Iuno and Vulcan

So, like many of the authors of contemporary sale catalogue entries, I think this claim by Crawford contra Bahrfeldt cannot be support:


Why?  Well first, just the way the object over the anvil looks.


Actually reverse dies were smaller and there is no reason to put a wreath on one or to make it so much bigger proportionally to  the other symbolic objects in the field (other specimens of RRC 464/2).  It looks like a pileus and the wreathed pileus and tongs are the attributes of Vulcan, not just on republican coinage, but more generally in classical numismatic imagery.


For more specimens like this see the ANS collection.  (Although I think it a little perverse they catalogue the obverse as Hephaestus, when the die engraver actually labelled it VOLCANOM.)

But Crawford has a point that Carisius’ series all has thematic connections between obverse and reverse and so the two should have some logical connection.

Sibyl/Sphinx – Speak in enigmatic, yet consequential ways

Roma/Symbols of Imperium – Power, the prosperity that comes from ruling land and sea, global dominion…

Victory/Victory – obvious

Victory/Roma seated on a pile of arms – ditto

Mask of Pan/Panther, thyrsus – Dionysiac Cult

Diana/hound – obvious

So what do Juno and Vulcan have in common?  In Greek myth they are mother and son.  Did this hold in the Roman tradition?  We don’t have much evidence, just a single word in  Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book 4:


Is this what Carisius has in mind?  Maybe.  Or more likely the Greek tradition made more comfortable the celebration of the forge under Juno Moneta’s guardianship, i.e. the Roman mint. The imagery on coins was not baunastic, but rather sacred, civic, and pious.  Any forge on a Roman coin would be under the protection of the divine, namely Vulcan the smith god.  Notice how the cap hovers above the instruments.







Still More Falcatas

CaptureI’ve blogged quite a bit about the falcata as a marker of Celtiberian identity on Roman republican coins (maybe I should just publish the stuff on this properly…).  I was happy to have this confirmed by Augustan examples from Emerita, such as the specimen above.

What I find strange about this type is the degree to which it reminds me of the design of coins showing sacrificial implements, say the coins of Brutus or those of Piso.  At first glance, I thought the center object a patera.

Image result for Emerita spain roman map

Sacred Objects from Troy, again

This book arrived today:


I’m really excited by how richly illustrated it is and how detailed the text, really focusing on the images themselves and their analysis.

On the first page I found an answer to a question I didn’t know I had.  I was long confused by why Crawford thought the woman with the big rugby ball shaped object was Creusa.  See my earlier posts (first and follow up).  Well, he just published a detail of the vase, not the whole vase.  There’s the whole thing:

So clearly this is Aeneas and his family (Ascanius (a.k.a. Iulus), Anchises, etc.. fleeing Troy).  However, I don’t think that’s the doliolum or any other sacred object on the wife’s head (whatever her name is).  That is almost certainly the family’s worldly possessions.  This is just how Greek women are depicted carrying heavy loads on their heads:

Related image

Image result for women carrying red figure vase

Notice also that the son holds his mother’s hand not his father’s in the above vase.

13-14 Oct: Numa Numa Conference

I’m really excited I get to participate in the 13-14 Oct 2017, Numa Numa Conference at UMich, Ann Arbor, MI.  It’s always good to get some coins into any conversation, but especially one on Classical Receptions.  Here’s my paper abstract:

The Early Flexibility of Numa’s Image

Numa has always been “good to think with” at least as early as we can identify his tradition in art and literature.  This paper seeks to contextualize and explain our very earliest testimony with a specific emphasis on early material culture.  In doing so it aims to problematize the later reception of any one singular or canonical ‘Roman’ tradition around this king.

Our pre-Ciceronian testimonia is very scant indeed.  Only four late second century BC historians L. Cassius Hemina, L. Calpurnius Piso Frugi, C. Sempronius Tuditanus, Gn. Gellius are known to have discussed Numa.  And of those from the first half of the first century only two, Paulus Clodius (date disputed) and Valerius Antias (80s-60s BC).  Even more telling is that we know of these earlier references primarily through antiquarian sources, such as Pliny the Elder and Macrobius.  Besides these historical tidbits of the early Numa tradition, we have just one satirical poetic reference from Lucilius (c. 100 BC; 15.485) The Ciceronian corpus is equally sparse in the early days of his career and just three references total from his numerous public speeches (63 BC, pro C. Rab. 13.10; 62 BC, pro Sulla 22.9; 57 BC, de Domo 127.2).  None in his voluminous corpus of surviving letters!  It is in his later oratorical, philosophical and legal treatises that Cicero helps to form our conception of Numa: four references in the De Oratore (55 BC); six references in the de re publica and de legibus (51 BC); and then four references in Paradoxa Stoicorum, De Finibus, and De Natura Deorum (46-45 BC).  Thus, while we may safely assume that Numa has a place in the most influential pieces of early Latin literature, say the Annales of Ennius, and that this influenced the later traditions we know so well, we have little to no surviving evidence of the formation of this tradition.

Numa does, however, appear on Roman republican coinage of the first century BC and within certain limits this coinage can be accurately dated, just as can be done with the Ciceronian corpus.  This numismatic iconography is remarkably diverse, emphasizing different regal and religious attributes of the Roman king (RRC 334/1, 97 BC; 346/1 & 3, 88BC; 446/1, 48 BC).  This diversity deserves explanation as it has an extended influence over the later reception of Numa’s image and identity.   A good deal of contemporary contextualization can be provided by the early (pre-Augustan) literary tradition, but the specific references to Numa in both these texts and images needs to be brought into dialogue with the evolving Roman perspective of kingship at Rome in the tumultuous last century of the Republic.  To that end this paper demonstrates what is unique about Numa’s image in this early period as contrasted with other early Roman kings, Romulus, Servius, Ancius and Tarquin most specifically.

I am only slightly embarrassed that I had no idea until I was making travel plans and talking to my partner in life about the conference, that the title was a reference to the very first viral video I do, however, look forward to figuring out how to include the viral video in my talk somehow!

Money and the Control of Indigenous Populations in Colonial Times


This is from Feliks Gross’ bibliography of Cecil Rhodes, Rhodes of Africa.  Notice how the imposition of the colonial government’s tax intersects with the private enterprise of individual colonists.  It provides the means for extracting both labor and the interest on the debt.  If you’re not familiar with the slang Kaffir, it is a racial slur derived from the Arabic word meaning ‘unbeliever’ or ‘one without religion’, and on par with ‘nigger’ in degree of offensiveness.

Prototype for the personification of Alexandria?


I don’t mean to suggest a direct prototype, just the sort of possible inspiration for the design of RRC 419/2. The above gem is described as “Head of Tyche (Cleopatra I?) Wearing the crown and four loops of isis, profile to the left. Behind the back of the neck, emerge a bow and a quiver.”  Maybe. Why the bow and quiver? Some Artemis connection?

Notice the coin below that a Hellenistic royal diadem is interlaced with the turreted crown.  I’ll need to think about what that might mean more…