There are two coins in the Roman republican coin series and one from Teanum from the time of the First Punic War that display a triga, a three horse chariot. All have Victory (Nike) as the driver. I’ve always found this a rather weird design as opposed to the biga or quadriga (2 and 4 horse chariots), but not worried too much about it. For my previous thoughts on these coins and more images follow this link.
Anyway, as I settled back in Dionysius this morning (It’s Yom Kippur today. No classes and thus a much welcome writing day from me!), I came to this passage in his description of the ludi Romani:
In the chariot races two very ancient customs continue to be observed by the Romans down to my time in the same manner as they were first instituted. The first relates to the chariots drawn by three horses, a custom now fallen into disuse among the Greeks, though it was an ancient institution of heroic times which Homer represents the Greeks as using in battle. For running beside two horses yoked together in the same manner as in the case of a two-horse chariot was a third horse attached by a trace; this trace-horse the ancients called parêoros or “outrunner,” because he was “hitched beside” and not yoked to the others. (Dion Hal. 7.73.2)
I think this well explains the one horse on the Roman republican coins looking back at the others as if it were loose. This may be trying to represent the trace horse. I might also want to investigate further a connection between the moneyers of RRC 299/1 and 382/1 and these ludi. It also makes me revisit my earlier thoughts about trying to connect the Roman triga to the Teanum triga. Perhaps this is a mistake as the Teanum coins do not seem to attempt to represent the third horse as on a trace.
So finally after a very long time this blog says something about coins again. That feels good. I’m sad I’m not in Taormina but 5.5 month old twin girls and a full teaching load are not really compatible with mid-semester international travel….
I came across the answer to my question some weeks ago about the origins of the Victory inscribing a shield motif. There is a nice summary of the evolution in Hölscher (p. 61-2 with references to his earlier work on Victoria). He sees its origins in three different elements: 1) 4th century representations of Nike’s inscribing inscriptions like the one above from Heracleia Pontica or this one from Mallos:
2) The practice of dedicating inscribed shields to record victories at major sanctuaries. Here’s a relatively recent piece of scholarship with examples and references to relevant literature And 3) the adaption of the Venus of Capua who is looking at herself in the reflection of Mars’ shield:
He then much to my delight mentions lots of gem and glass paste examples that located the fusion of these three elements in the second century BC. All of which very nicely contextualizes its first appearance as a variation of the standard quinarius reverse design (RRC 333/1).
Part of me feels guilty for not knowing this already. Hölscher has been on my bookshelves for donkey’s years. I swear I’ve read this portion a number of times. My mind just didn’t make the connection while I was writing the earlier post. That had to wait until I read it again. Perhaps that’s why I”m so interested in re-reading (see today’s earlier post). To see information again for first time. For pleasure, for work. The repetition seems the only way to build the paths in my mind that lead to the connections that build the ideas that make the endeavor of learning seem worthwhile.
The personification of Victory (Nike, Victoria) is an exceptionally common motif in the Roman Empire. I appears on large imperial monuments (Trajan’s column, Marcus Aurelius’ column), on small domestic items such as lamps, and all over imperial and provincial coinage.
I’m hard pressed to think of a Hellenistic precedent; perhaps there is one lurking out there… Thus, I was surprised to find a very early example of the type amongst the quinarii of the mid 90s BC (97 BC according to Crawford, 94 BC according to Mattingly).