A treasure of 175 silver coins discovered in a forest in Italy may have been buried to prevent it from being stolen during a Roman civil war.

The silver coins, mainly from the first century BC, worth tens of thousands of dollars in today’s money in face value alone, were found in 2021 in Tuscany and relate to a turbulent period in Roman history

In particular, the coins appear to date from 82 BC, when the Roman general Lefkios Cornelius Syllas he advanced with his troops against Rome itself twice, enjoying the absolute power conferred upon him by the office of Dictator.

Archaeologists who investigated the hoard of 175 silver Roman denarii believe it may have been buried by a Roman legionnaire killed in battle.

LORELLA ALDERIGHI

But historian Federico Santagello, professor of Classics and Ancient History at Newcastle University in the UK, believes the treasure could also have been buried by a businessman who wanted to keep his money safe.

“I don’t think they should open that money to a soldier, although in principle it is possible,” Santangelo, who was not involved in the discovery, told Live Science.

The dates of such hoards indicate that many were buried during wars and unrest. “A lot of people in times of crisis buried their money and for some reason they couldn’t get it back,” said Santangelo.

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LORELLA ALDERIGHI

Researchers discovered the coins buried in a terracotta pot in 2021, but they kept it a secret so that the site is fully explored.

Archaeologist Loretta Andellirigi told Live Science that the coins were discovered by a member of an archaeological team in a recently logged area of ​​forest northeast of the city of Livorno in Tuscany.

Archaeological investigations revealed that the oldest coins date from 157 or 156 BC, while the most recent were from 83 or 82 BC, he clarified.

The area was probably wooded then as it is now, on a small hill overlooking a swamp. The ruins of a Roman farm they had previously been found about half a mile (1 kilometer) away, he said.

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.PISA-LIVORNO SUPERINTENDENCY OF ARCHAEOLOGY, FINE ARTS AND LANDSCAPE

“The coins have definitely been hidden – they were a ‘treasure’ or piggy bank,” he said. “The easiest way to hide valuables was to bury them away from houses, where no one could find them.”

But whoever buried the coins he never came back to get them back.

“These coins may have been the savings of a soldier returning home [κατά τη διάρκεια] of his military service,” he said. “He had hidden them because they were a useful sum, maybe to buy, or start his own farm.”

Alderigi noted that the treasure was buried during a turbulent period in Italian history. A few years earlier, Italy had been gripped by the so-called “Social War” between Rome and its Italian allies, while in 82 BC. Sulla had just returned with his legions from Asia to face his enemies in Rome, having already attacked the city in 88 BC. and was declared a “public enemy” in 87 BC. “It was a very turbulent historical period,” he commented. “Sulla’s soldiers conquered territory as they advanced from south to north. But central Italy and Tuscany were not yet conquered.’

Santazello added that Sulla’s victory at the end of 82 BC. it was roughly a “blueprint” for later Roman rulers to follow. His victory was followed some 30 years later by a much larger civil war between Julius Caesar and Gnaius Pompey the Great, who rose to power as Sulla’s vice-leader. And Caesar’s victory in this war led to the rise to power of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, in 27 BC. “It became absolutely clear to everyone that whoever emerged victorious in the civil war would be — perhaps not in law, but certainly in fact — the master of Rome,” Santazello pointed out.