84 of 234: Ship Imagery

Relief with a trireme. Last decades of the 1st cent. BCE. Baia, Museo Archeologico dei Campi Flegrei. © 2015. Photo: Ilya Shurygin. (source)

This relief provides a few nice parallels to features seen on ships on coins. Such as the figure by the Prow looking forward.

RRC 483/2

The aplustre with the circle before the fan is similar to the so called fleet coinage of Antony (RRC 544)

The scepter on Antony’s ships near the prow seems different than the pole on the relief near the aplustre (at the stern). But that does seem to have a parallel on the coins of Sextus Pompeius, which also place a legionary standard near the prow and a trident (symbolically invoking Neptune?) near the stern. The trident like the scepter on Antony’s coinage help remind us not to take these depictions a 100% literally, but rather as visual invocations of an idea.

RRC 511/4

The semis and quadrans of P. Calpurnius are the earliest full ships on the Republican coin series and they have a stick at both stern and stem. I say a stick to keep from committing to what type of vertical object I’m seeing.

McCabe collection examples (Flickr, where they can be easily enlarged to see details)
Schaefer Archive image
Another Schaefer Archive image

This might be the best parallel for what we’re seeing on the aplustre of the relief. I’d also note that where there is a Medusa on the relief their is an eye on the prows both of these bronzes but of almost all RR bronzes since the intro of the prow series. Bear in mind the Gordon head is apotropaic as is the eye and they have been found together from v early on in ancient Mediterrean art. A typical kylix with eyes on the outside has a Gorgon in the tondo.

There are earlier bronzes where the prow is augmented by a vertical element usually called a mast and sail (RRC 213 and RRC 239). Given scale I wonder if it might not represent some sort of standard or pennant or something.

Note also that the prow stem has a female head on RRC 213/1, a feature not noted by Crawford in RRC (cf. earlier blog post discussion).

If you look at comments of this old blog post you’ll find most other previous blog posts discussing ships on this blog.

My last observations are on the depiction of the rams on the relief.

The bottom ram reminds me of the trident decoration on the Athlit ram (Haifa)

public domain image (source)
public domain image (source)

The top ram just really a blunt rectangular horizontal element on the relief. This surprises me because on most coin representations it has the head of a canine, probably a wolf. This feature is perhaps clearest on RRC 290/1.

Non-coin section.

Well I didn’t really want to come to work today, so that might mean yesterday’s goal wasn’t accomplished but here I am regardless. I got my blog post done. I may wait to get to email and turn back to the book proposal (good progress has been made, the end is insight). I touched most other tasks that needed touching. I think I’ll just see what happens with my day and give myself a break from goal setting and just be glad I showed up.

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