Musing on the Muses

McCabe suggested to me that the obverses of RRC 410 represent the muses themselves and I am propagating a fiction of Grueber’s followed by Crawford.  He also points out I need to read P. Davis’ piece “Erato or Terpsichore : a reassessment”in Essays Witschonke (Davis accepts that 410/2-10 is obverse Apollo: the article focuses on reverses.)

Now I have to make up my own mind about what I see.  The symbols as labels on the obverse makes good sense and better sense than some silly control-mark system–the correlation to the reverse is clear — This is a big part of Davis’ point and how he clarifies Reverse IDs.

Do those heads look like Apollo?  Kinda sorta not really.  There are three Apollo types common on republican coinage: Archaic Curls, Loose Alexander/Helios like curls, and updo with tendrils down the neck.  Here are some comparative images of the three basics types.  The Apollo/Hercules with Lyre type is of the archaic curls varietal (RRC 410/1)

The rest of the series has an updo style but no tendrils and the roll around the forehead is different. The only updo with no tendrils that is definitely Apollo is RRC 504/1 and it is not a close visual parallel.  That male gods could have an updo with no tendrils is shown by Bonus Eventus on Libo’s coinage (RRC 416/1).  Most goddesses on Roman coinage have an earring and necklace and crown, or crown and veil to indicate gender (Pietas, Moneta, Concordia).  Is there a reason Muses wouldn’t wear jewelry?  Here are a bunch of muse (and Apollo) representations for within a 100 years of the coin (Red = from Moregine excavations near Pompeii; Yellow = House of Julia Felix, Pompeii).  I can’t spot any necklaces but I definitely see earrings.

I wanted to be certain it is a Muse on the obverse.  It’s logical.  It makes sense.  But I’m still ambivalent.  I may be I will be convinced when I read Davis?


same day update:

The ambiguity of gender in such images is an ambiguity concerning Apollo that was well understood in Roman antiquity:

“Amphion took in marriage Niobe . . . by whom he had seven sons and as many daughters. These children Niobe placed above those of Latona [Leto], and spoke rather contemptuously against Apollo and Diana [Artemis] because Diana was girt in man’s attire, and Apollo wore long hair and a woman’s gown. She said, too, that she surpassed Latona in muber of children. Because of this Apollo slew her sons with arrows as they were hunting in the woods on Mount Sipylus, and Diana shot and killed the daughters in the palace, all except Chloris.”

Hyginus, Fabulae 9.2: “superbiusque locuta est (sc. Niobe) in Apollinem et Dianam, quod illa cincta uiri cultu esset, et Apollo ueste deorsum atque crinitus, et se numero filiorum Latonam superare.”

In modern times Caroline Gordon summarized Niobe’s view of Leto’s Children as “a mannish girl and a girlish boy”.

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