200 out of 410 days: The Personification of Drunkenness



This little silenos figure on a lid of cista no. 45 in the Pierpont Morgan Library collection is labelled EBRIOS.  Ebrius is the Latin adjective meaning ‘drunk’.   Think English inebriation.  Not an inappropriate name for a dionysiac character.  I wonder if there is any relation to the river name where Ovid says the Bacchic throng discovered honey (Fasti, book 3):

liba deo fiunt, sucis quia dulcibus idem               735
     gaudet, et a Baccho mella reperta ferunt.
ibat harenoso satyris comitatus ab Hebro
     (non habet ingratos fabula nostra iocos);
iamque erat ad Rhodopen Pangaeaque florida ventum:
     aeriferae comitum concrepuere manus.               740
ecce novae coeunt volucres tinnitibus actae,
     quosque movent sonitus aera, sequuntur apes;
colligit errantes et in arbore claudit inani
     Liber, et inventi praemia mellis habet.


192 out of 410 days: Oscan in Asia Minor?


This coin is only known from one unique specimen in Paris.  {Irritatingly the digital catalogue entry has the wrong image linked to it as of 7/20/18}   Its authenticity seems guaranteed by the accuracy of the Oscan language inscription, which at the time of its first documentation was not yet fully understood.  Photos on the internet are hard to find.  The wikipedia entry is okay.  Heck, I’m impressed it has an entry or sub-entry.  I’ve taken the image above from Wyler’s 2008 article.

Mostly I’m writing this post to make a note of Mattingly’s rather under-acknowledged theory that this is not a Social War coin at all, but a product of the Mithridatic Wars (2004: 189-192). The usual explanation is that the Italians copied the type from the bronze of Amisos:

And that thus it represents tangible proof of the suggestions in the literature that the Italians sought (and perhaps obtained?) support from Mithridates (Diod. 37.2.10; Athenaeus 5.213C).  My enemy’s enemy is my friend, as they say.  On Dionysus imagery during the Social War, see:

Pobjoy, M., ‘The First Italia’ in K. Lomas and E. Herring (eds.), The Emergence of State Identities in Italy in the First Millennium BC (London: Accordia Research Institute, 2000), 187-211.

Anyway, Mattingly focuses on this passage from Plutarch’s Lucullus:

Mithridates was now resolved upon the speediest possible flight, but with a view to drawing Lucullus away, and holding him back from pursuit, he dispatched his admiral, Aristonicus, to the Grecian sea. Aristonicus was just on the point of sailing when he was betrayed into the hands of Lucullus, together with ten thousand pieces of gold which he was carrying for the corruption of some portion of the Roman army.

He thinks that the Parisian specimen is one of these pieces of gold and that the Oscan was used to unsettle the Italian troops in Lucullus’ army and encourage them all the more to revolt.

This seems even more far fetched, than the Social War explanation.  Really the problem comes down to there only being one of these gold coins.  We have no comparative evidence or geographical data, let alone archaeological context.  We remain in the realm of speculation.  Anyway, just to make this post a little more complete, we should note that a similar bust of Dionysus does appear on the Italian’s silver coinage:

COMPASS Image Caption: Bull goring a wolf

190 out of 410 days: Silenus, Pan, and Dionysus (Father Liber)


There seems to me to be some logical inconsistency in how we identify Pan and Silenus on Roman Republican coins.  The type above is likely the first to depict either.  Crawford dates it to 91; Mattingly prefers 90 (2004: 248).  Quite logically the “Silenus” on the obverse is taken to pun on the moneyer’s name, D. Silanus.  The following year (according to both Crawford and Mattingly), C. Vibius Pansa strikes a coin that looks like this:


These coins might almost be called vanity pieces.  There were probably less than 10 dies created for the manufacture for these types, but his other coins with Apollo and Minerva in a Quadriga (RRC 342/4-5) used upwards of a 1000 dies.  Crawford assumes another name pun and identifies the head with pointy ears as Pan and the head with the ivy wreath as Silenus and sees them both as masks.  Notice the heads have no necks.  I find this problematic as Silanus’ Silenus and Pansa’s Pan have nearly identical iconography.  If we look beyond the coins to for comparative iconography it become clear that Pan and Silenus have a pretty distinctive iconography.  Pans are part goat and usually have more animalistic bodies, especially their lower halves.  Their heads are marked out by two goat horns rising from their forehead.  Silenoi or Papasilenus is an old satyr, pug-nosed, covered in a white flocked suit on stage, and horse ears like any satyr.  [Note: the ears are pretty much the only difference between a Silenus depiction and that of Socrates.]  Here is a perfect side by side:

Red jasper gem engraved with the conjoined masks of Pan and Seilenos; above is a star, below is a shepherd's crook.

Of course, rigid rules need not apply.  Perhaps the same image can represent both Silenus and Pan.  Compare for instance these coins of Panticapaeum:

The head on the coins of this city is often identified in catalogs as Silenus but because of the name of the community a visual pun is often assumed.

I am less convinced that a case can be made for the ivy crowded figure to be a Silenus.  The face is just too smooth, the nose to straight.  This seems very much like a head of Dionysus.  The hair style is the same as that found on the Thasian type used by the Romans in Macedonia:

Compare the hair roll over the forehead, the loop down in front of the ears, and the prominent back knot.  The two locks of hair hanging down have been slightly modified on the Roman type.  The front is left curly the back has been modified into a straight fillet, perhaps to emphasize the mask like qualities.  Notice that the two bunches of ivy berries at the top of the head and the ivy leaves below.  The typical five on the Thracian type have become just three but with lobes and berries.

Pansa’s silver types was echoed on a few of the bronzes of his fellow moneyer Q. Titius:

Copper alloy coin.

Copper alloy coin.

Q. Titius depicts a beardless Liber on his denarii with a very similar hair style:

These are the first representations of Liber (Roman Dionysus) on the silver coinage.  His first appearance at all was on an especially created denomination of the silver the bes or 2/3s coin = 8 unciae.

Even on this rare worn specimen the hair style can be made out.

The adoptive son of the Pansa just mentioned echoed elements of his father’s series in 48 BC (RRC 449).


I’ve put up this small selection just to note the later rendering of Dionysus and the Pan/Silenus mask.  On the series of 90/89BC (RRC 342), Ceres had been paired with Apollo who is now missing from the later series, replace with a youthful Dionysus.

Update 3 January 2014: Just another nice juxtaposition of Silenus (central figure; note: beard and balding forehead and hair suit) and Pan (right figure, note: two horns from top of his head)


Mirror with symposion scene; Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery; Etruskische Spiegel V, Taf. 43. Discussed in T. P. Wiseman. ‘The God of the Lupercal’, JRS 85 (1995) 1-22, at 9-10 (with plates 1-111) and ‘Liber; Myth, Drama and Ideology in Republican Rome’ in The Roman Middle Republic (2000) 265-299.  Wiseman identifies Marsyas as a type of silenos.  Here we see him dancing being imitated by a little pan, labelled Painiscos, or ‘Paniskos’.



Also note regarding the name pun on Silanus’s coin the first illustated above, inWiseman 2000: 270 with fig. 6 & 7 that younger satyrs with no beard or a short beard are labeled SILANOS and SILANVS.

146 out of 410 days: M. Volteius M.f



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.