268 out of 410 days: South Italian Digital Archive

I was worrying about the conflicting testimony in Livy and Diodorus over Cleonymus of Sparta’s Italian adventures.  Oakley has a good overview of the problem but there is more that can be said on the historiographical side. Barnes also has a take on the matter.

Amongst other things is a place called Thuriae, not Thurii mind you, that features in Livy’s narrative:

During the year a fleet of Greek ships under the command of the Lacedaemonian Cleonymus sailed to the shores of Italy and captured the city of Thuriae in the Sallentine country. The consul, Aemilius, was sent to meet this enemy, and in one battle he routed him and drove him to his ships. Thuriae was restored to its former inhabitants, and peace was established in the Sallentine territory.

[In case you’re wondering, the Sallentine territory or peninsula is the heel of Italy’s boot.]

This little mystery led to finding this 1932 publication that suggests it is the same as Turi, outside of Bari.

The interesting thing about this publication is how it ended up on the web.  The provincial administration of Brindisi seems to have decided in 2012 to scan and archive online pretty much every last regional publication.  Here’s the announcement.  There is as far as I can find no easy portal for searching through all the old newspapers and journals to find the relevant bits, but the archive is hiding lots of numismatic tidbits.   For instance, here’s the publication of the Salvatore Hoard.

The best I’ve found to mine its depths is to use Google site search.  Just go to the google homepage and enter a likely term in Italian, say ‘didramma’, and then ‘site:emeroteca.provincia.brindisi.it’.  Leave off the quotes.

Postscript.  I just don’t think the Cleonymus of Polyaenus’s Stratagems is the same character.  It’s just too early a date for the Romans to control Apollonia and Epidamnus.

267 out of 410 days: Mapping Mints and Other Things


Mapping functionality is being increasingly incorporated into digital numismatic publications.  The flash maps of the provincial mints were pretty hot stuff when they first came out on the RPC IV website about 8 years ago.  They still look pretty good if you ask me.  The ANS has started putting maps into most of its sites, the most impressive being the map feature of CHRR online.  But sometimes you want more than one point plotted on a map and you want to choose yourself which points are plotted.  I was pretty happy with the functionality of AWMC: À-la-carte map.  I think my internet speed (DSL) made it a bit clunky or maybe it’s the new Turkish internet security initiatives slowing things down.  That said, still worth it.  My first simple test (featured above) was to put on a map the mints that produced coins that are hoarded with RRC 13/1. I couldn’t get Cumae on the map at this magnification and use full name labels.  It’s label and that of Neapolis overlapped.  It however does let you custom label points or just number each point to stop the overlap feature.   I then just used the snipping tool (like a screen shot) to grab the portion of the map I wanted.

I suspect this mapping program is going to figure heavily in my lesson plans in future semesters.

For modern locations, such as find spots, there are a number of websites, Multiplottr is simple enough. [Why, oh why, has it become cute to name websites leaving out the last ‘e’?!]  Here are the results from plotting, S. Giovanni Ionico, Torchiarolo, Oppido Lucano, Mesagne, Valesio, and ‘Campania’.  Not publication worthy but certainly good enough to think with.  Very fast and easy to edit.


204 out of 410 days: How much work is involved in a die-study?


Yes, 30 seconds is an arbitrary number.  Many comparisons will be much faster, after much longer.  And, no consideration is given to the collection of the images for comparison.  But,the numbers a still good to think when consider what sorts of studies are feasible until a meaningful type of machine assist is developed or just the work involved in any individual project.

So for instance, I supervised a masters thesis that was a die study of 383 specimens.  If the student had take a full 30 seconds on each comparison that would have been nearly 153 8-hour work days, nearly half a year.  Not counting the write up.   [The chart above using 24-hour days.]  Obviously, on the republican series certain variations within a type, especially control marks when present, can speed up a die study, but even such sorting requires individual consideration and intense record keeping.   Without such control marks limiting the number of comparisons required, De Ruyter’s 1996 study of the Coins of L. Julius Bursio would have required upwards of 5,287,700 unique comparisons (NC 156: 79-147).

Dragons and Snakes and Legs, Oh My!

Reverse Image

Obverse Image

This is a 10 minute post, A “because I promised a coin a work day” post.

The legs of the curule chair resting on top of a base line out of which a serpent-like head rises on this type of Q. Metellus in Africa reminds of Caesar’s famous elephant coin.

I don’t have anything much more really to say, other than a caryx (Gallic ritual war implement) seems a likely identification or what ever creature the caryx itself is supposed to represent. This is not an educated view and luckily I don’t need to talk about either coin in my book. Someone far more qualified will handle the issue in the sequel!

Linderski, p. 174 n. 111 give references to various theories for the top Metellus coin.

The Caesar coin is hotly debated in many forums.

I’d want to see more specimens but I’d say the two are likely to be showing the same serpenty-thing, whatever it means. And, I suspect someone else has also drawn the parallel based on how the identification possibilities for both seem to run parallel in the literature.

54 out of 410 Days: Sign of Tanit


The fabulous Dr. Hannah of Oxford pointed out in comments that this type (RRC 460/4) would be relevant to yesterday’s post. That Victory carrying a caduceus: with victory comes peace! Such a perfect summation of Roman ideological rhetoric during the Civil Wars. I’ve been turning a blind eye to everything post Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, because that’s when the book terminates, but, of course, it is still the same monetary system. The chaos of the symbolism of that later period through Augustus really does deserve its own book and I prefer the earlier periods, but I am missing out on some fun with the present schema.

This type is really intriguing to me because of the other side.

The RRC description reads “Lion-headed Genius terrae Africae (head surmounted by disk), holding ahkh in r. hand…” That is no ahkh, that is the sign of Tanit, the patron goddess of Carthage.  [A scholarly friend has suggested that there might in fact be a connection between the two symbols.]

A flickr search or a google image search can give you a sense of the variations on this symbol and its contexts. And the image as a whole is clearly the same as this statue in the Bardo:

The connection was made in 1918.  The publication is now in the public domain; see p. 241-242 for the relevant discussion.  The identification as Genius Terrae Africae comes from the resolution of the  “C . T . A”  legend on the coin above the figure’s head by Babylon.  I wonder if any other epigraphic parallels exist for this abbreviation or even the existence of this Genius in this form?   Crawford (and others? ) see a link with the “Genius of Carthage”  (Δαίμονος Καρχηδονίων) of Polybius 7.9.2.

Based on the abstract this might be relevant: Salcedo Garcés, Fabiola. – El relieve tetrarquico de Rapidum (Sour-Djouab, Argelia) : política y religión en el Africa romana. Antiquités africaines 1996 32 : 67-85.

Gabriela Vlahovici-Jones has given the type some discussion online.  She treats the deity as “Sekhmet holding ankh” without any reference to Tanit.

Much of the concern over the identity of the Genius Terrae Africae or the Genius generally in N. Africa, seems to be in scholarship on the Late Antique and the Church Fathers, so for example this discussion and notes.

Linderski, Jerzy. “Q. Scipio Imperator.” In Imperium sine fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic. (1996), pp. 144–185 is probably the most through description of the coin series.

And while we’re at it, I might as well mention that the sign of Tanit is often combined with a symbol similar too (and perhaps the same as?) the caduceus.

British Museum

I’m no expert on North Africa so I’m going to stop here before I say anything stupid.

[Oh. And I think Victory is holding a shield not a patera (possibly even a Macedonian shield?)]

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:


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. 


First Living Roman(s) on a Coin

It’s debatable whether the Flamininus Stater we’ve talked so much about already was made by Greeks to honor him or by Flamininus himself to pay his troops.  As usual, I’m inclined to favor Callatay’s views and thus go with the later based on the reasoning that the number of dies suggests a sizable issue and thus some practical function.  That would make that the first living Roman on a coin, but the issue is clearly not the work of the standard Roman mint.  So when did it become okay for the mint to put a living Roman on a coin, let alone for an individual to put himself on a coin?!  Caesar? Brutus?  Nope. Probably these guys:


We can’t exactly call it portraiture, but it certainly shows the two men conducting their business as quaestors responsible for Rome’s grain supply.  As the coin itself tells us they were instructed by the Senate to create this extraordinary issue to fund their important work.  They took that opportunity not only to put their names on the obverse, but also to depict themselves fulfilling their duties.

A far more radical choice of imagery than this near contemporary issue:

From Babylon onwards its been suggested that that is Marius in the triumphal chariot with his son on the trace horse.  This has led to a dating of the coin to 101 BC.  The year before the issue above.  Mattingly (1998; reprinted 2004) has used hoard evidence to down date the Fundanius issue to 97 BC.  I accept his dating, but still think that the triumphator is intended to be Marius.   Fundanius’ celebration of the victor of the Cimbric and Teutonic Wars seems very tame and appropriate in light of the choices of Caepio and Piso.

50 out of 410 Days: Am I a Classicist?

No, no.  I must be a historian.  Or a numismatist.  Or an art historian.  Or Romanist.  Or a Greco-Romanist.  Oh wait.  I’m employed — permanently — in a Classics department.  I better get over myself and admit that for all my general ambivalence towards the word and its connotations that I really am a Classicist and this thus must really be a classics blog as it is about my professional life.  [Really, very clearly this is not a food blog.]  

This issue came up as I “discovered” [in the Christopher Columbus sense] that there are other bloggers out there.  Hundreds [well dozens] all concerned about those pesky Greeks and Romans and their neighbors and what we do with them today.  What fun!  

What’s my hesitancy about the Classics label?  Well, it is a label and I did have a good hippy-full childhood.  [File under Freud.]  Then there is the whole philology thing and given the learn disability with languages…  [Just file under self-esteem and generalized anxiety.]  Then add in the dissemination of the connotations of the word, a.k.a. ‘overuse’ for the purists.  [File under ‘No, I don’t work on Jane Austin or MoTown or Model Ts’.]  

Give me a while and I’d come up with a dozen more reasons.  I am a Classicist after all.

The one thing I did notice in my peak into the blogosphere is that we classicists as a rule tend to take ourselves very seriously.  I’m not sure that’s wholly necessary. It’s not like we’re working on something like this:


That is a random plug for just one of my NGO-employed friends.  I just like to keep some perspective on my general relative impact.

On the upside, Classicists do seem to have a great sense of awe and wonder.  That’s no bad thing.