Musing on the Muses

McCabe suggested to me that the obverses of RRC 410 represent the muses themselves and I am propagating a fiction of Grueber’s followed by Crawford.  He also points out I need to read P. Davis’ piece “Erato or Terpsichore : a reassessment”in Essays Witschonke (Davis accepts that 410/2-10 is obverse Apollo: the article focuses on reverses.)

Now I have to make up my own mind about what I see.  The symbols as labels on the obverse makes good sense and better sense than some silly control-mark system–the correlation to the reverse is clear — This is a big part of Davis’ point and how he clarifies Reverse IDs.

Do those heads look like Apollo?  Kinda sorta not really.  There are three Apollo types common on republican coinage: Archaic Curls, Loose Alexander/Helios like curls, and updo with tendrils down the neck.  Here are some comparative images of the three basics types.  The Apollo/Hercules with Lyre type is of the archaic curls varietal (RRC 410/1)

The rest of the series has an updo style but no tendrils and the roll around the forehead is different. The only updo with no tendrils that is definitely Apollo is RRC 504/1 and it is not a close visual parallel.  That male gods could have an updo with no tendrils is shown by Bonus Eventus on Libo’s coinage (RRC 416/1).  Most goddesses on Roman coinage have an earring and necklace and crown, or crown and veil to indicate gender (Pietas, Moneta, Concordia).  Is there a reason Muses wouldn’t wear jewelry?  Here are a bunch of muse (and Apollo) representations for within a 100 years of the coin (Red = from Moregine excavations near Pompeii; Yellow = House of Julia Felix, Pompeii).  I can’t spot any necklaces but I definitely see earrings.

I wanted to be certain it is a Muse on the obverse.  It’s logical.  It makes sense.  But I’m still ambivalent.  I may be I will be convinced when I read Davis?

same day update:

The ambiguity of gender in such images is an ambiguity concerning Apollo that was well understood in Roman antiquity:

“Amphion took in marriage Niobe . . . by whom he had seven sons and as many daughters. These children Niobe placed above those of Latona [Leto], and spoke rather contemptuously against Apollo and Diana [Artemis] because Diana was girt in man’s attire, and Apollo wore long hair and a woman’s gown. She said, too, that she surpassed Latona in muber of children. Because of this Apollo slew her sons with arrows as they were hunting in the woods on Mount Sipylus, and Diana shot and killed the daughters in the palace, all except Chloris.”

Hyginus, Fabulae 9.2: “superbiusque locuta est (sc. Niobe) in Apollinem et Dianam, quod illa cincta uiri cultu esset, et Apollo ueste deorsum atque crinitus, et se numero filiorum Latonam superare.”

In modern times Caroline Gordon summarized Niobe’s view of Leto’s Children as “a mannish girl and a girlish boy”.

Eternal Rome

“Supposing I had died, would the commonwealth have died with me, would the sovereignty of Rome have shared my fate? No, Jupiter Optimus Maximus would never have allowed a City built for eternity, built under the auspices and sanction of the gods, to be as short-lived as this fragile mortal body of mine. ”

Livy 28.28


Just a quote on a theme that interests me.  Early blog post.

Must look at Livy’s vocab on this more generally…

Fannius’ Temple


ANS specimens with images; Yale specimens with images

Cody, Jane M. “New Evidence for the Republican Aedes Vestae.” American Journal of Archaeology 77, no. 1 (1973): 43-50.  doi:10.2307/503231.

(ref thx to McCabe)

Cody connect this type to RRC 428.



BUT Zollschan, Linda. (2007). The Temple on the Cistophori of C. Fannius. Klio. 89. 125-136. 10.1524/klio.2007.89.1.125.  Say NO, not a temple of Vesta but related to the Bona Dea and thus to the prosecution of Clodius.

I don’t have an opinion YET….

Must check Metcalf, Carbone, and Elkins…



Mars and Tarpeia?


I never realized I had an opinion on this or that the opinion would be controversial.  But the identity of the figures in this scene from the Basilica Aemilia (other than Tarpeia obv.) are disputed.  I lean pretty strongly to seeing the far left figure as Mars in a “this is what happens when you F*** with my city” attitude.  Maybe at a stretch I could be Romulus but I don’t think so.  Figure reads divine.

Frame Saw (with bonus Adze)

Mosaic from a synagogue in Khirbet Wadi Hamam

Because I’m reading Ulrich’s book on Roman Woodworking I’m a little obsessed with representations these day.  Bear with me, it might wear off.  Or not.  I like tools.

Anyway other than general awesomeness this mosaic caught my eye because of the log splitting frame saw at the very bottom.  It reminded me of the log splitter in this relief.


Perhaps the bar on top is to allow a single worker to operate the saw or to act as a guide to keep it straight or both?

Nero’s Aegis

Sometimes I see things that aren’t there, but even that can be interesting.

So I spotted this face on Nero’s shoulder here:

Arachne Entry

And What I “saw”  was a face with an Pharonic style snake-y crown.  This sort of thing.


And I thought wow that’s interesting, so of course I went to see other specimens.  BUT first here’s the whole coin in trade:


These other dies make it really clear that an aegis not something Egyptianizing is intended but I still like that little face on the shoulder in profile, a very nice representation of the aegis.

Ostia coins on OCRE

Weiss, Naomi A. “THE VISUAL LANGUAGE OF NERO’S HARBOR SESTERTII.” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 58 (2013): 65-81.  OPEN ACCESS!