Featured A founder myth of Lanuvium

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Sep 22, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear friends of ancient mythology!

    Here is another myth that can be chronologically classified after the myth of the white sow of Lavinium. It takes place in the time when the Trojans were still looking for land in Latium.

    The Coin:
    Roman Republic, L. Papius Celsus, gens Papia
    AR - Denarius, 18mm, 3.66g
    Rome, 45 B.C.
    Obv.: Head of Juno Sospita r., on the head goatskin and horns
    Rev: She-wolf standing r. with log in mouth, that she wants to throw into the fire burning before her. Next to it an eagle, who with open wings is fanning the flames.
    above CELSVS.III VIR
    in ex. L.PAPIVS
    Ref.: Crawford 472/1; Sydenham 964; Papia 2
    VF, attractive toning


    Aeneas had made a treaty with the Latin people, which was affirmed by oaths. The natives gave the Trojans as much land as they wanted, i.e. about 40 stadiums in each direction. For this the Trojans had to assist the natives in the present war, and both peoples should help each other with all their strength on all occasions, with weapons and with advice.

    After this contract had been concluded and children had been exchanged as hostages as a surety, they marched together against the cities of the Rutulers, and after they had soon defeated all their opponents, they came to the city of the Trojans, which was still only half built. Together they fortified the city with a wall.

    This city was called Aeneas Lavinium, after the daughter of Latinus, who was called Lavinia by the Romans. But after some Greek mythographers he named her after the daughter of Anius, the king of the Deliers, who was also called Lavinia. She was given this name because she was the first to die of an illness while the city was being built. She was buried in the place where she died and the city was built as monument for her. It is said that she had embarked together with the Trojans after her father had given her to Aeneas at his request as prophetess and wise wife.

    While Lavinium was being built, the following signs are said to have occurred to the Trojans: When suddenly a fire broke out in the forest, a wolf is said to have come, carrying dry wood in its mouth and throwing it into the fire. And an eagle shall have flown to it, which fanned the fire even more with its wings. But unlike these two, a fox who had wet his tail in the river had tried to knock out the flames. And now the two of them tried to keep the fire, and the fox tried to put it out. But in the end the former gained the upper hand, and the fox sneaked away, unable to do anything further. Aeneas, who had observed this, then said that this settlement would become famous and an object of astonishment, and that it would acquire the greatest fame. But this would cause the envy of the neighbors and offend them. Nevertheless, she would overcome her enemies, for the happiness that heaven had given her was more powerful than all the envy of men. And these clear signs, it was said, predicted exactly what actually happened to the city. Monuments were erected which now stand on the Forum of the Lavinians and which showed these animals in the form of bronze statues. These monuments were to be seen for a long time.

    This legend occurs only in Dionysios of Halikarnassos and in a remark of Horace. Dionysios lived in the 2nd half of the 1st century B.C. and was in Rome from 30-7 B.C. He wrote a 20 volume history of Rome ('Antiquitates Romanae') until the beginning of the Punic War, 264, which is preserved in excerpts. In it he describes from a teleological point of view why Rome was destined to become ruler of the world. He is also known as Rhetor and has written for example a book about Demosthenes and 'On the position of words'. He was a representative of Atticism versus Asianism.

    According to Dionysios the legend did not happen in Lanuvium, but in Lavinium. There is said to have been a group representing the legend. But this localization seems to be a mistake of the author. On the obv. of this coin Juno Sospita is depicted. She had its main place in Lanuvium, but not in Lavinium. Also the allusion to the legend of Horace (Hor. epod. 3, 27, 4) occurs shortly after the mention of Lanuvium. The confusion of the two places should not be surprising. Lanuvium and Lavinium were exchanged very often and even in important documents like his Fastes. The strong connection with Aeneas in the story of Dionysios can be explained well as an ingredient of the author, who did not miss the opportunity to decorate the legend. Dionysios attributes a great age to the legend, but we cannot regard this dating as reliable. The most likely reason for this aetiological myth was probably a group of statues whose significance had been lost (Krumme).

    (1) Dionysios of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae, online (english) under
    <font color="#ffff00">-=http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/R=- proudly presents /home.html
    (2) Michael Krumme, Roman legends in ancient coinage, Hitzeroth 1995

    Best regards
    eparch, TheRed, NormW and 16 others like this.
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  3. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    This is one of the things I love best about this hobby. Learning so much about a depiction on a coin that otherwise I would have viewed as just another goathead obverse with a mildly interesting reverse. Now, I will love to come across this coin for sale someday! :)
    Jochen1 and Alegandron like this.
  4. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Very nice coin and recant of the legend, @Jochen1 .

    Here is mine:

    Roman Republic
    Head of Juno Sospita R, goat skin headdress,
    She-wolf R, placing stick on fire, eagle standing fanning flames,
    45 BCE 19.0mm 4.07g
    Craw 472-1
    TheRed, Puckles, zumbly and 4 others like this.
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