The San Martino in Pensilis hoard and Andrew Burnett’s analysis thereof is probably the most important new information on third century Roman and Italian Silver issues from the last decade. Highlights included:
Evidence of a significant gap (ballpark 300-260BC) between Rome’s first and second silver issues
The first Roma and Pistis Locrian coin in a hoard context
30 ‘fresh’ coins of Teanum, Cales, and Suessa! (No Cora specimen, alas.)
My scanned photocopy was really crappy, so I’m just delighted to realize that it’s available open access via Persée. No more squinting for me today! I’m also intrigued by the location of this hoard, just north of the Gargano (if you go, you must try the mysterious and delicious Lesina eel!). It’s just down the road from Larinum (see earlier posts). The Frentani became allied to the Romans in 304 BC and somewhere around the mid third century Larinum shifted from minting Neapolis type bronzes with Greek legends, to Roman type bronzes with Latin legends (well Oscan language, Latin Alphabet) (HN Italy 622 vs. 623).
I was surprised to have so much trouble finding an image of this type. Thus I thought I’d throw up this bad screen shot and link just to help the next numismatist so struggling. HN Italy obviously knows more specimens than the Paris one as a weight range is given (6.1-6.4 g); I’ve not tracked down their locations. Millingen, although wrong to re attribute the coin to Sora, was correct to see it paralleling issues of Cales, Teanum, and Suessa. See my earlier post.
Update 10 April 2014: I’ve revised my thinking on this issue. I”m not sure it really parallels the issue of Cales, Teanum, and Suessa that well. Key differences in my mind are the lack of any additional symbols on the obverse and the placement of the legend on reverse in the field not in an exergue. It is also missing from the San Martino in Pentilis hoard which has decent number of all three of the others. I am thus skeptical we can really associate this coin with the others and by extension with the 1st Punic War.
Update 7 January 2015: A specimen from Naples was published in the same piece that gives us our first look at RRC 2/1. Isn’t that fun!? Images link to original publication. Based on this photograph I’m inclined to say that the HN Italy reading of the legend is in error. It should be CORANO not KORANO. Also HN Italy does not mention the palm branch (?) behind Apollo’s head. The hat shape of the rider seems distinctive.
The coin above is just there as a reminder that boars do appear on early Roman coinage in other contexts. The main point of this post is put up this curious theory about the elephant and pig currency bar (RRC 9/1):
Taken from p.462 of Borba Florenzano, Maria Beatriz ‘Aes signatum bars, signa and coins: emblematic objects and apotropaism’ from XII. lnternationaler Nurnismatischer Kongress, Berlin 1997 (2000), 460-465.
I would just note in comparing the boar above to our friend the sow below, that both are represented with an impressive line of bristles down their backs. I do think, however, the two engravers have carved the animals in such away as to plainly distinguish their genders. And, I have my doubts that the legions would use the female, instead of the male, as their totemic creature…
I was thinking about tripods in a totally different framework when I came across the very smart work of Carsten Hjort Lange (again!). In his 2009 book, Res Publica Constituta, he gives a new reading of the famous plaque from the Palatine in light of the use of tripods on the coinage of 42 BC (p. 172ff). A great read, but too long to extract here just follow the link!
I also came across a reading of the Tripods on the Coins of Herod (same time frame) that I thought delightfully sensible:
He made the argument for two rostra instead of two tridents on the basis of the Athlit Ram, a much more distant iconographic parallel, but that was before the Egadi Rams all came to light! All of the Egadi Rams found thus far have a similar design on their driving center (see Tusa and Royal link above for the anatomy of the rams), but 1 provides the best visual parallel. Given Egadi 1 has no specific provenience, it is harder to contextualize. Tusa and Royal cautiously say:
“The clear differences in iconography, inscriptions and overall shape, combined with its unknown provenience, make an association of the Egadi 1 ram with the events of the First Punic War somewhat problematic.” (p. 45 n. 92)
And earlier they noted:
“Egadi 1 has the shortest driving center of the Egadi rams, being nearly identical in length to Egadi 5, yet has the longest tailpiece and the highest mid-length height and width. The reduction from the head to constricted waist is slightly greater than from the inlet. Given the ram’s significant increase in height from its constricted waist, it possesses the third tallest and second widest head. Its large head combined with a short driving center gives this ram a stubbier design than the others.” (p. 14)
Could it be earlier? Could it be later? I’d speculate as to the former, but this is only a kneejerk instinct regarding the a likely general design trend from compact and short to long and thin. Such speculation is likely unwarranted. I could even argue against it via the ‘stubby’ appearance of the rostrum depicted on The Tomb of Cartilius Poplicola which dates to the 1st century BC (images are already up on my early post on prow stems).
In CMRR, Crawford first uses the evidence of the Nemi finds to place the RRC 14 finds ‘no earlier than about 280’. He then goes on: “One may speculate that the need to administer the agri quaestorii acquired in 290 (Lib. Col. 253, 17L; 349, 17 L) played a part in the decision to produce the first issue of cast bronze coinage.” (p.40-41).
To wrap my head around the plausibility of this I turned to Roselaar’s Public Land in the Roman Republic (2010). She gives a good definition and survey of ager quaestorius (p. 121-127). On 290 BC she says:
Even if we go ahead and concede the land around Cures was sold shortly after 290, I have a hard time following the logic of how the sale of land is made easier by the creation of coinage.
The other issue muddying the waters regards agrarian issues in this period is the parallel and in precise testimony that M’. Curius Dentatus distributed land. Viris Illustribus has a good mash-up of various accounts. First after conquering the Samnites he says in a contio ” I took so much land that it would have become a desert, if I had not taken so many men. I took so many men that they would have starved, if I had not taken so much land.” (33.2) Then, he gives 14 iugera of land the people (which we do not learn) and only takes so much for himself saying, “there was no one for whom this amount was not sufficient”. (33.5-6) The latter echoes a pithy saying of his found in Plutarch, but where we are offered no context for it. Valerius Maximus says only seven iugera were given out, but also makes a moral out of the general taking no more than the rest. Pliny has the very same nugget:
Then at the end of the mini bio in Viris Illustribus (link above) we’re told he’s given 500 iugera by the public for his services (33.10).
And, just to add to the mix we should remember that his campaigns in the Po is said to have led to the founding of the colony of Sena which would have also included land distributions (Polybius 2.19). The Periochae of Livy don’t have a land distribution, but do have the colonial foundation.
Cato the Elder, and Cicero after him, loved Dentatus as the epitome of the rustic Roman, military man and farmer, happy to conquer everyone in sight and still eat a simple stew from a wooden bowl. [Cincinnatus, anyone!?] The literary sources care FAR more about the bon mot than the distribution. I don’t think we can nail down a context for it.
Thus, I think this is just a fun rabbit hole with very little promise for finding a context for the aes grave.
That’s not to say Dentatus is completely useless to us when we’re thinking about early contexts for making coins:
I’d not like to connect this aqueduct to any one issue but like the construction of Via Appia, big infrastructure projects and the establishment of colonies are easier if the state has an easy means of making payments.
There comes a day in every young numismatist’s life when he or she asks the question is the pig story true? Did the anyone, let alone the Romans, ever use pigs in battle against elephants? Would it work? And if it worked wouldn’t everyone have used it? Fighting elephants was certainly the opposite of fun.
First off, let’s throw out the idea of Roman flaming pigs (regardless of what the video games offer you as options). That is bad scholarship at least when it comes to the Roman account. Here’s some of that bad scholarship (p. 87ff) and another one (p. 202). Don’t believe everything you read it books, even books with footnotes. Lamentably, or admirably, Wikipedia is actually far better at reviewing the sources, than apparently some university presses. Here’s the War Pig entry.
So why do numismatists think that pigs and elephants should date the above currency bar to the Pyrrhic War? Because of these two sentences in Aelian (on the nature of animals, 1.38):
Ariete cornuto et suis grunnitu abhorret elephas. Sic Romanos Pyrrhi Epirotarum regis elephantos in fugam vertisse dicunt, victoriamque amplam ex eo bello retulisse.
The elephant fears the horned ram and the grunting of a pig. Thus, the Romans are said to have routed the elephants of Pyrrhus, king of the Epirotes and brought about brilliant victory for themselves.
I put up the Latin as that’s more readily available online for those who want to check out context. My translation is based on the Greek (not that it makes a huge difference).
This is not great historical evidence. And everyone gets so hung up on the pigs that they ignore the mention of rams completely. Aelian followed Pliny and other writers for most of his little anecdotes. Pliny has squealing pigs and elephants, but no Pyrrhus. Let’s put this in context: Pliny is also our earliest source for elephants being afraid of mice. And common on, did you really need a Mythbusters episode to debunk that?
The whole thing sounds like some marvelous tale. And in fact it’s found in the some of the Alexander Romances:
The ‘secret’ of the elephant’s fear of a pig is attributed to Porus, the Indian King.
There is a better attested version of the elephant and pig story in Hellenistic history, but no Romans in sight. Again, our sources are late and known for being magpies of wonderful tales:
Elephants left a big impression on the Roman mind. Of this there is no doubt. But if pigs worked so well why not use it as a tactic elsewhere?
I find myself asking myself about the provenance of the BM specimen (acquired 1867 from the Sambon Collection). Are there other specimens of this type of currency bar? Are there more of them? Any with a decent archaeological provenance? Is it all just to good to be true?