Where in the world is Decius Mus?

To get inspiration for writing the book today I opened up Rosenstein’s latest, very readable, introduction to the Imperial Republic. He starts at Sentinium and how P. Decius Mus’ self-sacrifice provided a turning point in Rome’s conquest of Italy.  He and his father and his son, all bearing the same name, became a standard exempla of dedication unto death to the fatherland; Cicero mentions them thirty times in his extant works (cf. Van der Blom, p. 101).  And yet unlike so many exempla with wide communal resonance, they appear no where on the republican series that we can see.  Noteworthy by their absence.  Crawford thinks the line died out and without ancestors numismatic commemoration was unlikely.  Interestingly the lack of commemoration was so keenly felt that the Emperor Trajan made up a type to ‘restore’ in his name (see image above).  The image he chose to augment with Decius’ name is this type:

The carnyx and shield clearly link the otherwise completely standard type with Celtic victories.  And, the Decii did engage with the Celts as well as the Samnites, but it is unlikely that Trajan has any ‘inside’ knowledge 300 years later about who made the original type.  Instead it is filling a void in the numismatic record.  The Decii deserved a coin type so the must have had one.  Did Trajan do the same for other republican heroes?   There are some modern copies for Cocles.  I’ve not see an authentic specimen yet, but two are listed in RIC so perhaps they do exist:

 

Capture

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One thought on “Where in the world is Decius Mus?

  1. It’s interesting that an emperor commemorated old republican heroes, though I guess those guys were still held up as great models of virtue, at least by “good emperors” like Trajan.

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