Featured Juno Caprotina

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    Another article about a Republican coin.

    The Coin:
    Roman Republic, R. Renius, gens Renia
    AR - denarius, 3.92g, 15.33mm
    Rome, 138 BC
    Obv.: Head of Roma,wearing decorated and winged Attic helmet, r.
    X behind
    Rev.: Juno Caprotina in goats biga galloping r., holding reigns and sceptre in l. hand
    and whip in r. hand.
    beneath C.REN
    in ex. ROMA
    Ref.: Crawford 231/1; Sydenham 432; Renia 1
    VF, toned, small, struck on small flan
    Caprotina (= wearing goat's skin) is an epithet of Juno in her aspect as a fertility goddess. As Juno Caprotina she is associated with goats (Latin capra, "she-goat", caper, "he-goat") and with figs, both of which are symbolic of fertility: the fig fruit bears many seeds (and the well-known obscene meaning of fica), and goats are well-known for their randiness. Her festival was called the Nonae Caprotinae, or the "Nones of Caprotina", held on the nones or 7th day of July, and it was exclusively celebrated by women, especially slave-women.

    The Roman explanation of the Nonae Caprotina is thus: after Rome had survived a siege by the Gauls (historically in the 4th century BC), some of the less-friendly neighboring Latin tribes decided to take advantage of Rome's weakened position and demanded Roman women in marriage, under the threat of destroying the city. While the Senate debated what to do, a slave-woman named Tutela or Philotis took the matter into her own hands: with a group of other slave-women dressed as free women, she went to the amassed enemy army, and under the guise of celebrating a wedding feast, got the Latins quite drunk. After they had fallen asleep the slave-girls took their weapons, and Tutela climbed a nearby wild fig tree (Latin caproficus) and waved a torch as signal for the Romans to attack. This they did, and they succeeded in defeating their enemies, and as a reward for the resulting victory, the Senate gave each slave-woman who participated her freedom, as well as a generous dowry. After that, in remembrance of the victory, the Nonae Caprotina were celebrated. Typically were obscene mocking speeches hold by the slaves, beating with birches and throwing of stones. Fig-branches and the milky juice of the fig-tree were offered to Juno, and festivities, feasts and rites were held in the fig-grove of the Campus Martius outside of the pomerium. (Varro, De Ling. at. VI, 18, Plut. Romul. 29, Camil 33.)

    Another explanation for this festival was that it commemorated the day that Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, mysteriously vanished during a thunderstorm, after which he was believed to have been taken by the Gods and made immortal. The site of his disappearance was the Palus Caprae (or "Goat's Marsh") in the Campus Martius, a swampy basin not far from the spot where the Pantheon is nowadays. The Nonae Caprotinae were also connected with the Poplifugia (= flight of the people) of the 5th of July, traditionally said to commemorate the people's panicky flight when faced with either a) the enemy army come to seize the women, or b) the occasion of Romulus's disappearence into thin air. The actual, original meaning of the Poplifugia had been long forgotten, though it may have referred to a ritual defeat or chasing away of the neighboring Latin armies. Another connection between the Nonae Caprotinae and the Poplifugia is that it was traditional on the Nonae Caprotinae for the women to run or be chased from the Temple of Juno to the fig-grove where a feast was held.

    Goats, figs, and a fleeing populace are the common threads in these traditions; also located near the Palus Caprae (which is the name given to that area only in the legend of Romulus' disappearance) were the Aedicula Capraria, the Shrine of the Goat, and the Vicus Caprarius, a road literally named "Goat Street", which was probably named so because it led to the Aedicula Capraria. It is not known if the Aedicula Capraria was used in the festivities of the Nonae Caprotina, though that would seem likely. And yet another tradition names the invading army that frightened the populace so as being from Ficulea or Ficulnea, an ancient Sabine town whose name means "Of the Fig-Tree".

    The various and confused explanations given for the two related festivals point to both their importance and their ancient origins. Probably they are both linked to the fig-harvest, which takes place in Italy in June and July, and to Juno as a Goddess of the fig tree who ensured a bountiful crop. The milk-like juice of the fig tree connects it with fertility, both of Juno as the Mother Goddess—who was after all equated with the Greek Hera, whose spilled breast milk was said to have formed the Milky Way—and of goats themselves, who were often kept for milk. The fertility of the figs and goats brought by Juno Caprotina was probably seen as encouraging the fertility of the women, as certain of the rites of the Nonae Caprotinae compare with the Lupercalia, a festival also dedicated to fertility. The other major theme of the Poplifugia and the Nonae Caprotinae (as well as the Lupercalia) was the ritual spiritual cleansing of the city: the fig was known in ancient times as a purgative, and thus associated with the driving out of evil (as both figs and fig-branches were used in the Greek rite of the Thargelia, when Athens was symbolically cleansed), so that the people and the crops might prosper. The Flight of the People (enemy army or panicky populace) may also connect to a symbolic driving out of enemies or bad spirits.

    Juno Caprotina was usually depicted with goats, naturally enough: on our coin she rides a biga, a two "horse" chariot in this case drawn by a pair of goats; her dress flows in the wind of her speed and she holds what looks like a riding crop. On another coin, on which her portrait is stamped, she wears a head-dress made of goat-hide, with the goat's head over her own so that the horns are preserved in the back, and the lower jawline of the goat runs along her own.

    Some notes on Romulus:
    He was slain by the Senate or disappeared in the 38th year of his reign. Romulus's end, in the 38th year of his reign, was a supernatural disappearance, if he was not slain by the Senate. Plutarch (Life of Numa Pompilius) tells the legend with a note of skepticism:

    "It was the thirty-seventh year, counted from the foundation of Rome, when Romulus, then reigning, did, on the fifth day of the month of July, called the Caprotine Nones, offer a public sacrifice at the Goat's Marsh, in presence of the senate and people of Rome. Suddenly the sky was darkened, a thick cloud of storm and rain settled on the earth; the common people fled in affright, and were dispersed; and in this whirlwind Romulus disappeared, his body being never found either living or dead. A foul suspicion presently attached to the patricians, and rumors were current among the people as if that they, weary of kingly government, and exasperated of late by the imperious deportment of Romulus towards them, had plotted against his life and made him away, that so they might assume the authority and government into their own hands. This suspicion they sought to turn aside by decreeing divine honors to Romulus, as to one not dead but translated to a higher condition. And Proculus, a man of note, took oath that he saw Romulus caught up into heaven in his arms and vestments, and heard him, as he ascended, cry out that they should hereafter style him by the name of Quirinus."

    This event should have happened - according to some scientists - on the day of an eclipse. Sadly the reported dates vary very strongly! Here are some datas I have found on the web:

    (1) It took place shortly before an eclipse of the Sun that was observed at Rome on June 25, 745 BC and had a magnitude of 50.3%. Its beginning occurred at 16:38, its middle at 17:28, and its end at 18:16.

    (2) Romulus vanished in the 54th year of his life, on the Nones of Quintilis (July), on a day when the Sun was darkened. The day turned into night, which sudden darkness was believed to be an eclipse of the Sun. It occurred on July 17, 709 BC, with a magnitude of 93.7%, beginning at 5:04 and ending at 6:57. All these eclipse data have been calculated by Prof. Aurl Ponori-Thewrewk, retired director of the Planetarium of Budapest.

    Additional I have found only the pic of an Etruscian front tile showing Juno Caprotina.


    (1) Der kleine Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon
    (3) Wikipedia
    (4) http://www.thaliatook.com/OGOD/caprotina.html

    Best regards
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2019
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Nice! Here's mine:
    C RENIUS.jpg
    TIF, Chris B, Puckles and 7 others like this.
  4. Alegandron

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

    Thanks for all the info and nice coin!

    I used to see these Bigas at the County Fairs... this one is mine

    RR C Renius AR Denarius 18mm 3.8g Roma 138 BC Helmeted hd Roma r X - C RENI ROMA Juno driving biga goats r whip reins scepter Cr 231-1
    Ryro, TIF, Chris B and 7 others like this.
  5. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    As always, thanks and dankeschön for the great write-up, @Jochen1 ! I very much appreciate your effort to collect and spread background information on the mythological motifs on our coins.

    Here is my goat biga:
    Römische Republik – 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. Ex Savoca.
    Ryro, Sulla80, Johndakerftw and 2 others like this.
  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    As always, an excellent and interesting write-up. Also a very nice looking coin. Here's my C. Renius:
    C Renius Goat biga.jpg
    C. Renius, 138 BC, AR Denarius
    Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right, behind X,
    Rev: Juno Caprotina, holding whip, scepter and reins in biga of goats right, C RENI below goats, in exergue Roma
    Size: 3.60g, 17mm
    Ref: Crawford 231/1;
    Bing, Ryro and Johndakerftw like this.
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