So I was poking around for the right thing to cite on the “Judaea Capta” coins. I wanted something more than a set of catalog numbers, something that actually put them in context as a whole. This was surprisingly difficult to find; most scholarship seems to assume that they are so famous the intended audience already knows the basics. I eventually got to
[Don’t get too excited that is just a link to where you can buy a copy of the article if you can’t order it from ILL or it’s not in your local library. The author hasn’t put a copy on open access, as far as I can see.]
The article does a good job of tying provincial and Roman issues together and providing a wider historical context. It’s readable and well footnoted, even if one may wish to bicker over any small points. It’s far more complete in its overview than the two page piece by C. Kraay in the Israel Numismatic Journal 1963, the most common ‘general’ citation one sees for these coins. It’s a shame it’s not in a numismatic journal or one on JSTOR or somewhere else its likely to come to the attention of a wider audience. Hence my inclination to give it this general shout out.
Full disclosure. I did overlap briefly with Zarrow in grad school and I find his twitter account pretty awesome too. Lots of lovely images and a good number of coins.
My favorite thing about numismatic databases are the things that pop up that I wasn’t looking for. This is a great example. There aren’t many known specimens, but there are two in the British Museum (example 1, example 2). Its obverse clearly echoes a much earlier republican didrachm (RRC 20/1).
It’s always interesting to see an awareness of earlier types surfacing after such an extended period–over two centuries regardless of how one wishes to date RRC 20/1. That said, it also raises questions about why this earlier type might have been attractive in this moment under Augustus. Hercules is usually associated with his rival Antony. As is Hellenistic Kingship. The connotations of the obverse type seem at odds with the Augustan program. Perhaps this explains its rarity? Perhaps the moneyer thought better of the design choice? A choice which at first which might have been attractive simply because of its antiquity and Augustus’ own rhetoric of conservative restoration?
Crawford called the object in Roma’s left hand on this coin a fasces. This doesn’t make a huge amount of sense as one doesn’t carry fasces in the crook of one’s arm, but instead with the axe high over one’s shoulder. The classic example is the Brutus coin (RRC 433/1). Moreover the republican coin series has a pretty definite iconography of what fasces should look like on a coin and specimens of RRC 403/1 just don’t fit the type. The long stick may well be a scepter. This would make some sense, if one agrees that those fillets off Roma’s head indicate she’s wearing a diadem. The diadem and the scepter probably deserve a post of their own, exploring particularly the appropriation of Hellenistic regal iconography for the personification of Roma. Alternatively, the fillets may be only the fillets of a victory crown without any regal connotations. For now, however, I’m just concerned with the little blob circled in red above.
This is likely to be a parazonium. What, one might ask, is a parazonium? Well, besides being a numismatic term for iconography better known from the imperial period, it is a dagger or short sword worn on the left hand side off the girdle. Our only literary testimony is Martial Epigrams 14.32:
The word itself is derived from the Greek, although it is pretty rare in Greek texts as well: in the TLG it shows up only in a fifth century CE lexicon and one equally late hagiography. I don’t think this type is our earliest examples of Roma with a parazonium; it’s already part of her iconography on RRC 335/1 (one example, another example) and probably also on RRC 391/3. What this type does do nicely is suggest that the parazonium is already perhaps a linking piece of iconography between virtus and Roma. On the imperial coinage by the time of Nero the parazonium is a common attribute for reverse personifications of virtus.