The Crepereii’ Goddess


So, this just came up in a database search for something else entirely.  Image links to entry.  This is a section from plate “K: Histoire égyptienne”

I’ve blogged very briefly about connections between RRC 399/1 and intaglios before.

I, however, talked a great deal about this parallel in Tacoma last May.  Here’s what I said and the slides that go with it.  I’m making this post so all the material on this topic is together  on the blog when (if) I come back to the coin type.

Excerpt from my lecture: ‘Mass Production and Markers of Identity: A Prolegomenon to the Study of Glass Pastes in the Roman Republic’


The reasons for these marine types have been the matter of intense speculation in the 20th century.  Suggestions have included Rome’s conflict with Sertorius or the pirates, and the mythical foundation of the gens from a union of Neptune and some nymph or mortal woman. The most enduring theory has been that Hellenistic depictions of sea gods are appropriate for the Creperii because other members of the same gens are known to have been active in the trade on both Delos and Athens in the late republic.  The later point was loosely tied to the existence of known precious gems by Crawford, like this small Cornelian.  I would note that this particular precious gemstone intaglio just happens to be the same diameter as a the dies used to strike denarii.


What I find more historically significant than the connection between the precious gems and the coins alone is that this design is found in remarkable abundance in glass.  Of these, six come from the British Museum and one from the Met.  These are just the ones I’ve stumbled upon in my initial survey of the material, and by no means represent the sum total of the surviving glass pastes of this type.  Based on this, I would anticipate finding dozens more in a thorough survey of extant specimens.   They are clearly not all made from the same mold, although at least two are.

These mold-made glass pastes would not have been desirable objects for the most successful Roman negotiatores in the Greek East, such as we know some members of the gens Crepereii to be.  We even find other Crepereii as negotiatores in Gallia Narbonensis in the 1st century BCE.  So who was using these imitation gems?  Specifically the clients or agents of the Crepereii?  Or just any sailor seeking a little extra divine protection at sea?  Is it a recognizable family symbol or just popular representation of a popular patron deity?  Regardless the coin type now seems less the artistic fancy of a young equestrian hoping to join the cursus honorum and more an explicit attempt to associate the moneyer with a well-known, popular piece of iconography

9 plateaux d’une boîte de 1540 moulages en soufre rouge, accompagnée d’un catalogue manuscrit. La classification thématique suit le schéma de Winckelmann; elle comprend 18 séries, répertoriées de A à S. Seuls les plateaux 10 à 18 sont conservés (séries K à S)
A à G : Mythologie
A : Saturne, Jupiter et Isis (71 soufres)
B : Cérès, Neptune et Minerve (64)
C : Hercule, Iole et Déjanire (73)
D : Bachhus, Bacchantes et Bacchanales (76)
E : Apollo, Diane et ? (80)
F : Esculape, Minerve et Sacrifices (79)
G : Mars, Vénus et amours (100)
H : philosophes, poètes et orateurs (99)
I : Rois de Macédoine, Syrie et Egypte (75)
– K : Histoire égyptienne (81)
– L : Histoire grecque et troyenne (93)
– M : Histoire Romaine (76)
– N : Rois et consuls romains (98)
-O, P, Q : Empereurs et impératrices (223)
-R : Masques et Chimères(72) ; vases(22); sphinx(9)
-S : animaux (72); Priapes (55)
Seules les séries de K à S sont conservées, c’est-à dire plateaux 10 à 18
Pour chaque pièce est donnée l’indication du sujet, de la matière de la pierre originale; dans quelque cas, mention du lieu de conservation (notamment Cabinet de Florence, du roi de Naples, du baron de Stosch, les cabinets de France et de Vienne, des collections privées romaines, comme Strozzi, Albani, Capponi, Altieri, Odescalchi, Barberini, Molinari, l’abbé Franchini à Sienne, Mylord Carlisle, le duc de Devonshire, le duc de Leeds.
Série proche de celles de Christian Dehn (1697-1770) mais le système de classification ne correspond pas au catalogue de Dolce.

Later addendum same day:


Information here.

Finding Coins in Paris

It is great when images and collections go online but using them outside your native language and when search terms are non-obvious to a specialist can be a real bear.

I decided to try to come up with some basic guidelines for myself for the Paris collection.

The best default search term for republican coins is MonnRoRep.  This returns 22,752 specimens.  That’s not all of them but its a really good start.  The cataloguing just isn’t uniform.

Then, limit your search returns on the left hand menu by Date de Publication.  This lets you limit your results first by century and then by decade.  (See image below)

Once you’ve done this, you’re almost at a manageable number of returns.  Sort your results by date and select 100 résultats/page.

The bad news is that of those with the MonnRoRep label, only 8,957 specimens have dates attached.  That leave another 13,795 specimens that need visual review.  That is only 138 internet pages to browse.  So after you check the dated specimens, go back to your MonnRoRep search and sort results by date (croissant)  to put the undated specimens first.  Then add to your search term the denomination of the specimen you’re looking for, this will reduce your work a little.

Let’s say you want to use the BnF catalogue for other coins, not republican.  The best starting point is to limit your search to ET Localistion: Richelieu (the coin cabinet) and select under Nature de document: Objets monétiformes.   For the Roman empire they seem pretty good about adding the the emperor.


Once you find the entry you want it may not be immediately obvious how to view the whole coin at the highest digital resolution.  This image should help you figure out where to click (see where I’ve circled in blue):


Enemy of the People

Short sighted history always bothers me.  Case in point:


The phrase is common enough in Ciceronian rhetoric when talking about external enemies, but he also makes very very clear the dangers of its domestic application.

O, how I wish this case afforded me the opportunity and the ability to proclaim that Lucius Saturninus, enemy of the Roman people, was killed by Gaius Rabirius.—Your shouting does not disturb me at all. Rather, it reassures me since it shows that there are some foolish citizens but not many. Never would the Roman people who remain silent have made me consul if they thought I would be shaken by your shouting. How much quieter your outcries have become already! Yes, you are checking your voice, informer upon your stupidity, witness to your paltry numbers!

Gladly, as I say, would I acknowledge, if I were in truth able or even if I were at liberty to do so, that Lucius Saturninus was killed by the hand of Gaius Rabirius. I would deem it a most glorious misdeed. But seeing that I cannot do this, what I will confess will be less efficacious for his reputation but not less for the charge against him. I confess that Gaius Rabirius took up weapons for the purpose of killing Saturninus. How is that, Labienus? What fuller confession, what more serious charge against my client were you expecting? Unless, of course, you do reckon that there is a difference between a man who has killed a man and a man who was armed for the purpose of killing a man. If it was wrong for Saturninus to be killed, weapons cannot be taken up against Saturninus without entailing a crime. If, however, you concede that weapons were taken up lawfully, then, by necessity, you must concede that he was killed lawfully.

This is Cic. Rab. 18ff.  In short, being declared an enemy of the people meant it was legitimate for anyone to kill you.   There are of course many many more examples from the Catilinarian conspiracy and Cicero’s attacks on Antony.

Lictors with rods in each hand

So still on Holliday 2002.  Normally lictors are only depicted with the fasces bundled and over their left shoulder.  The fresco representations reminded me of another strange image (RRC 301/1):


I’ve always assumed that on the coin the rod in the right hand was the threat from which the citizen is being protected. But if Holliday’s reading of the Arieti tomb is right it might just be a ceremonial representation of lictors at this time, not with a an implied threat of use.

H0lliday calls the right-hand stick/rod a commetaculum.   We don’t really know that much about this term.  Festus says the following:

commoetacula : virgae quas flamines portant pergentes ad sacrificium ut a se homines


And thus the flamen dialis is identified as holding on on the ara pacis:


Basically its assumed than since usually lictors cleared the way for priests at sacred functions the commetaculum by extension was an attribute of the lictor (see various discussions).


Another Pig


I was reading Holliday 2002:83-91 on the Tomb of Q. Fabius on the Esquiline and wanted to relook at color images  because of how he emphasized the use of the dextrarum iunctio as a symbol concordia, fides, pax and pietas in this context (p. 88).  I started worrying about the child behind the figures.

Is that a pig?  Has anyone suggested that before? [ I admit I’m a little obsessed with Romans and their pigs. ] If so it would strengthen Holliday’s claims that Fabius the labelled figure in the front of boy might be representing a pater patratus, one of the fetiales, or perhaps the verbenarius, an idea he gets from Felletti Maj.

Holliday assumed the plant borne by this individual was in the form of a crown, but that need not be the case based Pliny NH 22.5 (0ur only source for this information):

there shall be assigned even to dull, that is to say, lowly plants all the dignity that is their due, since it is a fact that the founders and enlargers of the Roman Empire derived from this source also an immense advantage, because it was from them that came the tufts used when the State needed cures, and also the verbanae required in holy ceremonies and in embassies. At any rate both names mean the same thing, that is, a turf (gramen) from the citadel pulled up with its own earth; and on every occasion when envoys were sent to the enemy to perform clarigatio, that is to demand in loud tones the restitution of plundered property, one in particular was called verbena-bearer.

So maybe I’m crazy but doesn’t it look like vines wrapped around Fabius’  arm?

“Good Conduct”


This token was an instrument of control used by the slave owner at the Morro Velho mine in Brazil, a British owned company long after Britain had abolished slavery in its own territories.  It appropriates imagery used by abolitionists.  I wish the seller or buyer would entrust this object to a museum willing to display it and put its function into context.  It is only the second such specimen which I know of (do you know of more?!  please let me know!), neither is in a public collection.

Here is an excerpt on this medal from a forthcoming article of mine (I also have an earlier post on this topic).  I’ll obviously have to correct the footnote prior to publication:

 Nearly the same imagery was adopted in a most disturbing manner by a notorious British slave owning company in Brazil, the Morro Velho gold mine, a mine still in operation today.[1]  In a firsthand account, Captain Burton praises the use of these medals and their role in a fortnightly inspection of all the slaves, working on the theme of how much better life is for the slaves than it used to be, and how much better off they are than their un-enslaved kinsmen (1869: 236-7).   The silver medals, commissioned from London, had been introduced into the ceremonies in 1852 and seem to have been awarded to those with five years ‘good conduct’ to mark their approaching freedom (Childs 2002: 51).  Seven years of such continuous ‘good conduct’ are said to have led to emancipation, although the mining company never chose to define what constituted ‘good conduct’, leaving the judgment inherently arbitrary (Childs 2002: 44).  Thus the abolitionist message of freedom is substituted for an illusory promise of possible freedom and the medal, like the social ritual of the muster and the uniforms, becomes part of the means of control.  It also imitates the practice of the abolitionists who had made a fashion out of wearing such medallions to advertise their own political sentiments; notice the marks left by a clip visible at the top of the illustrated medal.  Here the palm tree is used to identify the man as African and thus his status of one not yet liberated, or, if liberated, only having achieved such a state by the agency of a European power.

[1] I only know of one surviving specimen, which was sold by Baldwin’s Auctions Ltd, Auction 65, lot 1131 (4 May 2010); it was not possible to secure permission to illustrate this specimen, but an archived image can be found here: <;.  The auction catalogue entry reads, in part: “A note with the medal states, “Morro Velho slave medal of Freedom … given by dying slave to a missionary. Given to me by an Old Lady as a parting gift when leaving Chiswick”. The image of the slave derived, perhaps, from C F Carter’s 1834 medal to commemorate the Abolition of Slavery. Viscondessa de Cavalcanti’s Catalogo das Medalhas Brazileiras, lists the medal under “Abolition of slavery” and attributes it to 1848. She also quotes “Sr Hopkin, president of the company in 1888” who said that by 1882 all but 28 had been emancipated. Morro Velho is a complex of gold mines located near the city of Nova Lima in the Minas Gerais state of Brazil; in operation since 1835, it is the world’s oldest continuously worked mine.”