Portrait of a Moneyer

This is just fun.

C. 101 (Mattingly) or 104 (Crawford) this novus homo makes a VERY conservative coin (RRC 318/1) (gorgeous specimen though!):


By 94 he’s consul.  And Cicero’s brother is using him as a positive exempla by the late 60s:


Then his son (so Crawford, I think perhaps grandson — we don’t know the moneyer’s filiation I don’t think, but I need to go through Cicero’s letters again to double check) in 51 BCE puts his portrait on a coin (RRC 437):


I don’t think we have any other portraits of moneyers except Brutus…  And none where the portrait is from the regular coin series.  That’s your trivial detail for the day.

I guess I had good instincts on the grandson thing… I’ve ordered this via ILL and will update blog as I read more:



Woytek, Bernhard E. and Zawadzka, Anna. “Ockham’s razor: a structural analysis of the denarii of Coelius Caldus (RRC 437).” Numismatic Chronicle 176 (2016): 135-153.

Responding to all this:

Ryan, Francis Xavier. “Die Legende IMP.AV.X auf den Denaren des Triumvirn Caldus.” Schweizer Münzblätter = Gazette Numismatique Suisse 56, no. 222 (2006): 39-42. Doi: 10.5169/seals-171948

Badian, Ernst. “Two numismatic phantoms: the false priest and the spurious son.” Arctos 32 (1998): 45-60.

Evans, Richard J.. “The denarius issue of CALDVS IIIVIR and associated problems.” The Ancient History Bulletin V (1991): 129-134.

Gladiator?! Really?


Dammit.  I hate when I think I agree with Crawford and then start scratching the surface…  This is RRC 294/1 (Dated 113/112 Crawford, 110 Mattingly).

The problem: gladiators don’t fight with whips.   Or if they do I cannot find a textual reference (and I’m pretty good at that). Also, , the man with a whip is clearly dominant and also armed with a sheathed sword.

Crawford is in agreement with Smith 1875. But the Tertullian (de Spec. 21.4) cited by Smith is useless as it just has the gladiators made to fight by attendants with whips, and that is also in Seneca.  Whips are how you control slaves.

The alternate view is that the type depicts a scene of slave suppression (Numismatic Circular 11; Crawford also attributes this ‘fantastic explanation’ to Babelon; so also Grueber in BMCRR).

Lots of these sources make the senior T. Didius (father of cos. 98) a praetor in 138 BCE fighting slaves in Sicily.  And it is true we don’t know who was fighting slaves in Sicily that year and there is gap in our known Praetors that would accommodate Didius, but we’ve got no other testimony beyond this coin it seems (Here I’m following MRR who does not include Didius Sr. in any rank above Tr. Pl.).

I have an itch in the back of my brain that the scene of former enslavers cowing the self-liberating enslaved by laying down arms and picking up the whip.  This is a scene from a Massinger play set in Sicily during the Roman slave revolt.  But I swear that is not where I have it from.  I know my ancient texts better than my early modern dramas….

AND YES! I found it … (OR rather Edwards 1964 did)  its from Herodotus or Trogus:


So Crawford is right that it isn’t attested in the Sicilian Slave War but it is an ancient historical trope!  I hate changing my mind but I really can’t see this as a gladiatorial combat scene.

“Men of Scythia, see what we are about! We are fighting our own slaves; they slay us, and we grow fewer; we slay them, and thereafter shall have fewer slaves. Now therefore my counsel is that we drop our spears and bows, and go to meet them each with his horsewhip in hand. As long as they saw us armed, they thought themselves to be our peers and the sons of our peers; let them see us with whips and no weapons of war, and they will perceive that they are our slaves; and taking this to heart they will not abide our attack.”

My husband and I enjoy falling asleep to Herodotus which is why this is so familiar

Worrying about chairs and fasces (again)


” RPC 919 var. (date?). Sear, Imperators 587 var. (same). Buttrey, Studies in Numismatic Method Presented to Philip Grierson, 36. “


Crawford 30

So I was thinking about the second of these coin above, the one from Paestum, and that got me looking at this older post.  The implication of Cicero’s passage seems to be that magistrates in the provinces have lictors but they carry staffs not fasces.  If so, what are these fasces doing on the Paestum coin? Surely Cicero must be wrong, cf. Tomb of Cartilius Poplicola.

My other concern about the Paestum fasces feels more serious.  How would a magistrate at Paestum have axes?!  A symbol of military authority outside the city of Rome…

The top coin is just bonus.