The Crowning Moment

Ex Slg. Sir Arthur Evans (= Katalog Burlington Exhibition 1903) Tf. 101, 82, Slg. Jameson 449 und Slg. Walter Niggeler (=Auktion Leu + M&M Basel 1965) 82. Cf. SNG ANS 531. 7.15 g.

So I read this bit of Polybius (below) and landed right back at this coin (above):

For Hiero and Gelo not only gave seventy-five silver talents, partly at once and the rest very shortly afterwards, to supply oil in the gymnasium, but dedicated silver cauldrons with their bases and a certain number of water-pitchers, and in addition to this granted ten talents for sacrifices and ten more to qualify new men for citizenship, so as to bring the whole gift up to a hundred talents. They also relieved Rhodian ships trading to their ports from the payment of customs, and presented the city with fifty catapults three cubits long. And finally, after bestowing so many gifts, they erected, just as if they were still under an obligation, in the Deigma or Mart at Rhodes a group representing the People of Rhodes being crowned by the People of Syracuse. (5.88.5-8)

The context is c.226BC and Rhodes’ use of its recent earthquake to solicit diplomatically expedient gifts.  [Link to some relevant scholarship]

A) It’s good context for the above coin on the personification of political bodies in honorific art forms in 3rd Century BC.

B) It might suggest that the coin type imitates a statue group or potential statue group or the known style of a type of statue group.  This isn’t crazy lots of coin types derive from statues of one sort or another.

C) It made me think about who crowns whom in Hellenistic art in what context.  Under the Empire cities shake hands rather than crown one another.   Nike crowns everybody.  She’s kind of a whore that way.  It’s kind of her M.O.  Ditto Eros (Cupid). Then this came to mind:

Nice Picture, but don’t believe the Flickr caption.

The crowning obviously honors and emphasizes the status of the crowned, but what about the crowner?  Does it diminish the status of Syracuse to bestow the crown?  Or in fact is it a statement of inherent superiority if one can crown another?  We need only think of Napolean’s anxiety about being crowned by the Pope and thus his decision to crown himself and his queen.

On a more serious note, Walbank as always is full of goodness:


IG xi.2 199 b 1.23 (Delos, 273 BC) is available at PHI Greek Inscriptions:


As is [Demosthenes] 18.91 “On The Crown”:

it be resolved by the People of Byzantium and Perinthus to grant to the Athenians rights of intermarriage, citizenship, tenure of land and houses, the seat of honor at the games, access to the Council and the people immediately after the sacrifices, and immunity from all public services for those who wish to settle in our city; also to erect three statues, sixteen cubits in height, in the Bosporeum, representing the People of Athens being crowned by the Peoples of Byzantium and Perinthus; also to send deputations to the Panhellenic gatherings, the Isthmian, Nemean, Olympian, and Pythian games, and there to proclaim the crown wherewith the Athenian People has been crowned by us, that the Greeks may know the merits of the Athenians and the gratitude of the Byzantines and the Perinthians.

Update 1/5/2016: My thoughts on this are maturing.  I think there must have been a very typical statue group that was developed for such a representation and the Nero/Agrippina is a late example of the general type.  This informs how I am thinking about types like RRC 419/2 and other crowning scenes on coins. Cf. Also the Corinth Crowning Ptolemy group attested by Athenaeus drawing on Kallixeinos and discussed by Pollitt (here and here).

Update 5/1/14:  This isn’t precisely related to the rest of this post, but I wanted to be able to find this passage again when thinking about the Locrian coin (Pliny, NH 34.32):



This demonstrates Romans receiving honors from S. Italian Cities for their role as protector a decade before Locri’s coin.   I also like the sentence about this being a means of establishing foreign clients.  I doubt the Thurians saw it that way!

1/20/16:  Constantine and the Tyche of Constantinople

File:Glittica romana, costantino e la tyche di costantinopoli, sardonice IV sec.JPG

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.

291 out of 410 days: San Martino in Pensilis Hoard


The San Martino in Pensilis hoard and Andrew Burnett’s analysis thereof is probably the most important new information on third century Roman and Italian Silver issues from the last decade.  Highlights included:

  • Evidence of a significant gap (ballpark 300-260BC) between Rome’s first and second silver issues
  • The first Roma and Pistis Locrian coin in a hoard context
  • 30 ‘fresh’ coins of Teanum, Cales, and Suessa!  (No Cora specimen, alas.)

My scanned photocopy was really crappy, so I’m just delighted to realize that it’s available open access via Persée.  No more squinting for me today!  I’m also intrigued by the location of this hoard, just north of the Gargano (if you go, you must try the mysterious and delicious Lesina eel!).  It’s just down the road from Larinum (see earlier posts).  The Frentani became allied to the Romans in 304 BC and somewhere around the mid third century Larinum shifted from minting Neapolis type bronzes with Greek legends, to Roman type bronzes with Latin legends (well Oscan language, Latin Alphabet) (HN Italy 622 vs. 623).

San Martino in Pensilis - View

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.