Trigas

Reverse of RRC 382/1b. ANS 1944.100.1925

There are two coins in the Roman republican coin series and one from Teanum from the time of the First Punic War that display a triga, a three horse chariot.  All have Victory (Nike) as the driver.  I’ve always found this a rather weird design as opposed to the biga or quadriga (2 and 4 horse chariots), but not worried too much about it.  For my previous thoughts on these coins and more images follow this link.

Anyway, as I settled back in Dionysius this morning (It’s Yom Kippur today.  No classes and thus a much welcome writing day from me!), I came to this passage in his description of the ludi Romani:

 In the chariot races two very ancient customs continue to be observed by the Romans down to my time in the same manner as they were first instituted. The first relates to the chariots drawn by three horses, a custom now fallen into disuse among the Greeks, though it was an ancient institution of heroic times which Homer represents the Greeks as using in battle. For running beside two horses yoked together in the same manner as in the case of a two-horse chariot was a third horse attached by a trace; this trace-horse the ancients called parêoros or “outrunner,” because he was “hitched beside” and not yoked to the others.  (Dion Hal. 7.73.2)

I think this well explains the one horse on the Roman republican coins looking back at the others as if it were loose.  This may be trying to represent the trace horse.  I might also want to investigate further a connection between the moneyers of RRC 299/1 and 382/1 and these ludi.  It also makes me revisit my earlier thoughts about trying to connect the Roman triga to the Teanum triga.  Perhaps this is a mistake as the Teanum coins do not seem to attempt to represent the third horse as on a trace.

So finally after a very long time this blog says something about coins again.  That feels good.  I’m sad I’m not in Taormina but 5.5 month old twin girls and a full teaching load are not really compatible with mid-semester international travel….

296 out of 410 days: Revival Reverses?

Appius Claudius Pulcher, T Manlius Mancinus and Q. Urbinius; Denarius 111 or 110, AR 3.98 g. Helmeted head of Roma r.; behind, quadrangular device. Rev. Victory in triga r.; in exergue, T.MANL.AP·CL·Q·VR. Babelon Manlia 2 and Claudia 3. Sydenham 570a. Crawford 299/1b.
T. Quinctius. Denarius 112 or 111, AR 3.92 g. Bust of Hercules seem from behind, head l., club above r. shoulder. Rev. Desultor to l.; behind, B. Below horses, TI – Q on sides of rat l.; in exergue, D·S·S incuse on tablet. Babelon Quinctia 6. Sydenham 563. Crawford 297/1a

So this is a pretty left field thought.  But as I’m thinking about the coins of Teanum I can’t help but think how weird it is to have a triga, a three-horse chariot.  It’s not really a well known or convenient hitching configuration.   One could speculate that it comes from copying a quadriga type like that found at Selinus or other Sicilian mints where the front horse rather obscures the next one so that it almost looks like a three horse configuration.

And then it occurred to me that we do get a few trigae on the republican series.  The first (above) is within a year or so of the first desultor type as well. You’ll remember we discussed desultores in relation to Suessa’s didrachms that parallel Teanum.  And those two coins above are also with in a year of the type of Torquatus that looks so much like the bronzes of Larinum.   Is there a Cales parallel? Cales just used the victory in a biga, a type all over the republican series so calling one specific issue an echo of Cales would be non-sense.  Or just more non-sense than my other non-sense in this post!

Could there have been a little fad for drawing inspiration from old allied coins of the Punic Wars at the end of the second century?  Probably not.  Let’s call it a fun coincidence.

Update 4/18/14: I came back to this post briefly when I read this passage in Woytek’s chapter in Metcalf’s Handbook (p. 326):

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Ritter, H. W. (1982). Zur römischen Münzprägung im 3. Jh. v. Chr. Marburg.

Update 4/30/14:  On die engravers making errors in the number of horses they carve when copying a prototype, see:

Hollstein, Wilhelm. – Ein kurioser Quadrigatus im Kestner-Museum Hannover. NNB 1996 45 (9) : 8. AP Abstract: Among the Quadrigati the museum (=> 60-10031) is a specimen (No. 107), in which the Quadriga has five horses with ten front, but eight hind legs.

 

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.

 

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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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.

RRC 12/1; Asta Stermberg XVIII lot 275, image from sesterzio.eu.
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.

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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