It occurs to me that of the VB series whose mint is usually listed as unknown is found in large numbers in the Canosa hoard. Anyway. VB is probably just some junior official. No coins of Vibinum are known or much else about it for that matter! Just thought I’d share the wild speculation for kicks. (And because the specimen above is just so beautiful!)
When Mommsen attributed this type to Vibo Valentia, he did not have the benefit of any strong dating evidence. Vibo was not founded until 192 (planned 194; Livy 34.53 and 35.39) and once it was founded it used Valentia on its coins not Vibo.
This passage above suggests that it is a ‘fact’ that one of Pyrrhus’ advisors made such a comparison. The story is known from Cassius Dio (9.40.27):
The same man, when, upon his retreat, he beheld the army of Laevinus much larger than it had been before, declared that the Roman legions when cut to pieces grew whole again, hydra-fashion. This did not, however, cause him to lose courage, but he in turn arrayed his forces, though he did not join battle.
It is said, too, that Cineas, while he was on this mission, made it his earnest business at the same time to observe the life and manners of the Romans, and to understand the excellences of their form of government; he also conversed with their best men, and had many things to tell Pyrrhus, among which was the declaration that the senate impressed him as a council of many kings, and that, as for the people, he was afraid it might prove to be a Lernaean hydra for them to fight against, since the consul already had twice as many soldiers collected as those who faced their enemies before, and there were many times as many Romans still who were capable of bearing arms.
The Senate made answer to Cineas as Appius advised. They decreed the levying of two new legions for Laevinus, and made proclamation that whoever would volunteer in place of those who had been lost should put their names on the army roll. Cineas, who was still present and saw the multitude hastening to be enrolled, is reported to have said to Pyrrhus on his return: “We are waging war against a hydra.” Others say that not Cineas, but even Pyrrhus himself said this when he saw the new Roman army larger than the former one; for the other consul, Coruncanius, came from Etruria and joined his forces with those of Laevinus.
Appian makes clear that bon mot was not a fixed point in the received tradition. He knew it from at least two different sources with different variations. We can’t be sure if Appian’s sources were riffing on Silenus’ motif or faithfully recording an actual piece of rhetoric from the time or if the metaphor is just so pervasive that it provides a nice plausible exclamation in any history.
All that said, this Florus passage (going back to a lost bit of Livy?) might be the best evidence that some lost historian made something of the Pyrrhus = Hercules, Rome = Hydra symbolism on a more meaningful level that a simple metaphor.
For Pyrrhus said, “I plainly see that I am sprung of the seed of Hercules, when I see all these heads of foes cut off springing up again from their blood as they sprang from the Lernaean hydra.”
The use of metaphor in relationship to Pyrrhus is not irrelevant to a discussion of Silenus, but I’d hesitate to move it from a conversation about the historiographical tradition and into one about propaganda.
Note also how the hydra in Pyrrhus tradition is not a negative characterization of Rome, not emphasizing her monstrosity or destructive capacity, but instead resilience and depth of martial resources, especially her manpower base. It’s a complement.
So I was reading Pere Pau Ripollès’ fascinating ‘The X4 Hoard (Spain): Unveiling the Presence of Greek Coinages during the Second Punic War’ (2008) this morning. I fervently wish I’d read it before now. The problem with real publication, rather than this blogging non-sense, is its not easy after the fact to rethink and amend and correct your former ideas. Also real publication takes a very long time, so by the time it is out there for the world one’s intellectual engagement with the content has already moved on to something else or ‘evolved’ as Mr. Obama’s position has done on some issues. I’m thinking about my piece in this book. I’ll put a clean copy up on academia.edu one of these days.
Anyway. Pere Pau Ripollès goes along way towards illuminating circulation of Greek coinage in the Western Mediterranean. He tentatively still supports Crawford’s 1985 thesis that any Greek coins arrived with the Romans, although saying ‘this may be too categorical’. I’m inclined to see the evidence he collects as requiring this hypothesis to be seriously re evaluated. As he himself says in his conclusion the Greek coinage found in the hoards of Sicily are more similar to those in Spain than either is to Italy where there is a greater dearth of such Eastern coinages in the hoards.
One of the coins in Hoard X4 that he publishes is of the same type as that illustrated above.
This coin type, Crawford suggests, is the inspiration for the prows on Roman bronze series (See RRC p. 42 esp. n. 5; earlier post). It’s nice then to see that some specimens did in fact reach the Western Mediterranean relatively swiftly after its production.
I also note the rendering of the ram on this type (red circle above) is not unlike that found on the Athlit Ram.
And, while were talking about things I said in print I no longer believe, I can’t stand by a 260s date for the Heracles and Wolf and Twins didrachm after all the reading I’ve done for this new book. It fits better at the end of the First Punic War. I’m not sure how much that messes with my use of it as comparative evidence in the chapter linked above, but it does have some impact…
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.