Cicero Imperator

Silver cistophorus, Laodiceia ad Lycum. ANS 1967.144.1. Stumpf 92.a. (?Ex Leu and M&M 3 Dec 1965, lot 419?)

Reading a PhD dissertation draft on Asia Minor and came across a reference to this coin type and others issued in the name of Cicero during his time as governor in the province of Cilicia (51/0 BC).

Other known specimens include:

M TVLLIVS M F CICIIRON (sic) PROCOS above (STUMPF 91): Berlin 35/1909 = Hirsch 21, 16 Nov. 1908, 3550; M – TVLLIVS  / IMP above (STUMPF 92-93, PINDER 201): Paris 2726; Athens = Hierapytna hoard; Berlin (Löbbecke); Berlin 453/1891; ANS 1967.144.1 = Leu and Münzen und Medaillen; 3 Dec. 1965 (Niggeler), 419 (but TVLLIV / IMP)

[I disagree with the reading of the ANS specimen.  I think a small badly formed S is visible after the V.]

Anyway, I’m throwing it up here because these cistophori don’t get enough press in the average undergraduate or graduate classroom when Cicero’s governorship is discussed.

For more on this chapter in Cicero’s career the thing to read is:

Magnus Wistrand: Cicero Imperator. Studies in Cicero’s correspondence 51–47 BC. (Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia, XLI.) Pp. viii + 230. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1979. Paper.

To read about how Cicero became Imperator in his own words click here.

Reading time is short for this draft so I must crack on.  More later.  We sure want to connect this caduceus with our early discussions of its symbolism…Not to mention IMP as a coin legend.

Dei Penates Publici and the Dioscuri

Obverse of RRC 455/2a. 1944.100.3299

So later in the day I’m still thinking about those pesky penates and their iconography.  The most indisputable example is from late in the Republican series, c.47 BC, the image above.  It has two heads side by side just like the earlier issues and labels them very clearly. Diadems instead of laurel crowns but otherwise very similar and clearly labeled.  The other time they appear on the obverse of a coin is just one year (according to Mattingly) after the Fonteius coin I discussed in the last post.  Notice the abbreviation DPP = Dei Penates Publici.

Obverse of RRC 312/1. 1937.158.28

One of the things that is said quite often is that the iconography of the DPP is elided with that of the Dioscuri.  The best proof of this is actually that Fonteius coin with its PP inscription and the stars over the foreheads.  The text passage that is usually cited is this one from Dionysius:

In this temple there are images of the Trojan gods which it is lawful for all to see, with an inscription showing them to be the Penates. They are two seated youths holding spears, and are pieces of ancient workmanship. We have seen many other statues also of these gods in ancient temples and in all of them are represented two youths in military garb. 

No mention of the Dioscuri here.  Just a visual description.  One that in fact sounds awfully like that which we see on this coin representing the Lares Praestites (early post):

Reverse of RRC 298/1. 1937.158.17

Then there is question of the degree to which we want to argue in reverse like this.  We’re basing (with good reason I think) each earlier image on the next more clearly labelled instance of the same iconography.  So the first Penates/Ship coin by a Fonteius (RRC 290/1) has a janiform laureate head not two jugate heads.  In this it looks quite a bit like this  MUCH early didrachm standard obverse:

Obverse of RRC 28/3. 1941.131.15

How do we know this earlier image is of the Dioscuri, not say the Dei Penates?

Then finally there is the issue of saying the Dioscuri connection the coins is an indication of their connection with Tusculum.  What do the Dioscuri have to do with Tusculum?  They were honored there but not really any more than other towns as far as I can tell.  Here’s the often cited Cicero passage:

“And what of those other instances? As when, for example, the statue of Apollo at Cumae and that of Victory at Capua dripped with sweat; when that unlucky prodigy, the hermaphrodite, was born; when the river Atratus ran with blood; when there were showers frequently of stone, sometimes of blood, occasionally of earth and even of milk; and finally, when lightning struck the statue of the Centaur on the Capitoline hill, the gates and some people on the Aventine and the temples of Castor and Pollux at Tusculum and of Piety at Rome — in each of these cases did not the soothsayers give prophetic responses which were afterwards fulfilled? And were not these same prophecies found in the Sibylline books?

The penates on the other hand are most often associated with Lavinium, if anywhere other than Rome.  And if the ship is carrying the Trojan gods to Italy on the reverse of those Fonteii coins, it seems like Tusculum might be the big red herring in the conversation.  Until we add in this aureus of 43 BC (as per Woytek’s Arma et nummi, 2003):

Gold coin.

The stars and pilei make clear the Dioscuri emphasis and the reverse is a most unusual representation of the walls of Tusculum with its main gate.  The walls and height of Tusculum was proverbial and usually linked to some legendary origin (Telegonus or Circe):  Hor. Ep. 1.29‐30. Ov. Fast. 3.92, Sil. Ital. 12.535, Hor. Od. 3.29.8, Prop. 2.32.4, and Sil. Ital. 7.692.  The representation is similar to but different from the DPP.  Does it help us resolve the Fonteian coins?  I’m not sure, but it keeps Tusculum strongly in the mix.

Update 4/16/2014:  Note this claim in Torelli 1995: 114:



Discussion of the inscription can be found here.

Lavinium - Lamina

Weinstock 1960 is here.

Key Bibliography: Galinsky 1969: 141-169.

A Little Ciceronian Fear-Mongering


One of Cicero’s lines of argument in his speeches on the tribune Rullus’ agrarian proposal is that “giving away” the Campanian land threatens the food security of Rome.  He makes a direct connection between the defeat of the law and the sustainability of the annona.  We should understand by the annona the structure set up by the lex terentia et cassia, which made available to some number of Roman citizens 5 modii of grain each month (about 33 kg) at a reduced price, about 2 denarii per 5 modii.   The rhetorical tactic sets the hope of self sufficiency against the prospect of impending hunger.  A clever, if dastardly, approach to the problem.

He only mentions it once in his speech to the senate:

I pass over those things which there is no one who cannot complain of with the greatest weight and the greatest truth; that we have not been able to preserve the most important part of the public patrimony of the state, that which has been to us the source of our supply of corn (subsidium annonae), our granary in time of war, our revenue placed under custody of the seals and bolts of the republic; that we, in short, have abandoned that district to Publius Rullus, which itself by its own resources had resisted both the absolute power of Sulla, and the corrupting liberality of the Gracchi.

He brings up the idea three times in his speech before the people.  The first time is a direct echo of the passage in the Senatorial speech, using much the same vocabulary:

Will you allow the most beautiful estate belonging to the Roman people—the main source of your riches, your chief ornament in time of peace, your chief source of supply in time of war, the foundation of your revenues, the granary from which your legions are fed, your consolation in time of scarcity (solacium annonae)—to be ruined? 

The following passages drive home the precarious nature of other grain sources and how they cannot be relied upon:

Asia for many years during the Mithridatic war produced you no revenue. There was no revenue from the Spains in the time of Sertorius. Manius Aquilius even lent corn to the Sicilian cities at the time of the Servile war. But from this tributary land no bad news was ever heard. Other of our revenues are at times weighed down by the distresses of war; but the sinews of war are even supplied to us by this tributary land.

And then the kicker comes at the end of the speech.  [Some translators have left out the critical passage in their rendering, so here’s the Latin first, followed by my own modification of the public domain translation]:

ego ex concordia quam mihi constitui cum conlega, invitissimis eis hominibus qui nos in consulatuinimicos esse et fore aiebant, providi omnibus, prospexi annonae, revocavi fidem, tribunis plebis denuntiavi <ne> quid turbulenti me consule conflarent. 

I, by the concord which I have established between myself and my colleague, have provided against those men whom I knew to be hostile to my consulship both in their dispositions and actions. I have provided for everything; I’ve taken care of the grain distributions; and I have re-established good faith. I have also given notice to the tribunes of the people, to try no disorderly conduct while I am consul.

There seems to be a none-too-veiled threat here.  “If you want to eat, trust me.”

I think this passages are important contextualization of two later developments in the year.  First, the choice of Brocchus for Ceres on the obverse of his coin and a ‘law and order’ reverse type, symbolism rather removed from that of the tribunes.

[One might here reflect on the success of Sulla to divorce the plebeian aedileship from its associations with the radical politics of the tribunes.]

Cicero setting the tone at the beginning of the year as one of anxiety over the grain supply, possibly needless anxiety, may also contextualize Cato’s radical proposal and success passing such a proposal at the very end of the year:

Lentulus and his associates were executed, and Caesar, in view of the charges and accusations made against him to the senate, took refuge with the people and was stirring up and attaching to himself the numerous diseased and corrupted elements in the commonwealth. Cato was therefore alarmed and persuaded the senate to conciliate the poor and landless multitude by including them in the distribution of grain, the annual expenditure for which was twelve hundred and fifty talents. By this act of humanity and kindness the threatening danger was most successfully dissipated. 

If there is a moral in this, perhaps it is that Cicero’s fear mongering might be considered to have backfired on him as it set the landscape for more radical action instead of a preservation of the satis quo.

184 out of 410 days: The Aedile’s Feet


Capture.JPGI’ve been reading Schafer’s 1989 dissertation on sella curulis und fasces.  Many nice little observations and details here and there.  This coin has the distinction of being the first to display the curule chair and to be the first minted by a curule aedile.  The head of Cybele recalls the oversight of her games by the curule aediles.  Schafer also wants to connect the lion’s feet on the curule chair as a fantastic detail linking to the role of lions in the cult of Cybele, a detail added to the coin to make the connection between obverse and reverse that much more obvious.  He bases this assertion on the absence of such feet on other representations of the chair.  I’m not so sure it is that unlikely that some sella curulis weren’t so adorned.

I’m interested in how the moneyer has used symbols and words together to communicate his message.  The P. FOVRIVS is written onto the chair itself making the individual and the status of the object absolutely clear.  This isn’t any old curule chair its Furius’ chair!

Then on the obverse at the end of the legend AED CVR is a foot.  The foot is the visual symbol for the moneyer’s cognomen, Crassipes  = crassus + pes = thick foot, i.e. probably clubfooted.  The cognomen is known in other families in the Imperial period but primarily used by the gens Furii.  Why is another matter.  If it refers to the congenital birth defect it may be that the family had the genetic mutation that made the disorder more common.  Or perhaps some ancestor just had a fat, swollen foot from a war wound or some more mundane reason.  All that said the foot is clearly being used as a symbol of the name which appears on the reverse.  Who was AED CVR? Crassipes obviously!  There’s his foot.

The other thing this issue is good for is illustrating how spelling varients in proper names.  He is always FOVRIVS  with an O before the U, where as we later see the gens switching to just Furius.  That said, the engravers swap between the CRASSVPES and CRASSIPES spelling.  The varients crop up elsewhere but its curious that the moneyer himself didn’t seem to impose a single spelling of his cognomen on his coinage.  I usually get quite sniffy if my name is misspelled or mispronounced.

There is, I should mention, a good chance that this moneyer is some relation to Cicero’s later son-in-law, a Furius Crassipes of unknown praenomen.

162 out of 410 days: Translation and ‘Modern’ Prejudices

as in many particulars the desire of the multitude and the whim of the people were at variance with the interests of the republic

That is Yonge’s 1891 translation of a clause of chapter 103 of Cicero’s Pro Sestio.  Here is the Latin:

cum multis in rebus multitudinis studium aut populi commodum ab utilitate rei publicae discrepabat

The problem is commodum.  Cicero was a cranky old fart who had no time for the scum of Romulus’ cesspit, BUT he does not here speak of their whims.  [He’ll get to that topic just a few lines later.]  The English connotations of whims include: trivial matters not well thought out of perhaps only fleeting relevance.  That just isn’t how commodum is connoted in Latin.  It means something good and advantageous perhaps arriving at just the right moment.   It is very closely related in meaning to the next noun in Cicero’s passage “utilitate”.  Cicero’s point isn’t that the people don’t know what’s good for them.  It’s that what is good for the people is not good for the state.  It separates the identity of the people from the state.  That’s a pretty important idea to get across in the translation.  Yonge brings his own assumptions about the poor and their relationship to the upper classes to his reading of Cicero and thus sees implications that just aren’t there in the original.  

Now thanks to the public domain.  Many (most?!) readers of Cicero in translation will take Yonge’s prejudices for Cicero’s.