301 out of 410 days: Pistis again

οἱ δ᾽ εἰσελθόντες χρόνον μέν τινα διετήρουν τὴν πόλιν καὶ τὴν ἑαυτῶν πστιν

… διορθοῦσθαι παρὰ τοῖς συμμάχοις τὴν αὑτῶν πστιν.  (Polybius 1.7.6 and 10)

The very first episode actually narrated in Polybius’ Histories doesn’t really let the Romans come off that well.  The garrison they sent to Rhegium seizes the city for themselves rather than protecting it.  This episode is set by Polybius in the back drop of the Pyrrhic War and he says after the war, as soon as they could, the Romans laid siege to the town and punished mercilessly their own garrison.    The episode begins and ends with references to pistis (= fides = [good] faith).   Now, Polybius is probably hazy on the details.  See Walbank’s commentary (follow link above) for the nitty gritty details, but key points therefrom include:

” Dion. Hal. xx. 4 records that the garrison was against Bruttians, Lucanians, and Tarentines, and was sent in the consulship of C. Fabricius (282).”

“The Roman reduction of Rhegium (cf. 6. 8) is in 270; Dionysius (xx. 16) and Orosius (iv. 3. 3–6) attribute it to the consul C. Genucius, but his colleague Cn. Cornelius Blasio triumphed de Regineis (act. tr.).”

So 12 years is an awful long time to leave this rogue garrison hanging out in S. Italy…  I also find the triumphal fasti entry interesting.  We usually talk about funny business with the triumph in the civil wars and allied rebellions of the Late Republic but this appears to be a really early case of a Roman claiming to have defeated a foreign enemy when fighting other Roman, or former Roman, soldiers. And of course it made me think about this coin and its broadly Pyrrhic context and Locri’s status as a neighbor of Rhegium.  The whole episode was quite an object lesson for the Locrians…:

Reverse of Silver stater, Locri Epizephyrii. 1944.100.7030
Reverse of Silver stater, Locri Epizephyrii. Pistis (= fides = fidelity) crowns Roma. ANS 1944.100.7030

Related earlier posts on Locri, on Pistis.

95, 96 out of 410 days: Divine Abstractions

There is a good deal of concern and attention paid to the divine honors given to the personification of abstract concepts.   The habit has it origins in the Hellenistic period.  Think of the Nikes we’ve seen, not to mention much more famous examples:

Victory of Samothrace

All of these turn the idea of ‘winning’ into a goddess who can not only be represented in art but also given cult honors, from temples to sacrifices to prayers and hymns.  The Romans took this practice to great heights.  Click on that link “care and attention” above for discussion.   Of course they did not have a monopoly, but we usually think of them influencing their neighbors.  We’ve seen the Locrians representing Pistis (= Fides = Loyalty) crowning Roma before.  Strangely that coin isn’t usually discussed in context of the coin above also minted at Locri.  It represents (and labels as such) the goddess Eirene (= Peace).  The style of the reverse is modified from the coin of a neighboring town:

Reverse Image

Yes that’s a Nike on this AR Stater, Terina, Bruttium, 400 BC-356 BC.  The bird is a rather different attribute. Something to chase up another time…

What the Eirene coin does is contextualize the Pistos / Roma coin by letting us know that the Locrians are already well versed in thinking about abstract divinities: they don’t need the Romans to help with that.

Pax won’t show up on Roman coins until 82/81 BC at the earliest:

The identification of the obverse here is far from certain.  The first secure appearance isn’t until 44 BC and the is a very rare coin indeed:

Pax may not have had a cult site in Rome until the Ara Pacis!

Amazon on a Pile of Arms

Reading a draft of a chapter by a friend, I was completely taken by the use of the Amazon-on-a-Pile-of-Arms Type to personify Aetolia. He pointed out how the arms start out a Gallic arms to which a large Macedonian shield is added, as on the specimen above. I love how this illustrates that the Romans are simply deploying an already fully formed numismatic iconographic vocabulary on their own coins. I am also captivated by the diversity of this basic reverse type on the Aetolian issues:

The usual assumption is that the type is modeled on a statue dedicated at Delphi to commemorate the defense of the sanctuary by the Aetolians against Gauls. However the variations in the reverse mean that we can’t see to an exact one to one match between the two. The gold specimen with Artemis and the Nike is most intriguing. Perhaps a reference to Artemis’ epiphany to defend Delphi?

Anyway. Where does this Amazon-on-a-Pile-of-Arms Type show up on Roman coins? All over!

And of course it also comes to be adopted as the personification of Britannia, which has itself Roman origins. What we shouldn’t do is conflate the Roma seated on a curule chair with this image, as the symbolism of the two has different connotations:

The arms represent conquest, the curule chair just rule.

I need to find out what artistic precedents the Aetolian type is based on…

Update 8/12/2013. 

Reverse Image

 

I found it asserted in an old gem catalogue (see p. xv under cat. no. 45) that Roma on a pile of arms derives from the Athena on the coinage of Lysimachus.  It is certainly might be a basic prototype for personifications of Aetolia and Roma seen above but she is clearly enthroned with her own shield beside her, a very different symbolism than being atop the spoils of war.

Can one plagiarize oneself?

Locri - Roma Pistis SNG ANS_531

 

Being rather demoralized by the stalling of the edits and then further derailed by a networking lunch (a most pleasurable experience with much inspiration about future study abroad, err… ‘international education’ as one says today), I couldn’t really think about coins, but didn’t want to break my promise to put a coin from the book here every day.  So I looked in my coin file and this one popped to the surface.  It looked familiar so I did a key word search and sure enough just over a year ago I talked about it at a nice invited lecture at Leeds University.  I said: “Near, or at the end of, the war with Pyrrhus, the Locrians, a community in the very toe of Italy, created a coin which has the very earliest depiction of the personification of Roma on it.  She bears a scepter, rest her right arm on a shield, and sits upon a curule chair.  She is being crowned by the personification of Pistis, the Greek equivalent of fides.   Both figures are labeled with legends so the audience cannot mistake the unusual scene.  Even this type of labeling on coins is virtually unknown at this date.  Legends usually named whose coin it was ‘the coin of King Philip’ or the ‘the coin of the Athenians’.  Our literary sources on the Pyrrhic War are spotty but according to the epitomes of Cassius Dio, the Locrians changed sides a few times and suffered the consequences of those choices—a pattern of events that repeated itself in Hannibalic War.  I take this ‘celebration’ of Roman good faith as an expression of a rather desperate hope that they might benefit from this particular Roman virtue.” I then connected it with a few literary texts.  Anyway.  It’s something.  Back to the damn edits.