Numa is the second legendary king of Rome and more than the individual heroic founders of the city (Aeneas, Romulus, etc…) he gets his own numismatic commemorations in the late Republic. Moreover, he’s commemorated by a number of families in a variety of styles. The moneyer on this specimen has put Numa’s name on the diadem to save room on the flan for for his own name!
Perhaps most interesting is this denarius where his ‘portrait’ is unlabeled on the obverse:
But which is clearly identified with a legend on the bronze coinage in the same series:
Ancus Marcius, his grandson, also gets an obverse of his own:
Some of these commemorations are simply tying the moneyer to the legendary kings of Rome, but the the narrative of these kings was also particularly attractive. Numa especially was remembered for establishing religious traditions and thus the state’s continued well being through a correct relationship with the gods.
The last few days as I’ve been writing just about every image seems to me to lead to five new thoughts, leading off in a dozen different directions. I find I keep telling myself ‘not now!’ come back to it later. And yet, just the time to put a note in the correct file or update an old blog post (which amounts to the same thing these days) so I can come back to it later seems to consume all the space for writing. “Where was I?” feels like a constant refrain. I need to find away to stay more focused and efficient as a I fact-check what I’m writing. Perhaps that’s the difficulty: that I want to check my accuracy as I write, instead of saying what I generally believe to be true and then editing and correcting at a later stage.
So the internet went out in the middle of my edits and I found myself crawling the walls waiting to get to JSTOR to read all about Tzetzes and Stesichorus. I paced in the living room and ate some cheese. Not very productive. A version of Crawford’s words came back to me: “What can I productively do the next time the internet goes down for 15 minutes”. I opened a damned book. Radical I know. Paper. I looked up ‘coins’ in Stewart’s Statues in Roman Society. [I do like the pretty pictures…] He describes how the Romans distort representations of temples to emphasize the interior cult figure. The columns spread out and statue grows and the whole image is a symbol of the sanctuary and cult practice. He then goes on to say the “earliest clear numismatic representation of this kind of temple is on a denarius of M. Volteius in 78 BC. It shows the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. Before long the cult statue was displayed within the building.” He then goes on to talk about coins in 36 BC. I opened RRC and started scratching my head. Sure there is a temple on the coin (above), but I’m not sure what that it relates to cult statues, except perhaps in how the columns are widened to make visit the three cella doors thus making clear that this temple is the temple in which the Capitoline Triad are honored. And, it might represent the first temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, but I’m equally not sure we can know that to be true. At the time the coin was made the temple had been destroyed and not yet rebuilt. It represents the idea of the temple more than the temple itself. I almost wonder if Stewart didn’t mean to refer to this coin:
This seems to be the first of the type he’s describing and is illustrated on the same plate in RRC. All that said, this image and the earlier appear to come out of nowhere in the RRC (Like so much of the iconography). I haven’t yet checked on Hellenistic precedents, but I am intrigued that early architectural images seem to be on bronze (346/3 and 348/6). There are suggestions of architecture on earlier specimens (291/1), but not with the same prominence. And then there is the question if we should think of monuments as architectural (242/1 and 243/1). …. So much more to say, but that colleague finally texted and I have an academic ‘date’ in Manhattan in an hour. Gotta motor.
Much later addendum (11/11/13): Today, again, I became obsessed with architecture on coins. No great revelations other than examples prior to the 1st century BC and scholarly discussion there of is thin on the ground. Here’s some types that might be relevant to future discussion. (Or not, but I enjoyed finding them!)
The coinage of Sidon in the late 5th century shows the city defenses. Most specimens show three towers it seems, this beauty has five:
This might be an early temple from Samaria from the 4th century:
Otherwise, other pre Imperial non Roman temples are all probably influenced by Roman precidents. Such as this coin of Paestum (HN Italy 1252):
Or the coins of Juba I of Mauretania:
A little update 3/21/2014: I came back to this post just to add the coin below, but I was surprised I hadn’t already mentioned here the work of Elkins. He’s the scholar who has the most to say about the development of architectural types on coins and will become the standard reference. And, that said here’s a fun early type: