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:
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.
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 ?
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.
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:
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):
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.
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.]
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).
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.
This post is dedicated to the most estimable Prof. Kellogg, who has taught many to always listen to the sacred chickens.
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:
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:
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.
Notice the stance of these two fighting cocks and the imperial eagle above.
This is a didrachm of one of Rome’s colonies, Suessa Aurunca. This type is usually dated to the time of 1st Punic War. The colony had been established in 313 BC as part of the Samnite Wars (Livy 9.28). The place makes little mark on the literary narrative, appearing in such sleepy contexts as Cato’s recommendation on where to get a wagon or a mill.
The type is identified as a Dioscurus, i.e. either Castor or Pollux without his brother. My first impression is that it looked rather like a desultor to me.
This got me wondering what we actually know about desultores. Less than you might think, I can assure you! And many of our references are metaphorical (e.g. Cicero, Pro Murena 57). There are only about 13 references in Latin literature. The only certain testimony we have of their performance is during Julius Caesar’s triumphal games, and here they seem to be performances by elite youth (Suet. Iul. 39). That they show up on the republican series more than once suggests they were a significant feature of Roman religious festivals or other celebrations, but which and when is up for debate. Perhaps my favorite reference is their use in a piece of Augustan era Roman jurisprudence by Labeo preserved in the Justinian digest (19.5.20).
What about the Suessa coin above? Dioscurus or desultor? The confusion is more understandable when we look at this passage from Hyginus:
LXXX. CASTOR: Idas and Lynceus, sons of Apharesu from Messene, had as promised brides Phoebe and Hilaira, daughters of Leucippus. Since these were most beautiful maidens – Phoebe being a priestess of Minerva, and Hilaira of Diana – Castor and Pollux, inflamed with love, carried them off. But they, since their brides-to-be were lost, took to arms to see if they could recover them. Castor killed Lynceus in battle; Idas, at his brother’s death, forgot both strife and bride, and started to bury his brother. When he was placing the bones in a funeral monument, Castor intervened, and tired to prevent his raising the monument, because he had won over him as if he were a woman. In anger, Idas pierced the thigh of Castor with the sword he wore. Others say that as he was building the monument he pushed it on Castor and thus killed him. When they reported this to Pollux, he rushed up and overcame Idas in a single fight, recovered the body of his brother, and buried it. Since, however, he himself had received a star from Jove [Zeus], and one was not given to his brother, because Jove said that Castor and Clytemnestra were of the seed of Tyndareus, while he and Helen were children of Jove, Pollux begged that he be allowed to share his honor with his brother. This was granted him. [From this comes the expression “redeemed by alternate death”; and even the Romans preserve the practice. When they send out bareback riders, one man has two horses, and a cap on his head, and leaps from one horse to the other, just as Pollux takes turns with his brother.]
Thus, at least to Augustan era eyes, confusing the iconography of the Dioscuri and Desultores was no surprise. Back to the mid third century. I think it unlikely to have a Dioscurus without his brother and without another identifying mark like the star. The palm branch is agonistic imagery and there is no reason that the coin can’t be an agonistic type.