Saturn, Saturninus


When Saturninus that rascally tribune of the very end of second century was a moneyer he chose types that punned on his name.  A pun that is emphasized by the abbreviation of his cognomen. It’s a rather conservative type for a man we don’t generally think of for his conservatism.  Quadrigas had already been recently revived by L. Conelius Scipo Asiaticus [103 BC Mattingly].

Reverse of RRC 311/1d. 1896.7.44

and puns too were the fashion of the time.  Compare this bull (= taurus) used by L. Thorius Balbus.  Crawford thinks the bull might be a symbol of Juno on the obverse (see p. 719 n. 8 of vol 2 of RRC). Maybe it is both.  [102 BC Mattingly]

Reverse of RRC 316/1. 1937.158.34

Anyway, the interesting thing is the Saturn, Saturninus association. It makes the choice of Saturn for the obverse of the Piso Caepio coin seem a little odd in light of our literary sources:


Here’s the Broughton, MRR entry for them under 100BC, Quaestors:


We might also note the use of Saturn as an obverse in 103BC [Mattingly], the year of Saturninus’ first Tribunate, by L. Memmius Gallus:

Obverse of RRC 313/1b. 1937.158.31

Mattingly has Saturninus’ offices as follows:

104 – Quaestor in charge of Grain Supply from Ostia 

103 – First Tribunate

101 – Moneyership

100 – Second Tribunate

We usually think of moneyerships being held before these other offices, but the dates of the other offices are well fixed.  So perhaps Saturninus had his ‘out of order’.  Otherwise his coins would need to be slipped back into the series earlier that 104 and that is apparently hard to reconcile with all the rest of evidence.

73 out of 410 days: Pompey and Freedmen

Romans had a practice of granting manumission to some slaves.  Those receiving such grants held a separate status from the citizens, i.e. free men.  As freedmen they had more limited legal rights and defined obligations to their former masters, now their patrons.   That’s pretty basic, but the social function of this group certainly evolved over time and we might think about the attitudes and social conditions that preceded the evolution of the imperial freedmen.  I came across two passages today that got me thinking along those lines:

 These things I have heard; I have heard also that this theatre was not erected by Pompey, but by one Demetrius, a freedman of his, with the money he had gained while making campaigns with the general. Most justly, therefore, did he give his master’s name to the structure, so that Pompey might not incur needless reproach because of the fact that his freedman had collected money enough for so huge an expenditure.


While these men kept up their conflict, Pompey, too, encountered some delay in the distribution of the grain. For since many slaves had been freed in anticipation of the event, he wished to take a census of them in order that the grain might be supplied to them with some order and system. This, to be sure, he managed fairly easily through his own wisdom and because of the large supply of grain; but in seeking the consulship he met with annoyances and incurred some censure.

These passages would need to be contextualized by say Sulla’s mass manumission of the so called Cornelii, some 10,000 individuals, or the power he gave to Chrysogonus.  

The basic moral seems to be that benefiting too many freedman or one freedman too much is viewed with suspicion.  On the other hand our imperial sources may be reading too much of their present social reality back on to their accounts of the Republic.   

Contrast how Plutarch does not mention distributions to freedmen, but instead emphasizes that there was so much grain available it was give to foreigners as well — yet another group whose influence was a site of socio-political anxiety in the Late Republic.  Cf. the careers of Theophanes of Mitylene and Balbus.

I was getting a little lost in the literary accounts of 56-55 BC.  This post is just a little break to try to return to the coins.