Reading a draft of a chapter by a friend, I was completely taken by the use of the Amazon-on-a-Pile-of-Arms Type to personify Aetolia. He pointed out how the arms start out a Gallic arms to which a large Macedonian shield is added, as on the specimen above. I love how this illustrates that the Romans are simply deploying an already fully formed numismatic iconographic vocabulary on their own coins. I am also captivated by the diversity of this basic reverse type on the Aetolian issues:
The usual assumption is that the type is modeled on a statue dedicated at Delphi to commemorate the defense of the sanctuary by the Aetolians against Gauls. However the variations in the reverse mean that we can’t see to an exact one to one match between the two. The gold specimen with Artemis and the Nike is most intriguing. Perhaps a reference to Artemis’ epiphany to defend Delphi?
Anyway. Where does this Amazon-on-a-Pile-of-Arms Type show up on Roman coins? All over!
And of course it also comes to be adopted as the personification of Britannia, which has itself Roman origins. What we shouldn’t do is conflate the Roma seated on a curule chair with this image, as the symbolism of the two has different connotations:
The arms represent conquest, the curule chair just rule.
I need to find out what artistic precedents the Aetolian type is based on…
I found it asserted in an old gem catalogue (see p. xv under cat. no. 45) that Roma on a pile of arms derives from the Athena on the coinage of Lysimachus. It is certainly might be a basic prototype for personifications of Aetolia and Roma seen above but she is clearly enthroned with her own shield beside her, a very different symbolism than being atop the spoils of war.
Updated 11/2/23 to fix broken image links
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[…] Virtus. This issue comes up again and again (old blog posts: a Lararium in Stabiae, RRC 403/1, Roma as Amazon, Literary treatments). There is some stuff on this in my coin book […]