Sambuca, Siege Engine and Musical Instrument

 

One of my favorite activities when teaching Hellenistic warfare is to have students try to draw the siege engine that Polybius describes for the siege of Syracuse.  The passage is below.  I think its a useful way to build students ability to visual and engage with the text they are reading.  Anyway.  I’ve been wanting a Republican period image of a sambuca for many years to add to the lesson plan.  And Lo! The musical instrument appears as control mark on the Papius series.  I could get really obsessed with the Papius symbols.  Must resist today.

4 1 Meanwhile Marcellus was attacking Achradina from the sea with sixty quinqueremes, each of which was full of men armed with bows, slings, and javelins, meant to repulse those fighting from the battlements. 2 He had also eight quinqueremes from which the oars had been removed, the starboard oars from some and the larboard ones from others. These were lashed together two and two, on their dismantled sides, and pulling with the oars on their outer sides they brought up to the wall the so‑called  “sambucae.” 3 These engines are constructed as follows. 4 A ladder was made four feet broad and of a height equal to that of the wall when planted at the proper distance. Each side was furnished with a breastwork, and it was covered in by a screen at a considerable height. It was then laid flat upon those sides of the ships which were in contact and protruding a considerable distance beyond the prow. 5 At the top of the masts there are pulleys with ropes, and when they are about to use it, they attach the ropes to the top of the ladder, and men standing at the stern pull them by means of the pulleys, while others stand on the prow, and supporting the engine with props, assure its being safely raised. After this the towers on both the outer sides of the ships bring them close to shore, and they now endeavour to set the engine I have described up against the wall. 8 At the summit of the ladder there is a platform protected on three sides by wicker screens, on which four men mount and face the enemy resisting the efforts of those who from the battlements try to prevent the Sambuca from being set up against the wall. 9 As soon as they have set it up and are on a higher level than the wall, these men pull down the wicker screens on each side of the platform and mount the battlements or towers,10 while the rest follow them through theSambuca which is held firm by the ropes attached to both ships. 11 The construction was appropriately called a Sambuca, for when it is raised the shape of the ship and ladder together is just like the musical instrument.

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BM 2002,0102.3986, RRC 408/1

Some Habits at SE Italian Mints? Signing Quaestors and Overstriking?

Image
HN Italy 718. Venusia. ‘double-nummus’. Image from Burnett, ‘La monetazione di Venosa…’ (1991), 4.1.

This post is hot on the heels of the last.  There is a lot going on in the numismatic world of SE Italy during the Hannibalic War.  I wish I had a copy of Marchetti’s Histoire économique et monétaire de la deuxième querre punique (1975) to hand.  I can’t let go my concerns about the CA series and its attribution to Canusium, especially when the Latin colony Venusia just 40km up the same river valley and on the Via Appia (the better road!) was Marcellus’ base of operations and thus hosting many soldiers in need of payment. So I thought I’d peak at the Venusian coins–I can’t type Venusian without smirking and thinking of hippy-dippy alien theorists–but in all seriousness I observe a couple of things:

  • The quincunx, teruncius, biunx, and sescuncia are all reported as being overstruck on other issues (HN Italy 720-723).
  • The coin above is signed by a quaestor with the initials CA.

No this isn’t  a smoking gun, but if I was a Roman general looking for a mint in the Aufidus region I think I’d pick a colony near a troop base on a main road, even if they were a little lazy about not recasting flans.

Burnett, and HN Italy following Burnett, read GA.Q, not CA.Q, but C/G are pretty much the same letter form in this period and most subsequent ones.  The letter forms are different from the CA on Roman coins and I can’t actually bring myself to say RRC 100 is actually close in ‘style’ to any of the Venusian specimens I’ve looked at.

This is not the only coin in the region that seems to be signed by a quaestor.  Reportedly (I’ve not seen an image) Naples, S.2219 = HN Italy Brundisium 749 reads M.PV Q.   Brundisium is also a Latin colony and a major military staging post in this period of the second Hannibalic War.  In fact it seems THE major port and certainly M. Valerius Laevinus’ original base before he started his cross Adriatic shenanigans.   Brundisium’ coinage is signed by a bunch of magistrates.  And most of M.PV’s coins aren’t labelled with a Q.

These two instances of quaestors at Latin colonies got me thinking about quaestors and coinage more generally.  As I’ve said before, there isn’t a lot of evidence on 3rd century quaestors generally and that part of what made the signed Egadi rams special, but here are two more quaestors.

Are they local quaestors?  Probably, the lex Osca Bantina of the late second early first century BC mentions quaestors in its list of magistrates and it is thought to derive from an earlier Venusian prototype (Bispham 2007: 142-152, p. 143 n. 124 lists other examples of Italian communities borrowing the structure of Rome’s magistracies).  That said, Badian in his 1975 article on the quaestorship spent a lot of time thinking about the Roman expansion of the quaestorship and the growth and change of the coinage system.  These two minor examples might lend a little weight to the idea of a third century connection between coinage and quaestors.  And might help point the way towards how we should be thinking about some of the unidentified signatures on Roman series. …   Early posts on quaestors.

Yes, I’m still laughing about ‘Venusian’:

A useful map:

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From Fonda, Between Rome and Carthage (CUP 2010): xx; note especially the indication of the limits of river navigation!

A slightly clearer image of the coin above taken from Carroccio 2008:

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53 out of 410 Days: One of a Kind

There is only one of these coins known.  It’s in Berlin, although a modern photo is not available on their website.  One coin and thus just one set of dies isn’t much evidence to go on.  It’s dated purely on stylistic and prosopographical grounds to c. 83 BC.   The RRC entry says it represents a triumphator.  The figure in the quadriga holds a trophy and palm branch(?) and seems to have some sort of spiky substantial head piece on.  Holding a trophy is not typical triumphal iconography.  In fact the only references to a triumphator holding a trophy in his triumphal chariot in the republican period which I know of is Plutarch’s Marcellus, and that is in connection with his dedication of the spolia opima.  Flower has argued that his is the only historically likely case of this type of dedication, a view nuanced by Beard 2007: 292-295.  I’m not ready to say that the figure in the chariot is Marcellus, esp. not without some connection between the moneyer and Marcellus or some other identifying characteristic.   Marcellus and his spolia opima do appear latter on coins (RRC 439/1; 50 BC).

The motif of chariot and trophy is not alien to the republican series:

90 BC, RRC 342/4-6 Minerva in a ‘fast’ quadriga holding trophy

Reverse Image

130 BC, RRC 255/1 Hercules in a ‘slow’ quadriga hold trophy

Reverse Image

131BC, RRC 252/1 Mars in ‘fast’ quadriga holding trophy

Reverse Image

134 BC, RRC 244/1 Mars in ‘fast’ quadriga holding trophy

Reverse Image

(Cf. also RRC 306/1 Mars naked trophy over shoulder and RRC 353/3 Naked warrior standing on cuirass next to trophy)

Both the laurel wreath and the bead and reel borders have plenty of precedents on the series, neither in any helpful pattern I can see (notes below).

The three-quarters profile chariot is unusual as is the lack of indication of motion in the horses, neither slow, nor fast, just still.  The stillness and the palm branch and the laurel wreath are the best arguments for seeing this as triumphal.

The head on the obverse is usually identified as Jupiter but it isn’t a typical representation of him.  My first reaction when looking at the head type is to see it as Hercules, but this may be overly influenced by his later iconography during the high empire.  This sort of image:

All in all my thoughts tend in a conservative and reductive direction.  I’m not sure we can be certain of the identity of the figures depicted on either the obverse and reverse type.  The unexplained elements I’d want answered are regarding the headgear and also the long flowing drapery off the figure and out the back of the chariot.  Isn’t the latter usually associated with a female deity?  I’d also want an explanation for why this palm branch is more “S” shaped instead of a single fluid arch such as Victory normally holds.  Perhaps its the 3/4 perspective or perhaps its some other attribute:

Laterens

Given its low production its hard to see it as a large, or significant, or influential issue.  A curiosity, but perhaps not historically meaningful?

Similar border types (post 49BC types excluded)

Laurel Wreath Borders: RRC 232/1 – 138BC (chunkier, fixed bottom tie); 290/6 – 114/113BC (Unica – non vide); 324/1 – 101BC (distinct central stem); 329/1 – 100BC (loose thin, but same V execution); 336/1 -92BC (loose thin, but same V execution, not all v’s close: some become more parallel); 342/3a – 90 BC (non vide); 402/1- 71 BC (Pompey Aureus – perhaps most stylistically similar but lacks definitive dot at top join of Vs); 411/1a -64 BC (more leaf like, space at bottom); 418/1-2 – 61BC (more leaf like with berries and tie at bottom).

Bead and Reel:  RRC 97/1a&b Luceria, 211-208BC; 103/1a Apulia 211-210BC; 236/1 (occasionally?!) 137BC; 366/2 82-81 N. Italy and Spain; 384/1 79BC; 392/1 75 BC; 409/1&2 67 BC

Update 30 November 2013: Compare the radiate crown on this representation of Jupiter below.  The triumphator is said to have dressed like the statue of Jupiter on the Capitoline who is dressed in regal costume.   Can’t be bothered to look up the reference but surely in Beard or Versnel. 

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