Dolphins at Cosa and Signia

HN Italy 210. First Cosan bronze issue. Image from Buttrey’s classic 1980 publication, to which it links.

This issue of Cosa imitates Rome’s first didrachm (RRC 13/1).  It’s date post 273BC (the founding date of Cosa) has sometimes been used to try to draw down the date of Rome’s first didrachm, the idea being that iconographic borrow would be unlikely over a gap of some 40-50 years.  The gap doesn’t bother me.

I was just intrigued by the dolphin addition to the design. Buttery says its there “bronze to identify Cosa as a port” (p. 22).  Need this be true?  I’m just recalling the dolphin neck terminus we find on the obverse of the coins of Signia:

Latium, Signia. Obol circa 280-275, AR 0.69 g. Head of Mercury r., wearing petasus; below neck, dolphin r. and below chin, caduceus. Rev. Mask composed of Silenus head l., and boar’s head r.; below, SEIC. Sambon 164. SNG ANS 115. Campana CNAI 1a. Historia Numorum Italy 343.

Segni is most certainly not on the sea.  And as I mentioned in passing in another post, Mercury isn’t particularly associated with nautical imagery and dolphins.  I’m wondering it is not a design element considered aesthetically pleasing at the bottom of a protome to ease the transition. Two examples an argument does not make.  I’ll keep my eye out for more.

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.


256 out of 410 days: Helmet Hair

So I was looking at the Neapolis coins that served as prototypes for the earliest coins in the name of Rome.  And, Apollo has a very flippy hairdo of a not terribly typical type.  Here’s another to prove I’m not making this up:

That flip was feeling familiar.  And not from just the Roman type (RRC 1/1):

Here’s a link to one more of these.  Anyway.  It struck me that that hair flip is visually quite related to the neck flap that appears on Roma’s helmet on certain early types like these:

Or to a lesser extent on these earlier bronzes (not to mention Rome’s first silver piece with bearded Mars and Horse’s Head probably also minted at Neapolis, modern Naples):

But that’s clearly not the direction of influence.  The culprit must be the pegasi of Corinth that became so common in S Italy at the end of the 4th century BC:

The interesting iconographic borrowing isn’t really the Roma helmets, but the Neapolis (and soon-to-be-Roman) Apollo who gets his flip and snaky tendrils by way of Athena’s Corinthian manifestation.

Update 4 March 2014:  Check out images of Roman types at Nick Molinari’s site, note especially the image of the RRC 2/1, known from only one specimen.