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….

287 out of 410 days: Tripods, Libertas, Victory

RRC 498/1. C. Cassius with M. Aquinus. Aureus, mint moving with Cassius 43-42, AV 8.41 g. M·AQVINVS·LEG· – LIBER – TAS Diademed head of Libertas r. Rev. C·CASSI – PR·COS Tripod with cauldron, decorated with two laurel branches. B. Cassia 12. C 2. Bahrfeldt 56. Sydenham 1302. Sear Imperators 217. Calicó 63.

I was thinking about tripods in a totally different framework when I came across the very smart work of Carsten Hjort Lange (again!).  In his 2009 book, Res Publica Constituta, he gives a new reading of the famous plaque from the Palatine in light of the use of tripods on the coinage of 42 BC (p. 172ff).  A great read, but too long to extract here just follow the link!

Greek influences

I also came across a reading of the Tripods on the Coins of Herod (same time frame) that I thought delightfully sensible:

Obverse of Bronze Coin, Jerusalem, 40 BC – 4 BC. ANS 1944.100.62799
From p. 110 of The Coins of Herod: A Modern Analysis and Die Classification edited by Donald Tzvi Ariel, Jean-Philippe Fontanille (Brill 2011). Image links to google books.

Further non-numismatic support for the idea that the tripod could be a general symbol of victory can be found here.