Juno Caprotina -- a Fertility Goddess Associated with Figs and Goats

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Apr 18, 2021.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This is a new acquisition for my tiny numophylacium reipublicae. Between the absence on the market of affordable Faustina coins I don't already have and peer pressure (it seems everyone else here has one of these goat biga coins), I had to pick up this one.

    I was going to write about Juno Caprotina -- Juno in her aspect as fertility goddess associated with figs and goats and celebrated on July 7 each year in a festival known as the Nonae Caprotinae -- but @Jochen1 has already written a very thorough piece about the mythology behind this coin and my write-up would only be superfluous. There is also an educational Italian language blog post about Juno Caprotina as an Etruscan aspect of the goddess incorporated into Roman religion through syncretism. The blog post features a photograph of an antefix (I have previously written about antefixae) from an Etruscan temple dedicated to the goddess. Note the goddess's headdress made of goat's ears and horns.

    1234 giunone-caprotina1.jpg

    On the popular denarius, she appears driving a biga of goats, holding a whip, reins and scepter. The flans on this issue tend to be small and almost never feature the complete scene on the reverse die. On my coin, the goddess is partly off the flan, as are the horns of the rightmost goat. But it's a decent example of the issue, I think.

    This denarius was issued by the moneyer, C. Renius; Juno Caprotina was the tutelary goddess of Lanuvium, the ancestral home of the Renius family.

    C Renius denarius Juno Caprotina driving biga of goats LAC.jpg
    C. Renius, 138 BC.
    Roman AR denarius, 3.84 g, 16.3 mm, 1 h.
    Rome, 138 BC.
    Obv: Helmeted head of Roma, right; X behind.
    Rev: Juno in a biga of goats, right, wearing diadem and holding scepter and reins in left hand and whip in right hand; C·RENI below; ROMA in exergue.
    Refs: Crawford (RRC) 231/1; RSC Renia 1; Sydenham (CRR) 432; Sear (RCV) 108.

    And here's a not-so-gratuitous photo of Michelle Pfeiffer from the movie Stardust:


    As always, post comments or anything you feel is relevant!
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
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  3. Ryro

    Ryro They call me the 13th Caesar Supporter

    Nice write up and lovely coin:bookworm::artist:!!! I've tried for the goatriga several times but it is a unique and fun type, so I get blown out of the water:meh:
    Here's Juno wearing that goat skull cap (very cool archaic statue!):
    L. Thorius Balbus, Denarius, Rome, 105 BCE AR (3,74 gr 20 MM6 H) Head of Juno Sospita r., wearing goat-skin behind, downwards, I S M R, Rv. Bull charging r. above, control letter, O below. L THORIVS in ex. BALBVS. Crawford 316/1 Thoria 1 Sydenham 598.
    Cabinet tone
  4. happy_collector

    happy_collector Well-Known Member

    Nice coin and writeup, RC. Very unusual reverse design indeed.
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  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    @Roman Collector, soon you'll be right there in the trenches battling me and others for new Roman Republican coins! Anyway, thanks for your write-up and coin, as well as the link to @Jochen1's very informative post.

    Here's my example of the type, which is my earliest Roman Republican coin (one year earlier than the Ti. Veturius depicting a youth holding a pig with soldiers to either side). It's also one of the most frustrating, not only because it's much more worn than most of my Republican coins, but because part of the design is off the flan -- which I very much dislike! I'm not sure if the flans are too small (mine is 17 mm., which isn't that tiny) or the design on the die was too large, but it's pretty much impossible to find an example with a complete design without spending quite a bit of money. In my case, I sacrificed most of Juno's head in order to be able to get both goats' horns. I was unsuccessful in finding one that showed them and also the goddess's entire head. Perhaps I'll upgrade sometime.

    Roman Republic, C. Renius, AR Denarius 138 BCE. Obv. Helmeted head of Roma right, X behind / Rev. Juno* in biga of goats right, holding scepter and reins in left hand and whip in right hand, C • RENI below goats, ROMA in exergue. RSC I Renia 1, Crawford 231/1, Sydenham 432, Sear RCV I 108 (ill.), BMCRR Rome 885. 17 mm., 3.8 g.

    C. Renius (biga with stags) jpg version.jpg

    * RSC identifies her as Juno Caprotina. Crawford disagrees, while Sear does not mention the theory. Here's the relevant discussion from Crawford p. 264:

    (2) Crawford p. 264 re C. Renius Juno (not Caprotina) goat biga.jpg

    I am certainly not qualified to have an independent opinion on the issue!

    But given the noted relationship to Juno Sospita, and their mutual affliation with goats (in addition, Juno Sospita was also famously associated with Lanuvium; I hadn't previously read that about Juno Caprotina), here are my five(!) coins showing Sospita -- obviously she was quite popular! She was always depicted with a goat headdress, topped with goat horns:

    Roman Republic, L. Thorius Balbus, AR Denarius, 105 BCE. Obv. Head of Juno Sospita R., “ISMR” [Iunonis Sospitae Magnae Reginae*] / Rev. Bull Charging Right, Control-letter A above, “L. THORIUS BALBUS.” RSC I Thoria 1, Crawford 316/1, Sear RCV I 192, BMCRR Rome 1615. 20.11 mm., 3.85 g. David R. Sear Certificate of Authenticity, 11/16/2012, No. 690CY/RR/CO/C.

    Thorius Balbus (bull) (2).jpg

    *See, e..g., https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0104:alphabetic+letter=B:entry+group=2:entry=balbus-bio-11 (William Smith. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, entry for Balbus: "The annexed coin of L. Thorius Balbus contains on the obverse the head of Juno Sospita, whose worship was of great antiquity at Lanuvium, with the letters I. S. M. R. (that is, Junonis Sospitae magnae reginae)." See also the dictionary of Latin inscriptions at https://www.trismegistos.org/abb/abbreflist.php?combin_id=66298 (same meaning given).

    Roman Republic, L. Procilius L.f., AR Denarius, 80 BCE. Obv. Laureate head of Jupiter R., S C behind/ Rev. Juno Sospita advancing R., wearing Etruscan shoes turned up at the toe, holding figure-eight shield [prob. an allusion to the mythological Shield of the Salii priests, or ancilia] in left hand and hurling spear with right hand; snake before; behind, L. PROCILI/F downwards. RSC I Procilia 1 (ill.), Crawford 379/1, Sydenham 771, Sear RCV I 306 (ill.), Harlan, RRM I Ch. 4 at pp. 19-22 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (2012)], BMCRR Rome 3147. 19.5 mm., 3.6 g. (Purchased from Harlan J. Berk, Ltd. at NYINC Jan. 2020.)*

    COMBINED Procilius Juno Sospita standing.jpg

    *See Crawford at p.396, stating that the moneyer, Lucius Procilius son of Lucius, “is presumably to be identified with the Senator attested in 56 [citing Cicero] and with the man later condemned for misconduct in that year [also citing Cicero].” The reverse type “doubtless portrays the cult statue of Juno Sospita” (id., citing Cicero, De Natura Deorum 1.82), and her presence on the coin “reveals the moneyer’s Lanuvine origin” (id.). The serpent does so as well; its presence “alludes to a sacred ritual performed at Lanuvium.” Harlan, RRM 1, Ch. 4 at p. 20.

    Regarding the type of shield held by Juno Sospita and its connection to the ancilia, that connection is supported by David R. Sear, whose online “Glossary of Frequently Encountered Terms in Roman Coin Descriptions” (also found in each volume of the Millennium Edition of Roman Coin Values) states as follows: "Ancile a shield of distinctive form (narrow central section of oval shape with broad curving extensions at top and bottom). It was a particular attribute of Juno Sospita and was associated with the Salian priesthood of Mars." See https://www.davidrsear.com/academy/roman_glossary.html#Ancile. See also the discussion of the ancile at https://www.romanumismatics.com/historicarticles?view=article&article_id=509, with a photo of an example of an Augustus denarius (RIC 343) depicting two ancilia on the reverse.

    Roman Republic, L. Procilius L.f., AR Serrate Denarius, 80 BCE. Obv. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goatskin headdress; behind, S•C downwards / Juno Sospita wearing goatskin headdress, standing in biga right with galloping horses, holding figure-eight style shield [prob. an allusion to the mythological Shield of the Salii priests, or ancilia] in left hand and brandishing spear in right hand; coiled serpent below horses; in exergue, L•PROCILI•F. Crawford 379/2, RSC I Procilia 2 (ill.), Sear RCV I 307 (ill.), BMCRR Rome 3150, Sydenham 772, Harlan, RRM I Ch. 4 at pp. 19-22 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (2012)]. 20.05 mm., 3.97 g. (Purchased from Marc Breitsprecher, Oct. 2020.)*

    L. Procilius (Juno Sospita - Juno Sospita in biga) jpg version.jpg

    *See footnote to previous coin re identity of moneyer, significance of Juno Sospita, and type of shield she holds.

    Roman Republic, L. Papius, AR Serrate Denarius, 79 BCE. Obv. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat skin; control-symbol of lyre behind/ Rev. Gryphon prancing right, control-symbol of lyre-key below, L. PAPI in exergue. Crawford 384/1 (see also Crawford Vol. II Plate LXVII, control-symbol 127 & p. 788), RSC I Papia 1, Sear RCV I 311 (ill.), Harlan, RRM I Ch. 7 at pp. 32-35, BMCRR Rome 2977-3095 [control-symbol pair not in BMCRR]. 19 mm., 3.79 g., 9 h.

    L. Papius - Juno Sospita & Gryphon, jpg version.jpg

    Roman Republic, L. Roscius Fabatus, AR Serrate Denarius, 64 BCE, Rome Mint. Obv. Head of Juno Sospita right, wearing goat's skin, control-symbol to left, [L.] ROSCI in exergue/ Rev. Maiden standing right with basket over shoulder, feeding serpent erect before her, control-symbol to left, FABATI in exergue. RSC I Roscia 3, Crawford 412/1 (see also Crawford Vol. II Plate LXVIII, control-symbol pair 106* & pp. 790-792), Sear RCV I 363 (ill.), Harlan, RRM II Ch. 3 at pp. 21-27, BMCRR Rome 3507 (control-symbol pair 106). 16mm, 3.93g., 3h. (Depicts annual ceremony at Juno Sospita festival in Lanuvium, in grotto under temple; see RSC I at p. 85.)
    Roscius Fabatus denarius 59 BC - jpg version.jpg

    * Flaming oil lamps/candle-holders (not identified as such in BMCRR or Crawford).
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Cool! That one even has an R for Ryro above the bull!!

    Thank you for all your insightful comments and for sharing your example of the OP coin plus numerous Juno Sospita coins. I wonder if these experts are splitting hairs when it comes to the various epithets of Juno. Juno Sospita simply means "Juno the Savior," whereas the etymology of Juno Caprotina is unknown and its translation is speculative. @Jochen1 suggests it means "Juno wearing a goat's skin." In any event, the title is clearly related to wild figs (caprificus) or she-goats (capra), each of which are symbols of fertility, as is befitting a fertility goddess (consider too, her role in childbirth as Juno Lucina). Since the coins are not inscribed with any inscriptions identifying the goddess, it all comes down to semiotics and interpretation of the iconography. I doubt if the Pew or Gallup organizations, if conducting a poll in ancient times, would have found universal agreement among the Roman population as to which coins depict which aspect of the goddess.

    I have an example of the serrate denarius issued by L. Roscius Fabatus, too. It has the control mark combination of sack and column(?) on the obverse and sella (?) on the reverse like this one in the British Museum.

    L Roscius Fabatus Juno Sospita denarius MB.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
  7. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    As @DonnaML's note highlights there could be implications for the RR market - so I will hope that you find many exciting new Faustina's in the coming weeks and suggest that coins of ancient India are also quite interesting, and we don't see enough of those on CT....
    C Rennius Goat biga.jpg
    C. Renius, AR Denarius, 138 BC
    Obv: Head of Roma with winged helmet right; behind, mark of value X
    Rev: C. RENI / ROMA Juno in biga of goats right, wearing diadem and holding sceptre, reins and whip
    Ref: Cr. 231/1
  8. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I suspect you're correct that your "average viewer" back then may not have distinguished that precisely among all the various aspects of Juno. Although Lanuvium was so strongly associated with the worship of Juno Sospita in particular, from everything I've read -- what with the famous grotto and its annual ceremony involving maidens and snakes, etc. -- that it very much surprised me to read that Juno Caprotina was that city's tutelary goddess. I'm curious about the source of that information. If true, that would suggest to me that the two were essentially one and the same. After all, how many different goat-related aspects can one goddess have, especially in the same place, no matter how hard-working she is?
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  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I wanted this type for quite a while before this one came up in a 2020 FSR sale making it one of my last coins before the Covid shutdown. I was able to get it because the centering and edge chunk impairs the goat horns which is, after all, the whole point here. Can a coin be EF and not as nice as most F-VF examples? These tend to be poorly struck on small flans. It hurts when the interesting types were paired with the careless attitude at the mint. I was put on the track seeking one of these when it was posted here on CT by TIF. The point of interest is that this was among the first RR designs that referred to the moneyer's family rather than just using the standard horses reverses. Many of us (certainly me) can live without a complete set of RR denarii with horse drawn chariots but feel the need for those types that went on to explore new design possibilities.

    Is it time for us to expect Michelle Pfeiffer (or her stunt double) to make a sequel using Python Power?
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  10. eparch

    eparch Well-Known Member

    I am yet to find one which is complete. I chose mine because I liked the goats' luxurient coat , but would have liked better horns and more of Juno.

  11. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    Nice coin and write-up!

    This has been one of my first Roman Republican denarii. I still very much like it, although it is missing most of the second goat's head and a considerable piece of Juno:
    Römische Republik – RRC 231:1, Denar, Renius, Ziegenbiga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: Gaius Renius, AR denarius, 138 BC, Rome mint. Obv: helmeted head of Roma r.; behind, X. Rev: Juno in biga of goats r., wearing diadem and holding sceptre and reins in l. hand and whip in r. hand; below, C. REN; in exergue, ROM[A]. 16mm, 3.41g. Ref: RRC 231/1.

    That's a movie I'd actually like to watch!
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2021
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