Victory Redux

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.


Update 4/21/2014:  Key bibliography also includes:

R. Kousser, “The Desirability of Roman Victory: Victoria on Imperial and Provincial Monuments.” in Representations of War in Ancient Rome, Cambridge University Press, 2006.


R. Kousser, Hellenistic and Roman Ideal Sculpture: The Allure of the Classical, Cambridge University Press, 2008.  BMCR review here.

67 out of 410 days: Poetry and other Evidence

Reading for leisure is complicated when one reads as a primary professional obligation. As early as my undergraduate days I rationed novel reading by imposing strict rules: 1) only on weekends or school breaks, 2) never, ever start a book after 4 pm [to avoid being up all night]. Now, I read fewer novels, and usually old “friends”, sometimes from childhood, who’ve been read many times before. When I read something new, I like a guarantee of plot resolution. Somewhere in grad school I picked up poetry as a means of leisure reading that stands repetition and is low on time commitment. My tastes run highly rhythmic: Fenton, Auden and honest: Sexton, Addonizio.

What I haven’t read enough of is Greek or Latin poetry. Somewhere the ‘historian’ label interfered with my perception of such literature as particularly useful or engaging. A old well-grooved prejudice. One that protects poetry as a modern pleasure thoroughly divorced from my professional concerns. This is ridiculous. Ovid, Martial, Propertius and their friends tell us far more about the landscape of Rome itself and the attitudes and preoccupations of the people who inhabited it than Cicero. Or, if not more, than differently, with nuance and layers of meaning. Rich depths for the historian to plumb. With playful and pleasurable language to boot. Heck, Cicero in the pro Archia even tells us the value of the poetic perspective on history. I even like such literature, as literature.

I think, perhaps, a graduate seminar ‘Latin Poetry for Historians’ would be a fabulous course to develop post sabbatical. Something that honors the genre as an art form, while also exploring the diversity of the evidence it offers, and the complications of deploying such evidence.