Libertas with Arms Outstreched


All the coins of C. Egnatius Maxsumus (c. 75-76BC) have a personification of Libertas.  Beside this representation above he also showed her riding in a biga accompanied by Victory and as a bust on the obverse of another coin.  Those representations are pretty standard and like this one the identification as Libertas is made by the inclusion of a pileus, the hat given to freed slaves. Here’s the whole reverse.   The pileus is above her in the architectural representation:

Reverse of RRC 391/2. 1944.100.1970

There’s lots to be curious about this representation.  If as Crawford says this is the temple of Jupiter Libertas why are there two cult figures?  Also, this is the first time a divinity is shown in their temple like this — a time that will become standard throughout the Roman empire for centuries.  The die cutter has gone to a lot of trouble to show the details of these figures the radiate(?) crown of Jupiter, the height of his staff, the different dress of the two figures, and their respective gestures.  The gesture of Libertas is an Orans type usually associated with priestesses in both Greek and Roman iconography. Here’s a Vestal from the early second Century AD (said to be from the Roman Forum now in the Terme Museum):

But given that the figure is just the same size and representation as Jupiter it must be a goddess and Libertas remains the best identification.  Later, Pietas will be similarly represented on coins:

Reverse of Silver Denarius, Rome, AD 196 - AD 211. 1944.100.51304

It rather understandable that Pietas could be personified through the action of prayer.  It is harder to find a divinity thus represented.  Unless we consider archaic cult figures.  Perhaps most famous is Artemis of Ephesus with her out stretched arms:

But also used in depictions of Artemis Anaitis:

Reverse of Bronze Coin, Attuda. 1944.100.47738

It is also know from some terracottas thought to represent Tanit:

Even with attributes in her hands this cult image of Athena from Abydos has a similar pose:

While I don’t put much stock in the idea that this specimen (or many other architectural coin types, with a few key exceptions) can be taken to be ‘accurate’ representations of buildings, it does seem to me the die cutter is going out of his way to represent particular cult statues here, perhaps ones of some antiquity or rendered in an archaizing fashion.

[A huge thanks to all my social media friends who shared their thoughts on this image with me!]

54 out of 410 Days: Sign of Tanit


The fabulous Dr. Hannah of Oxford pointed out in comments that this type (RRC 460/4) would be relevant to yesterday’s post. That Victory carrying a caduceus: with victory comes peace! Such a perfect summation of Roman ideological rhetoric during the Civil Wars. I’ve been turning a blind eye to everything post Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, because that’s when the book terminates, but, of course, it is still the same monetary system. The chaos of the symbolism of that later period through Augustus really does deserve its own book and I prefer the earlier periods, but I am missing out on some fun with the present schema.

This type is really intriguing to me because of the other side.

The RRC description reads “Lion-headed Genius terrae Africae (head surmounted by disk), holding ahkh in r. hand…” That is no ahkh, that is the sign of Tanit, the patron goddess of Carthage.  [A scholarly friend has suggested that there might in fact be a connection between the two symbols.]

A flickr search or a google image search can give you a sense of the variations on this symbol and its contexts. And the image as a whole is clearly the same as this statue in the Bardo:

The connection was made in 1918.  The publication is now in the public domain; see p. 241-242 for the relevant discussion.  The identification as Genius Terrae Africae comes from the resolution of the  “C . T . A”  legend on the coin above the figure’s head by Babylon.  I wonder if any other epigraphic parallels exist for this abbreviation or even the existence of this Genius in this form?   Crawford (and others? ) see a link with the “Genius of Carthage”  (Δαίμονος Καρχηδονίων) of Polybius 7.9.2.

Based on the abstract this might be relevant: Salcedo Garcés, Fabiola. – El relieve tetrarquico de Rapidum (Sour-Djouab, Argelia) : política y religión en el Africa romana. Antiquités africaines 1996 32 : 67-85.

Gabriela Vlahovici-Jones has given the type some discussion online.  She treats the deity as “Sekhmet holding ankh” without any reference to Tanit.

Much of the concern over the identity of the Genius Terrae Africae or the Genius generally in N. Africa, seems to be in scholarship on the Late Antique and the Church Fathers, so for example this discussion and notes.

Linderski, Jerzy. “Q. Scipio Imperator.” In Imperium sine fine: T. Robert S. Broughton and the Roman Republic. (1996), pp. 144–185 is probably the most through description of the coin series.

And while we’re at it, I might as well mention that the sign of Tanit is often combined with a symbol similar too (and perhaps the same as?) the caduceus.

British Museum

I’m no expert on North Africa so I’m going to stop here before I say anything stupid.

[Oh. And I think Victory is holding a shield not a patera (possibly even a Macedonian shield?)]