This little coin, a silver sesterius of 45 BC or there about, has me worried about the chronological limits of my book project. Yes, stopping in 49BC to leave the discussion of Caesar and the Civil Wars to another book does make good sense. However, a good number of post-49BC coins are intimately thematically related to earlier coins in the series. The issue of Palikanus taken as a whole is a good illustration of the “republican” characteristics of some of these later issues.
The above coin was thought to show a money pot or olla and a banker’s tessarae. This at least was Wiseman’s suggestion, based on the banking interests of the moneyer’s family.
Wiseman, T. P. (1971) New Men in the Roman Senate, 139BC-AD14. Oxford p. 85-6.
His idea is largely endorsed by Crawford and even to an extent by Zehnacker.
Zehnacker, H. (1972) ‘La Numismatique de la République romaine: bilan et perspectives’, ANRW I.I (Berlin), 266-96, at 284: “En tout cas, l’appartenance au monde de la finance expliquerait trés bien le mélange caractéristique chez les monetales de noms illustres—des cadets de famille qui ont préféré l’argentaux honneurs—et de noms quasi inconnus—de parvenus”
Based on the themes of the rest of the series as a whole, I think L. R. Taylor’s original suggestion of voting urn and ballot is far more likely (VDRR p. 226). The series celebrates:
Libertas and the Tribune’s Bench on the Rostra:
Honor and a Curule Chair flanked by Grain:
Then on the quinarius, Felicitas and Victory:
Given that all the other elements in the series celebrate civic virtues, even popular virtues, interpreting the smallest denomination in the series as a banking advert seems a bit of a stretch. A voting theme would harmonize much better.
All that said, there was a temple of Ops (wealth) in Roman. If its not voting being represented, I’d go with another divine personification before assuming a reference to a family banking business.
Also the use of the genitive on all these is types is striking.
Perhaps I’ll just need to include a flash forward to work a few of this series in.
Update 24 January 2014: So I was re-reading Witschonke 2012 on the possible uses of control marks at the Roman mint. Really the very best thing on the subject. Speculative in places by necessity, but logical and solid reasoning throughout. It depends on the important work of Stannard (Metallurgy in numismatics vol. 3 1993: 45-68 pl 1-2) on the evidence for mint practices revealed by gauging, namely that the mint worked in batches. What if money pot and tessarae (if that’s what they are) aren’t banking icongraphy but in fact minting iconography? A claim to the rigorous control of the issue. A celebration of Juno Moneta. Something like this coin of c. 46BC: