Libertas with Arms Outstreched


All the coins of C. Egnatius Maxsumus (c. 75-76BC) have a personification of Libertas.  Beside this representation above he also showed her riding in a biga accompanied by Victory and as a bust on the obverse of another coin.  Those representations are pretty standard and like this one the identification as Libertas is made by the inclusion of a pileus, the hat given to freed slaves. Here’s the whole reverse.   The pileus is above her in the architectural representation:

Reverse of RRC 391/2. 1944.100.1970

There’s lots to be curious about this representation.  If as Crawford says this is the temple of Jupiter Libertas why are there two cult figures?  Also, this is the first time a divinity is shown in their temple like this — a time that will become standard throughout the Roman empire for centuries.  The die cutter has gone to a lot of trouble to show the details of these figures the radiate(?) crown of Jupiter, the height of his staff, the different dress of the two figures, and their respective gestures.  The gesture of Libertas is an Orans type usually associated with priestesses in both Greek and Roman iconography. Here’s a Vestal from the early second Century AD (said to be from the Roman Forum now in the Terme Museum):

But given that the figure is just the same size and representation as Jupiter it must be a goddess and Libertas remains the best identification.  Later, Pietas will be similarly represented on coins:

Reverse of Silver Denarius, Rome, AD 196 - AD 211. 1944.100.51304

It rather understandable that Pietas could be personified through the action of prayer.  It is harder to find a divinity thus represented.  Unless we consider archaic cult figures.  Perhaps most famous is Artemis of Ephesus with her out stretched arms:

But also used in depictions of Artemis Anaitis:

Reverse of Bronze Coin, Attuda. 1944.100.47738

It is also know from some terracottas thought to represent Tanit:

Even with attributes in her hands this cult image of Athena from Abydos has a similar pose:

While I don’t put much stock in the idea that this specimen (or many other architectural coin types, with a few key exceptions) can be taken to be ‘accurate’ representations of buildings, it does seem to me the die cutter is going out of his way to represent particular cult statues here, perhaps ones of some antiquity or rendered in an archaizing fashion.

[A huge thanks to all my social media friends who shared their thoughts on this image with me!]

Architectural Coins

So the internet went out in the middle of my edits and I found myself crawling the walls waiting to get to JSTOR to read all about Tzetzes and Stesichorus.  I paced in the living room and ate some cheese.  Not very productive.  A version of Crawford’s words came back to me: “What can I productively do the next time the internet goes down for 15 minutes”.  I opened a damned book.  Radical I know.  Paper.  I looked up ‘coins’ in Stewart’s Statues in Roman Society.  [I do like the pretty pictures…]  He describes how the Romans distort representations of temples to emphasize the interior cult figure.  The columns spread out and statue grows and the whole image is a symbol of the sanctuary and cult practice.  He then goes on to say the “earliest clear numismatic representation of this kind of temple is on a denarius of M. Volteius in 78 BC. It shows the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.  Before long the cult statue was displayed within the building.” He then goes on to talk about coins in 36 BC.  I opened RRC and started scratching my head.  Sure there is a temple on the coin (above), but I’m not sure what that it relates to cult statues, except perhaps in how the columns are widened to make visit the three cella doors thus making clear that this temple is the temple in which the Capitoline Triad are honored. And, it might represent the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, but I’m equally not sure we can know that to be true.   At the time the coin was made the temple had been destroyed and not yet rebuilt.   It represents the idea of the temple more than the temple itself.  I almost wonder if Stewart didn’t mean to refer to this coin:

This seems to be the first of the type he’s describing and is illustrated on the same plate in RRC.  All that said, this image and the earlier appear to come out of nowhere in the RRC (Like so much of the iconography).  I haven’t yet checked on Hellenistic precedents, but I am intrigued that early architectural images seem to be on bronze (346/3 and 348/6).  There are suggestions of architecture on earlier specimens (291/1), but not with the same prominence.  And then there is the question if we should think of monuments as architectural (242/1 and 243/1).  ….  So much more to say, but that colleague finally texted and I have an academic ‘date’ in Manhattan in an hour.  Gotta motor.

Much later addendum (11/11/13): Today, again, I became obsessed with architecture on coins.  No great revelations other than examples prior to the 1st century BC and scholarly discussion there of is thin on the ground.  Here’s some types that might be relevant to future discussion.  (Or not, but I enjoyed finding them!)

The coinage of Sidon in the late 5th century shows the city defenses.  Most specimens show three towers it seems, this beauty has five:

This might be an early temple from Samaria from the 4th century:

Otherwise, other pre Imperial non Roman temples are all probably influenced by Roman precidents.  Such as this coin of Paestum (HN Italy 1252):


Or the coins of Juba I of Mauretania:



A little update 3/21/2014: I came back to this post just to add the coin below, but I was surprised I hadn’t already mentioned here the work of Elkins.  He’s the scholar who has the most to say about the development of architectural types on coins and will become the standard reference.  And, that said here’s a fun early type:

Mantinea, Drachm (Silver, 5.69 g 2), c. 370-360s. Bearded warrior, nude from the waist down, wearing traveling hat, cuirass and special shoes, dancing a ‘war’ dance to right, holding upright spear in his right hand and another transversely over his left shoulder with his left. Rev. Jugate busts of the Dioscouri to left on top of a low altar ornamented with triglyphs and metopes. BMC 6. MG 238. SNG Cop 246. Traité III 957, pl. CCVI, 34. On obv. see see. L. Lacroix, Les Monnaies de Mantinée et les traditions arcadiennes, Bull. Ac. R. Belg. 1967, pp. 303-311.