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.
The ‘intensive’ Turkish language class and bureaucracy have occupied much of the last week, but now as the Kurban Bayrami festivities begin our lives are settling down a bit. The language class is certainly part of my professional goals for this sabbatical, but as it doesn’t touch on my research and writing directly I don’t find I have much to say about it. I set a simple goal of reading two chapters a day of a book I’m reviewing and writing notes there on in order to have a draft of the review by next Sunday. This should allow plenty of time for flash cards and grammar exercises and perhaps even some more bureaucracy, if any offices are open. It should also let me blog here a bit about the material, like the inscription above. Here’s a recent translation:
Here’s the link to the translation source and here’s an even more recent discussion. There is controversy over the date: Late Empire? Late Republic? The latter is more favored at the moment. The passage is often discussed regarding the role of the historian in society and how histories would have been experienced by contemporary audiences, i.e. reception in antiquity. What caught my eye was the list of things that cause problems in societies, the understanding of which will be beneficial to the audience of the history:
AND loss of trust (pistis)
It’s the last rhetorical point that resonates with numismatic imagery and more. In the passage infighting (staties emphulioi), i.e. conflict between kinsmen, those who should be ‘natural allies’, is juxtaposed against the idea of a loosening loyalties (pistion katalusies), implying, perhaps, that the latter refers to external treaties or agreements, interstate affairs. The first pair similarly contrasts poor and rich. The poor should be stirred up to want undo societal influence, but equally the rich should not seek to become richer still. Harmony within a community, perhaps, depends on these two precepts (homonoia, the rhetorical opposite of statis).
This started me thinking about how Homonoia (= concordia) and Fides (= pistis) have a strong overlapping iconography, most obviously the joined right hands.
The joining of the right hand is so much a part of the iconography of each abstract ideal that when unlabelled we should perhaps read both ideas instead of just one alone:
The question of course becomes how far back should we read the development of this overlapping and sophisticated icongraphic rhetoric:
Fasces are bundles of rods that symbolizes the authority and dignity of a magistrate. (I find Drogula pretty convincing with how he nuances their function and meaning.) What seems uncontroversial is that fasces with axes were carried outside the pomerium (the sacred boundary of the city) and without axes inside the city. The difference being that when one commanded troops one had more summary authority than in a civic context. Marshall makes a relevant point about the understanding of the symbolism, especially in relation to the axes themselves:
He then advocates a very practical reading that both the axes and rods were actually used for punishment and executions and thus any symbolism would be a reaction to their use. Above is the first use of the symbol on the Roman coin series in 83 BC by a partisan of Cinna, Norbanus. This was followed shortly by this coin of 81 BC:
And then this one later in 63 BC:
Even on this famous scene of the first consul of 509BC, struck 54 BC, the fasces all have axes:
And then the next time they show up in 44 BC, the Axes are removed:
And it stays gone during the ensuing Civil Wars:
Somewhere in the Wars between Caesar and Pompey Axes went out of symbolic fashion…
I didn’t mention this coin of c. 70/69 BC because I just don’t think Roma is holding fasces. I think it’s a scepter and we can see the hilt of her sword as well. It’s just not how you hold a set of fasces and the two ends are differentiated as on other types. There is no stripping on any specimens to suggest rods are being portrayed:
The figure on this reverse type is usually seen as representing Sulla triumphator. He’s clearly labelled as Sulla, but the caduceus in his hand is curious. “Victory hoped for” is Crawford’s reading. He doesn’t want to align it with the agnomen Felix because of the chronology of the time, though felicitas in the imperial times is most definitely shown with this attribute:
I tend to agree with Crawford and am puzzled because a caduceus is a very odd thing for a triumphator to hold:
After a thorough reconnaissance had been made, it was ascertained after a few days that all was quiet as far as the Gauls were concerned, and the whole force was thereupon marched to Privernum. From this point there is a twofold story. Some state that the city was stormed and Vitrubius taken alive; other authorities aver that before the final assault the townsmen came out with a caduceus [Note] and surrendered to the consul, whilst Vitrubius was given up by his own men. (Livy 8.20)
No, I don’t think Sulla is suggesting his willingness to surrender! This passage is even more explicit:
3 An indication of this is found in the following word and act of each of the two peoples: Quintus Fabius, a Roman general, delivered a letter to the Carthaginians, in which it was written that the Roman people had sent them a spear and a herald’s staff [‘caduceus’ in the Latin], signs respectively of war and peace; they might choose whichever they pleased and regard the one which they should choose as sent them by the Roman people. 4 The Carthaginians replied that they chose neither one; those who had brought them might leave whichever they liked; that whatever should be left them they would consider that they themselves had chosen. 5 Marcus Varro, however, says that neither the spear itself nor the staff was sent, but two tokens, on one of which was engraved the representation of a staff [‘caduceus’ in the Latin again]; on the other that of a spear. (Gellius, Attic Nights, 10.27)
[Update 24 Sept. 2013 – The sending of the spear and caduceus is proverbial in the Hellenistic World. See Polybius 4.52.4 and 24.12.1 with Walbank’s Commentary on the former.]
The herald’s staff was certainly read most often as a peaceful symbol, one of reconciliation and concordia. Just to give a taste of this, here are two coins one from 70 BC representing ‘concord’ between Italy and Rome and another from 48 BC during the Civil Wars of Caesar and Pompey.
Sulla is victorious and an imperator on this coin, but he is also togate and bearing the caduceus and through the later I believe he may also be suggesting his potential harmonious return. It didn’t turn out that way, of course, but that may well have been how he wished to be seen. He certainly wished to be remember as one who restored order.