Victrix Redux

How did I end up here? I was working on the book review and found an interesting footnote on colossal statues of the Roman People and the connection (or not) to the worship of Roma as a goddess. I decided to bring myself up to speed on the scholarship on the subject and I ended up finding another footnote to the fact that Venus Victrix, Fausta Felicitas, and Genius Publicus in Capitolio all share a feast day, Oct. 9. I wondered if these three divinities shared any numismatic representations. I still don’t know the answer to that but I did stumble across this coin above showing Victory on the reverse.

The coin above was made c. 47-46 in Africa after Pompey’s death, but before Cato’s own suicide. Cato is operating independently and fighting against other Romans siding with Caesar. Yet he claims his authority to strike coins in his status as a Roman propraetor. The specimen up top is one of the nicest and the denarii tend to be carved with some care. By contrast the quinarii almost seem to be produced by amateur die engravers:

A sense of the range can be appreciated here or here. Looking at the photos of the ANS and BM specimens I wonder if the quinarii aren’t more debased. It seems they’ve aged worse and their color seems much darker. This might indicate they were made later than the denarii once the Cato’s position became more precarious. I’ll have to check what Cathy says on the subject.

Part of Cato’s claim to legitimacy seems to derive from his nearly exact copying of a regular issue of the Roman mint produced under the supervision of one of his ancestors:


The only difference between the two series comes down to PRO PR on the legend and the qualitative difference in the execution of the die carving. The 47-46 issue should be beyond my worries for the current book project but it helps concentrate the mind on certain problems. How did the engravers in Africa manage to carve dies so similar to the original issue? Did Cato happen to have a specimen with him? Of both the denarius and quinarius? Whatever for? The hairstyle of the female obverse and the seating position of the Victory on the reverse seem too complicated for a simple verbal description from memory. Did Cato anticipate needing to mint coins and so wanted to imitate the earlier type he brought them with? Were there simply enough in circulation that by chance some one found one amongst the coins with the army in Africa? The hoards tell us that the earlier type was still in circulation but certainly wasn’t the most common of types.

Then there is the problem of dating the earlier series 91-89 BC is the range usually discussed and how that is tied to who the moneyer might be and what relation he would have to the famous Cato the Younger that so carefully imitated the series. I’ve ILLed a copy of Wiseman NC 1964 to review his prosopographical notes, before seeing if I have an opinion.

Regardless of the moneyer or specific date of the earlier series, I think the paired issues provides an important reminder of the memory surrounding issues, particularly in families. I wonder if it might be worth doing a die study of the two series to see if any of those without PRO PR are actually part of the late issues. I spend a good deal of time seeing if I could say anything about there appearance in hoards. The later series appears in only 25 hoards of which 14 have specimens of the earlier series. The earlier series appears in many, many more hoards. I’m not sure that really means anything, but at least I’m starting to think with hoards and getting used to the pros and cons of working with the new database.

I also can’t help but wonder what relation if any the Bacchus on the quinarius might have to the Bacchus on the coins of the Italian Allies in Social War. Bacchus as Father Liber is often associated with popular politics.

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