311 out of 410 days: Greek Coins in the West


So I was reading Pere Pau Ripollès’ fascinating ‘The X4 Hoard (Spain): Unveiling the Presence of Greek Coinages during the Second Punic War’ (2008) this morning. I fervently wish I’d read it before now.  The problem with real publication, rather than this blogging non-sense, is its not easy after the fact to rethink and amend and correct your former ideas.  Also real publication takes a very long time, so by the time it is out there for the world one’s intellectual engagement with the content has already moved on to something else or ‘evolved’ as Mr. Obama’s position has done on some issues.  I’m thinking about my piece in this book.  I’ll put a clean copy up on academia.edu one of these days.

Anyway.  Pere Pau Ripollès goes along way towards illuminating circulation of Greek coinage in the Western Mediterranean.  He tentatively still supports Crawford’s 1985 thesis that any Greek coins arrived with the Romans, although saying ‘this may be too categorical’.  I’m inclined to see the evidence he collects as requiring this hypothesis to be seriously re evaluated.  As he himself says in his conclusion the Greek coinage found in the hoards of Sicily are more similar to those in Spain than either is to Italy where there is a greater dearth of such Eastern coinages in the hoards.

One of the coins in Hoard X4 that he publishes is of the same type as that illustrated above.


This coin type, Crawford suggests, is the inspiration for the prows on Roman bronze series (See RRC p. 42 esp. n. 5; earlier post).  It’s nice then to see that some specimens did in fact reach the Western Mediterranean relatively swiftly after its production.

I also note the rendering of the ram on this type (red circle above) is not unlike that found on the Athlit Ram.

And, while were talking about things I said in print I no longer believe, I can’t stand by a 260s date for the Heracles and Wolf and Twins didrachm after all the reading I’ve done for this new book.  It fits better at the end of the First Punic War.  I’m not sure how much that messes with my use of it as comparative evidence in the chapter linked above, but it does have some impact…

74 out of 410 days: Game Changing Scholarship



Sometimes awesome publications just don’t get the attention they deserve. Sometimes a single inscription can completely change our reconstruction of an individual’s career and thus the shape of events and meaning of various symbolism.  Such seems the case with Díaz Ariño’s republication of the inscription first published by González, J. (1993), C. Memmius imperator, Habis 24, 281-286.  I’m sticking it up here largely just to give it attention.  RRC 427/1 doesn’t recall the moneyer’s uncle’s time in Macedonia, but instead his grandfather’s previously unknown Spanish campaigns.

There is also the great work being done by Saskia Roselaar mapping coin finds in Italy in time and space to reveal connections and patterns in those connections.  I love that she is making her work available as it develops.


71 out of 410 days: What’s in a Name?

Gold coin.This coin of Pompey is probably a small issue struck as a commemorative piece and/or gift on the occasion of his second triumph.  The choice of legends are particularly revealing about both the date of issue and also the impression Pompey wished to convey. Three passages are needed for context.  First, Granius Licinianus 36.2.4:

And Pompeius, when he was 25 years old and still a Roman knight – something which no-one had previously done – celebrated a triumph as pro-praetor from Africa, on the fourth day before the Ides of March. Some writers say that on this occasion the Roman people were shown elephants in the triumph. But when he came to enter the city, the triumphal arch was too small for the four elephants yoked to his chariot, although they tried it twice.

I include this for how it emphasizes his having served with Praetorian imperium as a private citizen and because it shows the close connection between Elephants and Africa in the Roman mind.  Next up is Plutarch, Life of Pompey 13.4-5.

[When Sulla] perceived that everybody was sallying forth to welcome Pompey and accompany him home with marks of goodwill, he was eager to outdo them. So he went out and met him, and after giving him the warmest welcome, saluted him in a loud voice as “Magnus,” or The Great, and ordered those who were by to give him this surname. Others, however, say that this title was first given him in Africa by the whole army, but received authority and weight when thus confirmed by Sulla. Pompey himself, however, was last of all to use it, and it was only after a long time, when he was sent as pro-consul to Spain against Sertorius, that he began to subscribe himself in his letters and ordinances “Pompeius Magnus”; for the name had become familiar and was no longer invidious.

Here we get some accounts of how Pompey came to be called ‘the Great’, its connection to his African campaign, and when he himself embraced the name.  What’s missing from this passage are the associations with Alexander which were well known in antiquity and today.  Finally, Cicero, For the Manilian Law 62.6-7 (cf. Cicero, Phillipics, 11.18-19):

What was ever so unusual, as, when there were two most gallant and most illustrious consuls, for a Roman knight to be sent as proconsul to a most important and formidable war? He was so sent—on which occasion, indeed, when someone in the senate said that a private individual ought not to be sent as proconsul, Lucius Philippus is reported to have answered, that if he had his will he should be sent not pro consule, but proconsulibus.

The final statement puns on the double meaning of pro consule: it can be translated either ‘not instead of one consul, but instead of both’ or ‘not with the rank of proconsul, but instead of both consuls’.  Its this controversial appointment, again as a private citizen, that the reverse legend celebrates and associates with the triumphal figure.


Today was the long slog through typing in the text I wrote long hand yesterday and adding citations and edits as appropriate.  Lots of progress just not inspiring.   I have between three and six more coin types I want to incorporate into the chapter all of which I’ve written about here on the blog at one time or another.   Tomorrow, fresh, longhand, I could have something like a full rough draft.