297 out of 410 days: Acorns again.

ANS specimens of RRC 21/7 = HN Italy 294. Click image for full details.

Last time I was worrying about acorns, I was mostly on about RRC 14/7.  This is the other ‘heavy’ acorn.   Many of the specimens on the market do seem ‘heavy’ for being a 1/24th piece of a 265g as, or at least a quick scan suggests, but the ANS specimens are lighter: 11.75-13.9g.  They are not so heavy that they seem particularly problematic in the weight standard, cf. the ANS uncia specimens of the series which are all much heavier.

My interest was peaked by how they show up in this hoard:

Image links to source publication. Marks in red are my annotations.  [Note: the correct citation for the Nola bronze is HN Italy 607.  Also see below for discrepancy between this report of the hoard and that in IGCH.]
So here RRC 21/7 is hanging out all by its lonesome with a bunch of RRC 14s and 18s.    I’m not really sure why RRC 21/7 couldn’t go with the RRC 18 series.  The types of RRC 21 echo the obverse types of RRC 14, so that would make the acorn fit with RRC 21. Must take a look to see if we have any other hoards with RRC 21/7 out in the cold…

I’m also sure I’m being influenced by how RRC 14s and 18s are often found in hoards together on their own; another great publication surveying this phenomenon is online.

Here’s Burnett 1977 on the importance of the above hoard:

Image links to online version of the publication.

If the statement about the semuncia being contemporary with the Roma/Victory didrachms is true this would pull this hoard’s date down to the end of 1st Punic War based on Burnett’s 2006 reading of the San Martino in Pentilis hoard.   The presence of the Minerva/Cock types and the Aesernia types with the subsequent Man-faced bull issues leads me to think this is a hoard from a transitional phase between the two.  I’d be inclined to agree with M. C. Molinari that it predates both the Pratica di Mare and Teano Hoards…

Okay, here’s one more complication.  R. Russo in Numismatica Sottovoce proposed that RRC 16, 17, and 23 were single series (23 = double unit, 16 = unit, 17 = half unit) minted at Neapolis after the Battle of Beneventum. This seems too early to me and I hesitate to break RRC 23 away from it Messane mint connection.   But neither of these points directly challenge them being a series.



But if RRC 16 was really contemporary with RRC 17 that would detract from M. C. Molinari’s ordering of these three hoards as RRC 16 is present in Pietrabbondante…  I find myself leaning more away from Russo’s idea of a series.

Mattingly’s reading of the Pietrabbondante hoard is here but I think it’s mostly out of date given the evidence of the San Martino in Pentilis evidence.

Something seems to have gone wrong in the transcription of the hoard totals in the above publication.  Here’s the entry from IGCH:


Note that the number of  uncertain have been attributed to Neapolis above and the 126 of Neapolis have been missed out.   I don’ t think it overly affects the interpretation of the hoard in source publication.  The original publication of the hoard  with all the details has been digitized, although it takes forever to load.

293 out of 410 days: Only Musings

Two small thoughts. 

1) I hate the use of the word ‘real’ in the sense of ‘real world’ or ‘real job’.  It is invariably used to trivialize the work and position of the individual who is not partaking in someone else’s definition of real.  It implies one’s life occupation is a delusion without value, usually meaning monetary value.  I once even had a senior administrator at my own college tell me my department ‘was the happiest la-la-land of academia’.  He meant it as a compliment to my managerial skills, I think.  While academics are used to hearing the phrase ‘real world’ in anti-intellectual contexts, I suspect its also a classist sentiment.  One that disparages the labor of those who do work different from one’s own.  The handy thing about it as a slur is that its perfectly acceptable to say to someone’s face AND its flexible enough to be used against those both above and below the speaker on the socio-economic scale. 

2) I hate drafting.  I’m usually a write it once and never change it kind of gal.  I sweat over each damn sentence.  The blog has effectively tricked me into drafting.  I just had an awesomely productive writing morning for the book, largely inspired by various disparate posts written scattered over many months.  No one sentence in the book draft matches the blog and yet boy it was easier to bang out those words with the posts up in front of me.  

Sorry, no coins!

Metapontum and early Latin Coinage

Crawford’s suggestion of a Metapontum as the mint for the first Roman didrachm is very much out of favour.  Here’s the relevant footnote in RRC vol. 1 p. 46 n. 9 third (!) paragraph:


Here’s Vagi in the brilliant new Essays Russo 2014 (p. 80):


And so we find Russo’s son also following his father in the catalog of the JD collection part II:

 We have decided to share Rutter’s opinion who in Historia Numorum Italy attributes these coins to the Naples mint contrary to Crawford who assigns them to the mint of Metapontum. That said however, we have decided to refer to the coin as an obol and not as a litra as suggested by both Rutter and Crawford. The reasons for this decision are very simple: we obviously agree that this coin belongs to Crawford’s series 13, which was intended for trades with Magna Grecia. On this basis, it seems only logical that we refer to it as an obol and not a litra. Its weight and its general appearance are consistent with coaeval obols of Camapianian mints such as: Fistelia, Peripoloi Pitanai and Allifae, which most probably were circulating along with this coin.

The JD collection of Roman Republican Coins part II – Session I; Obol, Neapolis 320-300, AR 0.66 g. Head of Mars r., wearing Corinthian helmet; behind, oak spray (?). Rev. Head of horse r.; behind, corn ear and before, ROMANO downwards. Fiorelli Annali 1846, p. 23 and pl. I, fig, 29. Garrucci pl. 77, 18. Bahrfeldt RN 1900, pp. 33-34, 31 and pl. 26, 1 (possibly this obverse die). Sydenham 2. Crawford 13/2. Historia Numorum Italy 267.

So I got thinking about this because of how Norba borrows Metapontum’s type for its obol during the Pyrrhic War:

HN Italy 248

There is only one of these coins known, but it comes with a good archaeological provenance. The original report is online here.

Vagi makes a very plausible explanation for the corn-ear with the horse head to allude to the Festival of the October Horse, a harvest festival in honor of Mars.  Metapontum is a red herring for the Roman series, but what does Metapontum have to do with the Latin obols?  Why do we find her type borrowed on the coins of Norba?

Also RRC 13/2 as an obol perhaps helps set a precedence that influenced the denominational choice for the Latin mints (Norba, Signia, and Alba Fucens) of the Pyrrhic War.

292 out of 410 days: Signia

Kombination af to masker og et vildsvinehoved. Romersk ringsten
Combination of two masks and a wild boar’s head. Roman ringstone, 100-300 Cornelian. 1,1 x 1,6 cm. Inventory number: I1538. Thorvaldsens Museum.

Sometimes I tell myself I’m too obsessed with the connection between gems and coins.  And then one of my hunches pays off and the obsession comes back full swing.  In case the above image doesn’t set off exciting alarm bells in your head, allow me to remind you what the coins of Signia, a Latin Colony, during the Pyrrhic War looked like:

Latium, Signia. Obol circa 280-275, AR 0.64 g. Head of Mercury r., wearing petasus; below neck, dolphin r. Rev. Mask composed of Silenus head l., and boar’s head r.; below, SEIC. Campana CNAI 1b (this reverse die). BMC 3 (this reverse die). Historia Numorum Italy 343 var.

[I link to this particular specimen just so I can point out that it reappeared back on the market with a brand new patina, all nice and shiny and toned just one year later, and fetched a much higher price.  I think it looked just lovely before some one decided to ‘fix’ it.]

Let me assure you that the gem above is by no means a one off.

Beazley Archive Reference Number: 716; Description: Heads of a BOAR and a man conjoined. Inscribed in Greek THIE. Current Collection: Walters Art Museum, Baltimore: 42.1070; Previous Collections: Story-Maskelyne, M.H.: The Marlborough Gems (1870): no. 716. Material: Jasper

And based on descriptions without images the Thorvaldsens Museum has a number more similar gems, Inventory numbers: I1537,  I1539,  I1722, I1536.   The last two are of particular interest as they are glass pastes which suggests the image had resonance with members of a variety of different social classes.

This particular type even made the BBC!

Roman intaglio
From a 30 March 2010 article ‘Guernsey, the Roman Empire’s trading post’. Image links to article.

What the heck does it mean?  Was it the badge of some particular noble?  Or like grylloi is it a humorous, apotropaic emblem? Or a philosophic meditation on the theme of man and beast?  Or all these things?  or something else entirely?

OR! the penny drops!  Is it a visual pun?!  Signia in Latin is also the plural form of the neuter noun meaning: standard, seal, sign, signal, proof, indication from the verb signo to mark, stamp, designate, sign, seal.  The type chosen is a very very common seal type.  [This is why I blog by the way. It took writing the whole damn post for that penny to drop and me to make the obvious connection.]  This is a really exciting idea to me.  Name puns are all over Roman Republican coinage to show its early early adoption is Latium is especially good. I think it provides a missing link of sorts between the ideas I explored in this earlier post discussing Republican habits, the Abdera series, and Timeaus.  [I’ve talked about puns a lot on this blog, but that post is the best of the lot I think.]

For follow-up later: Henig has some clever things to say about gems usually.  There are two possibly related gems (CG72 and CG 354)  in the Fitzwilliam that he’s written up in his 1994 catalogue.  Must get those pages from ILL…  Strangely none returned in BM, Met, or Boston MFA searches all of which have robust gem collections.

As an aside, I find it funny that Mercury on the obverse is wearing a necklace or similar band.  At first I thought at first it might be an unfortunate die break, but it shows up on a different die as well, but not all of the dies.  Also what the heck does Mercury have to do with dolphins?  Could it have anything to do with bizarre composite deity on the coins of Bursio who has wings and a trident (RRC 352/1)?  I doubt it.  But finding any representation Hermes or Mercury with any nautical attributes is tricky.

Update 4/11/2014:  If more canting types from Italy are sought, consider Rutter’s note at HN Italy 446, an obol of  the Saunitai with a javelin head on the reverse, σαύνιον = javelin.  He gives a date of c. 325.

291 out of 410 days: San Martino in Pensilis Hoard


The San Martino in Pensilis hoard and Andrew Burnett’s analysis thereof is probably the most important new information on third century Roman and Italian Silver issues from the last decade.  Highlights included:

  • Evidence of a significant gap (ballpark 300-260BC) between Rome’s first and second silver issues
  • The first Roma and Pistis Locrian coin in a hoard context
  • 30 ‘fresh’ coins of Teanum, Cales, and Suessa!  (No Cora specimen, alas.)

My scanned photocopy was really crappy, so I’m just delighted to realize that it’s available open access via Persée.  No more squinting for me today!  I’m also intrigued by the location of this hoard, just north of the Gargano (if you go, you must try the mysterious and delicious Lesina eel!).  It’s just down the road from Larinum (see earlier posts).  The Frentani became allied to the Romans in 304 BC and somewhere around the mid third century Larinum shifted from minting Neapolis type bronzes with Greek legends, to Roman type bronzes with Latin legends (well Oscan language, Latin Alphabet) (HN Italy 622 vs. 623).

San Martino in Pensilis - View

287 out of 410 days: Tripods, Libertas, Victory

RRC 498/1. C. Cassius with M. Aquinus. Aureus, mint moving with Cassius 43-42, AV 8.41 g. M·AQVINVS·LEG· – LIBER – TAS Diademed head of Libertas r. Rev. C·CASSI – PR·COS Tripod with cauldron, decorated with two laurel branches. B. Cassia 12. C 2. Bahrfeldt 56. Sydenham 1302. Sear Imperators 217. Calicó 63.

I was thinking about tripods in a totally different framework when I came across the very smart work of Carsten Hjort Lange (again!).  In his 2009 book, Res Publica Constituta, he gives a new reading of the famous plaque from the Palatine in light of the use of tripods on the coinage of 42 BC (p. 172ff).  A great read, but too long to extract here just follow the link!

Greek influences

I also came across a reading of the Tripods on the Coins of Herod (same time frame) that I thought delightfully sensible:

Obverse of Bronze Coin, Jerusalem, 40 BC – 4 BC. ANS 1944.100.62799
From p. 110 of The Coins of Herod: A Modern Analysis and Die Classification edited by Donald Tzvi Ariel, Jean-Philippe Fontanille (Brill 2011). Image links to google books.

Further non-numismatic support for the idea that the tripod could be a general symbol of victory can be found here.

286 out of 410 days: Cocks, Victory and Virility

Gem of glass paste imitating sard, engraved with a terminal figure of Hermes, before which stands a youth holding a wreath and palm-branch in his left hand, and a cock on his right.
Gem of glass paste imitating sard, engraved with a terminal figure of Hermes, before which stands a youth holding a wreath and palm-branch in his left hand, and a cock on his right. BM 1923,0401.420; Gem no. 2794

I was writing up my thoughts for the book on the symbolism of the cock on coinage during the First Punic War this morning.  [An issue touched upon in an earlier post, here.]  The idea that in the Greek world the cock need not be directly linked to Hermes, but more generally be a symbol of bellicosity and manliness, is well summarized by this book.




This might help explain the pairing of cock and Minerva (Athena) on coins of Suessa, Teanum, et al (for images see earlier post).  But I was still playing around with the Mercury association in my mind, when I came across the glass paste above.

Here we see the epitome of manhood, the victorious young athlete standing before a terminal Herm.  He has his prize crown and palm-frond and in thanksgiving for his victory he offers the god a cock. [Just like the victor in the Callimachus epigram quoted in the previous post!] The cock symbolizes at once his victory and his virility.  A Herm’s most notable feature was its phallus.  Although we are often think of Mercury (Hermes) as first the god of commerce, we must remember he ended up as such by his status as the fecund god, the wealth-bringer.   Just as cock is slang for male genitalia today, so in the ancient world the cock encapsulated a similar semantic range of meaning as the phallus: power, especially masculine power, the (pro)creative power that leads to wealth and to overcoming one’s adversaries.

Anyway, the glass paste is a ‘gem’ of a summation of the symbolism of the cock, so I thought I’d share. Okay, back to my other writing.

Post Script. 

When two cocks appears facing each other on gems it is most often a representation of a cock fight, thus a type of agonistic scene, often with victory imagery incorporated into the design:

Gem with two cocks and a palm branch. [Arachne image database]

Gem with two cocks one being crowned by victory.  [Arachne image database]

Gem with one cock on a rudder with a palm branch. [Arachne image database]

But also relevant are images where the are associated with martial symbolism:

Gem with military standards, cocks, and stars, flanking scorpion grasping a cresent.  [Arachne image database]

This is a good image showing the early association of the cock and Athena:

Vase in the Beazley Archive.

Other relevant bibliography:  Hoffmann 1974.