M. Volteius produced a series of five denarii on the theme of the Roman Ludi in 78BC (so Crawford and Hollstein, but contra Hersh and Walker who date the series to 75BC). Ludi is usually translated as “games”, but are better thought of as religious festivals. We’ve already talked about one of these coins regarding architectural issues. The series still remains problematic:
T. P. Wiseman (“The games of Hercules”) offers a new interpretation of a series of denarii issued by the moneyer M. Volteius in 78 BCE. The coins were recognized by Mommsen as representing a series of games, and later scholars have followed this line of thinking, though there is disagreement about which games are depicted. Particularly problematic is the appearance of Hercules on one of the issues. Literary sources do not record Herculean games on par with those of Ceres, Apollo and the Magna Mater, who also appear on the coins, although there is epigraphic evidence of smaller scale, local games in honor of Hercules (CIL 12.984 and 985) in the late republic. Wiseman’s solution is that, at the time of the issue, there were games in honor of Hercules celebrated under the direction of the aediles, probably at the instigation of Sulla. Wiseman proposes, furthermore, that the games were demoted to the local level as part of the Sullan backlash of the early 60s, hence their absence from the literary sources.
Also noted by Crawford is the lack of clarity of which divinity is intended by the helmeted and wreathed head on the obverse of the Cybele coin; he lists Attis, Corybas and Bellona as early suggestions. Wisemen in his 2000 chapter seems to endorse an idea originating with Alföldi and tentatively exploited and contextualized by Fishwick 1967, namely that the goddess is the Cappadocian Goddess Ma usually associated with Bellona or in Plutarch with ‘Selene, Athena, or Enyo’. Fishwick’s piece shows the imperial epigraphic references to Bellona elided with Virtus and the close association of that cult with the Magna Mater. Crawford himself on p. 307 of RRC vol 1 seems to suggest that Bellona is intended on Volteius’ coinage. The divinity on the obverse should within the logic of the series be one honored alongside Cybele. Three gods only have attributes on the reverse: Jupiter is paired with his temple, Hercules with the boar, Apollo and the tripod, but Ceres in her chariot is represented with the Father Liber who shares her festival. So Cybele in her chariot ought to have a similar companion on her obverse?
A standard reading would suggest that Volteius is promising personal largesse at such Ludi if selected as an aedile. This becomes a little bit more problematic when we consider that the Ludi he honors are put on by both curule and plebian aediles. It is hard to think he is actively “campaigning” for both. The selection is also not complete: the Floralia and the Plebian Ludi are both missing. More over the types honor the divinities but do not in anyway recall the spectacles or other public benefits of the ludi as some other ‘promotional’ coin types do.
Also confusing is the inscription of the Apollo coin:
S C D T is resolved by Crawford as stips collata dei thesauro or something similar recalling the original funding by individual contributions of this festival. It is hard not to see the SC as more readily read as Senatus Consulto as appears on so many other coins. This would leave the question of the DT. Dumtaxat is the most common resolution of this abbreviation in Latin inscriptions, usually preceding a number or measurement being translated ‘precisely’. There are far fewer of the Apollo coins surviving that any of the others in the series.