multiples or medallions both in the Senatorial series bearing the initials S C, and in the Imperial series without those letters.
224. It will be well to notice that while the Senatorial series supplies us abundantly with the ordinary coinage it contains very few multiples or Medallions except for the reign of Trajanus Decius
(249-251); the Imperial series gives us very few of the ordinary coins but an abundance relatively of the multiples or Medallions. Thus it happened that those of the Senatorial series were altogether
Fig. 57. – Bronze Medallion of Hadrian with raised circle. ignored while the attention of collectors was almost exclusively drawn to the Imperial series of medallions, the ordinary coinage of this series being neglected on account of their scarceness.
225. Medallions, whether Senatorial or Imperial, were the result of the Emperor's orders ; but while those coined by the Senate always preserved the style and fabric of the ordinary coinage and
on this account can only be distinguished by their greater weight and size, those coined by the Emperors are distinct pieces, and although the Imperial coinage (that is the ordinary coins and their multiples) was at first similar to that issued by the Senate, it assumed a special form and character from the time of Hadrian.
From that time the workmanship was always more accurate and much superior to that of the Senatorial Bronze; the size of the multiples was increased, art was especially apparent, the artists putting forth all their powers.
226. Medallions formed of two metals (chap. XII, 112) and encircled Medallions (chap. XII, 113) are found in both series, but
are always more numerous and richly wrought in the Imperial series.
Hence all facts go to prove that the Roman Medallion, admitting indeed that it owed its origin to some special circumstance, and thence had when first issued some special office, was nothing else