To add to the confusion the sound of a trumpet was heard from the theatre. It was a Roman trumpet which the conspirators had procured for the purpose, and being blown by a Greek who did not know how to use it, no one could make out who gave the signal or for whom it was intended.
I’d like to read up one day on the use of musical instruments in warfare and variations among different ancient peoples. And I just find this bit of Livy (25.10) describing Hannibal’s taking of Tarentum rather amusing.
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.
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.
There is a tight series of gold issues from Pyrrhus’ arrival in Tarentum (HN Italy 983-992). They share common controlmarks and are signed by the same magistrates. A variety of denominations are known: stater, 1/2 stater, 1/4, 1/3, 1/8, 1/10, 1/12, and 1/16. A variety of dieties appear on the obverse, Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Heracles. The reverses types include a biga, a dolphin rider, a biga of dolphins, an owl, and on three denominations an eagle, such as that illustrated above.
This eagle bears much in common with an eagle to appear at the end of the century on Roman gold:
Could it mean the same thing at Tarentum? I think it very likely indeed. Hammond 1988 makes a strong case that the Ptolemy that sent military aid to Pyrrhus for his campaign in Italy was Philadelphus base on this portion of Justin:
11 Nor was Pyrrhus of Epirus neglected by him, a king who would be of great assistance to whichsoever side he attached himself, 12 and who, while he desired to spoil them one by one, sought the favour of all. 13 On going to assist the Tarentines, therefore, against the Romans, he desired of Antigonus the loan of vessels to transport his army into Italy; of Antiochus, who was better provided with wealth than with men, a sum of money; and of Ptolemaeus, some troops of Macedonian soldiers. 14 Ptolemaeus, who had no excuse for holding back for want of forces, supplied him with five thousand infantry, four thousand cavalry, and fifty elephants, but for not more than two years’ service. 15 In return for this favour, Pyrrhus, after marrying the daughter of Ptolemaeus, appointed him guardian of his kingdom in his absence; lest, on carrying the flower of his army into Italy, he should leave his dominions a prey to his enemies.
The relationship between Ptolemy II and Pyrrhus has been documented at more length by Adams 2008.
The numismatic evidence strengthens the claims of both Hammond and Adams AND suggests that it was far more than troops and elephants that Ptolemy II sent to Italy.
Update 4/6/2014: I was very happy to read this paragraph in Wolfgang Fischer-Bossert 2013 paper supporting a Pyrrhic dating for the eagle type at Taras on the silver.[Image links to full paper.]
Postscript 5 March 2014. If one is worrying about the use of the ‘Ptolemaic’ eagle in Italy, then this type of Larinum (c. 210-175, HN Italy 626) should also be thrown into the mix. Inspired by the Roman gold in all likelihood:
I’ve discussed coins of Larinum from this period before, here. And of course:
A. Burnett, The Beginnings of Roman Coinage, AIIN 36 (1989): 33-64, at 37 says:
Update 11 March 2014: Just a note to self. Consider also the coinage of Alba Fucens, Latin colony of 303 BC. HN Italy identifies three types, all silver obols (241, 243, and 244) that have Athena in a Corinthian helmet and an eagle on a thunderbolt, dating to c. 280-275. Crawford CMRR p. 47 sees the issue and those of Norba and Signia as likely struck to pay troops in the War against Pyrrhus.
The Stazio and Mertens’ literature is on order from ILL. The Italian Wikipedia has an article on the Monetaziono di Alba Fucens. There is an odd specimen in trade that I’d like to understand what’s going on with the mark behind the eagle better, looks like a fillet or maybe a striking artifact of some kind, image #1 and image #2. Also see HN Italy p. 11 and 180 for a little discussion of how the eagle and fulmen have been interpreted as symbols of Alexander the Molossian. I’d like to learn more about this coin type as well sometime. It’s a small bronze (Athena, Attic Helmet/close winged eagle and MOΛOΣΣΩN).
The scholar who seems to be most actively writing about Eagles on Coins in Italy is Carroccio. Most of his relevant papers are online with obvious titles, but the note the issue also comes up in his 2008 piece on Moneta Apula… also online on academia.edu.