227 out of 410 days: Confusing Omens, Confusing Cities

Reverse of RRC 472/1. 1944.100.3525

 

I used to think I was the only person who might mess up Lanuvium and Lavinium.  NOT SO! Apparently Dionysius of Halicarnassus made the same mistake when he told this story:

While Lavinium was building, the following omens are said to have appeared to the Trojans. When a fire broke out spontaneously in the forest, a wolf, they say, brought some dry wood in his mouth and threw it upon the fire, and an eagle, flying thither, fanned the flame with the motion of his wings. But working in opposition to these, a fox, after wetting his tail in the river, endeavoured to beat out the flames; and now those that were kindling it would prevail, and now the fox that was trying to put it out. But at last the two former got the upper hand, and the other went away, unable to do anything further.5 Aeneas, on observing this, said that the colony would become illustrious and an object of wonder and would gain the greatest renown, but that as it increased it would be envied by its neighbours and prove grievous to them; nevertheless, it would overcome its adversaries, the good fortune that it had received from Heaven being more powerful than the envy of men that would oppose it. These very clear indications are said to have been given of what was to happen to the city; of which there are monuments now standing in the forum of the Lavinians, in the form of bronze images of the animals, which have been preserved for a very long time.

Why should we assume he’s wrong?  Or at least that the attribution of this prophecy is disputed? Whelp.  The obverse of the above coin looks like this:

Obverse of RRC 472/1. 1944.100.3525

 

That’s Juno Sospita, the patron goddess of Lanuvium!  The moneyer’s family is well known for celebrating their connection to this city on their coins.  If there was a statue that looked like the reverse, it probably stood in that forum, not at Lavinium.  Add in this tantalizing bit of Horace:

Bk III: XXVII Europa

 Let the wicked be led by omens of screeching

from owls, by pregnant dogs, or a grey-she wolf,

hurrying down from Lanuvian meadows,

or a fox with young:

And we can be pretty sure that Lanuvium that claimed the she-wolf and by extension the eagle as prodigies of its foundation.  

It’s also a nice example of the wolf as a non-Roman, but still Latin, symbol, one that is morphed into a proto-Roman symbol through its alignment to the Aeneas narrative.

Pity its too late for the book.  Thank goodness for this blog as a thought dumping space.

[Refs found at Crawford 1974: 482]

 

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