76 out of 234 days: Open Access Attalids

Some readers of this blog may be interested to know that Noah Kaye‘s 2022 book from CUP is available for free download and is completely open access. I’ve not yet dug in properly but I’m excited to do so. He also have a number of interesting numismatic and Hellenistic history articles and chapters posted on his academia edu page: worth checking out!

non coin section

Friday was so productive work wise I woke up Saturday itching to work. I resisted. I worked in the garden. I cleaned and re organized the pantry. I helped the kiddos build land form models for a school project (I can mix some pretty great earth tones out of black, orange, and green arcrylic paints and my tooth pick flags would make any 60s homemaker envious). There was more you get the idea. A good weekend.

Today I’m in NYC to see Chroma and catch up with colleagues (friends!), but I have a little time to tend communications and logistics: got through 99.5 percent of my paper list Friday: must make another. Almost ready to buy my April plane ticket to Rome just waiting to hear about one more possible opportunity. I’m thinking it is early and I feel fresh perhaps I’ll do one historical blog post as pre writing for the RACOM conference.

73 of 234 days: borrowed images

RRC 346/2; Freiburg specimen
RRC 340/1

I have an extensive unpublished paper on the importance of the ludi Apollinares in the late republic which is slate to be a chapter in the new book. These two coin types will both feature in that chapter as will RRC 346/1. But for now what I’m really interested in is Censorinus’ decision to imitated Piso’s earlier issue. By contrast his bronze types are really innovative (Ostia on Bronze: cf earlier post). Even his other denarius is doing something relatively new. The Ancus Numa jugate heads might draw visually on RRC 307 and 312/1 (the only earlier jugate heads on the Roman series is a v rare semuncia from Luceria but I’m not even sure that counts); and the use of legendary kings probably was inspired by RRC 344 (Tatius). Desultors appeared in a slightly different form on RRC 297 (early blog posts on desultores). The Apollo horse coins echo a massive v recent series. I wonder if the nature of these borrowings on the silver might be a means of making the coins blend better with the coins most common in contemporary circulation. An attempt to illicit an ‘oh that’s familiar’ feeling in a moment of deep civil crisis.

Non coin portion.

Most of my main intellectual work for the day is done already: a grant co-writing/brainstorming session, a meeting about a co-authored conference paper, finishing my review of literary sources on Censorinus that I started yesterday, this post, now I really need to do logistics and emails. My least favorite work. That said it feels good to have written and thought a great deal and still have a sizable part of my work day left for those v necessary tasks. I’ll make a paper list.

Gaius Censorinus, mon. 88

The function of this post is to get my head screwed on straight about career and connections of the moneyer of 88 (RRC 346). It goes without saying that there is a great deal of recent scholarly work on the gens Marcia: I’ve collected bibliography below. That said, I like to start from the primary evidence and then read secondary literature to refine and critique my first impressions.

The family cognomen derives from a Gaius, cos. 310, Censor 295 AND 265, and Princeps Senatus c. 269 (primary evidence on this last role not clear to me: check Ryan 1998). This man was also either a priest or augur, the evidence is inconclusive (cf. Vaahtera 2002: 105ff.). This man himself may have been the son of the cos. 357, cognomen Rutilius. [I may come back to him, but not just yet.] We also think that in 311, just one year before his consulship he was tribune of the plebs and proposed a piece of legislation relating to the election of military tribunes:

“in that year, also, two commands —both military —began to be conferred by the people; for it was enacted, first, that sixteen tribunes of the soldiers should be chosen by popular vote for the four legions, whereas previously these places had been for the most part in the gift of dictators and consuls, very few being left to popular suffrage; secondly, that the people should likewise elect two naval commissioners to have charge of equipping and refitting the fleet. [4] The former of these measures was proposed by the tribunes of the plebs Lucius Atilius and Gaius Marcius; the latter by Marcus Decius, another tribune of the plebs.” (Liv. 9.30.3)

I mention this because it reminds me of fragment from which we assume the existence of our moneyer’s uncle a Cnaeus, who is thought by MMR and Thommen 1989 to have been tribune of the plebs some time before 121 based on a fragment assigned to C. Gracchus from Char. GL 1.208k:

from Loeb p. 309: DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.fragmentary_republican_latin-oratory.2019

I think LPPR stands for G. Rotondi’s Leges Publicae Populi Romani: Elenco Cronologico con una Introduzione Sull’Attività Legislativa dei Comizi Romani (1912).

Assuming the Cn. could be C., then why couldn’t C. Gracchus be talking about the law of 311?! Or, I guess we could say if the uncle Gnaeus exists he might have been trying to build on the success of the cos. 310 by proposing related legislation… Still not a lot to go on.

MRR is perhaps misleading to suggest he passed legislation to limit times one could hold the censorship. The below passage describes a speech in a contio, not a legislative assembly. Plut. Cor. 1.1 does say it was legislation, not just the rebuke, but perhaps it is Plut. who is overstating rather than Val. Max. understating?

Val. Max. 4.3.1; Loeb

If they become check sources on military exploits and triumph in DPRR.

We hear nothing of his descendants until the cos. 149, assumed to be his great grandson.

Our first glimpse at his career is with his choice of the Hecyra by Terence for the Roman Games as curule aedile, where this play, ‘the mother-in-law’, was a huge hit after disruptions at its first two stagings (Knorr 2013, cf. Parker 1996; Did. Ter. Her.). We know nothing of his other offices until his consulship where he had a very lack luster career in charge of the fleet at the start of the 3rd Carthaginian War, barely escaping disaster. Nevertheless he was elected Censor for 147. (Did the name help?!) We also know he took some interest in Academic philosophy and Clitomachus of Carthage (died 110 BCE) addressed a treatise on the subject to him at some point (Cic. Acad. 2.102). Perhaps he introduced in grandsons to such philosophy? My colleague Philip Thibodeau pointed out to me that Terence and Clitomachus are near contemporaries and are both said to be of Africa origin, as well as appearing to share the cos. 149’s patronage.

On to his grandsons, the moneyers, as we have no knowledge of their father.

In 92 BCE we assume Gaius (mon. 87) was the Censorinus who thought about prosecuting Sulla and then chickened out (cf. Reams 1993 who argues this does not prove he was a Marian):

When Sulla came back to Rome, however, Censorinus brought suit against him for bribery, alleging that he had collected large sums of money illegally from a friendly and allied kingdom. However, Censorinus did not put in an appearance at the trial, but dropped his impeachment.

Plut. Sulla 5.6

One Gaius Censorinus, likely our moneyer was known to have been an orator, and we might connect Cicero’s testimony in the Brutus with what we know of his grandfather’s connections to Greek literature, esp. academic philosophy.

C. Censorinus had a good stock of Greek literature, explained whatever he advanced with great neatness and perspicuity, and had a graceful action, but was too cold and unanimated for the Forum.

Cic. Brut. 237 cf. 311

In 87 he was certainly deep into the dirty work of the regime. He is credited with the murder (execution?!) of the consul! His official capacity this year is uncertain. Broughton (MRR) thought he was a military tribune; Suolahti 1955 thought he might be better described as a legatus or praefectus equitum. I’m not sure it matters really. The world had turned upside down and he set some dangerous precedents.

Cinna and Marius had sworn to Octavius (cos. 87), and the augurs and soothsayers had predicted, that he would suffer no harm, yet his friends advised him to fly. He replied that he would never desert the city while he was consul. So he withdrew from the forum to the Janiculum with the nobility and what was left of his army, where he occupied the curule chair and wore the robes of office, attended as consul by lictors. Here he was attacked by Censorinus with a body of horse, and again his friends and the soldiers who stood by him urged him to fly and brought him his horse, but he disdained even to arise, and awaited death. Censorinus cut off his head and carried it to Cinna, and it was suspended in the forum in front of the rostra, the first head of a consul that was so exposed. After him the heads of others who were slain were suspended there; and this shocking custom, which began with Octavius, was not discontinued, but was handed down to subsequent massacres.

The execution of a consul was widely remembered, but Censorinus’ role was not always deemed crucial in how the incident was recall in our sources. Besides Appian none of the numerous sources on Octavius’ death mention Censorinus (see list below).

Later in Appian we hear of a Marcius apparently in command of Cinnan faction troops, where he seems to be on par with Carbo and Marius at least in the narrative.

About the same time Metellus gained a victory over another army of Carbo, and here again five cohorts, for safety’s sake, deserted to Metellus during the battle. Pompey overcame Marcius near Senae and plundered the town. Sulla, having shut Marius up in Praeneste…

BC 1.88

Yet we can’t be sure this is Gaius and not his brother Lucius! Or even another member of the gens… Appian again discusses Marcius’ defeat by Pompey a little later on. Within his narrative it seems to be a separate episode, but perhaps Appian is confused and Marcius only met Pompey once? Or perhaps both brothers were defeated by Pompey on two different occasions. I can’t see any easy way of resolving the mystery.

Carbo sent Marcius with eight legions to the relief of his colleague, Marius, at Praeneste, having heard that he was suffering from hunger. Pompey fell upon them from ambush in a defile, defeated them, killed a large number, and surrounded the remainder on a hill. Marcius indeed made his escape, leaving his fires burning, but the army blamed him for being caught in an ambush and there was a serious mutiny. One whole legion marched off under their standards to Ariminum without orders. The rest separated and went home in driblets, so that only seven cohorts remained with their general. Marcius, having made a failure of it in this way, returned to Carbo.

BC 1.90

We have no direct testimony of how Gaius the moneyer died but that it was violent can be inferred by Cic. Brut. 311 where he is counted among the losses of civil unrest.

His brother, Lucius, left no certain trace in our literary records only his coin issues (RRC 360, RRC 363). We can perhaps assume he is the younger brother because he held office later. Hinard 1985 assumes he was a senator and proscribed. He, however, seems to have been survived by a young son, thought by Rüpke 2005 to have been borne c. 89. He was another Lucius, cos. 39 in what year he also triumphed over Macedonia. He was in 43 a supporter of Antony whom he had joined at Mutina. He seems to have benefited by the proscriptions even getting for a time Cicero’s Palatine residence (Vell. 2.14.3).

Sources on Octavius’ death excepting Appian quoted above

Cic. Tusc. 5.55: decapitation on orders of Cinna

Augustan era Fasti seem to recall his death in office (note to self: check Latin text at some point)

Liv. Per. 79-80 gives a summary, death recorded, no particular agency ascribed but Cinna and Marius by implication

IG 14.1297 records death and lays agency on Marius

Vell. Pat. 2.22 slain on command of Cinna

Val. Max. 1.6.10 omen of beheading: no ascribing of agency but Cinna by implication

Ascon. Scaur. 23 Cinna agent of Octavius’ death as well as that of Crassus

Plut. Sull. 12.8: Cinna kills Octavius

Plut. Mar. 42.5: dragged down from the rostra and butchered by men sent to do the job

Flor. 2.9.14: head displayed on rostra, general massacre at predesignated symbol.

Vir. Ill. 69: Cinna kills Octavius

Aug. Civ. 3.27: head displayed on rostra

Morelli, Davide. “The family traditions of the « Gens Marcia » between the fourth and third centuries B.C.” Classical Quarterly N. S. 71, no. 1 (2021): 189-199. Doi: 10.1017/S0009838821000495

Syme, Ronald. “The politics of the Marcii.” In Approaching the Roman revolution : papers on Republican history, Edited by Syme, Ronald and Santangelo, Federico., 44-55. Oxford: Oxford University Pr., 2016.

Russo, Federico. “I « Carmina Marciana » e le tradizioni sui Marcii.” La Parola del Passato 60, no. 340 (2005): 5-32.

Zanin, Manfredi. “Zur fraglichen Identität des Münzmeisters Q. Marcius (RRC 283).” Museum Helveticum 77, no. 2 (2020): 216-220.

Briquel, Dominique. “Les guerres d’Ancus Marcius: comment mener les guerres en accord avec la religion.” Bulletin de l’Association Guillaume Budé, no. 2 (2018): 63-81.

Hölkeskamp, K.-J.. “In the web of (hi-)stories : « memoria », monuments, and their myth-historical « interconnectedness ».” In Memory in ancient Rome and early Christianity, Edited by Galinsky, Karl., 169-213. Oxford: Oxford University Pr., 2016.

Hölkeskamp, Karl-Joachim. “Im Gewebe der Geschichte(n): « memoria », Monumente und ihre mythhistorische Vernetzung.” Klio 94, no. 2 (2012): 380-414.

Rohr Vio, Francesca. “« Clari monimenta Philippi »: poesia e politica nei « Fasti » di Ovidio.” Paideia 72 (2017): 279-291.

Tansey, Patrick. “Marcia Catonis and the « fulmen clarum ».” Classical Quarterly N. S. 63, no. 1 (2013): 423-426. Doi: 10.1017/S000983881200081X

Jyri Vaahtera. (2002). Livy and the Priestly Records: À Propos ILS 9338. Hermes, 130(1), 100–108. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4477486

Thommen, L. (1989) Das Volkstribunat der späten römischen Republik. Stuttgart.

Ryan, F. X. (1998) Rank and Participation in the Republican Senate. Stuttgart.

Reams, Lee E. “CENSORINUS, SULLA, AND MARIUS.” Rheinisches Museum Für Philologie 136, no. 3/4 (1993): 281–88. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41233915.

Knorr, Ortwin. “Hecyra.” In A Companion to Terence, 295–317. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2013.

Parker, Holt N. “Plautus vs. Terence: Audience and Popularity Re-Examined.” The American Journal of Philology 117, no. 4 (1996): 585–617. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1561950.

Suolahti, J. (1955) The junior officers of the Roman army in the Republican period : a study on social structure. Helsinki.

Hinard, F. (1985) Les Proscriptions de la Rome Républicaine. Rome & Paris.

Rüpke, J. (2005) Fasti sacerdotum : die Mitglieder der Priesterschaften und das sakrale Funktionspersonal römischer, griechischer, orientalischer und jüdisch-christlicher Kulte in der Stadt Rom von 300 v. Chr. bis 499 n. Chr. (3 vols.). Wiesbaden.

72 of 234 days: Hoards between 88-78 BCE

Right. 22 days later I’m back at the question of RRC 346 and friends. Here’s the post where this work got started.

Time is a mysterious thing: even as I log it here in these posts I still have an internal feeling that it is at once standing still and speeding forward.

My initial question is does this issue behave any differently from near contemporary issues in the hoards. My guess was be that it might drop out of the hoards. No dice. It is never a very big part of any hoard, but up through 78 we don’t see in the 24 available hoards any real trend.

I tried adding in a trend line to this graph and a linear one fit best with a very slight upward trend from just below 3% to just above 3% with a low R2 (.0106). I don’t put much stock in such a trend line other than perhaps to just confirm it is not a downward trend.

Another issue of interest is RRC 348.

Here the trend line dips, we have a very obvious outlier messing with our data.

The funky hoard is Alife (ALI in CHRR online, this is recorded with only minimal details as no. 234 in Crawford’s CHRR 1969):

Pozzi, E. “Ripostigli Repubblicani Romani nel Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli.” Annali dell’Instituto Italiano di Numismatica 7–8 (1960–1961): 153-245.

This hoard closes at 87BCE and contains only 83 Denarii the vast majority dating 91 or later. Once it is removed the trend line for the presence of the Dossenus issue in the remaining hoards is nearly perfectly flat. There is no evidence the hoard was intentionally excluded in any systematic way.

The final issue of interest is RRC 349. It is smaller than the other two issues. (Yes, we can use RRDP data to quantify this and probably will for the conference paper, but for now just take my word for it.)

While it appears in far fewer hoards and never makes up more than 5% of the proportion 100-78BCE coins in these hoards, there is again no downward trend over this initial decade.

I hate negative conclusions they are so unsatisfying for all they are important. I think I’ve also learned a thing or two about how to make this process faster. I started by trying to emulated that work I did in the previous post for this longer time span and it was a hot mess. I wish it was easier to pull data for hoards out of CHRR online. I’d like to extend this by another decade to see if any downward trend emerges at any point. I doubt it but I like to be thorough, before I satisfy myself of the final conclusion.

I’m going to leave this data crunching a do some historical narrative writing next. Getting my textual sources in order and the prosopography might help me ask better questions.

Besides that historical narrative, I really really need to stop avoiding the smelting logistics problem, I’ve also got to put a little time into prepping for the grant planning meeting, and confirm Berlin dates (that’s just an email), and probably address Rome flight logistics and dates. Ok. I know that is too much for a single day. I’m just not that good as swapping between tasks. Maybe I best tackle some low hanging fruit before I let myself fall further into the 80s BCE.

EID MAR reception

a round up of images just for fun

Year of the 4 emperors, link to interesting twitter thread by Lauren Donovan Ginsberg, PhD illustrated with this specimen, specimen link

OCRE entry

“Lorenzino de’ Medici. 1514-1548. Medal (Bronze, 36mm, 26.40 g 6), on the murder of Alessandro de’ Medici on 6 January 1537” link (cf. another type)
link – note dagger and Phrygian cap on base (cf. year seven restrike which shows both daggers more clearly)
Dassier’s Beauty
Paduan 16th century (link)
Drawing of a gem said to have been found 1728 in the ‘Agro Cortonensi’, clearly Tassie and Wedgwood’s inspiration
Pichler (also imitated by Wedgwood)

There are said to be more Galba specimens in Haag (now Leiden), Turin, and Vienna.

Civil wars under Galba; BnF specimen
BM R.10085

On the Ides

BM 1855,0512.40; RRC 508/3

For though the tyrant has been removed, the tyranny remains.  … We who could not be enslaved to him, now serve his memoranda. As to the Liberalia, who was able to resist the summons? Suppose that I could have done so; even so when I did attend, could I possibly speak my opinions freely? … The Ides of March gave our friends, those divine men, entrance to heaven, but did not give the Roman people liberty. … will the senate be permitted to choose freely?  If it is allowed, then I shall rejoice that liberty has been recovered. If not, what will that change of masters have brought me except the joy  of our eyes beholding the just killing of a tyrant?  …

Cic. Att. 14.14, Shuckburgh modified

Some 30 years ago, Erskine problematized the truism of Rome’s hatred of kings, pointing out the degree to which this hatred was a rhetorical convenience of late republic.   To do so he opened with a passage of Cicero’s de Re publica:

when Tarquin had been banished, the title of king came to be  as bitterly hated by the Romans as it had been longingly desired after the death, or rather the departure, of Romulus.  Hence, just as they could not bear to be without a king, so now, after the banishment of Tarquinius, they could not bear even to hear the title of king (nomen regis) mentioned.

Cic. Rep. 2.52

I begin with this passage for two reasons. First, because of how Cicero is emphasizing that it is the title itself that the Romans abhorred, not specifically the institution of monarchical rule. Second because of date of this treatise, 51 BCE and that it is written in the shadow of Pompey’s sole consulship the year before, and how it seemed to bring to fruition deep fears regarding the continued survival of the republican constitution.

BM 2002,0102.4374; RRC 435/1; 53 BCE

The mid fifties BCE were a period of intense debate over autocratic rule, one I might argue that shaped the construction of not only Julius Caesar’s but Augustus’  choices. In 53 BCE, one moneyer was the son of one of the consuls, M. Valerius Messalla – as so often happens, father and son share the same name. Curiously, we think the young man who made this coin is the very same as he who will go on to be appointed consul in 31 BCE over Antony and to be patron of the famous literary circle that included Tibullus and Sulpicia.  The same who was to be treated as an exemplary figure in the Principate and beyond.   In Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis, the deified Augustus is even made to quote him saying pudet imperii (“power is shameful”).

I must fall back on the remarks of that great orator, Messala Corvinus, and say “I am disgusted with power”. 

Sen. Ap. 10.2 ; deified Augustus speaking; Penguin trans.

As a young moneyer he celebrates his father’s consulship, writing PATRE COS, ‘in the consulship of my father’ prominently on the reverse. His father’s curule seat rests on a scepter and diadem, the symbols of Hellenistic kingship. The message is clear: it is my father who stands between the Roman state and autocratic rule. His father was unable to enter his office until July of 53 BCE, seven months late, and every attempt he and his colleague made to hold elections for the consuls of 52 BCE was defeated by mob violence. The year 52 BCE opened with no consuls, precipitating the sole consulship of Pompey.

Messala’s coinage is directly in dialogue with the ideologically charged images used by two moneyers the previous year. 

On the one hand, Brutus…

yes, THAT Brutus, the one who will get stabby 10 years hence

….promotes his ancestors as not only expelling kings and establishing libertas, but also through his maternal line, the memory of Servilius Ahala, who according to tradition stopped a would-be popular tyrant by murdering him. 

The would be tyrant’s crime? 

He was an equestrian who was taking it upon himself to feed the people during a grain shortage without Senatorial authorization or approval. The pairing of the two Brutus and Ahala predates these coins, not just in historical narratives, but also political discourse of the period. Brutus is leaning in to a well-established historical framing of contemporary events.

he said that “an eloquent consular, …, had said to him that there was need of some Servilius Ahala or Brutus being found.“

Cic. Att. 2.24, August 59 BCE

On the other hand, Q. Pompeius Rufus celebrates his two grandfathers, both consuls of 88 BCE.  Not only does he create a limited run of double portrait coins, but his parallel large issue shows their curule chairs and religious office.  We might read this iconography as a nostalgia for the restoration of senatorial authority at almost any cost.  His own father had been killed in the clashes between the consuls of 88 BCE and the tribune Sulpicius over the question of enrolling the Italians in the tribes.  And the most important legislation of Sulla and Rufus as consuls was the strengthening of the Senate in the aftermath of Sulla’s first march on the city, the murder of Sulpicius, and the expulsion of Marius.  Of course the young Rufus who made these coins will go on to be himself a Tribune of the Plebs in 52 and a backer of Clodius, who will be prosecuted and exiled himself in 51 BCE for his part in the civil unrest.

There is significant evidence that the 50s BCE generally saw positive, nostalgic portrayals of Sulla put forth not only by his son Faustus, but also a number of other descendants and members of the senatorial class.  In lieu of a full survey of that evidence here, I offer just a bit of Valerius Maximus. 

C. Marius acted like a great citizen and public benefactor in crushing L. Saturninus, who had summoned the slaves to arms by showing them a pileus in lieu of a standard. But when L. Sulla and his army were breaking into the city he raised the pileus to call in the help of the slaves. So imitating the misdeed he had punished, he found another Marius to bring him down.

Val. Max. 8.6.2

The passage makes clear that Sulla’s violent actions against Marius were justified in light of the threat to the state.  While I don’t think we should believe that either in fact tried to rally servile allies, the accusation plays to the largest fears in Roman society and symbolizes the general threat to the social order posed in each case.

Having set the scene a bit in the 50s I want to return to this question of problematic vocabulary and how it emerges in the historiography of the Augustan Era. What words do we now use to describe autocratic rule, and what was the language deployed in the past? How is tyranny different from dicatorship? Sole consulship from a principate? or monarchy or kingship?

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, writing after Actium, in the fifth book of the Roman Antiquities spends a good deal of time on the strictly legendary origins of the dictatorship.  His narrative culminates in a final chapter in which he claims that it is a type of constitutional tyranny, but that it was viewed positively until its name was wrecked by Sulla, after which the title dictator becomes loathsome, even when a similar constitutional tyranny is desirable for the state as a whole, hence Julius Caesar’s failure, and by implication, Augustus’ success.   Dionysius thesis is simple:

Monarch is useful and necessary, but it needs a new name.

But in the time of our fathers, a full four hundred years after Titus Larcius, the institution became an object of reproach and hatred to all men under L. Cornelius Sulla, the first and only dictator who exercised his power with harshness and cruelty; so the Romans then perceived for the first time what they had along been ignorant of, that the dictator­ship is a tyranny.

Roman Antiquities 5.77

Another Augustan Author, Livy rewrites Polybius’ account of Scipio the Elder being hailed ‘king’ in Spain, he re-frames it as a lesson as to how they may think him kingly, but they must avoid the word itself, because of Roman sensibilities.  This line of reasoning is completely absent from Polybius’ version. Taken together, Cicero, Dionysius and Livy suggest a strong discourse in Rome at the end of the first century BCE around how autocratic forms of government may be at once problematic in name, but practical in function. And moreover, how those problems of perception stem from specific negative historical exempla.

All the Spaniards…with one accord saluted him as “King.” He ordered silence to be proclaimed, and then told them that the title he valued most was the one his soldiers had given him, the title of “Imperator.” “The name of king,” he said, “so great elsewhere, is insupportable to Roman ears. If a kingly mind is in your eyes the noblest thing in human nature, you may attribute it to me in thought, but you must avoid the use of the word.” Even the barbarians appreciated the greatness of a man who stood so high that he could look down on a title the splendour of which dazzled other men’s eyes.

Livy 27.19.3-5

I would argue that the attitude of Livy, Dionysius, and even the late Cicero, is markedly different than Roman rhetoric less than two decades earlier.  In the aftermath of the Catilinarian conspiracy Cicero was upset by accusations that his behavior approached that of a king. 

you called me Tarquin, and Numa, and the third foreign king of Rome. … do not call me a king, lest you be laughed at.  Unless, indeed, it appears to be the conduct of a king to live in such a manner as not to be slave not only to any man, but not even to any passion; to despise all capricious desires; to covet neither gold nor silver, nor anything else; to form one’s opinions in the senate with freedom; to consider the real interests of the people, rather than their inclinations; to yield to no one, to oppose many men. If you think that this is the conduct of a king, then I confess that I am a king. If my power, if my sway, it lastly, any arrogant or haughty expression of mine moves your indignation, then you should rather allege that, than stoop to raise odium against me by a name, and to employ mere abuse and insult.

62 BCE, Cic. pro Sulla 22 and 25

The accusation and Cicero’s rebuttals seen here in public oratory also emerge elsewhere in his writings including in the more personal letters to Atticus.  In 62 BCE Cicero still thought he could rhetorically make hay out of the definition of kingship, emphasizing its positive characteristics, and embrace the descriptor as a form of praise even while denying any interest in authoritarian power.  What changed?

Part of it is, of course, Julius Caesar and events like the Lupercalia of 44 BCE where he publicly rejects the diadem and yet leaves no one confident of his wishes or who was behind the offer in the first place–a delightfully messy historiographical tangle of texts and traditions, but not one for today.

We can, however, be confident that anti-regal rhetoric was integral to the views of the liberators, not just through the texts, but also through the choice of numismatic imagery. 

RRC 507/2

This type uses the same symbolic vocabulary of the scepter and diadem as we saw on the coin of a decade earlier struck by Messala in response to Pompey.  Victory surrounded by Brutus’  name and title strides over the broken scepter and holds before her the ripped diadem. A title, imperator, which will become synonymous itself with autocrat rule and enduring for millenia to come.

RRC 505/3

This type commemorates Cassius’ victory over the Rhodian fleet allied with the Caesarians.  Notice the diadem used for the Caesarians under the crab symbolizing Cos, where the battle was fought.

The EID MAR coin is perhaps the most famous of all Roman Coins.  The coin has no explicitly regal imagery on it.  Yet, it is only legible to a viewer who has internalized certain conceptions of kingship and the rhetoric of the assassins.  In short, it claims that the murder of Caesar was necessary to free the Romans from a state of slavery and thus promotes the idea that to live under monarchy is the same as living in a state of enslavement.

Let’s us, however, not be hasty and instead start from first principles. We ought to reconsider what we are seeing and question how we read it and how its ancient audience may have interpreted it.  The obverse has a portrait of Brutus.  The legend BRUT over the crown clearly identifies the portrait.  IMP stands for imperator.  Behind the head is another name of the Roman responsible for the creation of the coinage L. Plaetorius Cestianus. The reverse has two daggers with different style handles on either side of a pileus, the felt cap given to the formerly enslaved as a symbol of their manumission. Below is the legend by which we ref to the coin EID MAR.

The legend refers to the date of Caesar’s assassination making explicit the connection of the images to the event. The daggers represent the tools of the assassination itself and the difference in handles, may be intended to recall that it was a communal act, not that of a single blow.  The line down the center of each blade is our visual clue that this is a weapon made for stabbing, not some other type of knife.  The most common type of knife to appear on coins, is the single bladed slicing knife associated with animal sacrifice, as seen on another coin of a similar date used to celebrate Brutus’ as a pontifex.

I have some times wondered if the EID mar design might have not been inspired by the reverse on the left above (RRC 500/7). The two blades on either side of a semi circular object with a single legend below. The parallels are striking, but any connection is only speculative.

But of course the crux of the visual code is the pileus as a symbol of libertas, and more specifically particularly liberation from “enslavement” under a monarch.  The pileus as the primary attribute of Libertas, the divine personification, is evident on the coinage from the later second century BCE, and re appears on the coinage in 75 BCE (relevant CRRO entries).

75 BCE is a crucial year for Libertas on the coinage (CRRO link). She not only appears in a chariot as on the previous figure, but also as an archaic cult statue in her shine, and on two different obverses, in all cases identified by a pileus.  I’ve argued elsewhere these coin are in reaction to the Sullan constitution, specifically rejecting the idea of Sulla as a new Romulus figure (Yarrow 2018).

Yet notable on all the representations of Libertas after 74 BCE as a goddess the pileus is wholly missing (CRRO link). This includes Brutus’ own coinage explicitly linking the founder of the Republic and the expeller of the kings to the Libertas and both to himself.  In the 50s of course the threat of autocracy was seen as originating in Pompey, not Caesar.  And even Caesareans in the 40s proudly displayed Libertas on their coinage, associating her with Roma herself and the tribunes’ bench upon the Rostra.

Coins of the partisans of Brutus and Cassius that explicitly celebrate Libertas, unlike the EID MAR coin, forego any visual evocation of the pileus.  These coins, like those of earlier in the 50s and 40s, use the legend to identify the goddess, but she as a goddess has no consistent iconography.

By contrast, the EID MAR coin centers the pileus.  A symbol that has not been in regular use on the coins in the previous three decades, that is not used in at least a generation.  What would contemporaries have made of it and would they have seen it in anyway a statement about monarch?  I think so, largely based on reading the iconography against rhetoric in our surviving literature. In Appian we have a claim that the pileus was raised on the Ides of March itself as a sort of standard.  However, I sincerely doubt this was part of the event itself.  We have no mention of it in Cicero’s various anecdotes from the day in his letters and speeches.  And it is wholly missing from the lengthy account of Nicolaus of Damascus.   

The murderers wished to make a speech in the Senate, but as nobody remained there, they wrapped their togas around their left arms to serve as shields, and, with swords still reeking with blood, ran, crying out that they had slain a king and tyrant. One of them bore a cap​ on the end of a spear as a symbol of freedom, and exhorted the people to restore the government of their fathers and recall the memory of the elder Brutus and of those who took the oath together against ancient kings. With them ran some with drawn swords who had not participated in the deed, but wanted to share the glory, among whom were Lentulus Spinther, Favonius, Aquinus, Dolabella, Murcus, and Patiscus. These did not share the glory, but they suffered punishment with the guilty.

App. BC 2.119

Nicolaus’ biography of Augustus was written in Augustus’ lifetime.  His account of the Ides emphasizes the expected rhetoric of tyrannicide and freedom, but also repeatedly returns to the idea that the assassins had coordinated a large body of gladiators and slaves as a back up force and it was only through the use of this force that they were able to make it to the Capitol.

… there was a continuous tumult until the people saw the assassins and Marcus Brutus trying to stop the outcry and exhorting the people to be of good courage, for that no evil had taken place. The sum and substance of his words (as the rest of the assassins also loudly boasted) was that they had slain a tyrant.

… Then rushing forth the assassins fled in haste through the forum up to the Capitoline, carrying their swords bare and shouting that they had acted in behalf of common freedom. A great crowd of gladiators and slaves, who had been prepared for the purpose, followed them.

Nic. Aug. 92 & 94

These passages in Nicolaus’ narrative account of the Ides seem intended to lend credence to the rumors that have been reported earlier in the text as Octavius himself learns of his Great Uncle’s death and the events of that follow.  Not only is his mother unable to properly prepare the body for burial, but Brutus and Cassius would go so far as to offer freedom to slaves to protect themselves. 

Futhermore, they said, the assassins with Brutus and Cassius had seized the Capitol and were guarding it, and that they had called on slaves to ally with them in return for their freedom.

Nic. Aug. 49

Herein lays the problem with the pileus as symbol and the metaphor of enslavement for life under monarchy. No one wishes to be enslaved and thus the metaphor is desirable, but the enslaving class fears, perhaps more than anything, is a general liberation. Equally distasteful is the thought of being equated with someone who had once been enslaved.

The suggestion that the assassins flew the pileus as standard on the Ides of March and even the suggestion in Nicolaus that they were offering the enslaved freedom in exchange for support, fits a literary motif.  We’re told that Saturninus flying the pileus, specifically to offer freedom to the enslaved, was the very reason Marius crushed his one time ally.  And, then when Marius himself held the pileus aloft and sought aid from the enslaved, Sulla likewise rightly brought him down. The same topos of summoning the help of slaves through the pileus is even found in accounts of Gaius Gracchus in the Ampleius, a simple Latin school book of the Trajanic era or later. And in Plutarch’s life of Marius, Octavius the consul of 87 BCE dies rather than take the advise to promise the slaves freedom in exchange for opposing the Cinnan regime. It is clear within Plutarch’s telling that Octavius is the tragic hero of the episode for his good principles. Likewise, in the late Latin de viris illustribus it is villainous Cinna who ‘calls the enslaved to the pileus’.

Returning to the EID MAR coin, the pileus starts to look like a brave, even dangerous, metaphor. Why did he think it would work rhetorically in his favor? It really only works if he and his followers believe others will see Caesar as a king AND accept that they thus owe a debt of gratitude to Brutus.

The equation of servitude and kingship is an old trope in Latin literature.  

All who, like us, are slaves under regal power, are tamed and hardened to respect commands

Pacuvius 72-73

Those men had learned to obey kings ever since the foundation of the city, but we from the time when the kings were driven out have forgotten how to be slaves.

Cic. Phil. 3.9

And yet, no free born Roman citizen wanted to be indebted to another Roman, as a freedman was indebted to his former enslaver.  Three exemplum well illustrate this point. The case of the Senator Culleo following the triumphal car of the elder Africanus in a pileus following his liberation from Carthaginian imprisonment is a powerful exemplum because of how shockingly unimaginable it is.  The Romans has a well established legal doctrine around the right of postliminium, that allowed Culleo to resume his life in Rome after capture without legal limitations: the metaphorical pileus of Culleo is shocking because it is unnecessary.  There is good evidence that the pileus and freedman status was an anathema to the free-born:  Polybius’ famous distain of king Prusias’ performance and Plutarch’s account of the Siege of Amisus. 

… Q. Terentius Culleo, born of a praetorian family, and of distinguished rank among the senators, should follow as he did the triumphal chariot of the elder Africanus, wearing a cap of liberty, because after being a prisoner of the Carthaginians, he had been recovered by him. And therefore he deservedly paid back, in view of the, his acknowledgment of a benefit received from him, as if from his former master, who was the author of his liberty.

Val. Max. 2.5

 In the first place when some Roman legates had come to his court, he went to meet them with his head shorn, and wearing a white hat and toga and shoes, exactly the costume worn at Rome by slaves recently manumitted or “liberti” as the Romans call them. 4 “In me,” he said, “you see your libertus who wishes to endear to himself and imitate everything Roman”; a phrase as humiliating as one can conceive.

Polyb. 30.18.3-4

Tyrannio the grammarian was also taken prisoner at this time. Murena asked to have him as his own prize, and on getting him, formally gave him his liberty, therein making an illiberal use of the gift which he had received. For Lucullus did not think it right that a man so esteemed for his learning should first become a slave, and then be set at liberty. To give him a nominal liberty was to rob him of the liberty to which he was born. But this was not the only case in which Murena was found to be far inferior to his commander in nobility of conduct.

Plut. Luc. 19.7

Part of the failure of the Liberator’s messaging is a belief in their own rhetoric, that kingship, in the sense, of the rule of one, was intolerable to the Romans.  Even as Brutus in the 50s was willing to create double headed coins with ancestor portraits that could easily be mistaking for portraits of living Romans, and then put his own portrait on the coinage just as Caesar had done.

For all Pompeius Rufus failed as a Roman politician ending his life in exile and unheard of after 51 BCE, his nostalgia for law and order at any costs was more closely aligned with the political realities of the moment and the distaste for further civil war and urban unrest. As Cicero in his letters so rightly points out killing the tyrant does not remove the tyranny.  The reset of story is more familiar.  Augustus crafts a public persona as princeps embracing the virtues of monarchy but rejecting the problematic titles.  His coins are nearly devoid of regal images or even references to Rome legendary past. 

The coins stop offering historical exempla and instead celebrate virtues of the good autocrat.

I delivered a version of this paper at a workshop in preparation for a forthcoming edited volume “Making Sense of Monarchy” edited by Christopher Mallan and Eleanor Cowan. In the end I have submitted to them another chapter solely focused on Dionysius. A fuller version of this paper will become a chapter in my next single author book.

71 out of 234 days: An intaglio in the Ptolemaic style

BM 1814,0704.2413

I stumbled across this glass paste last week. And haven’t gotten it out of my head so it is today’s featured item.

The style of the face, dare I say portraiture, bears a striking resemblance to representations of Ptolemaic royal women, note especially the shape of the eyes and the fleshiness of the cheeks and neck and the pointy small chin. Compare face on coin below.

CPO link

The intaglio is even more interesting because it is not singular! It has a twin that was found at Pompeii!

Pannuti, U. 1983. Catalogo della collezione Glittica del Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli vol. 1, p. 41, no. 57.

I’ve not tracked down an image of the twin yet or Pannuti’s write up, so I’m not sure if it is a mold match or just a close approximation.

Yet I don’t think this is a Hellenistic royal portrait. There is no diadem. And that hair style is not particularly Ptolemaic, nor Republican. Any ideas on the hair style most welcome!

self-accountability section

Yesterday I met most goals. Which is really just a testimony to me getting better at estimating what I can really do in one day, rather than any increase in productivity. I used to be part of a writing/research group for faculty that has a daily goal setting practice of articulating what was bare minimum, acceptable, and rock star levels for day’s tasks. The utility of that discipline was the very concrete nature of the goal. For example: min. 300 words, ok 600 words, rock-star 900 words.

I only have two musts today (some smelting logistics and a convo on an edited volume), the rest is that challenge of self direction in the face of many valuable and interesting projects (as good problem to have). I think what I will do is edit into a blog post an old conference paper that I am looking to transform into a chapter of my next book. I’m feeling far away from the book project as my collaborative research keeps marching forward (thank goodness for other humans!). So my hope is that a little time in will keep that project equally fresh.

You, dear reader, might enjoy it too.

70 out of 234 days: Conana coin from an unusual Sagalassos grave

Image from a LiveScience article “Roman-era tomb scattered with magical ‘dead nails’ and sealed off to shield the living from the ‘restless dead'” By Kristina Killgrove

With the help of Bill Dazell’s keen eyes on the reverse legend, the coin can be identified as from Conana (RPC IV.3, 7753 (temporary), cf. 7752 as well). Conana is associated with modern Gönen, north of Isparta in mod. Türkiye.

The issuing mint is thus 30 kms north of the find spot at Sagalassos.

Not far in modern terms but a good two days on foot if not more for most ancient travellers. One day at fast march or by horse. Easy enough to carry a coin that distance.

Coins in graves “to pay Charon, the ferryman to the land of the dead” is commonly discussed casually in popular conceptions of the ancient world, but it is not clear to me how common there occurrences are in archaelogical finds. It’s a topic I often get asked about but don’t have a firm answer. I often point to aes rude finds common in the graves at the necropolis at Praeneste, and a few late antique northern grave finds with coins are known to me. The magical quality of this grave makes me pause before including it as evidence of this practice.

Anyway, if you have an PR article on the topic or just other firm examples of single coins in graves, I’d love to know.

Specimen was first published here: Stroobants et al. 2019. Journal of Archaeological Numismatics, 9: 475–96.

Publication of the grave here: Claeys, J., Van de Vijver, K., Marinova, E., Cleymans, S., Degryse, P., & Poblome, J. (2023). Magical practices? A non-normative Roman imperial cremation at Sagalassos. Antiquity, 97(391), 158-175. doi:10.15184/aqy.2022.171

Non coin portion.

Today’s work must start with the external review and museum exhibit proofs. If anything else gets done it should be on the communications/logistics front, esp. figuring out first smelting attempt and whether I’m really bringing whole family to Berlin and if so for how long. Yesterday turned out to be all about RRDP future logististics and lets just say I’m excited the direction things seem to be moving, as well as other related collaborations. It did wonders for my mood and motivation.

69 out of 234 days: intaglio connections

HN Italy 69 has caused all sorts of speculations, especially in relationship to its association with the Hannibalic war. It is the head/elephant type. And is the larger of two denominations in the series of an unknown mint. The other denomination has a very different head on the obverse wearing an animal skin headdress with a dog on the reverse (HN Italy 70). As I’ve said before my hunch is that both these coin types probably date to Hannibal’s winter camp of 218/217. The standard scholarly treatment is still Baglione 1976. Much of what is said is influenced our assumptions about what we see with our own modern racial logics and how we connect those interpretations to ancient texts, e.g. ethnic composition of Hannibal’s army. This sort of thing was a problem for Robinson’s interpretations of Barcid Spanish issues back in 1956 and needs to be guarded against.

Another approach is to assume what we see might be different than what ancient audiences see. How can we get at this? The primary means is by considering where else similar iconography appears.

BnF specimen
BM specimen

I would note that similar heads also with twisted hair styles and earrings but facing left appear relatively frequently on glass paste intaglios from Italy (as well as some in more precious gem stones).

There is a chicken and egg problem here. Did the coins inspire the intaglios? Did the intaglios inspire the coin type? Is there a third iconographic influence on both designs were now missing? Is this like the images of the defeated enemy I’ve discussed with regard to the use of Gallic heads on Caesar’s coins and also on glass pastes or even images of Mithridates?

While I feel pretty comfortable linking the coins and the intaglios, I’m less certain if other Italic images should be brought in and if so how. Another class of evidence when racialized interpretations have often been made is architectural terracottas:

my photo from a recent visit to the Villa Julia, Rome
label at time of visit

non coin section

what follows is just my self-accountability blogging

I’m still feeling mentally flat since my procedure last week. I side effect of the anesthesia I am suspecting. I’m trying to increase fresh air and exercise as that never hurts even if it is not the cure.

Today’s goals to put time in to

  • communication and coordination for two different collaborative research endeavors
  • meet with a prospective student
  • think more about hoard evidence from the 80s,
  • maybe start a little free writing on intro to late nines early eighties Roman politics,
  • share recent scans,
  • email about photography as promised
  • start to nail down if it is just me or whole family going to Berlin
  • Contribute to write up of External Report