Sceptre, Toga, and Biga

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I’ve speculated on this type before.  I am still concerned with the stick the figure in the chariot is holding.  “Magistrate’s staff” is highly unsatisfactory.  Magistrates didn’t really have ceremonial staves in republican Roman.  It’s hard to demonstrate a negative, but I will point out that in both Polybius and Pliny, the stick used to draw a circle around Antiochus Epiphanes, is explicitly in the magistrate’s hand by chance (Plb. 29.27.5 and Plin. 34.10).

Sceptres are the provenance of gods, kings, and maybe triumphators (see Braund and also here).   They certainly symbolize dominion (Cf. RRC 393/1; 398/1; 435/1 and many more types).  Roman magistrates don’t hold them.

The only type of rod or stick associated with magistrates is the vindicata used in manumission ceremonies.  I’ve not found any evidence for its use/presence outside this context (basic search).

What else can we say about this figure?  The die cutters really want to emphasize his toga.  This means not a god almost certainly an intended legendary or once living Roman.

This biga (clearly ceremonial) is also a very odd choice.  This is not how magistrates normally traveled around.  I think it is this that gives us our biggest clue:



This is Versnel (of course!).  The main function of the praetor urbanus was judicial oversight.  And, we have at least one instance (L. Cassius Longinus) of an urban praetor having responsibilities for the grain supply of the city (Brennan, Praetorship, 460-1) and other earlier instances of the praetor urbanus being involved in agrarian matters (ibid., 99, 108).    The praetor urbanus is given very specific responsibilities in the lex agraria of 111 BC (1.73, 2.73-4; 2.83-84).

I have a hard time seeing the coin as anything other than the celebration of a urban praetorship.   BUT we don’t have a Vettius known in this role…  Not that our records are complete.  Very troublesome.

Here’s a highly speculative thought…

What if, Vettius is well enough connected that this piece is serving as an attempt at repairing  Verres’ image…

Vettius was Verres’ quaestor in Sicily AND his brother-in-law, being the brother of Vettius’ wife and Verres’ as praetor urbanus is presumed to have given successful ludi Apollinares….

From Brennan:


No one can agree on the date of this coin.

Mattingly would like 72 BC to put it before his quaestorship I presume.

Crawford has 70 BC, and Hollstein a conservative c.69.

Hersh and Walker would put it in 66!

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