Inscribed Bullets

Social War

There are numerous slingshot bullets from Pompeius Strabo’s attack on Asculum during the Social War. That’s Pompey “the Great” ‘s dad. (ILLRP 1092, CIL 9.6086).

Example from the Naples Museum
This variation has been interpreted as “Bring Greetings to Pompeius! Bring [it]!” Fer Sal(utem) Pom(peio) Fer

The case of Pompeius on the others is disputed and in the past some of the POMP legends have been read ROMA but this looks like an error.

T. Lafrenius was known to have been one of the 12 commanders of the Italici in this war (App. BC 1.40, 47)
Mommsen was tempted to read this as short for “‘ferì Pic(entes, glans, quae venis) a
This also has mixed readings but the general gist is unmistakable: I wish evil upon you.

Servile War

The L. Piso f. L. COS is the consul of 133 BCE

Earlier Post on glans, glandes (slingshot bullets) of Sertorius, Prusine War, and one of either Pompey himself or his son.

86 of 234: On Avoidance

Louvre MND 1404 ; Ma 3503

Long before I had this blog I enjoyed the Jonah story and its diverse ancient iconography. I like how Jonah under the vine echoes both Endymion and Adriane. Jonah awaits his God. He thinks he is sulking but he has done his work even if it didn’t go quite as he wanted. But the artist rendering with its allusions to other ancient narratives lets us see that it is in this moment he is closest to the divine. He does not know but we know and can anticipate the eminent approach of the divine.

Louvre ED 1712 ; S 2053

We are more used to focusing on Jonah in the “whale” as a prefiguration of Christ in the tomb in most contemporary retellings. Of course it is no whale, just a beast of the deep and he only ends up in that strange limbo because he tries to avoid his necessary task. He is a reluctant prophet. When told to go to East, he tries to head West. He imagines how badly the task will go and wants no part of the future he anticipates.

He needs a monstrous conveyance just to bring him back to face the unfinished task. The beast is a second chance not some torture or trial in itself. Jonah must go to Nineveh in spite of his own self sabotage and best laid plans to avoid it. The job must be done, even if he chooses to do it the hardest way possible after great delay and rigmarole.

And then, Lo!, when he finally delivers his message. It works. The people of Nineveh, contrary to his expectations, correct what needs correcting and get on with their own work immediately. Jonah is resentful and sullen. How could it all be so anticlimactic? How could they just face the matter and get on with their lives, while he Jonah, who had the moral high ground to begin with, had to go through so much self induced suffering just to deliver the message? Where are the fireworks and drama?

So Jonah gets a nap and a bit of shade. He put himself through hell for that nap. Let him sleep and let’s hope he might do a little better next time.

Today I started my work day by asked myself what was I avoiding. I don’t procrastinate as much as avoid. Usually things involving human interaction and asking others to do something. It is the anticipation of an unknown negative outcome that is the worst part of the process, and yes delaying only makes it all worse. I’ve dealt with one of the tasks on my things I’m avoiding list. On to the others.

85 of 234: Norbanus

This post is a prosopographical pre writing exercise ahead of my conference presentation later this month as part of the RACOM event at the BSR.

We assume the moneyer of 83 BCE is the son of the Consul of the same year (RRC 357/1), BUT we don’t actually have any proof to that regard. We could suggest that the consul issued the coins himself, but then we might expect to see some indication of his office, such as we find for the Praetor of this time Q. Antonius Balbus (RRC 364/1).

There is plenty of epigraphic evidence of imperial era members of the gens Norbana but no real evidence that I can see about whether those lines descend in any way from the consul of 83 BCE. Hinard 1985 even went so far as to assume that the moneyer the putative son of the consul was (a) a senator and (b) proscribed. I can’t substantiate these assumptions beyond saying they seem vaguely logical. The most famous later member of the gens is the consul of 38 BCE who issued coins in 43 BCE, RRC 491 as praetor. He was a partisan of the future Augustus from an early date and was generally allied with the Caesarians in the early period of the civil wars. I see no evidence he was related or un related to the consul of 83 BCE, but I’d have to dig more to be confident. He may have been borne c. 85 BCE according to Rüpke 2005.

The gens Norbana has a variety of cognomina associated with it, we know the consul of 38 BCE was a Flaccus (e.g. CIL 06, 02014) and the consul of 19 BCE (as Lucius not a Gaius) used Balbus (e.g. AE 2016, 55), but we don’t know what if any cognomen the moneyer and/or consul of 83 BCE used. At Capua in the first half of the first cent CE we have a soldier of the tribus Falerna using the cognomen Faustus (CIL 10, 03891 cf. this female memorial from the city of Rome), but this soldier may well be the son of a freedman (cf. CIL 6 35931). That the Flacci and the Balbi were really one family is illustrated by monument of “Chrestus, dispensator, Norbanorum Flacci et Balbi”. A dispensator was a household manager or accountant, the guy who was authorized to make payments and keep accounts for the family (cf. also this monument).

My guess but it is only a guess is that these later consular Norbani are related to the cos of 83 BCE and our moneyer (if they are separate people). I’d guess that the consul of 83 BCE went into exile with his son and perhaps his baby grandson and then that grandson was restored along with the rest of the children of the proscribed by one of the first acts of Julius Caesar as Dictator. This was a brilliant move by Caesar to ensure a loyal group of senators and elected officials and for Norbani it paid off and carried the family well into the principate.

From Rotondi 1912: Dio 41.18, 44.47*, Plut, Caes; Suet, Caes., Vell. Pat. 2.43: none of these refs attribute the law to Antony, so I’m confused how it got that name.

Norbanus (cos. 83) first shows up in the historical record with his prosecution as tribune of the plebs of Caepio for the lost of his army in 105 BCE and then his own subsequent prosecution for the violence that resulted. This matters because this Caepio is the maternal great-grandfather of Brutus, and his son is the quaestor of 100 BCE (RRC 330/1) and enemy of Saturninus and Marius. Fall out from the patrician Caepio’s refusal to cooperate with Cn. Mallius Maximus the new man and consul of 105 BCE has direct bearing down through the second triumvirate and arguable beyond.

The arguments on both sides of the case were of interest in Latin rhetorical handbooks as early as the 80s BCE, other accounts like Valerius Maximus are only interested in Caepio not Norbanus.

[Norbanus] did not commit treason in proceeding to violent measures in respect to Caepio ; for it was the first indignation of the Roman people that prompted that violent conduct, and not the conduct of the tribune : and the majesty, since it is identical with the greatness of the Roman people, was rather increased than diminished by retaining that man in power and office.” And when the reply is, ” Majesty consists of the dignity of the empire and name of the Roman people, which that man impairs, who excites sedition by appealing to the violent passions of the multitude;” then comes the dispute, ” Whether his conduct was calculated to impair that majesty, who acted upon the inclinations of the Roman people, so as to do a thing which was both just and acceptable to them by means of violence.”

Cicero, de Partitionibus Oratoriae 104-105, cf. Rhet. Her. 1.24 for briefer much earlier but similar use; as well as Cic. Or. 2.124, 197, and most esp. the long exposition on the nature of legal case at 199-204;

The dates of the court cases are disputed but not the events themselves. Generally the prosecution is of Caepio is place in 104 and and the retaliatory prosecution of Norbanus in 95 or 94 BCE, but I have no strong views on the chronology. All that particularly matters is that Norbanus was dedicated to attacking patrician privilege and had in turn been viciously attacked. (More text sources on this). Cicero’s primary interest seems to be the strategies of both defense and prosecution, until the De Officiis when he calls Norbanus, a seditious and dangerous citizen (2.49).

M. Aemilius Scaurus, princeps senatus, prosecuted C. Memmius for extortion, with strong evidence. As a witness he attacked C. Flavius, accused by the same law, with the same fierceness; he openly endeavoured to ruin C. Norbanus, who was brought to trial for treason. Yet neither by his authority, which was very great, nor by his piety, which no man doubted, could he inflict damage on any of them.

Val. Max. 8.5.2

This prosecution did not stop him earning the praetorship and it is likely in this role he held his social war command. Some time after Sulla’s departure for the East Norbanus was in charge of Syracuse and Sicily with an army, c. 88? 87?:

But when Sulla was engaged in the war in Asia against Mithridates, and Rome was filled with slaughters and internal strife, Marcus Lamponius and Tiberius Cleptius, and also Pompeius, the generals of those Italians who were left remaining in Bruttium, attempted to capture the strong city of Isiae. After they had lain before the city for a long time, they left part of their army to maintain the siege, and fiercely assaulted Rhegium, in the expectation, that if they gained this place, they might with ease transport their army into Sicily, and so become masters of the richest island under the sun. But Gaius Norbanus, the governor of Sicily, so overawed the Italians with the greatness of his army and his vast preparations, that they drew off from the siege; and so the Rhegians were freed from danger.

Diod. 37.2.13-14

Therefore, while these were the established regulations of the province, Caius Norbanus, a man neither very active nor very valiant, was at perfect ease, at the very moment that all Italy was raging with the servile war. For at that time Sicily easily took care of itself, so that no war could possibly arise there.

Cic. Verr. 2.5.8 cf. 2.3.117 (70 BCE)
CIL 01, 02951 = ILSicilia 00056 = Engfer-2017, 00412 = AE 1989, 00342a From Syracuse.

Norbanus sought refuge at Rhodes when proscribed by Sulla (Liv. Per. 89; Oros. 5.21.3) and based on this some want to have him be familiar with the island from his days as a quaestor but I don’t think we need to go that far.

Appian gives a brief account of his success levy of troops in 83 with his co consul and the consul of the previous year, saying that they generally had popular support but also held greater responsibility for what had happened in Sulla’s absence. During the events of the war he was for a time at Capua and refused to engage with messengers sent by Sulla (App. BC 1.84 & 86).

And a little while before he crossed over from Greece, there were seen on Mount Tifatum in Campania, in the day time, two great he-goats fighting together, and doing everything that men do when they fight a battle. But it proved to be an apparition, and gradually rising from earth it dispersed itself generally in the air, like vague phantoms, and then vanished from sight. And not long after,​ in this very place, when Marius the younger and Norbanus the consul led large forces up against him, Sulla, without either giving out an order of battle or forming his own army in companies, but taking advantage of a vigorous general alacrity and a transport of courage in them, routed the enemy and shut up Norbanus in the city of Capua, after slaying seven thousand of his men. It was on account of this success, he says, that his soldiers did not disperse into their several cities, but held together and despised their opponents, though these were many times more numerous.

Plut. Sulla 27

Diana Tifatina is a favorite of mine on this blog. And is often connected to the Diana imagery on Faustus’ coins. RRC 426

“It was while Sulla was ascending Mount Tifata that he had encountered Gaius Norbanus. After his victory over him he paid a vow of gratitude to Diana, to whom that region is sacred, and consecrated to the goddess the waters renowned for their salubrity and water to heal, as well as all the lands in the vicinity. The record of this pleasing act of piety is witnessed to this day by an inscription on the door of the temple, and a bronze tablet within the edifice.”

Vel. Pat. 2.25

[Albinovanus] invited Norbanus and his lieutenants, Gaius Antipater and Flavius Fimbria (brother of the one who committed suicide in Asia), together with such of Carbo’s lieutenants as were then present, to a feast. When they had all assembled except Norbanus (he was the only one who did not come), he murdered them all at the banquet and then fled to Sulla. Norbanus, having learned that, in consequence of this disaster, Ariminum and many other camps in the vicinity were going over to Sulla, and being unable to rely on the good faith and firm support of many of his friends on the spot, now that he found himself in adversity, took passage on a private ship, and sailed to Rhodes. When, at a later period, Sulla demanded his surrender, and while the Rhodians were deliberating on it, he killed himself in the middle of the market-place.

App. BC 1.91, cf. Livy Per. 89.8

The Hand of the Engraver

Roman republican coin engravers certainly had distinctive hands and styles. This is well known, but hard to quantify or even get into meaningful qualitative descriptive terms. I found myself thinking about this as I reviewed the plates from a hoard publication that came in through ILL today. The images aren’t really sharp enough: I’ll have to re-scan at the ANS one day soon, but at least for now I have an idea of the content and the text.

M. Corrente et al, “La paga del soldato? Studio e interpretazione di un tesoretto repubblicano da Masseria Battaglino” The journal of archaeological numismatics 10 (2020), 67-85.

The plates do however let us readily see stylistic similarities especially in the rendering of obverses, so for instance below compare specimen 115 (RRC 407/2) and 124 (RRC 409/1), or even 126 (RRC 410/3) and 145 (RRC 423/1).

Here compare the flat faces of 51 (RRC 341/1) and 67 (RRC 344/3), and the bunchy beard on 67 and 72 (RRC 346/1).

Stylistic similarities or “hands” are notoriously hard to identify and I’m not trying to do so here, but rather simply say something about how comparisons can be made and the utility at looking at issues not singularly but side by side, esp. how the circulated.

Another side of this conversation might look at the small neck phase of the RR mint in the late 2nd century, e.g. RRC 291/1 and RRC 296/1.

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.

83 out of 234: Mirror Imagery

While visiting the Met last week to catch Chroma before it closed, I snapped a pic of this little figurine to remind me of it. Then last Friday I got to see a former mentee, Hannah Lynch, present on the hair as a form of communication at a conference (she was amazing and I was so proud I could almost burst) and this came rushing back to mind.

Met link

What I liked a great deal about it was that the statuette was in the same room as some gorgeous mirror cases, which in turn show off some pretty elaborate hair styles:

Met link to search results

The statuette in turn made me think of this poly chromatic terracotta sarcophagus in the BM. Notice the woman pulls away her veil to check her hair in her mirror. It is almost a play on the pudicitia gesture. (For what it’s worth, when I think of ancient statues as painted I always then to call to mind these terracottas to render an image in my mind. I find them more satisfying than many modern reconstructions largely I think because of the shading in the drapery and other modelling.)

BM link

There is perhaps a similar humor? or play on the meaning of the gesture on this mirror box below. Notice how instead of pulling on a veil the woman grasps a tendril of her own rather wild hair.

I love how listening to smart students and junior scholars lets me look with new eyes on material I’ve known for so long.

I like mirrors esp. hinged mirror boxes because of how the image of them were misidentified as shackles on the Papius control marks and I (still) find that deeply amusing.

Self Accountability Section

I already sent one necessary email there is another one to go. Spring is tempting me into the garden, but I will mostly resist. I think after that email, I circle back to a book proposal and grant before trying to do some writing. The logistics for visiting the Nemi material in the UK got complicated because airline prices went through the roof. I need not to put my head in the sand on that and take some action. RACOM paper could use some drafting. But I need a gentle day and am going to do all of this slowly, slowly. The goal is to wake up tomorrow wanting to work, rather than having to work. Overall the most important part of this sabbatical, is not what I publish but to recharge my batteries such that I fortify the determination to keep engaging with my disciplines.

Cales Overstrike?

The inspiration for this post was a tweet announcing the growth of Winterthur’s contributions to IKMK. I thought I’d might go check out what they had uploaded that was struck in Italy for fun.

This lovely specimen caught my eye, esp. That mark on the obverse cheek. I can’t be sure even from the excellent photos but I do wonder if it might not be traces of an under type. We know the earlier(?) Minerva Cock type (HNI 435) is regularly over struck by the man-faced bull IΣ series at Naples. This coin likely dates to the same time as that series.

80 of 234: Etruscan Procession

“Procession of c. 16 figures, lictores, tuba players, death demons. The man Laris Pumpus, probably the owner of the tomb, is mentioned in the inscription” A 1910 painting on canvas of right wall middle of Tomba del Tifone, Tarquinia, 2nd cent BCE. Glyptotek, Copenhagen, H.I.N. 410, I.N. 2568 “The original of the procession is so ruined that it would be unintelligible without the help of the old copies.”

I’m most interested in the objects everyone is carrying. First figure with raise arm, sholder length hair, a hair band tied in front and sleeves, seems to be holding some thing with three curved horizontal bars and a fan shaped object above (orange). The green circles mark out a pretty ordinary horn player and horn. The blue circle is what I suspect is being interpreted as the symbol of the lictors: should we call this twisty stick with a hoop fasces?!? Perhaps these are not the lictors, but heralds of some sort with a form of the caduceus? There are more examples in the image near the horn. Yellow marks out a three objects. From left to right they are the hammer, the typical attribute of the death demon (blue dude in back above the other heads). Next comes what looks like a sheep head on a stick. Then there is a stick with a slight curve at the top. More like what I’d call fasces, but I’m far from certain. Then a hammer? that looks a little different than the death demon’s but might be for another spirit? It seems to be overlapping in the image an other stick with a slight curve.


(1) early versions of togas! We learned about that when I was an undergraduate, but there weren’t all that many good examples – the Arringatore was the prime example. This shows them off better. (2) Despite obvious differences, the composition is so similar to the procession on the Ara Pacis – presumably it was in direct conversation with a long tradition.

via social media Dr. Maria Pretzler made these observations which I thought had deep merit, quoted with permission

self accountability section

Felt bad about not getting to a blog post yesterday. Something unexpected came up my day took a bit of a turn. Yet, beyond that, it was really a very good day work-wise. I finalized a paper for conference proceedings and was reminded why co-authoring is so nice. I added edits to a chapter on Dionysius for an edited volume based on editors suggestions and thus got to spend a little time with the Brock’s views on the Ship of State in the Greek tradition, pre Alexander but clearly relevant later too. I had some nice email correspondence with PhD student asking good questions regarding the grain supply that got me thinking about my book project again. AND, I spend a good deal of time exploring funding options and grants and starting to think about my next target deadlines. Getting back on the horse and staying in the groove of such writing is critical. The is a habit to all forms of writing and I cannot take any of it too seriously if I am to get it done. I have a few now in mind and one will need some serious attention the next couple weeks. Ah yes, AND I agreed to give an ANS long table next Friday on my Aes Grave work, AND I concretized my smelting plans. A week from tomorrow I make my first test samples for drilling and experimentation. Yes, no reason to feel bad, that was a days work by any measure and it is also good to be open to interruptions and the unexpected. Again, part of the function of this type of blogging is to better understand how hard to push myself and when to give my self a break.

Possible docket for Today

More smelting logistics!

Respond to departmental planning email

Process die axis scans and share with colleagues

Check in with co-authors and tweak as needed

finalize images

Check in on book proposal

Time in on textual evidence for RACOM paper

Write first draft of abstract for RACOM paper

Look at some nice pictures just for fun, maybe post about them (it helps my mood and motivation!)

Maybe write referees about next grant application?

Maybe think about re working book proposal for grant app, or not

Check in on Abstract for AIA panel

Attend zoom talk

Glass Paste Scholarship

I was looking for another article I need cite and believe I have on file but cannot for the life of my find, BUT I did come across this fantastic piece, I had on file and never seem to have blogged about. And as this blog is my external brain, no post = no memory.

Alessandra Magni and Gabriella Tassiniari treat a very wide chronological range. The piece is beautifully illustrated and the real highlight for me are the unpublished ancient specimens from Verona.

It was published in these conference proceedings.

This one is a bit different and reminds me of the Mithridatic stylistic move on Roman Republican coins with the crazy hair. I wonder if the original intaglio may be ancient or just inspired by antiquity…