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Coins, cult and cultural identity : Augustan coins, hot springs and the early Roman baths at Bourbonne-les-Bains

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posted on 25.05.2011, 12:00 by Eberhard Sauer
A large number of Roman coins (over 4,500) was discovered in the Puisard Romain, the Roman catchment installation of a hot spring at Bourbonne-les-Bains (departement Haute-Mame, France). No other deposit discovered within the entire Roman Empire contains, to my knowledge, a higher number of Augustan coins of any denomination. It is of considerable significance for the monetary history of the period. It is claimed in this work that this votive deposit, which has so far escaped the notice of the wider academic community despite its discovery as early as 1875, constitutes evidence for an army spa, possibly the earliest spa outside the Mediterranean provinces, and for a military base nearby. The composition of the coin series (most date to 16 BC/AD 1/9) leaves no doubt that deposition started as suddenly as it declined. A wider examination of coin offerings in springs points to an Italian origin for the votive custom of depositing base metal coins in springs. At this time Italy was still the main recruitment area for legionaries, the only group of foreigners whose temporary presence can explain the chronology and composition of the coin series. Most early spas in the north-west of the Empire were established by the army. As it had been widely accepted that no troops were left in the hinterland during the Germanic Wars of Augustus, the existence of a garrison is of major interest for the political history of Gaul and Germany. Statistical calculations, based upon circulation patterns as revealed by several Augustan coin assemblages, date the sudden decline in offerings to the very beginning of the first decade of the first century AD or, possibly, to the end of the previous decade. This was a time during which the Germanic War escalated, and when there would have been reasons to withdraw troops garrisoned near Bourbonne. A large number of Roman coins (over 4,500) was discovered in the Puisard Romain, the Roman catchment installation of a hot spring at Bourbonne-les-Bains (departement Haute-Mame, France). No other deposit discovered within the entire Roman Empire contains, to my knowledge, a higher number of Augustan coins of any denomination. It is of considerable significance for the monetary history of the period. It is claimed in this work that this votive deposit, which has so far escaped the notice of the wider academic community despite its discovery as early as 1875, constitutes evidence for an army spa, possibly the earliest spa outside the Mediterranean provinces, and for a military base nearby. The composition of the coin series (most date to 16 BC/AD 1/9) leaves no doubt that deposition started as suddenly as it declined. A wider examination of coin offerings in springs points to an Italian origin for the votive custom of depositing base metal coins in springs. At this time Italy was still the main recruitment area for legionaries, the only group of foreigners whose temporary presence can explain the chronology and composition of the coin series. Most early spas in the north-west of the Empire were established by the army. As it had been widely accepted that no troops were left in the hinterland during the Germanic Wars of Augustus, the existence of a garrison is of major interest for the political history of Gaul and Germany. Statistical calculations, based upon circulation patterns as revealed by several Augustan coin assemblages, date the sudden decline in offerings to the very beginning of the first decade of the first century AD or, possibly, to the end of the previous decade. This was a time during which the Germanic War escalated, and when there would have been reasons to withdraw troops garrisoned near Bourbonne.

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Citation

Sauer, Eberhard, Coins, cult and cultural identity: Augustan coins, hot springs and the early Roman baths at Bourbonne-Ies-Bains, (Copyright © 2005, E. Sauer and the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester).

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VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Sauer

Publisher

School of Archaeology & Ancient History, University of Leicester

isbn

0953891445

Copyright date

2005

Available date

25/05/2011

Publisher version

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/research/monographs

Notes

This document contains the introductory pages (pp. i-xviii) of this monograph including: Contents, List of Figures, List of Tables, Acknowledgements, Abstract and ‘Introduction: A cultural historian's approach’ by Eberhard Sauer.

Book series

Leicester Archaeology Monographs;No. 10

Language

en

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