251 out of 410 days: Back from Travels, Onto a New Chapter

A week of archaeological sites was a lovely break from writing. Yesterday and today have just been reading literature on file and looking over notes for the next chapter.  I thought I’d throw up this coin (HN Italy 2013) and Crawford’s 2002 comments:


From: M.H. Crawford, “Provenances, Attributions, and Chronology of Some Early Italian Coinages,” CH IX (2002), pg. 274.

I’m always nostalgic about this type.  I have strong memories of the first time I ‘found’ it in the old Ashmolean coin room and how much I loved bringing students in to see it and talk about its relationship to Roman types (RRC 28/3):


My favorite line out of this article of Crawford is certainly:

“It is no good simply lying in one’s bath and thinking that such-and-such an issue looks rather nice in such-and-such a year…”

I never dare do such a thing, but I did read this just as I was thinking how nice a bath sounded on a cold rainy Istanbul afternoon.  He startled me into keeping at my computer.  No bad thing.

The other Crawfordian gem of today’s readings was pretty much all of his 2009 article on aes signatum. Just to give a bit of the flavor, it begins “The term aes signatum seems to be taking an unconscionable time dying”  and contains a choice observation about “typical Anglo-Saxon insouciance about anything written in German, or even in French” followed by a pointed suggestion that in this case “maybe the insouciance was justified”.  (SNR 88 (2009): 195-197).

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.

Shaggy Haired Deities


The deity on the obverse of this is always identified as Jupiter.  Based, I suppose, primarily on the reverse which is clearly Jupiter in a quadriga with his lightening bolt and scepter. However, the iconography, especially the three thick locks of hair down the neck, looks an awful lot like typical representations of Saturn from the same period:



Of course, these are all likely to be the work of the same die cutter and that could account for most of the visual similarity.  Nevertheless it strikes me that if that die cutter had wanted to differentiate two different deities on these obverses, he would have done so in a more dramatic fashion.

Amazon on a Pile of Arms

Reading a draft of a chapter by a friend, I was completely taken by the use of the Amazon-on-a-Pile-of-Arms Type to personify Aetolia. He pointed out how the arms start out a Gallic arms to which a large Macedonian shield is added, as on the specimen above. I love how this illustrates that the Romans are simply deploying an already fully formed numismatic iconographic vocabulary on their own coins. I am also captivated by the diversity of this basic reverse type on the Aetolian issues:

The usual assumption is that the type is modeled on a statue dedicated at Delphi to commemorate the defense of the sanctuary by the Aetolians against Gauls. However the variations in the reverse mean that we can’t see to an exact one to one match between the two. The gold specimen with Artemis and the Nike is most intriguing. Perhaps a reference to Artemis’ epiphany to defend Delphi?

Anyway. Where does this Amazon-on-a-Pile-of-Arms Type show up on Roman coins? All over!

And of course it also comes to be adopted as the personification of Britannia, which has itself Roman origins. What we shouldn’t do is conflate the Roma seated on a curule chair with this image, as the symbolism of the two has different connotations:

The arms represent conquest, the curule chair just rule.

I need to find out what artistic precedents the Aetolian type is based on…

Update 8/12/2013. 

Reverse Image


I found it asserted in an old gem catalogue (see p. xv under cat. no. 45) that Roma on a pile of arms derives from the Athena on the coinage of Lysimachus.  It is certainly might be a basic prototype for personifications of Aetolia and Roma seen above but she is clearly enthroned with her own shield beside her, a very different symbolism than being atop the spoils of war.