When Saturninus that rascally tribune of the very end of second century was a moneyer he chose types that punned on his name. A pun that is emphasized by the abbreviation of his cognomen. It’s a rather conservative type for a man we don’t generally think of for his conservatism. Quadrigas had already been recently revived by L. Conelius Scipo Asiaticus [103 BC Mattingly].
and puns too were the fashion of the time. Compare this bull (= taurus) used by L. Thorius Balbus. Crawford thinks the bull might be a symbol of Juno on the obverse (see p. 719 n. 8 of vol 2 of RRC). Maybe it is both. [102 BC Mattingly]
Anyway, the interesting thing is the Saturn, Saturninus association. It makes the choice of Saturn for the obverse of the Piso Caepio coin seem a little odd in light of our literary sources:
Here’s the Broughton, MRR entry for them under 100BC, Quaestors:
We might also note the use of Saturn as an obverse in 103BC [Mattingly], the year of Saturninus’ first Tribunate, by L. Memmius Gallus:
Mattingly has Saturninus’ offices as follows:
104 – Quaestor in charge of Grain Supply from Ostia
103 – First Tribunate
101 – Moneyership
100 – Second Tribunate
We usually think of moneyerships being held before these other offices, but the dates of the other offices are well fixed. So perhaps Saturninus had his ‘out of order’. Otherwise his coins would need to be slipped back into the series earlier that 104 and that is apparently hard to reconcile with all the rest of evidence.
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.