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!

The Old Shepherd in the Forum

It was also in the forum that there was the picture of the ‘Old Shepherd with his Staff’, about which the Teuton envoy when asked what he thought was the value of it said that he would rather not have even the living original as a gift!

Pliny, NH 35.8

I think this passage helps explain the popularity of this gemstone type in the Republic:

(Thornvaldsen I1139)

Hyrde med en stav og en hund. Romersk republikansk ringsten

(Thornvaldsen I1143)

Hyrde med to får. Romersk republikansk paste

(I’ve published on this iconography previously.)


A not very old shepherd appears on the frieze from the “Tomb of the  Statilii” north side.


Landscape from the villa of Agrippa Postumus (20 BC – AD 10) at Boscotrecase, nearby Pompeii – Naples, Archaeological Museum


An Image of Aventine Diana?

This is RRC 448/3. The series as a whole celebrates Caesar’s victories in Gaul.  Was this what Artemis looked like in Massilia and by extension what she looked like on the Aventine?    It bears little resemble to Artemis on Massilia’s own coinage.  The Cambridge Ancient History endorses the reading of Strabo 4.1.5 against this coin:

what is more, the xoanon of that Artemis which is on the Aventine Hill was constructed by the Romans on the same artistic design as the xoanon which the Massiliotes have. But at the time of Pompey’s sedition against Caesar they joined the conquered party and thus threw away the greater part of their prosperity.

But how reliable is this testimony of Strabo?  Just before he’s said that


We know well what Artemis of Ephesus looks like and it is not much like the coin image above…

Here’s the CAH: