“Common Values of the Community”

Two very respected scholars read this coin of 58 BC as an iconographic turning point. They see it as shocking that both sides commemorate ‘personal’ or ‘familial’ themes and thus leave no room for the state.  They see the divinities of the obverse embodying community identity in a manner that by implication the ‘private’ types can’t.

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While the type is visually innovative and thus fitting with the character of this aedileship which was known for the spectacular (see below), the types would not be meaningful if they were only private.  The images are making a direct claim to the importance of the events thus celebrated to the community as a whole.  The state glorified through individual acts.

Pliny NH 36.116:

In the ædileship of M. Scaurus, three hundred and sixty columns were to be seen imported; for the decorations of a temporary theatre, too, one that was destined to be in use for barely a single month. And yet the laws were silent thereon; in a spirit of indulgence for the amusements of the public, no doubt. But then, why such indulgence? or how do vices more insidiously steal upon us than under the plea of serving the public? By what other way, in fact, did ivory, gold, and precious stones, first come into use with private individuals? Can we say that there is now anything that we have reserved for the exclusive use of the gods? However, be it so, let us admit of this indulgence for the amusements of the public; but still, why did the laws maintain their silence when the largest of these columns, pillars of Lucullan marble, as much as eight-and-thirty feet in height, were erected in the atrium of Scaurus? a thing, too, that was not done privately or in secret; for the contractor for the public sewers compelled him to give security for the possible damage that might be done in the carriage of them to the Palatium. When so bad an example as this was set, would it not have been advisable to take some precautions for the preservation of the public morals? And yet the laws still preserved their silence, when such enormous masses as these were being carried past the earthenware pediments of the temples of the gods, to the house of a private individual!

The accuracy of this testimony is however called in question by other passages in Pliny.

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