More Roman Technology via Fabatus

RRC 412 : L. Roscius Fabatus’ issue like Papius’ uses paired control marks (and also celebrates Juno Sopita). Some pairs repeat but some see unique to Fabatus. We saw the groma in my last post, but there are other fun examples of Roman technology on this series.

Lotto machine for randomizing ball draws!

CNG 64, 805: “L. Roscius Fabatus. 59 BC. AR Serrate Denarius (3.92 gm). Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat’s skin; lottery machine behind / Female standing right feeding serpent; lottery ball behind. Crawford 412/1 (symbols 103); Sydenham 915; Roscia 3. … The symbols on this particular issue of L. Roscius Fabatus depict components of an ancient lottery system. While Crawford misdescribed these symbols as a well and an unknown symbol, their actual identification is possible by comparison with contorniates made hundreds of years later which depict the identical equipment (see, e.g., Alföldi 203). Furthermore, it may be deduced through the comparisons with the contorniates that the lottery system they were parts of related to the determination of the starting positions in a chariot race.”

This is also a great example about why one must read auction catalogues: they contain key information not just on specimens but also on types and also often finds and relevant scholarship. I just wish the individual entries were authored.

It took me the better half of forever to find the right comparative image but I did it and I regret not a moment spent trolling contorniates. (a good blog post about them in French)

Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Monnaies, médailles et antiques, AF.17308 (IMP-11938) Gallica link
Just a few of the Schaefer archive photos

Unindentified Machine(?)

Schaefer images same link as that above

Schematic rendering

Do you know of a better specimen of with this control mark?! I’d love to see it.

It does not look like any water pump I can find from the ancient world and yet I wonder if it is not a hydraulic tool of some sort. Must get:

Ortloff, Charles R. The Hydraulic State: Science and Society in the Ancient World. Milton: Taylor and Francis, 2020.

2 thoughts on “More Roman Technology via Fabatus”

  1. One problem with your interpretation, Liv. If the round object on the obv is a
    lottery container, positioned to be rotated, why is there a connection at the top?
    Shouldn’t there just be supports at the sides?
    If C is right that it’s a lift above a well, the top connection could serve the purpose of holding the lift once the bucket is high enough. Once high enough, the bucket would want to fall back down; the top connection could fit into a notch in the lifting gear to prevent this.
    Note the contorniate shows no top connection.

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