Arpi and RRC 15/1


I find Rutter in HNItaly convincing for his suggestion of Syracusan influence here.  I also give Crawford’s views below.  I just wonder if Arpi isn’t the inspiration or even the mint location for RRC 15/1.  At very least it shows earlier reception of the Syracusan types among Rome’s allies.

RRC II.714 (Sorda should read Sordi):


CMRR 64:


This is what Sorda says that Crawford dismisses:


Agathocles, Neapolis, Tarentum and Rome, c. 300-294 BC

“287. Apollo right, four dolphins surrounding, dotted border / MFB right with head in profile, trident above, NEOΠOΛITΩN in ex. (Sambon 650). Circa 300-275 BC. Æ 18mm (7.25 gm). Laureate head of Apollo right; four dolphins around / Man-headed bull standing right; trident above. SNG France 884; SNG ANS 463; HN Italy 577.(Source: Classical Numismatic Group: )” From:

It’s the day before classes begin.  And, I’m very happy to have gotten most of my class prep for the semester out of the way earlier this month.  The transition from Istanbul to Brooklyn was temporarily all consuming, along with other personal matters of a rather happy sort.  Anyways, I’m not sure the future of this blog post-sabbatical, but today it seems useful once again.  Here’s hoping in between classes and meetings there will be many more moments to obsess about coins.

Back in March Nick Molinari pointed out to me the coin above and how it is a good parallel to RRC 2/1. That lead me to put a note about in my book manuscript.  Yesterday, I came across the passage and found a marginalia by a helpful reader “explain or cut”.  I realized I hadn’t really thought it through it myself.

Of course, the most unusual feature of the above coin isn’t the profile instead of 3/4s head of the man-faced bull, but instead the dolphin wreathing the obverse head as commonly found on the coinage of Syracuse.  Here’s Andrew Burnett on the phenomenon in silver (SNR 56 (1977); image links to full article):


Here’s a link to images of the silver (see nos. 455-459) from Neapolis  and an example of the Tarentine gold staters.  The problem comes with trying to reconstruct what the heck Syracusan imagery is doing on the coinages of these two cities at this particular time.  Our historical understanding of Agathocles policy is Southern Italy is severely hamstrung by the loss of Diodorus’  continuous narrative after 302 BC.  Meister in the CAH VII part I, p. 405ff. does his best to reconstruct a narrative but its perhaps over full.  He’s convinced that Agathocles is trying to build a series of alliances against Carthaginian power: “a carefully considered plan lay behind the Syracusan ruler’s Italian policy – he clearly aimed to consolidate the entire forces of the western Greek world under his hegemony for the planned new confrontation with Carthage” (p. 406).  True? False? We just don’t have the sources to make this kind of claim.  I suspect that Meister is too influenced in this by his belief in the so-called Philinus Treaty, in which Carthage promised to stay out of Italy and Rome out of Sicily c. 306 BC.

What do we know?  There seems to be near continuous campaigning by Agathocles or his generals, c. 300-294 BC.  Our first source is Trogus 23.1-2.  He says that Agathocles was inploratus (beseeched, begged, implored) to come to Italy, but doesn’t specify by whom and then goes onto talk about his engagement with Brutti.  A passage of Strabo suggests that Tarentum is likely to have been the beseecher (6.3.4):


And yet how Tarentum might have benefited from Agathocles’ war with the Brutti is not at all clear.  Trogus leaves us in media res with Agathocles leaving the Bruttian campaign unexpectedly to return to Sicily on account of illness.  We pick up the narrative a year or two (?) later with Diodorus 21.2-3.  Agathocles captures Corcyra from Macedonian forces and then ‘returns’ to the forces he’s left in Italy only to find his Etruscan and Ligurian mercenaries have been behaving badly towards his son.  He kill 2000 mercenaries and for some reason this alienates the Brutti (whom he’s subsequently subdue?!).  A botched attempt to capture the town leads to a night attack that sends Agathocles once again back to Syracuse.  c. 295 he’s back in Italy capturing Croton and giving Iapygians and Peucetians ‘pirate’ ships (Diod. 21.4). c. 294 he’s in the territory of the Brutti besieging Hipponium, the future Vibo (Diod. 21.8).  And both years Stilpo his naval captain is harassing Bruttian coastline (21.4 & 8). [Link to Diodorus]

These data points are really minimal.  It’s probably not too much of a stretch to take the Tarentine gold staters as confirmation of the Tarentine/Agathocles relationship mentioned by Strabo.  There are other examples of the Tarentine’s referring to their foreign allies on their coins, although these are invariably controversial in interpretation.

It’s logical to slip the Neapolis coins in this same 300-294 BC window and hypothesize some sort of diplomatic arrangement between Neapolis and the Syracusan king.  The silver has three different known initials on it suggesting perhaps issues over a number of years? [A die study would clear up that question.] Bronze types (that illustrated above and HN Italy 578) have naval imagery on them (trident and dolphin respectively) and we can notice that Agathocles seems particularly eager to control shipping lanes in the course of his Italic and concurrent campaigns.  So perhaps we might speculate that the arrangement with Neapolis was related to some sort of naval agreement.

As primarily a Romanist my real question is how does Rome particularly fit into this mess?  My feeling is the RRC 2/1 is likely to have been engraved at Neapolis by the same engraver who did HN Italy 577 and 578 in roughly the same time frame.  The  rendering of the legends and the man-faced bull are the primary points of the overlap.  And the absence of this profile man-faced bull otherwise on the Neapolis speaks for a tight chronology.  So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the campaigns of Agathocles in Italy are some of our best dating evidence for RRC 2/1, c.300-294BC, given we have no available hoard evidence and only a single known specimen.


Update 8 January 2015:  Just ILL-ed Spadea, Roberto. “Crotone tra i Dionisi ed Agatocle.” pp. 107-120 in Krise und Wandel : Süditalien im 4. und 3. Jahrhundert v. Chr. : internationaler Kongress anlässlich des 65. Geburtstages von Dieter Mertens, hrsg. von Richard Neudecker. Wiesbaden : Reichert, 2011.   This uses hoard evidence from 2005 to look at Agathocles impact on Croton.  Tangentially related but always good to see hoards being worked into the historical narrative.

For a reconstruction of Agathocles’ Italian engagements that emphasizes tensions with Rome, see Decebal Nebu, “Agathocles and the Italic Powers at the Beginning of the 3rd Century B.C.” Revista Pontica  43 (2010): 37-50.

Sambuca, Siege Engine and Musical Instrument


One of my favorite activities when teaching Hellenistic warfare is to have students try to draw the siege engine that Polybius describes for the siege of Syracuse.  The passage is below.  I think its a useful way to build students ability to visual and engage with the text they are reading.  Anyway.  I’ve been wanting a Republican period image of a sambuca for many years to add to the lesson plan.  And Lo! The musical instrument appears as control mark on the Papius series.  I could get really obsessed with the Papius symbols.  Must resist today.

4 1 Meanwhile Marcellus was attacking Achradina from the sea with sixty quinqueremes, each of which was full of men armed with bows, slings, and javelins, meant to repulse those fighting from the battlements. 2 He had also eight quinqueremes from which the oars had been removed, the starboard oars from some and the larboard ones from others. These were lashed together two and two, on their dismantled sides, and pulling with the oars on their outer sides they brought up to the wall the so‑called  “sambucae.” 3 These engines are constructed as follows. 4 A ladder was made four feet broad and of a height equal to that of the wall when planted at the proper distance. Each side was furnished with a breastwork, and it was covered in by a screen at a considerable height. It was then laid flat upon those sides of the ships which were in contact and protruding a considerable distance beyond the prow. 5 At the top of the masts there are pulleys with ropes, and when they are about to use it, they attach the ropes to the top of the ladder, and men standing at the stern pull them by means of the pulleys, while others stand on the prow, and supporting the engine with props, assure its being safely raised. After this the towers on both the outer sides of the ships bring them close to shore, and they now endeavour to set the engine I have described up against the wall. 8 At the summit of the ladder there is a platform protected on three sides by wicker screens, on which four men mount and face the enemy resisting the efforts of those who from the battlements try to prevent the Sambuca from being set up against the wall. 9 As soon as they have set it up and are on a higher level than the wall, these men pull down the wicker screens on each side of the platform and mount the battlements or towers,10 while the rest follow them through theSambuca which is held firm by the ropes attached to both ships. 11 The construction was appropriately called a Sambuca, for when it is raised the shape of the ship and ladder together is just like the musical instrument.

BM 2002,0102.3986, RRC 408/1

The Crowning Moment

Ex Slg. Sir Arthur Evans (= Katalog Burlington Exhibition 1903) Tf. 101, 82, Slg. Jameson 449 und Slg. Walter Niggeler (=Auktion Leu + M&M Basel 1965) 82. Cf. SNG ANS 531. 7.15 g.

So I read this bit of Polybius (below) and landed right back at this coin (above):

For Hiero and Gelo not only gave seventy-five silver talents, partly at once and the rest very shortly afterwards, to supply oil in the gymnasium, but dedicated silver cauldrons with their bases and a certain number of water-pitchers, and in addition to this granted ten talents for sacrifices and ten more to qualify new men for citizenship, so as to bring the whole gift up to a hundred talents. They also relieved Rhodian ships trading to their ports from the payment of customs, and presented the city with fifty catapults three cubits long. And finally, after bestowing so many gifts, they erected, just as if they were still under an obligation, in the Deigma or Mart at Rhodes a group representing the People of Rhodes being crowned by the People of Syracuse. (5.88.5-8)

The context is c.226BC and Rhodes’ use of its recent earthquake to solicit diplomatically expedient gifts.  [Link to some relevant scholarship]

A) It’s good context for the above coin on the personification of political bodies in honorific art forms in 3rd Century BC.

B) It might suggest that the coin type imitates a statue group or potential statue group or the known style of a type of statue group.  This isn’t crazy lots of coin types derive from statues of one sort or another.

C) It made me think about who crowns whom in Hellenistic art in what context.  Under the Empire cities shake hands rather than crown one another.   Nike crowns everybody.  She’s kind of a whore that way.  It’s kind of her M.O.  Ditto Eros (Cupid). Then this came to mind:

Nice Picture, but don’t believe the Flickr caption.

The crowning obviously honors and emphasizes the status of the crowned, but what about the crowner?  Does it diminish the status of Syracuse to bestow the crown?  Or in fact is it a statement of inherent superiority if one can crown another?  We need only think of Napolean’s anxiety about being crowned by the Pope and thus his decision to crown himself and his queen.

On a more serious note, Walbank as always is full of goodness:


IG xi.2 199 b 1.23 (Delos, 273 BC) is available at PHI Greek Inscriptions:


As is [Demosthenes] 18.91 “On The Crown”:

it be resolved by the People of Byzantium and Perinthus to grant to the Athenians rights of intermarriage, citizenship, tenure of land and houses, the seat of honor at the games, access to the Council and the people immediately after the sacrifices, and immunity from all public services for those who wish to settle in our city; also to erect three statues, sixteen cubits in height, in the Bosporeum, representing the People of Athens being crowned by the Peoples of Byzantium and Perinthus; also to send deputations to the Panhellenic gatherings, the Isthmian, Nemean, Olympian, and Pythian games, and there to proclaim the crown wherewith the Athenian People has been crowned by us, that the Greeks may know the merits of the Athenians and the gratitude of the Byzantines and the Perinthians.

Update 1/5/2016: My thoughts on this are maturing.  I think there must have been a very typical statue group that was developed for such a representation and the Nero/Agrippina is a late example of the general type.  This informs how I am thinking about types like RRC 419/2 and other crowning scenes on coins. Cf. Also the Corinth Crowning Ptolemy group attested by Athenaeus drawing on Kallixeinos and discussed by Pollitt (here and here).

Update 5/1/14:  This isn’t precisely related to the rest of this post, but I wanted to be able to find this passage again when thinking about the Locrian coin (Pliny, NH 34.32):



This demonstrates Romans receiving honors from S. Italian Cities for their role as protector a decade before Locri’s coin.   I also like the sentence about this being a means of establishing foreign clients.  I doubt the Thurians saw it that way!

1/20/16:  Constantine and the Tyche of Constantinople

File:Glittica romana, costantino e la tyche di costantinopoli, sardonice IV sec.JPG