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.

Earliest representation of a Groma?!

Listed as unknown symbols by Crawford and others, but correctly identified by Fava.

RRC 412: 59 BCE (so Hersh and Walker and Hollstein)

Notice this depiction uses show two plumbs being used the not four typically used for reconstructions.

Yale specimen
Groma as obverse control mark on BM specimen
Ferramentum as reverse control mark on same BM specimen
The Schaefer Archive documents five specimens of this die pair / control mark pair.
Pin by Kevin Eoghan on Romans | Roman empire map, Ancient rome, Ancient  technology
Uncertain whom to credit for this useful diagram

Below later images from funerary contexts.

Corinth Computer Project: Roman Surveying
Gromatic Images from New Discoveries in Pompeii | SpringerLink
Arachne link

Comfort when Writing is HARD

I don’t want to loose these words of Dorothy Parker. (source)

This is instead of telephoning


I cant look you in the voice.

I simply cannot get that thing done

yet never have done such hard night and day work

never have so wanted anything to be good

and all I have is a pile of paper

covered in WRONG WORDS.

Can only keep at it

and hope to heaven to get it done.

Don’t know why it is so terribly difficult

or I terribly incompetant [sic].

– Dorothy Parker, 1945, a telegram to her editor

Thinking about Ontologies

So numismatics is exceptionally lucky to have a well developed disciplinary ontology and thus a well established culture of using linked open data, all thanks to

However, what the heck an ontology actually is and why it is essential to how we use and build digital tools isn’t always super clear, esp. to non-tech people. Max Ved nicely breaks it down for the laiety in these two blog posts:

What they are

How you build one

Concordia in Livy

BMCR 2019.08.47, Master reviews Ann Vasaly, Livy’s Political Philosophy: Power and Personality in Early Rome. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Key excerpt

Chapter 5 presents the Quinctian family as positive models of patrician behavior, “anti-Claudii” (80), who promote domestic concordia. In Vasaly’s reading, Livy’s Quinctii, especially Quinctius Capitolinus and Cincinnatus, transcend the self-interest and personal ambition so characteristic of the historian’s early republican patricians. Vasaly zeroes in on the speeches of the Quinctii to the plebs to illustrate this aspect of their exemplarity. Capitolinus’ exemplarity lies in his frank assertion to the plebs that their freedoms ought to have limits and his indictment of popular leaders who have not the interests of the state in mind but their own self-promotion. Vasaly notes that Capitolinus’ rhetoric echoes Livy’s presentation of the dangers of plebeian oratory expressed elsewhere in the pentad.

The sixth chapter considers Livy’s presentation of the plebs collectively in the pentad. They are consistently shown to be the foundation of military success but also emotional and volatile, for the most part without prudence, though they occasionally act prudently when they feel respected. Vasaly makes the point that the plebs have the capacity to destabilize the republic but are more likely to be intimidated and abused by patrician rulers. The chapter then examines examples of bad and good leadership of the plebs. The lowest of the low in Livy’s estimation, according to Vasaly, is the elite demagogue who stirs up the plebs out of tyrannical ambition. Conversely, patricians who champion the cause of the people are especially praiseworthy, with the Valerian family being particularly notable in this respect. These patricians pursue concordia, but their specialty is redressing wrongs done to the plebs. Vasaly devotes the rest of the chapter to plebeian figures who, justifiably in the narrator’s view, lead collective action against elite abuse even if that action leads to widespread social unrest.”

AURORA and Endymion

Jeton Düştü! Thanks to RRC 453. The figure with Endymion and Luna is not Victory but Aurora.

This is just a small selection of the frequency of the appearance of Victory in these scenes with Endymion. While (thus far) I’ve not found a literary role for Victory/Nike in the narrative most ancient artists clearly found her an essential component. Thus RRC 480/1 should be identified as Luna and Endymion NOT the dream of Sulla.
ANS specimen
Naples, Arachne
Castel Gandolfo, Arachne
Mantua, Arachne
Assisi, Arachne
Villa Doria Pamphili, Arachne
Tarquinia, Arachne
Ostia (now Copenhagen), Arachne

Thus I (partially) agree with Congrossi and Fears (I have a harder time seeing an allusion to Caesar):

Fears, J. Rufus. “Sulla or Endymion. A reconsideration of a denarius of L. Aemilius Buca.” The American Numismatic Society Museum Notes XX (1975): 29-37.

Abstract: “The reverse of the denarius of L. Aemilius Buca portrays Selene and Endymion, not the dream of Sulla. It was issued after Caesar’s assassination and served as a funeral tribute to him.”

Cf. Fears, J. Rufus. “Sulla or Endymion ? A denarius of L. Aemilius Buca.” American Journal of Archaeology LXXVIII (1974): 165.

Cogrossi, C.. “Il denario di L. Aemilius Buca e la morte di Cesare.” Contributi dell’Istituto di Storia antica dell’Università del Sacro Cuore IV (1976): 169-178.

Abstract: “This denarius must have been struck between the end of April and June 44 BC. J.C. Contrary to the opinion of A. Alföldi (cf. APh XXXIV p. 458), it is not the dream of Sylla that he represents, but the sleep of Endymion, and he thus alludes to the death of Caesar. Neither the title of Dictator nor that of Parens Patriae appears there, but simply that of the monetary L. Buca. The currency, which does not admit the divinity of Caesar, but does not deny him the merits of the great man, corresponds well to this precise moment.”

Nothing about Victory in Borg or Zanker and Ewald, and Platt says the following:

Update 6/11/21:

Alföldi 1942 pl. 45