In past posts, I’ve worried quite a bit about the penates. I may have to write this all up eventually as a proper article or something. I’m still working on Dionysius ahead of my Yale talk this coming Saturday. And, my work led me back to passage on the Penates in book 1. And I found this comment by A. E. Dumser on the aedes Penates on the Mapping Augustan Rome Website.
Here are some more images just for further context:
Update 6/30/17 – just a bibliographical reference for when I come back to the penates:
M. Stöckinger, Inalienable Possessions : the di penates in the Aeneid and in Augustan Culture, p. 129-48 in Mario Labate, Gianpiero Rosati (ed.), La costruzione del mito augusteo. Bibliothek der klassischen Altertumswissenschaften, Band 141. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2013. ISBN 9783825361136.
So I don’t think I’ve ever thought particularly hard about this uncia type although the types of RRC 39 are exceptionally fascinating as a group (see my previous comments on the semiuncia). I ended up here because I was trying to better understand the context of a passage in Dionysius today:
Yet this village [sc. Pallatium, Evander’s foundation,] was ordained by fate to excel in the course of time all other cities, whether Greek or barbarian, not only in its size, but also in the majesty of its empire and in every other form of prosperity, and to be celebrated above them all as long as mortality shall endure. (D. H. 1.31.3)
So this seems related to the idea of Rome as the Eternal City, but I realized I knew next to nothing about the origins of this concept. Turns out its right in Dionysius’ own day with the earliest Latin articulation being Tibullus (c.55-19BC):
Romulus aeternae nondum formaverat urbis (Elegies 2.5.23)
I’m not endorsing (yet) this interpretation of the type, but it a sharp observation and a intriguing possibility I’d like to think about another day when I have more time! From a numismatic perspective one would have to also consider in this context all the other republican issues which juxtapose the sun and the moon: RRC 309/1, 310/1, 390/1, 474/5, and 494/20b.
Update on 10/11/15:
Dionysius’ reception of the concept of Rome as the Eternal City is some what problematized by his version of the Marcus Curtius story as preserved in the fragmentary books (14.11). He says Curtius had to throw himself into the gap to give Rome more strong young men. Livy’s version instead says the self sacrifice will result in Rome being Eternal (7.5). The date of book 7’s composition is debatable.
Update 10/12/15: I want to think more about how Gowing’s argument may fit into all this:
Gowing, Alain M. – Rome and the ruin of memory. Mouseion (Canada) 2008 8 (3) : 451-467 ill. [rés. en franç.]. • The importance attached to buildings is reflected in Roman culture generally, but nowhere better documented than in the Augustan program of restoration. A significant portion of that program existed to preserve the legacy and memory of Rome as manifested in buildings. Yet Romans were aware that no building could last forever ; the impermanence of buildings, especially in comparison with the immortality conferred by literary endeavours, is a standard trope in Latin literature. The eternity to which the phrase « urbs aeterna » – first attested in the poetry of Tibullus and Ovid – refers does not reside in buildings, but in the timeless landscape Camillus remembers and describes in his speech in Livy 5, 54, 2-3. [Abstract and Citation from L’Année Philologique]
There are two coins in the Roman republican coin series and one from Teanum from the time of the First Punic War that display a triga, a three horse chariot. All have Victory (Nike) as the driver. I’ve always found this a rather weird design as opposed to the biga or quadriga (2 and 4 horse chariots), but not worried too much about it. For my previous thoughts on these coins and more images follow this link.
Anyway, as I settled back in Dionysius this morning (It’s Yom Kippur today. No classes and thus a much welcome writing day from me!), I came to this passage in his description of the ludi Romani:
In the chariot races two very ancient customs continue to be observed by the Romans down to my time in the same manner as they were first instituted. The first relates to the chariots drawn by three horses, a custom now fallen into disuse among the Greeks, though it was an ancient institution of heroic times which Homer represents the Greeks as using in battle. For running beside two horses yoked together in the same manner as in the case of a two-horse chariot was a third horse attached by a trace; this trace-horse the ancients called parêoros or “outrunner,” because he was “hitched beside” and not yoked to the others. (Dion Hal. 7.73.2)
I think this well explains the one horse on the Roman republican coins looking back at the others as if it were loose. This may be trying to represent the trace horse. I might also want to investigate further a connection between the moneyers of RRC 299/1 and 382/1 and these ludi. It also makes me revisit my earlier thoughts about trying to connect the Roman triga to the Teanum triga. Perhaps this is a mistake as the Teanum coins do not seem to attempt to represent the third horse as on a trace.
So finally after a very long time this blog says something about coins again. That feels good. I’m sad I’m not in Taormina but 5.5 month old twin girls and a full teaching load are not really compatible with mid-semester international travel….
In Rome likewise a sacred hut of Mars, built near the summit of the Palatine, was burned to the ground together with the houses round about; but when the area was being cleared for the purpose of restoring the buildings, it preserved unharmed in the midst of the surrounding ashes the symbol of the settlement of the city, a staff curved at one end, like those carried by herdsmen and shepherds, which some call kalauropes and others lagobola. With this staff Romulus, on the occasion of taking the auspices when he was intending to found the city, marked out the regions for the omens. (Dion. Hal. RA 14.2.2).
We often see the lituus on republican coins and interpret it as a symbol of an augurship in the family or of the money himself. I thought I’d just file this passage away here, so that I keep in mind that at lease in the Augustan era it was associated with the city founding and the pastoral origins of Romulus, and that Dionysius gives us here a variety of Greek names for the implement (Greek below). In this fragment the survival of the lituus is compared to the survival of the sacred olive tree on the acropolis in Athens, a symbol of the life of the city itself. This seems to me to indicate that the lituus might just be able to be read as a symbol of Rome itself…at least to some Greek scholars residing in Rome at the end of the first century.
And whence, pray, did you augurs derive that staff, which is the most conspicuous mark of your priestly office? It is the very one, indeed, with which Romulus marked out the quarter for taking observations when he founded the city. Now this staff is a crooked wand, slightly curved at the top, and, because of its resemblance to a trumpet, derives its name from the Latin word meaning ‘the trumpet with which the battle-charge is sounded.’ It was placed in the temple of the Salii on the Palatine hill and, though the temple was burned, the staff was found uninjured.
I’m trying to figure out who (if anyone) has talked about Larcius the first dictator in Dionysius of Halicarnassus as model for good Roman leadership at the end of the Republic and beginning of the Principate. Basically, I’m checking to see who has read the passage the way I want to read it. This brought me to Dowling’s book on Clementia, p. 4. She mostly focuses on the Empire, but puts the concept in an earlier context. Here’s the bit I wanted to share with you (Clicking on this photo will make it bigger):
Basically, I just want to put in a footnote pointing out that ἐπιείκεια as the Greek word for Clementia can be pushed much earlier on the basis of Dionysius 5.76.1:
those [sc. wars] which men are forced to undertake against kinsmen and friends, he thought they ought to be settled by an accommodation in which clemency outweighed the demands of justice. (Cary Trans.)
I’m just getting back to work after maternity leave. A piece of mine that was partly worked out here on the blog has finally been published. You can read it here. Far warning, my next speaking engagement is on Dionysius of Halicarnassus, so I’m on a bit of historiographical kick at the moment.
When he had said this and thereby filled all the common people with wonderful hopes, he established two institutions which are the worst of all human institutions and the prologues to every tyranny — a redistribution of the land and an abolition of debts. He promised that he would take upon himself the care of both these matters if he were appointed general with absolute power till the public tranquillity should be secured and they had established a democratic constitution. When the common people and the unprincipled rabble gladly accepted the proposal to pillage the goods of other men, Aristodemus conferred upon himself the supreme command, and proposed another measure by which he deceived them and deprived them all of their liberty. For pretending to suspect that the rich would raise disturbances and insurrections against the common people on account of the redistribution of the land and the abolition of debts, he said the only means he could think of to prevent a civil war and the slaughter of citizens and to guard against these miseries before they happened, was for all of them to bring the arms out of their houses and to consecrate them to the gods, in order that they might make use of them against foreign enemies who should attack them, whenever the necessity should arise, and not against one another, and that in the mean time they would be suitably placed in the keeping of the gods. When they agreed to this also, he disarmed all the Cumaeans that very day, and during the following days he searched their houses, where he put to death many worthy citizens, alleging that they had not produced all their arms for the gods. After this he strengthened his tyranny by three sorts of guards. The first consisted of the filthiest and the most unprincipled of the citizens, by whose aid he had overthrown the aristocracy; the second, of the most impious knaves, whom he himself had freed for having killed their masters; and the third, a mercenary force, consisting of the most average barbarians, who amounted to no fewer than two thousand and were far better soldiers than any of the rest. (DH 7.8.1-3)
This passage comes from Dionysius’ extended digression on the tyranny of Aristodemus at Cumae. A common argument in favor of a broad interpretation of the US second amendment and the right to bear arms is to allow the people to defend themselves against tyrannical government. You can read about this and how it have entered the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign here. I found it interesting to find tyranny in antiquity characterized by a weapons confiscation followed by the imposition of a police force. It made me wonder whether such weapons confiscations were in anyway a historiographical theme. The only other one that pops immediately to mind is the order by the Roman consul to the Carthaginians to surrender all arms as the second condition of their surrender into the faith of the Romans (Polybius 36.6.5ff.).
Baglione, M.P. 1976. Su alcune serie parallele di bronzo coniato. In Contributi introduttivi allo studio della monetazione etrusca.Atti Convegno Napoli 1975: 153-180. Roma.
Baglione records 158 known specimens at that time, the vast majority in public collections. Baglione endorses (if I’ve read the Italian right!) Robinson’s dating and notes that W. V Harris, Rome in Etruria and Umbria (Oxford 1971) p. 140 also follows Robinson’s interpretation. I’m wary of dating by type alone and would like some new good hoard or excavation evidence to confirm this hypothesis. I’d also think a little die study might be of use to get an idea of the size of the issue: it seems at first glance that we’re looking at multiple dies for each letter under the elephant (four different Etruscan letters are well attested) and a number of obverse dies. Elephants do appear elsewhere in the Second Punic War on the coinage of rebelling Italic communities. The most impressive example being the aes grave of Meles in Samnium which copy the Barcid silver coinage (Robinson, Essays Mattingly, 1956: 40, fig. 3A; HN Italy 441-42 (but no illustrations)).
I’m more interested in the unusual votive offering. Ambrosini draws the parallel with the famous plate in the Villa Giulia (inv. 23949) with a depiction of a war elephant and her cub. There is a second similar plate from maybe Sardinia that I can’t put my hand on a reference at this moment. from Corsica:
Roma mediorepubblicana; Aspetti culturali di Roma e del Lazio nei secoli IV e III a.C (Rome 1973), no. 33 = Villa Guilia and no. 34 = Corsica.
The votive offering confirms the theme of elephant and cub in a military context. That, of course, made me think of that passage in Dionysius that I quoted in a previous post about how the Roman’s wounded a cub to gain a tactical advantage over Pyrrhus’ use of elephants.
There comes a day in every young numismatist’s life when he or she asks the question is the pig story true? Did the anyone, let alone the Romans, ever use pigs in battle against elephants? Would it work? And if it worked wouldn’t everyone have used it? Fighting elephants was certainly the opposite of fun.
First off, let’s throw out the idea of Roman flaming pigs (regardless of what the video games offer you as options). That is bad scholarship at least when it comes to the Roman account. Here’s some of that bad scholarship (p. 87ff) and another one (p. 202). Don’t believe everything you read it books, even books with footnotes. Lamentably, or admirably, Wikipedia is actually far better at reviewing the sources, than apparently some university presses. Here’s the War Pig entry.
So why do numismatists think that pigs and elephants should date the above currency bar to the Pyrrhic War? Because of these two sentences in Aelian (on the nature of animals, 1.38):
Ariete cornuto et suis grunnitu abhorret elephas. Sic Romanos Pyrrhi Epirotarum regis elephantos in fugam vertisse dicunt, victoriamque amplam ex eo bello retulisse.
The elephant fears the horned ram and the grunting of a pig. Thus, the Romans are said to have routed the elephants of Pyrrhus, king of the Epirotes and brought about brilliant victory for themselves.
I put up the Latin as that’s more readily available online for those who want to check out context. My translation is based on the Greek (not that it makes a huge difference).
This is not great historical evidence. And everyone gets so hung up on the pigs that they ignore the mention of rams completely. Aelian followed Pliny and other writers for most of his little anecdotes. Pliny has squealing pigs and elephants, but no Pyrrhus. Let’s put this in context: Pliny is also our earliest source for elephants being afraid of mice. And common on, did you really need a Mythbusters episode to debunk that?
The whole thing sounds like some marvelous tale. And in fact it’s found in the some of the Alexander Romances:
The ‘secret’ of the elephant’s fear of a pig is attributed to Porus, the Indian King.
There is a better attested version of the elephant and pig story in Hellenistic history, but no Romans in sight. Again, our sources are late and known for being magpies of wonderful tales:
Elephants left a big impression on the Roman mind. Of this there is no doubt. But if pigs worked so well why not use it as a tactic elsewhere?
I find myself asking myself about the provenance of the BM specimen (acquired 1867 from the Sambon Collection). Are there other specimens of this type of currency bar? Are there more of them? Any with a decent archaeological provenance? Is it all just to good to be true?
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.
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):
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:
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:
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):
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:
Why should we assume he’s wrong? Or at least that the attribution of this prophecy is disputed? Whelp. The obverse of the above coin looks like this:
That’s Juno Sospita, the patron goddess of Lanuvium! The moneyer’s family is well known for celebrating their connection to this city on their coins. If there was a statue that looked like the reverse, it probably stood in that forum, not at Lavinium. Add in this tantalizing bit of Horace: