One difference (besides the birds) between the Vespasian restoration and the Republican original discussed the other day is certainly the posture of the goddess Roma herself. On the imperial aurei she sits erect with a shorter scepter. On the republican denarii she leans forward and the spear extends far over her shoulder. She lets it take her weight. Her arm which holds it rests on her thigh. Her gaze is seems full occupied by scene before her. She is at rest, almost a mournful pose, certainly a contemplative one. In that, it strongly reminds me of the above Greek relief from Athens in the Acropolis Museum.
The gem, an imprint of which can be seen here: http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilder/2688807, does not have the same contemplative pose. Like on the aurei she sits upright holding her scepter instead of letting it hold her. The birds are intermittent. [A. Furtwängler, Beschreibung der geschnittenen Steine im Antiquarium, Königliche Museen Berlin (1896) Cat. no. 9561.]
There is also this gem [http://arachne.uni-koeln.de/item/marbilder/2688808] with Roma and wolf and twins plus tree and Victory, over all a very different composition.
This ‘restoration’ issue of Vespasian takes its inspiration from this republican type (RRC 287/1):
The birds seem to have changed. Crawford calls the ones on the prototype ‘non-descript’ but the birds on the Vespasian aureus seem to be pretty certainly eagles. Did the republican engraver just do a bad job of representing the species or has the Imperial engraver ‘improved’ the type for symbolic reasons. The republican specimens can have some pretty misshapen birds on them:
The literary sources only have woodpeckers associated with the wolf and twins narrative (Ovid, Fasti 3.37 and 54). One type of woodpecker with a crest was known as Mar’s Woodpecker hence the connection (Pliny NH 11.44). But that doesn’t mean other birds aren’t found in art. More than I want to list here. But just as a taster. Here’s an eagle on a glass paste to which we might compare the Ostian Altar:
And another glass paste with a ‘non-descript’ bird on a grape vine (NOT the ficus Ruminalis then):
This last is a pretty common type of image. Sometimes the grape vine has a bird, sometimes not.
Then there are the other republican coins (RRC 39/3 and 235/1) and that mirror we discussed ages ago that should be brought into the discussion but I’ll leave it there for now. Except for just wondering if this weird BM gem with a mysterious head in the scene might not be Roma’s head, like a reverse scaling of the Roma plus wolf-and-twins motif above:
Update 2/5/2014: The important bibliography on this is
A. Dardenay, Les intailles républicaines figurant la louve romaine: essai d’identification des modèles iconographiques. Pallas 76, 2008, 101-113.
Of course, I had this on file the whole time but didn’t remember the relevance until today….
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…
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.