The Adventures of Laevinus

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Yesterday I spent nearly the whole day worrying about M. Valerius Laevinus and his adventures of 215-210 BC.  That is from when he was sent to the Adriatic to keep Philip occupied until his return to Rome to accept the consulship.  It was a good day.  I even reread an essay I wrote as a grad student in November 1998.  I knew things then apparently that I no longer know.  So strange.  I rather like the me of sixteen years ago.  Anyway.  The reason is of course to figure out how the coins sit along side the narrative evidence.  The two issues in question are RRC 100 and RRC 101.  There is no doubt that Laevinus’ career resulted in the production of these coins.

Reverse of RRC 100/3. 1944.100.200
Reverse of RRC 100/3. ANS 1944.100.200.
Quinarius, Corcyra (?) 211-210, AR 2.12 g. Helmeted head of Roma r.; behind, V. Rev. The Dioscuri galloping r.; below, monogram KPO – ΓA ligate. Sydenham 185. Crawford 101/2. Ex NFA sale XXVII, 1991, 256. NAC 61 (5/10/2011) lot 451
Victoriatus, Corcyra (?) 211-210, AR 2.50 g. Laureate head of Jupiter r. Rev. Victory crowning trophy; in
centre field, monogram KOR and in outer r. field, GA ligate. Sydenham 118. Crawford 101/1. Privately purchased from Alex J. Malloy in 1980. NAC 61 (5/10/11) lot 450

The triens of the CA series is regularly overstruck on coins of Oeniadae and the Acarnanian League (Crawford 1974: p. 115, table XVIII, entry 91, specimens a-t and entry 95, specimens a-i).  Laevinus sacked Oeniadae and a host of other Acarnanian places in the immediate follow up to his radical diplomatic arrangement with the Aetolian League.  He had a base on Corcyra and the KOR ligature on the silver is also found on Corcyra’s own coinage:

Drachm. Head of Aphrodite l., KOP monogram behind. Rv. Pegasos flying l. 2.40 grams. BMC 378. Ex Lockett Collection.

Other specimens of Corcyra, here.  Besides the map above, I also pulled together the literary sources on Laevinus’ exploits [links to PDF of translations].

The thing that has me a bit concerned is the association of the CA with Canusium.  Canusium had a mint but it used KA on its own coins. The style of RRC 100 is similar to Luceria, where a bent bar L was used on both earlier local coinage and Roman issues from the same mint.   Crawford follows Bahrfeldt ZfN 1895: 87 who in the style of his time says no more than:

“Die Heimath der letzteren ist ohne Frage Canusium, in deren Gegend noch jetzt vielfach Stücke dieser Art gefunden werden und auf welchen Ort, als am Gestade des Adriatischen Meeres gelegen”.

“The home of the latter is without question Canusium in whose area pieces of this type are found even now in many cases and also at the site itself, as by the shores of the Adriatic Sea”.

I’m hoping that the new valle dell’Orfanto project can provide confirmation of these early observations.  I’m not surprised that the coins are found on the Adriatic or in SE Italy but I’d like more specific data before insisting that Canusium must be the mint rather than CA standing for, say, a magistrates’ name, such as we presume is represented by the ΓΑ on RRC 101.  Canusium does not seem an obvious location with Laevinus’ sphere of action especially between the sack Oeniadae his recall to Rome.

Also, we need to take the career of Laevinus into account when we consider the dating of the coins.  Based on Livy 26.24 and 26 (see PDF above) it seems pretty clear that Oeniadae was captured late in 211 (after Zakynthos and near in time to Nasus).  Winter 211/210 Laevinus is on Corcyra and spring 210 he attacks Anticyra before heading back to Rome.  So winter 211/210 is the likely date it seems to me of not only the RRC 101 issue, but also RRC 100.  At lastest spring 210 as Laevinus makes his way back to Rome.  To accept Crawford’s date of 209-208 for RRC 100 we have to imagine that after the bronze coins were taken in Laevinus’ raid, they were kept on ice for  between one and three years before being overstruck.  The date of c.209 for this issue is perhaps influenced over much by the literary testimony that Marcellus engaged with Hannibal near Canusium in this year.  But, Marcellus seems to have based for two winters at near by Venusia (a Latin colony, like Luceria), not Canusium itself.  Hannibal seems to have at least some hope of convincing Canusium to come over to his side in 209.

Would Canusium have been on Laevinus’ route back to Rome?  A loyal(ish) town at which to drop off some of the spoils of war for striking?  Maybe, assuming he stopped back at his base of Brundisium and took the fast overland route:

Capture
From p. 200 of Between Rome and Carthage by M. P. Fronda (CUP 2010).

But Livy tells us the general was “overtaken by a tedious illness, and consequently arrived in Rome much later than was expected”.  It’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t have used a litter.  Of course, there is no reason general and booty must stay together.  But it is hard to see the economy of transporting the bronze on a difficult road just to overstrike it…

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