Crowns, Chairs, Scepters and other Gifts

So I’m reading my Polybius and I’m sorely curious to read up on the culture of Hellenistic diplomatic gifts.    There are Hellenistic states and kings sending vastly expensive “crowns” to Rome when making diplomatic requests (Just two examples: 30.4.5 & 31.32.3).  The value is invariable given in terms of number of pieces of gold (10,000 or 20,000 are common enough).   What the heck did these gifts  look like?  Are they really crowns?  Like this sort of thing but much heavier?

Or is it just called a “crown” but its actually bullion in one form or another.  Did the form or name of the gift have religious connotations, as well as agonistic connotations?  Maybe we can’t separate religion out from agonistic themes in the ancient world (think Olympic Games honoring Zeus).

Victory crowns are a very common as a design element on Hellenistic and Republican Coinage (see above).

And then there is the great passage of Polybius where the Romans send back an ivory (curule?) chair and scepter as part of the diplomatic exchange in which they’re given a crown.   Here we clearly have expensive gifts, but where the value is in their symbolic potency.

Much later, here is the Genius of the Roman People being crowned while seated in a curule chair holding a scepter.

Here’s a curule chair with a wreath/crown (no scepter that’s a lituus, i.e. a priestly instrument).

Is that a wreath sitting on this curule chair?

Reverse Image

No such note in RRC, but it seems pretty likely, especially after seeing these later types:

Chair and Crowns/Wreaths rather seem to go together!  Also, check out those Elvis sideburns on Octavian (the future Augustus)!

Okay back to Polybius and absolutely no checking up on the scholarship on all this while I’ve got a book review to work on.

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3 thoughts on “Crowns, Chairs, Scepters and other Gifts

  1. Thessalonica Archaeological Museum has a marvellous display of Hellenistic diadems, for example:
    Gold Diadem with Eros at centre, and Gold Myrtle leaf. Macedon 300BC. Thessalonica Archaeological Museum
    Gold Myrtle Wreath, Derveni, Macedon, 300BC. Thessalonica Archaeological Museum
    Gold Ivy Wreath 350BC Sevasti, Macedon. Thessalonica Archaeological Museum
    Gold Macedonian Myrtle Wreath, with JP Getty museum false provenance letter, repatriated 2007, Thessalonica Archaeological Museum
    (note the false provenance paper for the last item en route to the Getty museum. tut tut tut!)

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