277 out of 410 days: agri quaestorii and Rome’s first issue of cast bronze coins?

reverse
RRC 14/1. 358.81g. ANS 1969.83.385. Gift of E.R. Miles.

In CMRR, Crawford first uses the evidence of the Nemi finds to place the RRC 14 finds ‘no earlier than about 280’.  He then goes on: “One may speculate that the need to administer the agri quaestorii acquired in 290 (Lib. Col. 253, 17L; 349, 17 L) played a part in the decision to produce the first issue of cast bronze coinage.” (p.40-41).

To wrap my head around the plausibility of this I turned to Roselaar’s Public Land in the Roman Republic (2010).  She gives a good definition and survey of ager quaestorius (p. 121-127).  On 290 BC she says:

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Even if we go ahead and concede the land around Cures was sold shortly after 290, I have a hard time following the logic of how the sale of land is made easier by the creation of coinage.

The other issue muddying the waters regards agrarian issues in this period is the parallel and in precise testimony that M’. Curius Dentatus distributed land. Viris Illustribus has a good mash-up of various accounts.  First after conquering the Samnites he says in a contio  ” I took so much land that it would have become a desert, if I had not taken so many men. I took so many men that they would have starved, if I had not taken so much land.” (33.2)  Then, he gives 14 iugera of land the people (which we do not learn) and only takes so much for himself saying, “there was no one for whom this amount was not sufficient”. (33.5-6)  The latter echoes a pithy saying of his found in Plutarch, but where we are offered no context for it. Valerius Maximus says only seven iugera were given out, but also makes a moral out of the general taking no more than the rest.  Pliny has the very same nugget:

The words, too, that were uttered by Manius Curius after his triumphs and the addition of an immense extent of territory to the Roman sway, are well known: “The man must be looked upon,” said he, “as a dangerous citizen, for whom seven jugera of land are not enough;” such being the amount of land that had been allotted to the people after the expulsion of the kings.

Then at the end of the mini bio in Viris Illustribus (link above) we’re told he’s given 500 iugera by the public for his services (33.10).

And, just to add to the mix we should remember that his campaigns in the Po is said to have led to the founding of the colony of Sena which would have also included land distributions (Polybius 2.19).  The Periochae of Livy don’t have a land distribution, but do have the colonial foundation.

Cato the Elder, and Cicero after him, loved Dentatus as the epitome of the rustic Roman, military man and farmer, happy to conquer everyone in sight and still eat a simple stew from a wooden bowl. [Cincinnatus, anyone!?] The literary sources care FAR more about the bon mot than the distribution.  I don’t think we can nail down a context for it.

Thus, I think this is just a fun rabbit hole with very little promise for finding a context for the aes grave.

That’s not to say Dentatus is completely useless to us when we’re thinking about early contexts for making coins:

6. in the four hundred and eighty-first year from the founding of the City, Manius Curius Dentatus, who held the censorship with Lucius Papirius Cursor, contracted to have the waters of what is now called Old Anio brought into the City, with the proceeds of the booty captured from Pyrrhus. This was in the second consulship of Spurius Carvilius and Lucius Papirius. Then two years later the question of completing the aqueduct was discussed in the Senate on the motion of the praetor. At the close of the discussion, Curius, who had let the original contract, and Fulvius Flaccus were appointed by decree of the Senate as a board of two to bring in the water. Within five days of the time he had been appointed, one of the two commissioners, Curius, died; thus the credit of achieving the work rested with Flaccus. The intake of Old Anio is above Tibur at the twentieth milestone outside the* Gate, where it gives a part of its water to supply the Tiburtines. Owing to the exigence of elevation, its conduit has a length of •43,000 paces. Of this, the channel runs underground for •42,779 paces, while there are above ground. substructures for •221 paces.

I’d not like to connect this aqueduct to any one issue but like the construction of Via Appia, big infrastructure projects and the establishment of colonies are easier if the state has an easy means of making payments.

Map of the course of the Aqua Anio Vetus

236 out of 410 days: Alliteration and Translation

obverse

 

Tatius, legendary king of the Sabines and co-regent at Rome for 5 years with Romulus, is used by two moneyers in the Republic as an obverse type.  Tatius appear in some of the earliest Latin literature in a famously alliterative line of Ennius:

O Tite, tute, Tati, tibi tanta, tyranne, tulisti

What a mouthful!

The translations too often depend on what people think the context is:

By yourself, Titus Tatius the tyrant, you took those terrible troubles.

Warmington in the Loeb clearly assumes a negative context (above).  This reading has been endorsed again by a recent introductory essay on Ennius.  [Not bad little introduction to his alliterative tendencies there too.]  By contrast Elliott very recently has swung out to an opposite positive direction:

You yourself, Titus Tatius, earned yourself so great a reward.

I rather like this more neutral rendering (It is widely quoted thus (an example), I’ve not bothered tracking down who the original translator is):

O Titus Tatius, Tyrant, what great things you have brought upon yourself!

Reading Ennius as having a negative portrayal of Tatius makes it more difficult to explain his presence on coins.  The desire to commemorate him on the state coinage pre-supposes a positive legacy.  

The coin, I suppose, evokes something closer to the sentiments of this line of Propertius:

qui quaerit Tatium veterem durosque Sabinos,

hic posuit nostra nuper in urbe pedem.

 

He’s only lately set foot in this city who asks for the ancient Tatius or the strict Sabine. 

Propertius says chaste and modest girls might existed in the past but that’s not how this are now or appear to be in the various mythological allusions.

It seems that Tatius has a reputation (along with his fellow sabines) as a guarantor of moral rectitude, perhaps an allusion to his (their) punishment of Tarpeia?

Reverse of RRC 344/2b. 1987.26.59

 

For smart things about Sabines on Coins, see Farney.