Nuceria Didrachms

The Prospero Collection of Ancient Greek Coins. ITALY. Ca mpania , Nuceria Alfaterna (c.250-225 B.C.), Silver Didrachm, 7.25g,. Oscan legend, head of Karneios facing to left, with ram’s horn, a small dolphin behind. Rev. Dioscouros standing facing, head turned to left, beside his horse, holding the reins and a thyrsos (SNG France 1102 (these dies); Sambon 1008; SNG ANS 560 (these dies); HN Italy 608).

So I’d been revising my thinking on the Cora didrachm a bit of late and that made me wonder if I needed to also think again about Nuceria issues.  Crawford lumps them together, speculating it was a means of distributing booty.   I was pleased to see Nuceria specimens next to Suessa specimens in this hoard even if they will be much earlier than its deposition date:

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The original 1912 publication is much more detailed.

Update 4/16/2014:  When thinking about Nuceria and Cora and how their striking relates to that Teanum, Suessa, and Cales, don’t forget the silver didrachms of Paestum, again very rare and the jury is still out on dating (HN Italy 1180).   Image here.

 

Left to Right, Right to Left

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Bronze Coin, Frentani. ANS 1957.172.36. SNG ANS 1.129. HN Italy 621.

Check out the legends on each side of this coin.  They are both FRENTREI, but with the Rs looking for all the world like Ds and the F like an 8.  Oscan isn’t really that far off the Latin or Greek alphabet:

It’s main difference is that its written right to left (like Hebrew and Arabic), rather than left to right (like English and kin).  I like the above specimen because it has the same name written in different directions on each side.  L>R on the obverse; R>L on the reverse.  It’s as if we get a little window into the moment of evolution of the language among the Frentani.

It uses a locative ending like the first coin of Larinum to show a Roman influence.  The coins of Larinum during the Hannibalic War period continue to be of influence for the swap between Oscan and Latin and the D/R letter forms (see Rutter in HN Italy, no. 624).

post script.  Doesn’t the little beanie hat style of Mercury’s wings remind you a little of how they were rendered on Suessa’s bronzes… or at Teanum ?

Two Hints about Mint Output at Roman Allied Communities during the First Punic War

Looking again at the coins of Suessa, Cales, and Teanum, especially specimens which have been on the market, it occurred to me how heavily used the obverse dies seem to be, especially at Teanum:

Even after the obverse die break in ways to mar the face of the god portrayed they keep on being used.  Such intensity is not consistent with a ‘vanity project’ but instead with a more rushed economically driven agenda.  Not a bad die study opportunity here.  [The last two are the same obverse die as this Fitzwilliam Specimen; interesting specimen with a prow mint symbol at CNG site].

The other curiosity that might hint at wide circulation (and by extension striking in some significant volume) is the fact that the Boii of the Po river valley (aka Cisalpine/Transpadine Gaul)  borrowed the type of Cales’ bronzes for an obol silver issue:

The specimen above is called a ‘drachm’ and the catalogue notes the assignment to the Boii is provisional.  (We need a few good hoards or excavation finds…)

This last one is listed as possibly from the Danube region.

 

294 out 410 days: Obverse Legend Variants on Mercury Type at Suessa

Historia Numorum Italy no. 448 is listed with just one legend PROBOM. (P is actually closer to a Π with a short right leg. Note open form of R. These features consistent throughout).  A specimen with clearly this legend is illustrated in the plates. Most of the specimens in trade are from different dies with variant readings:

PROBVM

PRBOVM

PRBOM

The meaning of the legend is unclear.  HN Italy suggests it comes from probus, meaning valid.  Although the basic meaning ‘honest, good’ seems fine to me too.

It is connected to a similar legend at Beneventum on a type, the imagery of which is a mirror image of RRC 15/1 (HN Italy 440):

SAMNIUM, Beneventum . 265-240 BC. Æ 20mm (7.03 gm). BENVEN-TOD, laureate head of Apollo left / PR-O-P-OM, horse prancing right; pentagram above. SNG ANS -; BMC Italy pg. 68, 1; Sambon 193; SNG Morcom -; Laffaille -. Image from CNG.

The correct resolution of the legend may be aided by consideration of the variant spellings observed.

Beneventum became a Latin colony in 268 and Suessa in 313.  These coins are associated with the First Punic War.  Hercules wrestling the Nemean Lion is a common enough artistic theme, known especially at the mint of Heraclea Lucaniae and occasionally at Tarentum.

Addendum.  I wasn’t really happy with the probum meaning ‘approved’ as it seemed a strange thing to me to write on a coin.  Out of keeping with typical legends (ethnics, magistrates, mint marks, the very occasional labeling of the image).  I even tried to convince myself Probus could be an epithet or title for Mercury or something.  I didn’t manage.  Just a red herring.  But … then I remembered the inscriptions on the Egadi rams of a roughly contemporary date.

Egadi 1: C(aios) Sestio(s) P(ublii) f(ilios) / Q(uintos) Salonio(s) Q(uinti) [f(ilios)] / SEX VIROEN[-?–] / probave[re].

Egadi 7: F. QVAISTOR· PROBAVET

Egadi 4& 6 have identical texts: M(arcos) Populicio(s) L(ucii) f(ilios) / C(aios) Paperio(s) Ti(berii) f(ilios) / Q(uaestores) p(robavere)

We’ll known more once the inscriptions are published on there own, but for now the use of the probo, probare, probavi on the rams is enough to let me think probum on the coin is more plausible than I first thought.

[Disturbingly, if you google image search, ‘Beneventum Apollo Coin’, the first image that returns of the coin is hosted on some satanic-esque website obsessed with pentagrams.  Reminded me of a time a student of mine unwittingly submitted a project full of images from some awful white power website. Appropriation of the past to support modern ideologies is a dangerous thing, especially on the intertubes.]

291 out of 410 days: San Martino in Pensilis Hoard

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The San Martino in Pensilis hoard and Andrew Burnett’s analysis thereof is probably the most important new information on third century Roman and Italian Silver issues from the last decade.  Highlights included:

  • Evidence of a significant gap (ballpark 300-260BC) between Rome’s first and second silver issues
  • The first Roma and Pistis Locrian coin in a hoard context
  • 30 ‘fresh’ coins of Teanum, Cales, and Suessa!  (No Cora specimen, alas.)

My scanned photocopy was really crappy, so I’m just delighted to realize that it’s available open access via Persée.  No more squinting for me today!  I’m also intrigued by the location of this hoard, just north of the Gargano (if you go, you must try the mysterious and delicious Lesina eel!).  It’s just down the road from Larinum (see earlier posts).  The Frentani became allied to the Romans in 304 BC and somewhere around the mid third century Larinum shifted from minting Neapolis type bronzes with Greek legends, to Roman type bronzes with Latin legends (well Oscan language, Latin Alphabet) (HN Italy 622 vs. 623).

San Martino in Pensilis - View

Cora didrachm

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AR didrachm of Cora. c. 275-250 BC. head of Apollo l., laureate; horseman r., wearing conical helmet and spearing downwards; below, KORANO (see below). HN Italy 247. Drawing after Paris specimen. from Millingen’s 1831 publication.

I was surprised to have so much trouble finding an image of this type.  Thus I thought I’d throw up this bad screen shot and link just to help the next numismatist so struggling.  HN Italy obviously knows more specimens than the Paris one as a weight range is given (6.1-6.4 g); I’ve not tracked down their locations.  Millingen, although wrong to re attribute the coin to Sora, was correct to see it paralleling issues of Cales, Teanum, and Suessa. See my earlier post.

Update 10 April 2014:  I’ve revised my thinking on this issue.  I”m not sure it really parallels the issue of  Cales, Teanum, and Suessa that well.  Key differences in my mind are the lack of any additional symbols on the obverse and the placement of the legend on reverse in the field not in an exergue.   It is also missing from the San Martino in Pentilis hoard which has decent number of all three of the others.  I am thus skeptical we can really associate this coin with the others and by extension with the 1st Punic War.

Update 7 January 2015: A specimen from Naples was published in the same piece that gives us our first look at RRC 2/1.  Isn’t that fun!?  Images link to original publication.  Based on this photograph I’m inclined to say that the HN Italy reading of the legend is in error.  It should be CORANO not KORANO.  Also HN Italy does not mention the palm branch (?) behind Apollo’s head.  The hat shape of the rider seems distinctive.

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Capture

258 out of 410 days: Fighting Cocks and Sacred Chickens

This post is dedicated to the most estimable Prof. Kellogg, who has taught many to always listen to the sacred chickens.

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In Trade (links to specimen)
RRC 12/1 5lb Currency Bar 270BC, Rostrum Tridens, Chickens eating corn, Stars. British Museum; 1940s incendiary bomb damage at side. Photo from Andrew McCabe’s Flickr set.

These fabulous currency bars appear in many a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the Roman practice of divination prior to battle via the consumption of grain by sacred chickens.  If the birds eat, the gods are happy for the Romans to engage in combat.  The most famous incident is the Sea Battle of Drepana (249BC) when Claudius Pulcher is said to have been so enraged that the birds wouldn’t eat that he cast them into the sea, saying: ‘If they won’t eat, let them drink!’.  Anyway, great story and thanks to this excellent account by another blogger, I’ve got no need to review the sources here.

The idea that the bars show sacred chickens is only loosely endorsed by Crawford, who with uncharacteristic ambivalence, records the type as ‘two chickens facing each other and apparently eating; between, two stars’.  He is more definite in vol. 2, p. 218:

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The Callimachus epigram is of interest:

Euaenetus, who set me up, says – for I know not – that in return for a victory of his I am offered – a bronze cock – to the Tyndaridae : I believe the son of Phaedrus, son of Philoxenides.

φησὶν μεστήσας Εὐαίνετος (οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε
γινώσκω) νίκης ἀννί μετῆς ἰδίης
ἀγκεῖσθαι χάλκειον ἀλέκτορα Τυνδαρίδηισι:
πιστεύω Φαίδρου παιδὶ Φιλοξενίδεω. (Greek from Perseus)

This ἀλέκτωρ isn’t a sacred chicken, but a cock!  A symbol of virility and bellicosity.  Look again at the currency bars above, those birds have some impressive combs and plumage, visible even with corrosion on the bars.  The kicker is when we look at the pattern of coin iconography at Roman colonies and allied communities struck in the 1st Punic War, notice the combination of star and cock:

Suessa Aurunca, Bronze circa 265-240, 5.45 g. Helmeted head of Minerva l. Rev. Cockerel r. SNG Copenhagen 588. Historia Numorum Italy 449. From the Giancarlo Silingardi collection, with export licence issued by the Republic of Italy.
Teanum Sidicinum, Bronze circa 265-240, 7.02 g. Head of Minerva l., wearing crested Corinthian helmet. Rev. TIANO Cock standing r.; in upper field l., star. Sambon 1004. SNG Copenhagen 594 (this obverse die). SNG ANS 626. AMB 56 (this coin). Historia Numorum Italy 435.
Aquinum. Bronze c.265-240, 5.87 g. Helmeted head of Minerva l. Rev. Cock r.; behind, star. ANS 114. SNG Cop. 101. SNG France 228. H.N. 432
Cales, Bronze circa 265-240, æ 5.53 g. Helmeted head of Minerva l. Rev. CALENO Cock standing r.; in field l., star. Sambon 916. SNG Lloyd 53. SNG Copenhagen 323. SNG ANS 193., HNI 435.

There are also coins of this same type from Caiatia (HN Italy 433) and Telesia (HN Italy 457).  Discussion can be found in Crawford’s Coinage and Money (1985), p. 47.  They all seem to be carved by a single die engraver and I’d not be surprised to find obverse die links.  As a group they are all are overstruck by Neapolis coins from the 250s (Taliercio III,a; cf. discussion by Burnett and Crawford 1998 in essays for M. Jessop Price).

Anyway, the iconographic choice on the currency bars probably has less to do with religious ritual and more to do with selecting a symbol of military prowess.  The head-down, two cock rendering of the motif probably has more to do with the design challenges of the oblong bar.  The two birds echo the double design of the other side.

And, just by-the-by. the Latin for chicken, as in sacred chicken, is pullus, which is well distinguished from the gallus, or cock.

Capture

 

Update 4/25/16:

Notice the stance of these two fighting cocks and the imperial eagle above.

Rectangular brown glass paste intaglio: eagle flying above two fighting cocks.
BM 1814,0704.2062