So I’d been revising my thinking on the Cora didrachm a bit of late and that made me wonder if I needed to also think again about Nuceria issues. Crawford lumps them together, speculating it was a means of distributing booty. I was pleased to see Nuceria specimens next to Suessa specimens in this hoard even if they will be much earlier than its deposition date:
Update 4/16/2014: When thinking about Nuceria and Cora and how their striking relates to that Teanum, Suessa, and Cales, don’t forget the silver didrachms of Paestum, again very rare and the jury is still out on dating (HN Italy 1180). Image here.
This reverse type has been the victim of too much speculation. Crawford in RRC wants the type to be visual representation of the moneyer’s name. The other type made at the same time by the same moneyer seems to pun on the constellation the Triones (a.k.a. the seven stars of the Plough a.k.a. the Big Dipper a.k.a. the Great Bear) and the moneyer’s cognomen:
To make a pun out of the winged boy on a dolphin Crawford had to speculate that it might represent Melicertes (a.k.a. Palaemon) and thus by extension his mother Leucothea whose name sounds like Lucretius. This has then been spun into a legendary genealogy connecting the family to this goddess and tying the moneyer to Odysseus via a connection with Antium. [Hence how I found this in my notes today and thought I’d write it up as it’s unlikely to ever really make it into the book.]
The problem is that is that Melicertes is never represented with wings. So says the LIMC (not just the website, I promise I checked the books as well on this). That is just a regular little cupid (eros) on a dolphin. A perfectly normal, completely common representation on gems, lamps, and dozens of other decorative art forms. One that appears on many coins as well:
And even on Roman coins:
The main problem with the tentative suggestion of Melicertes is not the speculative reconstructions above, but that by saying “winged boy” in the catalog entries of every major database it never returns in searches for “eros and dolphin” or “cupid and dolphin” thus virtually erasing an important link in the history of the iconography.
Of course, Melicertes can be represented riding a dophin. And there are lots of boys on dolphins, most famously at Tarentum. But the wings rather make a difference!
So the internet went out in the middle of my edits and I found myself crawling the walls waiting to get to JSTOR to read all about Tzetzes and Stesichorus. I paced in the living room and ate some cheese. Not very productive. A version of Crawford’s words came back to me: “What can I productively do the next time the internet goes down for 15 minutes”. I opened a damned book. Radical I know. Paper. I looked up ‘coins’ in Stewart’s Statues in Roman Society. [I do like the pretty pictures…] He describes how the Romans distort representations of temples to emphasize the interior cult figure. The columns spread out and statue grows and the whole image is a symbol of the sanctuary and cult practice. He then goes on to say the “earliest clear numismatic representation of this kind of temple is on a denarius of M. Volteius in 78 BC. It shows the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Before long the cult statue was displayed within the building.” He then goes on to talk about coins in 36 BC. I opened RRC and started scratching my head. Sure there is a temple on the coin (above), but I’m not sure what that it relates to cult statues, except perhaps in how the columns are widened to make visit the three cella doors thus making clear that this temple is the temple in which the Capitoline Triad are honored. And, it might represent the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, but I’m equally not sure we can know that to be true. At the time the coin was made the temple had been destroyed and not yet rebuilt. It represents the idea of the temple more than the temple itself. I almost wonder if Stewart didn’t mean to refer to this coin:
This seems to be the first of the type he’s describing and is illustrated on the same plate in RRC. All that said, this image and the earlier appear to come out of nowhere in the RRC (Like so much of the iconography). I haven’t yet checked on Hellenistic precedents, but I am intrigued that early architectural images seem to be on bronze (346/3 and 348/6). There are suggestions of architecture on earlier specimens (291/1), but not with the same prominence. And then there is the question if we should think of monuments as architectural (242/1 and 243/1). …. So much more to say, but that colleague finally texted and I have an academic ‘date’ in Manhattan in an hour. Gotta motor.
Much later addendum (11/11/13): Today, again, I became obsessed with architecture on coins. No great revelations other than examples prior to the 1st century BC and scholarly discussion there of is thin on the ground. Here’s some types that might be relevant to future discussion. (Or not, but I enjoyed finding them!)
The coinage of Sidon in the late 5th century shows the city defenses. Most specimens show three towers it seems, this beauty has five:
This might be an early temple from Samaria from the 4th century:
Otherwise, other pre Imperial non Roman temples are all probably influenced by Roman precidents. Such as this coin of Paestum (HN Italy 1252):
Or the coins of Juba I of Mauretania:
A little update 3/21/2014: I came back to this post just to add the coin below, but I was surprised I hadn’t already mentioned here the work of Elkins. He’s the scholar who has the most to say about the development of architectural types on coins and will become the standard reference. And, that said here’s a fun early type: