Roman coins “worth millions” found in Como

Spectacular archaeological discovery in Lombardy.

Archaeologists have unearthed a pot of gold coins dating back to the 5th century AD under an abandoned theatre in Como, just 50 km from Milan.

Stored in a soapstone pot, the coins were minted with the faces of emperors Honorius, Valentinian III, Leon I, Antonio, and Libio Severo, which suggests the coins likely don’t go beyond 474 AD, culture ministry coin expert Maria Grazia Facchinetti told media.

Facchinetti said the owner of the jar likely “buried it in such a way that in case of danger they could go and retrieve it.” She said the coins were “stacked in rolls similar to those seen in banks today.” She said she suspects the coins didn’t belong to a private individual, but rather a bank or some other commercial enterprise.

Along with the around 300 coins was a gold lingot or bar, and some other, as yet unidentified objects.

The find came to light as workers were preparing to demolish the abandoned and condemned Cressoni Theatre, which opened in 1870 and finally closed in 1997.  The material, discovered in the basement, was immediately sent to a culture ministry research establishment in Milan, where experts are working their way through the contents. At present around 30 of the coins have been analysed, weighing some 4 grams each.

The location of the find is only feet away from the site of the Roman forum, a place where merchants, banks and temples traditionally did brisk cash business.  But it was also an upmarket residential neighbourhood, leaving open the possibility that a wealthy individual had hidden his or her personal wealth for later retrieval.

While the exact value of the trove is yet to be established, preliminary estimates range between $800,000 to $1.5 million.