“Common Values of the Community”

Two very respected scholars read this coin of 58 BC as an iconographic turning point. They see it as shocking that both sides commemorate ‘personal’ or ‘familial’ themes and thus leave no room for the state.  They see the divinities of the obverse embodying community identity in a manner that by implication the ‘private’ types can’t.



While the type is visually innovative and thus fitting with the character of this aedileship which was known for the spectacular (see below), the types would not be meaningful if they were only private.  The images are making a direct claim to the importance of the events thus celebrated to the community as a whole.  The state glorified through individual acts.

Pliny NH 36.116:

In the ædileship of M. Scaurus, three hundred and sixty columns were to be seen imported; for the decorations of a temporary theatre, too, one that was destined to be in use for barely a single month. And yet the laws were silent thereon; in a spirit of indulgence for the amusements of the public, no doubt. But then, why such indulgence? or how do vices more insidiously steal upon us than under the plea of serving the public? By what other way, in fact, did ivory, gold, and precious stones, first come into use with private individuals? Can we say that there is now anything that we have reserved for the exclusive use of the gods? However, be it so, let us admit of this indulgence for the amusements of the public; but still, why did the laws maintain their silence when the largest of these columns, pillars of Lucullan marble, as much as eight-and-thirty feet in height, were erected in the atrium of Scaurus? a thing, too, that was not done privately or in secret; for the contractor for the public sewers compelled him to give security for the possible damage that might be done in the carriage of them to the Palatium. When so bad an example as this was set, would it not have been advisable to take some precautions for the preservation of the public morals? And yet the laws still preserved their silence, when such enormous masses as these were being carried past the earthenware pediments of the temples of the gods, to the house of a private individual!

The accuracy of this testimony is however called in question by other passages in Pliny.

43 out of 410 Days: I’m liking my numbers

So first, I averaged 8.28 minutes per mile for 3 miles.  Yes, I did I fist pump at the end.  And, Yes, that’s even stopping at traffic lights.  In six weeks that’s a 50% increase in speed and my recovery time felt good too.   The other more important number was 750 words.  I put it in easily and then some.  It felt good to writing in linear fashion knowing that if I didn’t have exactly the right word for a concept I could fix it later.   I also was able to start seeing the huge number of cross references the book is going to contain.  Something I already new from my image lists and notes on what chapters they needed to be mentioned, but I really I found myself writing about a type that might end up being mentioned in every chapter.  I am opening chapter 6 on Imperators (Marius, Sulla, Pompey and co) with a contrast between M. Aemilius Scaurus cos. 115 and his son of the same name.  The former has no coins and his deeds are not commemorated on coins, even thought Cicero tells us he ruled the world with a nod of his head, by contrast his son as just an aedile brags about his own accomplishments!  The type is illustrated above.  Notice the big REX ARETAS legend on the obverse.  This is Scaurus claiming to have brought the king of the Nabataeans to his knees during his side excursion while under Pompey’s command in 62.   According to Josephus his ill advised trip to Petra left his army suffering famine and resulted in Aretas simply bribing him with some 300 silver talents to go back from whence he came. Not a very glorious deed all in all. This morning I was struck by the contrast between Aretas III’s self presentation and Scaurus’ desire to show Aretas as an outlandish foreigner (Camel, trousers, long scruffy hair):

Obverse Image

This of course plays on some Roman stereotypes and may have even created a new typology.  Compare this type of three years later (55 BC):

Reverse Image

[Who exactly Bacchius Judeaus is is a problem for another day.  Maybe Dionysius of Tripolis? Or maybe the High Priest himself?]

And yet this same monarch went farther than any other Nabataean ruler to craft a self image in line with Hellenistic standards:


It’s not just the diadem or the tyche its the actual inscription labeling himself as a Philhellene! His successor kept Hellenistic imagery and even used a Greek regnal year, but he returns to Nabataean Aramaic to name himself and identity.  I wonder how they’ve resolved his successor’s regnal years. Is it circular? did they decide he must have taken the throne shortly after Scaurus’ campaign and thus year 26 must equal 35 BC?  Or is there an outside confirmation of this and thus we know Aretas III lost his throne shortly after Scaurus’ campaign.  I must find out…

But that’s a little off topic for the book. So back to where else does this type fit in:

First it an issue by two aediles, not regular moneyers.  Why?  Does it have to do with their games?  Scaurus lived long in the mind of Romans for the extravagance of these ludi.  Or, is it because aediles might also over see the grain supply?   Then there is sheer volume of this issue.  It would need to be part of a discussion of estimating mint outputs and possibility of correlating that with state expenditures.  And then there is the reverse with the capture of Privernum.  The should get a mention in the conquest of Italy section but the moneyer’s family connection is fanciful at best so that goes nicely with my discussion of familial legends.  Oh and it’s one of the rock solid coin types for dating as we have independent testimony regarding the issuers aedileship, meaning lots of other types are dated by relation to this one.  It’s like a book in one damn coin.

Okay.  Now that I’ve got that out of my system I’m going to go write 750 words or more for the actual book.