The Amphora of the Dioscuri


This is BM 1978,0721.2 [RRC 12/2], acquired from Italo Vecchi LTD in 1978.  There is a another specimen of the same type in Copenhagen, KP 2060.2 (see Thompsen 1957 p. 57 fig. 30 for illustration), aquired with other aes signatum (no, no currency bars) from P. and P. Santamaria, P.zza di Spagna in Rome in 1948/49.

Burnett writes via email that one of the points of concern was the shape of the amphora.

This got me thinking about amphora shapes on Italic coinage, which lead me to these types from Metapontum and Taras.

Which of course lead me back to some of my earlier thinking on doliola. Basically, two amphora are cult objects associated with the Dioscuri, especially as worshipped at Sparta, of which this is a particularly awesome illustration:


Now the question I have is can one doliolum/amphora still be a symbol of the Dioscuri or more accurately Dioscurus, or Castor, rather than Castores.  Remember in Rome the temple of Castor is called just that, Castor singular, although it honors the divine twins.

I think probably one amphora can do the trick (RRC 411/1, c. 58 BCE):


HN Italy 1101 is also suggestive (ANS specimen, another in trade):


Also HN Italy 657, an obol from Canusium, (SNG ANS 693, another in trade with star); this type is paralleled by a rarer obol from Rubi with the name Da[zos], HN Italy 810 (no star):


The icing on the cake is an obol from Caelia (HN Italy 759, cf. ANS specimens) that has a dioscurus on the obverse and an amphora on the reverse (a similar representation of a dioscurus is found on HN Italy 785-787, Hyria/Orra):


What about the spearhead?  All I have on that is that the spear is also a primary attribute of the Dioscuri (and the Penates), albeit rarely seen separate form the figural representations of the pair.

There is also an old suggestion that the star/amphora motif on the coins of Corcyra is connected to the Dioscuri (I’m guessing inspired by Thuc. 3.75.4).  I’m agnostic.  Likewise there is a star and amphora on some coins of Chios and there was also an epiphany of the Dioscuri celebrated on the island, but I’m not sure I really want to explain the numismatic iconography that way.  Amphoras are by no means exclusively associated with the divine twins…

Cf. This late fifth century coin of Camarina (cf. ANS specimen), as well as these: 1, 2).



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