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July 15th - The Battle at Lake Regillus


Sulla80

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Castor & Pollux, "The gods who live forever, today are on our side", from The Lays of ancient Rome by Thomas Macaulay, (1800-1859), published 1864

July 15, 496 BCE the Roman dictator Aulus Postumius defeated the Latins in the battle of Lake Regillus. 

Quote

Roman Victory
The Battle of the Lake Regillus

A Lay Sung at the Feast of Castor and Pollox on the Ides of Quintilis, in the Year of the City CCCCLI
...
But, Roman, when thou standest
Upon that holy ground,
Look thou with heed on the dark rock
That girds the dark lake round.
So shalt thou see a hoof-mark
Stamped deep into the flint;
It was no hoof of mortal steed
That made so strange a dint.
There to the Great Twin Brethren
Vow thou thy vows, and pray
That they, in tempest and in fight,
Will keep thy head alway.
...
-Thomas Babington Macaulay (1888), Lays of Ancient Rome, Battle of the Lake Regillus

Before the battle, the Romans made a sacrifice to the goddess Diana.  The killing of a domesticated animal came with rituals of sacrifice and forgiveness to reconcile the violence and appease the gods. The scene on the reverse of this coin recalls the Battle of Lake Regillus (496 BC), when the ancestor of moneyer A. Postumius Albinus, in command of the Roman army, defeated the Latin League, led by Tarquin the Proud, former king of Rome.

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A. Postumius A.f. Sp.n. Albinus, 81 BC, AR serrate denarius, Rome mint

Obv: Draped bust of Diana right, with bow and quiver over shoulder; bucranium above

Rev: Togate figure standing left on rock, holding aspergillum over head of a heifer standing right; lighted altar between them

Ref: Crawford 372/1

Livy, History of Rome 1.45,  describes the unusual animal that was sacrificed: "A cow is said to have been calved to a certain person, the head of a family among the Sabines, of surprising size and beauty. Her horns, which were hung up in the porch of the temple of Diana, remained, for many ages, a monument of this wonder."

The Dioscuri, are implicated as well, as they came to Rome’s aid in her time of need and brought Roman victory at the Battle of Lake Regillus.

Quote

 

When Dictator A. Postumius and the Tusculan leader Mamilius Octavius clashed at Lake Regillus in great strength and for some time neither army gave ground, Castor and Pollux, appearing as champions of Rome, totally routed the enemy forces.

-Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings I.8

 

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Roman Empire: Maxentius, AD 307-312, Æ Follis, Ostia mint, 4th officina, struck AD 309-312
Obv: Laureate head right
Rev: The Dioscuri standing facing one another, each holding scepter and bridle of horse; MOSTQ
Ref: RIC VI 35

Post coins of A. Postumius or the Dioscuri in celebration of July 15th (or anything else you find interesting or entertaining).

Edited by Sulla80
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Nice presentation, very interesting.

A Dioscuri

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L. Memmius AR Denarius (20mm, 3.77 g.)
Rome mint, struck 109-108 BC Gens Memmia
Obv. Apollo facing right, wearing oak wreath, mark of value below chin.
Rev. The Dioscuri standing facing, each holding spears and bridle of their horses, Xanthus and Cyllarus. Moneyer name in exergue.
Crawford 304

 

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I always enjoy your posts @Sulla80. Great coins and thread.

I never miss a chance to post my Punic War era denarius with the Dioscuri.

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Roman Republic
Second Punic War (218 – 201 BC)
Anonymous AR Denarius, Rome Mint, struck ca. 211 BC
Wt.: 4.2 g
Dia.: 20 mm
Obv.: Helmeted head of Roma right. X in left field
Rev.: Dioscuri galloping right. ROMA in exergue and partially incuse on raised tablet
Ref.: Crawford 44/5 Brinkman Group 5. Sydenham 167. RBW 169.
Ex Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 100 Part II, Lot 1368 (May 30, 2017)

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7 hours ago, Curtisimo said:

I always enjoy your posts @Sulla80. Great coins and thread.

I never miss a chance to post my Punic War era denarius with the Dioscuri.

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Roman Republic
Second Punic War (218 – 201 BC)
Anonymous AR Denarius, Rome Mint, struck ca. 211 BC
Wt.: 4.2 g
Dia.: 20 mm
Obv.: Helmeted head of Roma right. X in left field
Rev.: Dioscuri galloping right. ROMA in exergue and partially incuse on raised tablet
Ref.: Crawford 44/5 Brinkman Group 5. Sydenham 167. RBW 169.
Ex Numismatica Ars Classica Auction 100 Part II, Lot 1368 (May 30, 2017)

That is quite a beauty, @Curtisimo!

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Great thread! Here's my example of your Postumius type depicting the sacrifice of a heifer (a type that's one of my favorites; Michael Harlan used it as the cover photo for one of his books on Roman Republican moneyers), as well as various coins depicting or evoking the Dioscuri -- a number of them also recently posted in the "favorite reverses" thread. See my footnotes to the L. Memmius denarius for a reference to the Battle of Lake Regillus.

Roman Republic, A. Postumius A.f. Sp.n. Albinus (Aulus Postumius Albinus, son of Aulus [mint magistrate ca. 96 BCE], and grandson of Spurius [Consul 110 BCE]), AR Serrate Denarius, 81 BCE. Obv. Draped bust of Diana right, with bow and quiver over shoulder, figure of stag’s head at end of bow (horns to left), bucranium above [off flan] / Rev. Roman priest standing facing on rocky ground (on Aventine Hill), head left, with right arm extended holding aspergillum, sprinkling heifer, bull, or ox* which he is about to sacrifice, a lighted altar between them, A POST - AF - SN • ALBIN [AL in monogram] around. Crawford 372/1, RSC I Postumia 7, Sydenham 745, Sear RCV I 296 (ill.), Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (2012) (“RRM I”) Ch. 1 at pp. 1-7, BMCRR I 2836. 18.54 mm., 3.85 g.  Ex Spink & Sons Ltd. (before 2000 because of address on Spink coin tag; probably before 1974 given citation to Sydenham but not Crawford.) 

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* Crawford and Sear identify the animal as a bull, RSC as an ox. For the heifer identification, see RRM I (using this coin-type as the cover illustration for the book) at pp. 3-4. Harlan argues that in the legend which, as Crawford acknowledges, is the basis for the reverse of this coin -- namely, the sacrifice to Diana on the Aventine Hill founding her temple there ca. 500 BCE, establishing Rome as the caput rerum for all of Italy [and symbolizing the victory of Sulla over the rebel Italians in 82 BCE] -- the sacrificed animal was a heifer with wondrous horns, not a bull or an ox. (Harlan's citation is to Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, ch. 45 [available at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0145%3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D45].)  

Roman Republic, C. Antestius, AR Denarius 146 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged helmet with peaked visor (ornamented with griffin’s head?), pearl necklace, and earring of pellets in form of bunch of grapes, C • ANTESTI upwards behind [partially off flan, ANTE ligate], X [mark of value, 10 asses] beneath chin / Rev. Dioscuri holding spears, on horseback galloping right; puppy running right below horses’ hooves, with both forefeet raised; in exergue, ROMA; minor flan flaws on reverse. Crawford 219/1e, RSC I Antestia 1, BMCRR I 859, Sear RCV I 95/1 (ill.), Sydenham 411. 19 mm.. 3.76 g., 3 h.  Ex CNG Auction 378, July 13, 2016, Lot 408; ex RBW [Richard B. Witschonke] Collection; ex BCD Collection [see old coin ticket], purchased by RBW from BCD March 1985; ex ASW [Alan S. Walker, currently Dir. of Nomos AG]. *

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** Crawford states at Vol. I p. 258 that the moneyer “is otherwise unknown,” and suggests that “[t]he moneyer’s cognomen, if the puppy is held to be significant, may perhaps be Catulus,” meaning puppy or wolf cub in Latin. (Emphasis in original.)  Grueber suggests a different (and even more speculative) possibility for the significance of the puppy, namely that “[t]he dog was evidently the symbol of the Antestia gens, and consequently the earlier coins, which have that symbol and are without moneyer’s name, may have been issued by a member of this gens.” (See BMCRR p.114 n. 1.)  The earlier coins Grueber refers to comprise the amonymous dog series cataloged as BMCRR 486-492 (Crawford 122/1-122/6), dated circa 206-195 BCE -- i.e., 50+ years prior to the issuance of this coin. Without more, positing a family connection to those earlier anonymous coins based solely on the presence of dogs on them would seem rather tenuous, especially given that there do not appear to be any dogs on the later Antestia gens coins, either under the Republic or under Augustus during the period when moneyers’ names were still listed. 

Some of the subtypes or varieties of this issue have the moneyer’s name on the reverse, with the puppy on the obverse behind Roma’s head. According to Grueber (p. 114 n. 1), this kind of varying interchange was an “innovation” that began with this issue.

Roman Republic, C. Servilius M.f., AR Denarius 136 BCE. Obv. Head of Roma right wearing winged helmet, wreath behind neck, ROMA beneath with * [X with bar through it = XVI monogram] to left / Rev. Dioscuri on horseback galloping in opposite directions, heads turned back to face each other, both twins holding their spears downwards behind horses, C. SERVEILI M F in exergue. RSC I Servilia 1, Crawford 239/1, Sydenham 525, Sear RCV I 116 (ill.), BMCRR Italy 540. 19.35 mm., 3.89 g. [Sear says that this is the first Republican denarius with “ROMA” legend on obverse, and the second to use the monogram * for XVI .] 

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Roman Republic, C. Fonteius, AR Denarius, 114-113 BCE. Obv. Laureate, Janiform head of the Dioscuri, control mark N under left chin [mark of value * (= 16) under right chin is worn off], one dot beneath head / Rev. Galley left with three rowers, gubernator (pilot) at stern, rudder beneath stern, apotropaic eye on side, three-pronged ram with wolf’s head above extending from prow, banners/streamers extending from stern, C • FONT above (N and T in monogram), ROMA below.  Crawford 290/1, RSC I Fonteia 1 (ill.), Sear RCV I 167 (ill.), Sydenham 555, BMCRR Italy 597-616. 20 mm., 3.90 g.  Ex Auctiones GmbH, eAuction 67, Lot 55, 15 March 2020; ex CNG Auction May 2012, Lot 293; ex Bruce R. Brace Collection.

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* According to H.A. Seaby in RSC I (at p. 48), the Janiform head on the obverse relates to the origins of the Fonteia gens -- which claimed as its founder Fons or Fontus, supposedly the son of Janus -- and the galley on the reverse relates to the naval exploits of the moneyer’s ancestor P. Fonteius Capito, who was praetor in Sardinia in 169 BCE. Crawford disagrees. (See Vol. I at p. 305.) He states that there is no good evidence for the existence of Fontus, and that the Janiform head should instead be regarded as that of the Dioscuri, because the gens Fonteia came from Tusculum, the chief cult-center of the Dioscuri in Latium. Crawford also states that the reverse is “doubtless” an allusion to the transmarine origin of Telegonus (the son of Ulysses and Circe), who was the legendary founder of Tusculum. Sear agrees with Crawford.

Bruce R. Brace "was a scholar and by many considered to be a dean of Roman Numismatics in Canada. Coins from his extensive collection were sold by CNG in 2012 and 2013." https://www.vcoins.com/en/stores/an..._ex_bruce_r_brace_library/630746/Default.aspx . According to Google, he was the former General Chairman of the Canadian Numismatic Association, the recipient of their J.D. Ferguson Award in 1984, and the former honorary curator of the McMaster University Museum of Art coin collection, at least a portion of which is now known as the Bruce R. Brace Coin Collection.

Roman Republic, L. Memmius, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 109-108 BCE. Obv. Male head to right (Apollo?), wearing oak wreath, star (*) [= monogrammed XVI; mark of value] beneath chin / Rev. The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), cloaked, with stars above their heads, standing facing between their horses, each holding a spear and the bridle of his horse, with each horse raising its outside front hoof; L•MEMMI in exergue. Crawford 304/1, RSC I Memmia 1 (ill. p. 65), Sear RCV I 181 (ill. p. 107), BMCRR II Italy 643, RBW Collection 1145 (ill. p. 237). 19 mm., 3.95 g.  Purchased Jan. 6, 2022 at Roma Numismatics E-Sale 93, Lot 897. Ex. Andrew McCabe Collection; ex. Numismatica Ars Classica AG, Auction 7, 27 May 2014, Lot 1944; ex. Aureo & Calico, Auction 159, 3 March 2004, Lot 1056.*

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*Crawford says little about this issue, stating only (see Crawford I p. 315) that the moneyer “may be identified with L. Memmius, who visited Egypt as a Senator in 112,” that the obverse type “remains unexplained” (but resembles the head of Apollo on Crawford 350A, including in wearing an oak-wreath rather than a laurel wreath), and that the representation of the Dioscuri -- dismounted and standing next to their horses rather than mounted and galloping in the same direction with couched lances, their traditional portrayal on Roman Republican coins, especially during the 2nd Century BCE – is “unusual.” For detailed discussions of the Dioscuri in mythology, in their role as protectors of the Roman people as a result of their miraculous intervention on the Roman side at the battle of Lake Regillus, and as frequently depicted on Roman Republican coins (albeit rarely on Roman Imperial coins), see, e.g., https://www.ostia-antica.org/dict/topics/mint/mint04.htm#:~:text=The%20Dioscuri%20were%20known%20to,against%20the%20Latins%20in%20c; https://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Dioscuri:

 “[T]he worship of the Dioscuri, as divinities, had its origin at Rome, from the victory which the consul Postumius gained, near the lake Regillus, over the Latins and the sons of Tarquinius Superbus (B.C. 493 or 496). It was said that, after that engagement, the Dioscuri appeared in the forum of Rome, wearing conical bonnets, over each of which was a star. They stood resting upon their lances, beside their horses, which were drinking at a fountain. These twin heroes disappeared as soon as they had announced the news of the battle, at a moment when, on account of the distance from the scene of the slaughter, no one could have as yet become acquainted with the event. It is also related that, during the action, two young men, mounted on two white horses, were seen fighting valiantly for the Romans. . . .

The Dioscuri most frequently appear, on coins of the Roman Republic, as horsemen galloping, with couched lances, and stars above their pilei. . . . In the imperial series, this type (which was meant to denote brotherly concord), is of rare occurrence.”

It has been suggested that the portrayal of the Dioscuri on the reverse of this coin may be based on an ancient statuary group similar to the pair of statues unearthed in 1561, located at the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome since 1583:

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See https://www.walksinrome.com/uploads/2/5/1/0/25107996/castor-and-pollux-piazza-del-campidoglio-rome_orig.jpg. And, if taken together, the pair of statues certainly resembles the reverse of the L. Memmius denarius:

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Discussion of Dioscuri in footnote is in boldface:

Roman Republic, Q. Lutatius Cerco as Quaestor, AR Denarius, Rome Mint (or other Italian Mint; see BMCRR Italy p. 298 fn 4 cont.), 109-108 BCE (or 107 BCE, per Mattingly p. 207). Obv. Head of Roma or Mars right [Crawford, RBW Collection: Roma; Sear RCV: Mars; BMCRR & RSC: Roma or Mars], wearing crested helmet ornamented with feather/plume between two stars [representing the Dioscuri(?)] and Δ or triangle to right of stars; above, ROMA; beneath chin; CERCO upwards; behind, * [= XVI; mark of value] / Rev. Galley right with horizontal shields above oarsmen, prow in shape of helmet, and head of gubernator right at stern beneath aplustre; above, Q•LVTATI [VT ligate] over Q [Quaestor]; all surrounded by oak-wreath (corona civica) with acorns. 19 mm., 3.87 g. Crawford 305/1; RSC I Lutatia 2 (ill. p. 60); BMCRR II Italy 636; Sear RCV I 182; RBW Collection 1146 (ill. p. 237). Purchased from Jordan M. Sheckells (Facebook Ancient & Medieval Coins Sales Group) Aug 2022; ex Pegasi Numismatics (private purchase 2019); ex Pegasi Numismatics Auction 39, 13 Nov. 2018, Lot 397 (unsold).*

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*Moneyer as Quaestor  The denarius and uncia categorized as Crawford 305/1 and 305/2  “are the only record which we have of Quintus Lutatius Cerco, who held the office of quaestor” (BMCRR II Italy p. 297 n. 3); see also Crawford p. 315, stating that he “is not known to have progressed beyond the quaestorship.” As explained in John Melville Jones’s A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990) (entry for “Quaestor” at pp. 261-262):

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know whether this was by authority conferred on them from the Senate at Rome, or by virtue of the imperium of their commanders, or whether such issues were fully legal.”

However, BMCRR Italy (at p. 298 fn. 4 [continuation]) is the only authority to suggest that this issue may have been minted outside Rome or that Lutatius Cerco may have been a provincial quaestor, citing, among other things, “the fabric of the denarius.”

Date of Issue Crawford dates this issue to 109 or 108 BCE (see Vol. I p. 315), but then states that it is “worth remarking that Q. Lutatius Catulus, Cos. 102,” who belonged to the same gens as the moneyer, “was a candidate for the consulship in 107.” Mattingly agrees that the “family propaganda of Q. Lutatius Cerco, as Crawford saw, might be connected with the consular canvass of Q. Lutatius Catulus. (See the chapter entitled “Roman Republican Coinage ca. 150-90 B.C.” in Harold B. Mattingly, From Coins to History: Selected Numismatic Studies (2004) pp. 199-226 at p. 207.) However, if that is the case, then “the ‘109 or 108 B.C.’ dating will not do for this. Catulus first campaigned in 107 against the noble C. Atilius Serranus and was defeated. He then suffered two further setbacks at the hands of ‘new men’ in 106 and 105. Few men had such a tough passage in the hustings; but even the first contest must have looked tough enough in prospect, and 107 would have been an admirable year for Cerco to revive the family’s glory; no Lutatius had been consul since 220.” Id. See also Mattingly at p. 133 (in article entitled “The Numismatic Evidence and the Founding of Narbo Martius,” at pp. 130-139), stating that “Cerco’s quaestorian issue looks very like part of what must have been an increasingly feverish campaign to secure Catulus’s election.” 

Obverse: Roma or Mars? As noted above, the authorities disagree as to whether the obverse portrait depicts Roma or Mars – based in part on unsupported pronouncements as to whether the face is more “masculine” or “feminine,” demonstrating that gender can be in the eye of the beholder! Compare Sear RCV I 182 at p. 107 fn. (arguing that a “youthful Mars” interpretation is “preferable” because “the features appear to be masculine”) with BMCRR II Italy 636 at pp. 297-298 fn. 4 (stating that the head “may be of Mars or Roma,” presenting the argument for Mars [see below] but opining that “the features have, however, a feminine appearance,” and ultimately declining to take a position, as does RSC, following Babelon). In fact, the argument in favor of a Mars identification seems logical to me: BMCRR points out (p. 298 n. 4) that during this period, “a feather instead of a wing as an ornament to the helmet usually occurs with the head of Mars,” as shown on the coins of Ti. Veturius [Crawford 234/1], Q. Minucius Thermus [Crawford 319/1], and C. Publicius Malleolus [Crawford 385/3a-g]. All three types do, in fact, depict a helmet with a feather or plume rather than an eagle’s wing on the obverse – just like this type -- and all three obverses are uniformly interpreted as portraying Mars. (I have not, however, reviewed all the different types from this period to see if there are any counter-examples.) To be sure, the legend “ROMA” appears on the obverse, but I do not believe the presence or absence of that word constitutes a definitive identification of the obverse portrait one way or the other. 

Meaning of Reverse Design See BMCRR II Italy p. 298 fn 4: “The reverse type records the great victory of the consul Q. Lutatius Catulus over the Carthaginian fleet under Hanno in the battle off the island of Aegusa in B.C. 241. For this victory Catulus received the honor of a triumph. The oak-wreath is the corona civica which was accorded to a general who had preserved the life of a citizen or saved the State at a critical juncture.” See also Crawford I at p. 315, stating that the significance of the corona civica is “unclear,” but that it “perhaps reflects the fact that the victory meant the end of the drain on Roman manpower caused by the First Punic War.”

Possible Obverse Reference to the Dioscuri Given the naval theme of the reverse design of this type, Liv Mariah Yarrow has raised the question in her blog of whether the “two big stars” on the obverse helmet were intended to recall the Dioscuri/Penates, citing, among other things, the two stars above the heads of the Dioscuri on the Mn. Fonteius denarius with a galley on the reverse (Crawford 307/1; see below) issued almost contemporaneously with the Lutatius Cerco denarius (Crawford 305/1). (See https://livyarrow.org/2014/02/11/238-out-of-410-days-a-fashion-for-ships/.) She also cites a Republican as depicting Dioscuri caps in front of ship prows to support the notion of an association between naval victories and the Dioscuri. (Id.) And, of course, the immediately preceding issue to Lutatius Cerco’s, that of L. Memmius (Crawford 304/1) also depicts the two Dioscuri, with stars above their heads.

As far as I know, neither Yarrow nor any other authority has attempted to explain the Δ to the right of the two stars on this type, let alone interpret it as the letter Delta, making specific reference to the Dioscuri. However, given the naval theme of the reverse, an attribution of the stars on the obverse helmet to the Dioscuri – whether the obverse depicts Mars or Roma -- would certainly be consistent with the role of the Dioscuri in Greco-Roman mythology as the patron deities of sailors and ships. See, e.g., Eric Flaum, The Encyclopedia of Mythology (1993) (entry for “Dioscuri” at p. 63) (“The Dioscuri were said to be guardians of sailors in distress”); Aaron J. Brody, “The Specialized Religions of Ancient Mediterranean Seafarers,” Religion Compass Vol. 2, Issue 4, pp. 444-454 at p. 445 (2008) (https://compass.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-8171.2008.00079.x) (“Because of their control over favorable winds, the Dioscuri, twins Castor and Pollux, were patrons of Greek and Roman sailors who set course by the light of their constellation at night”) (citing Rougé, J, 1981, Ships and Fleets of the Ancient Mediterranean, Trans. by S. Frazer, Wesleyan, University Press, Middletown, CT); https://www.theoi.com/Cult/DioskouroiCult.html (quoting Plutarch, Life of Lysander 12. 1 as stating "There were some who declared that the Dioskouroi appeared as twin stars on either side of Lysander's ship just as he was sailing out of the harbor against the enemy, and shone out over the rudder-sweeps").
 

Roman Republic, Mn. Fonteius, AR Denarius, Rome Mint, 108-107 BCE. Obv. Jugate and laureate heads of Dioscuri right, stars above their heads; below their chins to  right, * [= XVI; mark of value] / Rev. Galley right depicted in three-quarters perspective at prow, with long projecting rostrum, full-length oars on front side (with overlapping horizontal shields above oars), and partial view of foreshortened oars on back side*; pilot seated in stern beneath aplustre; above, MN • FONTEI [MN and NTE ligate]; below galley, control-letter B. 20 mm., 3.91 g., 4 h. Crawford 307/1b, BMCRR I 1205; RSC I Fonteia 7 (ill. p. 48); Sear RCV I 184 (ill. p. 107). Purchased from Roma Numismatics E-Sale 98, 16 Jun 2022, Lot 1029.**

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*Presumably intentionally, the three-quarters view of the prow of the galley presents the distinct impression of a face, with two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and headgear; the foreshortened oars to the right somewhat resemble a cat’s whiskers.

 **According to Crawford I at pp. 316-317 (referring to id. p. 305), the moneyer “is doubtless a brother or cousin of the moneyer C. Fonteius,” the issuer of Crawford 290/1 in approximately 114-113 BCE, similarly depicting the Dioscuri (in a Janiform design) on the obverse and a galley on the reverse; “either may be identified with the Fonteius who was Legate in 91 [BCE].”  The reason that both moneyers chose to portray the Dioscuri and a galley, as explained at Crawford I p. 305, is that the gens Fonteia came from Tusculum, the chief cult-center of the Dioscuri in Latium.  The galleys on both reverses are “doubtless” allusions to the transmarine origin of Telegonus (the son of Ulysses and Circe), who was the legendary founder of Tusculum.

Roman Republic, Mn. Fonteius C.f., AR Denarius, Rome Mint 85 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Apollo* right, MN. FONTEI behind (MN and NT in monograms), C.F below chin, thunderbolt below neck / Rev. Cupid or winged Infant Genius seated on goat  right, caps (pilei) with stars of the Dioscuri above, thyrsus of Bacchus below; all within laurel-wreath. RSC I Fonteia 10 (ill.), Crawford 353/1c, Sydenham 724a, Sear RCV I 271 (ill.), BMCRR Rome 2478. 20 mm, 3.93 g. SB Binder 4 RRC 353/1c  (334-0, 335)

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* RSC I identifies as head of Vejovis; Crawford and Sear disagree and identify head as Apollo.

Roman Republic, Mn. Cordius Rufus, AR denarius, 46 BCE, Rome mint. Obv. Jugate heads of Dioscuri right, each wearing a laureate pileus surmounted by a star, RVFVS III VIR downwards behind and below / Rev. Venus Verticordia (or Venus Genetrix) standing facing, head left, holding scales in right hand and transverse scepter in left hand, Cupid hovering behind [Sear CRI, BMCRR] or perched upon [Crawford, RSC] her left shoulder, MN CORDIVS (MN ligatured) downwards to right. Crawford 463/1a, CRI 63 (ill. p. 45) [David Sear, The History and Coinage of the Roman Imperators 49-27 BC (1998)], RSC I (Babelon) Cordia 2a (ill. p. 36), Sear RCV I 440 (ill. p. 156), BMCRR 4037, RBW Collection 1606 (ill. p. 339), Sydenham 976. Purchased from Jordan Scheckells (Louisiana, USA) Feb. 2022; ex Diana Numismatica (Via Quattro Fontane, Roma). With old coin envelope (early 20th century).*

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*If the reverse figure is identified as Venus Verticordia (“‘turner of hearts’, i.e. the goddess who turns minds from lust to chastity,” see Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London 1990), entry for Venus, at p. 317), to whom a temple was specially dedicated in Rome in 114 BCE after the corruption and trial of the Vestal Virgins, the depiction “may not only be a punning allusion to the Cordia gens but may also refer to the family of Julius Caesar, which claimed its descent from Venus herself. The Cordia family came originally from Tusculum where there was a special cult of the Dioscuri.” See RSC I at p. 36 (quoting BMCRR I p. 523 n. 3 almost verbatim, without attribution).

Crawford agrees that the moneyer was of Tusculan origin, citing a Tusculan inscription naming him, on which his tenure of the office of Praetor was recorded (Crawford I p. 474), and also agrees that the depiction of Venus on the reverse is a Caesarian reference (id.); the balance or scales she holds “perhaps suggests that the coinage of Mn. Cordius Rufus is in the tutela [guardianship] of Venus and is hence a further compliment to Caesar.” Id. However, Crawford’s position is that “there is no reason to regard Venus here as Verticordia.” Id. He proposes instead that “the type as a whole, with [her son] Cupid perched on the shoulder of Venus, may derive from the statue placed in the temple of Venus Genetrix [“foundress of the family,” from whom Caesar claimed descent] in 46 [BCE], the year of issue of this coinage.” Id. at 474-475. 

At CRI p. 45, Sear – who, contrary to Crawford, identifies the reverse figure as Venus Verticordia, but without explanation – states regarding this type (and Crawford 463/1b, which has the same design except that the Dioscuri are decorated with fillets instead of laurel-b) that “[t]his denarius coinage in the name of Manius Cordius Rufus is on a scale [it isn’t clear whether this pun was intended!] commensurate with the state’s requirements at the time of Caesar’s quadruple triumph when, it will be remembered, five thousand denarii were paid to each legionary soldier and ten thousand to each centurion. Other than his coinage, Rufus is known only from an inscription found at Tusculum [citation omitted] recording that he held the office of praetor. The obverse type of this denarius also indicates his Tusculan origin as there was a special cult of Castor and Pollux at this ancient city of Latium situated about 15 miles south-east of Rome. The reverse type of Venus was doubtless intended to be complimentary to Caesar, and the head of the goddess appears on another of this moneyer’s denarius types” (citing Crawford 463/3, depicting Venus on the obverse and her son Cupid riding a dolphin on the reverse, a type essentially reproducing the very similar depiction on the reverse of Crawford 390/2, issued by L. Lucretius Trio ca. 76 BCE.)  

I question whether there is any substantive reason to identify the reverse figure as Venus Verticordia other than the fact that this identification fits the presumed pun on the moneyer’s gens. Regardless of whether or not the coin’s depiction of Venus is actually based on the lost statue of Venus Genetrix in the temple that Caesar dedicated to that goddess, it would seem the presence on Venus’s shoulder of her son Cupid (hardly a model for chastity!), the fact that Caesar specifically claimed descent from Venus Genetrix, and the fact that he dedicated a temple to her in 46 BCE, the very same year in which the coin was issued, would all  militate in favor of Crawford’s Venus Genetrix interpretation. (Even if that interpretation destroys the Verticordia/Cordius pun!) See Jones, supra at p. 317:

“It has been suggested that the figure of Venus, bearing scales and accompanied by Cupid, which appears on denarii of Mn. Cordius Rufus (46 BC) represents the cult statue of th[e] temple [of Venus Verticordia, built in 114 BCE], and that the type was chosen as a play on the name of the mint magistrate. . . . This is not impossible but it seems unlikely, and the coin and other coins of Cordus which show a head of Venus on the obverse, or a Cupid on the reverse, may only allude in a general way to Venus as the ancestress of the Julian family.” (Jones argues that it is “also unlikely” that the reverse figure specifically represented the statue of Venus Genetrix sculpted by Arcesilaus and placed in the temple to that goddess dedicated in the year of the coin’s issue, pointing out the many different numismatic representations of Venus Genetrix, and concluding that “there is enough variety to suggest that no particular work of art was automatically associated with this title.” Id.) [Remainder of fn. omitted.]

Faustina II (wife of Marcus Aurelius & daughter of Antoninus Pius), AE Sestertius, ca. 161 AD, Rome Mint. Obv. Draped bust right, low chignon at back of head, FAVSTINA AVGVSTA / Rev. Felicitas (or Faustina as Fecunditas) standing left, between four girls (two standing at each side) [representing Annia Faustina (a/k/a Faustina III), Lucilla, Fadilla, and Cornificia], holding two infants in her arms [representing the twins Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and Commodus], each with a star over its head (representing the Dioscuri), TEMPOR FELIC [-IC almost entirely worn off], S - C across fields. RIC III 1673 (at p. 147), var. [no stars above infants’ heads]; BMCRE MA 949 var [same]; Cohen 222; Dinsdale 006760 & n. 1 [Dinsdale, Paul H., The Imperial Coinage of the Middle Antonines: Marcus Aurelius with Lucius Verus and Commodus, Ch. 4, Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (http://romanpaulus.x10host.com/Marcus/04 - Faustina II - Undated, 158-176 (med_res).pdf) at p. 70] (“Minor rev. variation: sometimes each infant held in arms has star above head”). 31 mm., 24 gm. Purchased from Victor’s Imperial Coins, March 2021. Ex. CNG E-Auction 476, 9/09/2020, part of Lot 762; ex. BLS Collection.* [Footnote omitted.]

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Edited by DonnaML
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