Annona, a Child, and a Ship

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by David Atherton, Nov 24, 2020.

  1. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic Supporter

    I've always found this Domitian reverse type intriguing. Annona seated in front of a child, with a grain ship in the background - it reeks of symbolic imperial propaganda.

    Æ Dupondius, 10.62g
    Rome mint, 85 AD
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIAN AVG GERM COS XI; Head of Domitian, radiate, bearded, r., with aegis
    Rev: ANNONA AVG; S C in exergue; Annona, std r., holding open on lap by two ends bag full of corn-ears; in front of her stands a small figure, l., also holding two ends of bag, and in the background, stern of ship
    RIC 287 (R). BMC 305. BNC -.
    Acquired from London Ancient Coins, November 2020.

    A most curious reverse type was struck for Domitian on his dupondii for a short period between 84-88. Here we see Annona seated holding open a bag(?) of corn-ears and a mysterious small figure standing before her holding the other end of the bag with a ship's stern in the background. Overall, the reverse likely alludes to Domitian's care of the corn supply, hinted at by the stern, here a symbol of the all important African grain ships. The small individual before Annona has variously been described as a 'boy', a 'child', or ambiguously as just a 'figure'. H. Mattingly has the most imaginative explanation in BMCRE II - 'Annona herself, the spirit of the corn-supply, and the ship, the symbol of the overseas corn, are familiar: but who is the small figure who stands before her? He is certainly no child, but only a man reduced to tiny proportions beside the goddess; and the fact that he is bare to the waist may suggest that he is an Italian farmer. If this interpretation is right, the type records a definite policy of Domitian to encourage the growing of corn in Italy.' Mattingly may be correct about the overall meaning, but I think the figure is indeed a child, symbolic of the emperor's care, through Annona's auspices, for his subjects. Rare variant with aegis.

    Do you have a coin featuring Annona? A child? A ship? Or all three?
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  3. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    @David Atherton.....Very nice coin with lovely detail and what an interesting suggestion by Mattingly about the Italian farmer? I'd not heard of this before....

    I do have an Annona reverse on an Antoninus Pius with corn ears, a part of a ship but childless....

    Antoninus Pius. 138-161 AD. AE As (9.86 gm, 25.5mm). Rome mint. Struck 140-144 AD.
    Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PI VS PP TRP COS III, laureate head right.
    Reverse: ANNONA AVG, S-C, Annona standing right, holding grain ears over modius in right hand, cornucopia in left; at feet to right, prow right.
    RIC III 675. VF.
    ap as.jpg
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I got mine in 1995 when I was attracted to having a coin that showed the orichalcum color. I never know when my failure to see the interpretations of such scenes is my being dense or the numismatists overactive imagination. I'd call it a figure without assigning an age.
  5. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

    Pretty nice Bronze. I didn't know this reverse type. What do you think of the description of this similar type ?
    Ceres seated left, holding corn-ears & torch, in front of her Annona standing right, in background modius on altar & prow.

  6. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That is indeed a very interesting reverse type, @David Atherton! The reverse design is (I think) unique to Domitian. Its symbolism is enigmatic, indeed. Mattingly's interpretation is imaginative. As @Ocatarinetabellatchitchix notes, the figures may depict Ceres and Annona. I think the intellectually honest thing to do is as the ever humble @dougsmit (who is not "being dense") recommends: to "call it a figure without assigning an age" or a name.

    Like @Andres2, my Antonine bronze featuring Annona uses more conventional iconography -- corn ears, a modius, a prow, and a cornucopiae. Antoninus Pius loved to take credit for providing grain to the Roman people; he issued several dozen different coins over his reign depicting Annona.

    Antoninus Pius, AD 138-161.
    Roman orichalcum sestertius, 23.16 g, 29 mm.
    Rome, AD 142.
    Obv: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P COS III, laureate head right.
    Rev: ANNONA AVG S C, Annona standing right, between modius and prow, holding corn ears and out-turned cornucopiae.
    Refs: RIC 597; BMCRE 1228; Cohen 37; RCV 4147; UCR 502.
  8. Archeocultura

    Archeocultura Well-Known Member

    Here a common depiction on a rare issue (RIC 910 var)

    Frans III Antoninus Pius 0910 var Annona as 7 nr 487.jpg
  9. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    A great coin with a very interesting reverse. Nice catch David. Here is my Annona.

    V966 no background.jpg
  10. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @David Atherton, nice details on your coin, here's my Hadrian with Annona, modius and ships prow but no little man:
    Hadrian (117-138), Sestertius, Rome, AD 118 AE
    Obv: IMP CAESAR TRAIANVS HADRIANVS AVG, laureate bust right, drapery on left shoulder
    Rev: PONT MAX TR - POT COS II, Annona standing right, holding cornucopiae in front of her, modius and corn-ears and high prow of ship, in field S - C, in exegue ANNONA AVG
    Ref: RIC 549
  11. philologus_1

    philologus_1 Well-Known Member

    Here's one from my collection showing Annona and a child. (I suppose the ship must have sailed out of port.) ;-) This type is also numismatic propaganda, as it 'advertises' Trajan's "Alimenta Italia" which was one of Trajan's public works programs geared toward feeding and educating orphans and the most destitute of Rome's citizens.
    Roman Empire, Trajan.
    AR silver denarius, Rome, ca. A.D. 101-102.
    Obv.: IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P VI P P, laureate bust right.
    Rev.: SPQR OPTIMO PRICIPI, Annona standing facing, head left, child at her feet, corn ears and cornucopiae in left hand; ALIM ITAL in exergue.
    Diam.: 19.5 mm. Weight: 3.3 gr.
    Attribution: RIC 243. RSC 9.
  12. Alegandron

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

    Cool reverse, @David Atherton . LOL, gosh, I keep looking for Minerva...

    I only have one with Annona, and it is a Fouree.

    RI Fouree Denarius Severus Alexander with Annona Avg reverse
  13. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    ...This is likely to sound dumb, but, bouncing off of @David Atherton's initial post, with help from @Spaniard's, there might be a more minimalist, Occam's Razor interpretation. With the recurring maritime motifs, especially from Domitian to Antoninus Pius, could these issues merely be emphasizing the ongoing dependence of Rome on grain from Egypt?
    (Right, not 'corn,' except in the English sense, now archaic in American vernacular. ...Since it's almost the American Thanksgiving Day, here's what happened to the American word 'corn' (/'maize). The Pilgrims land; they immediately get turned on to maize, and they say, in effect, 'What is this? ...Well, it's some kind of corn (i.e., grain).' And it stuck.)
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2020
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