254 out 410 days: Aes Grave Iconography

Bronze Quincunx, Hatria, 300 BC. ANS 1954.263.176

So I was skimming the ANS catalogue trying to collect my thoughts about the Italian context for early Roman coinage.  Most of the examples of cast coinage from non-Roman mints seems comfortably familiar. Wheels, Tridents, Anchors, Clubs are all motifs found at Rome and elsewhere.  I particularly like the animals, roosters and sleeping dogs especially.  But then I came across this specimen above: “Female Head in Murex Shell”.  So different!  Even if the other side, a Pegasus, is by contrast strikingly familiar in a numismatic context.  Anyway the unexpected-thing-in-a-shell motif reminded me of course of our discussion of gem stone themes, earlier.  It certainly fits that motif well.

Carnelian ring stone

The British Museum also have a good selection of this type of gem.  Note especially the Mule coming out of the murex shell.

Postscript 5 March 2014.  There is no image of that mule coming out of a shell on the BM site, but I just wonder if it isn’t more likely to be an ass.  The ass is known for its generous male genital endowment and Henig argues that the shell is a symbol of a female sexual organs.   You see why I wonder about it being a mule… Anyway, in furhter support of Henig’s fertility theory of the shell motif, there is the other BM specimen (illustrated) where two rabbits issue forth from the shell.