Crawford called the object in Roma’s left hand on this coin a fasces. This doesn’t make a huge amount of sense as one doesn’t carry fasces in the crook of one’s arm, but instead with the axe high over one’s shoulder. The classic example is the Brutus coin (RRC 433/1). Moreover the republican coin series has a pretty definite iconography of what fasces should look like on a coin and specimens of RRC 403/1 just don’t fit the type. The long stick may well be a scepter. This would make some sense, if one agrees that those fillets off Roma’s head indicate she’s wearing a diadem. The diadem and the scepter probably deserve a post of their own, exploring particularly the appropriation of Hellenistic regal iconography for the personification of Roma. Alternatively, the fillets may be only the fillets of a victory crown without any regal connotations. For now, however, I’m just concerned with the little blob circled in red above.
This is likely to be a parazonium. What, one might ask, is a parazonium? Well, besides being a numismatic term for iconography better known from the imperial period, it is a dagger or short sword worn on the left hand side off the girdle. Our only literary testimony is Martial Epigrams 14.32:
The word itself is derived from the Greek, although it is pretty rare in Greek texts as well: in the TLG it shows up only in a fifth century CE lexicon and one equally late hagiography. I don’t think this type is our earliest examples of Roma with a parazonium; it’s already part of her iconography on RRC 335/1 (one example, another example) and probably also on RRC 391/3. What this type does do nicely is suggest that the parazonium is already perhaps a linking piece of iconography between virtus and Roma. On the imperial coinage by the time of Nero the parazonium is a common attribute for reverse personifications of virtus.
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.