Omphalos and Snake: Shared Iconography

Reverse of RRC 348/4. 1974.26.25

I’m really stuck on this Alföldi article.  [See yesterday’s post for references.]  He makes the assertion that the snake on an omphalos is the iconography of Apollo, not Aesculapius.  He uses Etruscan cinerary urns as comparative evidence:


Yet these visual examples do not specifically link the image to Apollo they only show Italic usage. The image is clearly Delphic as Alföldi asserts.  A point illustrated by the late 4th century Amphictonic Hemidrachms:



But this is by no means exclusive.  The same reverse type was used at Pergamon after 133 BC to celebrate Aesculapius as Soter (savior):

Reverse of Bronze Coin, Pergamum. 1944.100.43256


Aesculapius has been a popular interpretation of the allusions on L. Rubrius Dossenus’ coins because of literary testimony of a plague in 87 BC.  However, if Apollo is meant than these coins might be linked to the Veiovis  / Apollo coins of the Marians.  The interpretation of which remains controversial:

Wiseman T. P. (2009). Remembering the Roman People: Essays on Late Republican Politics and Literature. Oxford, 72-78; contra RRC and Luce, T. J. (1968). “Political Propaganda on Roman Republican Coins: Circa 92-82 B.C.” American Journal of Archaeology 72.1: 25-39.

Also see newer post for iconographic parallels.


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