The Shape of the Letter A

RRC 111/1, Central Italy (?) circa 211-208, AR 4.03 g. NAC 61 (5/10/11), lot. 498.
RRC 126/1;uncertain mint circa 206-200, AR 4.56 g. NAC 61 (5/10/11) lot 571

I enjoy how these two coins together illustrate the variety of acceptable forms of the letter A in the Latin alphabet at the end of the third century.  That on each specimen two very different forms of the same letter co-exist warns the epigrapher against using these letter forms alone as a dating criteria.  It also suggests to me that certain names were rendered in particular ways habitually.  Compare for instance the VAR ligature of RRC 126/1 with that C.VAR ligature of RRC 74/1 (links to BM specimen).  ROMA has an open single bar A because that’s just how the word looks right. 

The thing to read on Latin epigraphy these days is Alison Cooley’s book.  If you’re looking for something online this old school book is fun and still somewhat useful.  Also see Gordon’s guide.

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