Of Goats and Gods - Mn. Fonteius Denarius

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by SeptimusT, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Fonteius.png
    Mn. Fonteius
    Obverse
    : MN FONTEI C•F, laureate head of Apollo (?) right
    Reverse: Cupid (?) on goat right; above, piles; in exurgue, thyrsus; surrounded by laurel wreath and dots
    Crawford 353/1c, 20mm, 3.85g, minted at Rome in 85 BC

    I’d had my eye on one of these for a while, and when I finally saw one in good condition at the right price, I pulled the trigger. Feel free to share your own examples of this coin or other goat coins, as well as your thoughts on their symbolism.

    When I actually started researching the coin, always one of my favorite things about buying a new coin, I discovered that there was quite a bit of debate over what it actually depicts, and what the significance of it might be. The discussion below is more to organize my research than anything else, but I thought I’d go ahead and share it as well.
    ____________

    The winged child atop a goat on the reverse is identified as everything from a symbol of Vejovis, young Jupiter, Cupid, or even an infant Bacchus. The inclusion of the caps of the Dioscuri and the thyrsus of Bacchus further complicates the identification. Crawford suggests that the Dioscuri caps are a reference to the Fonteia gens’ origins in Tusculum, as it was a major site for their cult, and the same imagery appears on other Fonteia issues. The wings on the child make it seem unlikely to be Jupiter, and although the thyrsus is certainly Bacchic, I was unable to find any depictions of Bacchus as an infant from this period. The reverse remains enigmatic.

    The obverse bust is sometimes described as Vejovis, or Apollo-Vejovis. Vejovis is an obscure deity who was associated with goat statuary, but otherwise very little information on his identity or purpose is known. While this would explain the meaning of the reverse very nicely, it isn’t so simple: one article I found points out that the goat associated with Vejovis was female, while the one on the coin is male. Furthermore, the bust has a thunderbolt beneath it, but Ovid specifically says that Vejovis carries no thunderbolt. It is suggested that the attribute of the thunderbolt may be associated with syncretic worship of Apollo, as coins of this time were beginning to use deific symbols more generically, with the grain ear starting to represent abundance, rather than Ceres specifically. Crawford further argues that the monogram that appears on some varieties of the coin (not on mine) should be read as Apollo. Politically, Apollo may be associated with Marian/Cinnan moneyers, as he frequently appears on their issues, either as a reference to the troubled times of civil war, or more specifically to the plague of 87.

    Snip20180113_2.png
    Monogram on variants of the Mn. Fonteius issue; some say it represents ROMA, but Crawford believes it should be read Apollo

    Another interesting aspect of this coin is that it might be connected to Cicero. The identity of the Manius Fonteius who issued this coin is obscure, but Cicero represented a man usually identified as Marcus Fonteius, propraetor of Gallia Narbonensis, on charges of extortion and misgovernment. Notably, Cicero’s defense says that his client once served as a triumvir monetales, a moneyer. No coins are known to exist for a Marcus Fonteius, but Crawford assigns his speculative issue the number 347, and states that he may have been a brother or relative of the Manius who issued this coin. However, one author points out that the manuscripts for Cicero’s defense would have identified his client only as M. Fonteius, and that it would have been a small and relatively common error for Mn. Fonteius to be corrupted into M. Fonteius. Therefore, it is possible that the Manius Fonteius who issued this coin was Cicero’s client, and that there was no moneyer called Marcus Fonteius. At any rate, the family must have changed their political allegiance at some point: Cicero’s client would have been part of the Cinnan government when he was a moneyer, but he survived and thrived after Sulla’s victory as well.

    This coin is a good example of the tenuousness of numismatic iconography, and of ancient art in general, in the absence of inscriptional evidence.

    Sources:
    Crawford’s Roman Republican Coins
    Political Propaganda on Roman Republican Coins: Circa 92-82 B.C., by T.T. Luce, published in American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 72, No. 1
    Pro Mn. Fonteio C.f., by Mark Passehl, published in the Journal of Ancient Numismatics, Volume 1, issue 2
     
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Better than my example, congrats.

    [​IMG]
    MN FONTEIUS CF (85 B.C.)
    AR Denarius
    O: Laureate head of Apollo Vejovis right, M FONTEI CF behind, thunderbolt below, ROMA monogram below chin.
    R: Infant Genius riding goat right, caps of the Dioscuri above, filleted thyrsos below.
    Rome
    4g
    20mm
    Cr353/1a
     
  4. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    Nice coin! This is and has since I began collecting been one of my favorite types. Mine is the variety with the monogram on it. Whether it should be read as Roma or Apollo I'm undecided on personally, but neither one seems completely implausible.
    3531a19201080.JPG
     
  5. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  6. TIF

    TIF I am not an expert Supporter

    I love these goatrider coins! Lovely toning on yours, @SeptimusT.

    Sporky-- such a great coin :)
     
    red_spork and SeptimusT like this.
  7. Mike Margolis

    Mike Margolis Well-Known Member

    The Initiatory Mithraic (and other)mysteries probably would help understand the symbology on this obviously very special coin. The Dioscuri were revered and worshiped all over the world and by different wisdom streams and cultures. One of them was called Apollo by some. They were Male and female deities in Ancient Egypt. Here on this image you see where The torch lines up with the twin stars/Gemini. The staff joins the two water signs Scorpio and Pisces while the GOAT/Capricornus is on the horizontal axis across from Crab/Cancer. This lines up with the generative organs and so involves direct gestation of a new AEON= the winged baby genius on the animals back. A deeper study of how the planetary Earth nodal axis aligns with specific other planetary orbital nodal axes along the Capricorn/Cancer line reveals some interesting connections. mithras.jpg
     
    Alegandron, alde, randygeki and 3 others like this.
  8. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Nice coin, and very interesting writeup about the types.
     
    TIF likes this.
  9. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    If I were going to use a monogram of a name not usually shown in that form, I would make some effort to make it different from the standard monogram of a word often shown as a monogram. I see Roma.
    r14960bb0764.jpg
     
  10. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Now, @Mike Margolis may have hit the nail on the head, but I'd like to offer an alternative explanation.

    I don't think it's a crazy idea that the young boy riding the goat on your coin may be Jupiter. The Jupiter conjecture arises out of the possibility that the goat depicted is Amalthea. If you'll bear with me, I'd like to conjecture a bit more.

    Some mythological and astronomical background:

    Amalthea was the she-goat who nourished Zeus with milk in a cave on Mount Dicte in Crete. When the god reached maturity he created his thunder-shield (the aigis) from her hide and the cornucopiae or keras amaltheias from her crown. In classical art, the aigis-shield of Zeus is often depicted as a tasseled goat hide slung across his arm. It's also important to note that Zeus (think thunderbolts) was believed to be responsible for stormy weather; there is a connection between the goat-skin shield and such weather.

    After her death, Amaltheia was placed among the stars* as the constellation Capra (goat in Latin)--the stellar group surrounding Capella on the arm of the Auriga the Charioteer. Now, αἴξ (aix) means goat in Greek and the Greek name for the star Capella, αἴξ ὠλένιος, means goat in the elbow because that star lies in the elbow of Auriga. This term for the star as a goat appears in Aratus, Phaenomena 162-164 (Greek astronomical poem 3rd century B.C.), which begins, "The holy Goat (Aix), that, as legend tells, gave the breast to Zeus ..." (trans. Mair).

    The rising of Capella marked the onset of stormy weather for the Greeks. The word αἰγίς (aigis) means both "stormy weather" and "goat-skin" in ancient Greek, which explains the close connection between the two in myth.

    Capture.JPG

    Now, here's where I engage in conjecture. Suppose that is Amalthea on your coin. What is she doing near the Dioscuri? Remember, the Dioscuri are the twins (Gemini) Castor and Pollux. Remember that Auriga, the charioteer who holds the sacred goat Amalthea (the star Capella) in his elbow, is right next to the Dioscuri in the sky:

    Auriga and Gemini.jpg

    Now, what's that thyrsus doing in the exergue of your coin? Well, the thyrsus is the symbol of Bacchus, who is the ruler of Taurus, and Taurus lies below Gemini and Auriga in the night sky, as the above star map shows.

    So, the reverse of your coin may depict Gemini, Auriga and Taurus.

    I don't think this is too farfetched, though it's unlikely we'll ever know the true meaning of the iconography on your coin.

    ~~~

    *Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 36 (trans. Celoria): "When Rhea, fearing Kronos (Cronus), hid Zeus in the Kretan (Cretan) cavern, a goat [Amaltheia] offered her udder and gave him nourishment. By the will of Rhea a Golden Dog (Kuon Khryseos) guarded the goat. After Zeus drove out the Titanes and deprived Kronos (Cronus) of power, he changed the goat into an immortal, there is a representation of her among the stars to this day. He ordered the Golden Dog to guard this sacred spot in Krete (Crete)."
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
  11. TIF

    TIF I am not an expert Supporter

    There is an impressive level of contemplation and theorizing happening in this thread! Wow!
     
    SeptimusT and zumbly like this.
  12. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  13. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    Here's one of mine. Hard to find with a complete and fully-struck wreath. Even this one could be a bit better around 7:00. I've no thoughts on the identity of the kid on the goat, but I really doubt Crawford's assertion that the monogram stands for Apollo. To my eye it does bear a reasonable resemblance to the Roma monogram on denarii of L. Piso Frvgi five years earlier, given that there's no reason to think the engraver is the same on the two issues. Until the engraver's working notes turn up I'll go with Roma.

    Phil (60).JPG

    Phil Davis.
     
  14. TIF

    TIF I am not an expert Supporter

    CT-NotGoodEnoughForPhil.jpg
    Not good enough for Phil...

    There is medication for your condition, y'know. :D
     
  15. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    One more quick point about this issue: Crawford 353/1b, with both C.F. and the monogram before Apollo, is excessively rare and under-appreciated by collectors. I looked into this in some depth awhile back and could find no example other than the Cosa Hoard specimen cited by Crawford. My friend Pierluigi Dibarnardi recently discovered and published in Numismatic Chronicle a second specimen. It's surprising really that Crawford gave this its own sub-category, as it's pretty clearly an engraver's error, the sort of thing he typically notes in a note (so to speak.) I badly want one, if anyone has a third example lying around!
     
    red_spork likes this.
  16. red_spork

    red_spork Triumvir monetalis Supporter

    Shh. You're going to ruin my chances of finding one on the cheap telling everyone about it like that.

    Just kidding. But I am always on the lookout.
     
    Volodya likes this.
  17. alde

    alde Always Learning Supporter

    Facenating thread. Here is my example of this interesting coin.
    Denarius 85 BC Sear-27.jpg
     
  18. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    I'm very impressed by all of the thought that's gone into this! I hadn't considered astrological significance at all, and that's something I know nothing about. Definitely worthy of further research, as is this coin in general.

    The more I look at the monograms posted here, the more I see ROMA, but who knows. Regardless, I still think the identification of Apollo is reasonable over Vejovis. I looked at some of the original writings, and Ovid seems to only be speculating about what Vejovis looks like or represents. That seems to imply that he was almost completely forgotten by his time, and unlikely to have appeared on a coin from slightly earlier.
     
  19. Alegandron

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

    GOATS!

    RR Fonteius 85 BC AR Den Apollo tbolt Cupid Goat Pilei Wreath Sear 271 Craw 353-1a.jpg
    RR Fonteius 85 BC AR Den Apollo tbolt Cupid Goat Pilei Wreath Sear 271 Craw 353-1a Obv-Rev

    upload_2018-1-17_8-57-32.png
    RR AR Denarius 3.88g L Pomponius Molo 97 BCE Rome Apollo Numa Pompilius stdng Lituus alter sacrifice goat Cr 334-1 Syd 607

    upload_2018-1-17_8-58-26.png
    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

    RR Cn Plancius 55 BCE Macedonia causia Cretan Goat quiver Sear 396 Craw 432-1.jpg
    RR Cn Plancius 55 BCE Macedonia causia Cretan Goat quiver Sear 396 Craw 432-1
     
  20. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    THRACO-MACEDONIAN TRIBES.jpg
    THRACO-MACEDONIAN TRIBES, MYGDONES or KRESTONES
    AR Obol
    OBVERSE: Goat kneeling left, head reverted, solid rosette above, pellet to
    left
    REVERSE: Quadripartite incuse square
    Struck at Thrace, 480-470 BC
    .79g, 11mm
    Lorber, Goats, Issue 6; AMNG III 14
    (Aigai); HPM pl. III, 16; Traité pl. XLIX, 8; SNG ANS
    Ex-NN Auction 46
    MACEDONIA,THESSALONICA.jpg
    MACEDONIA, THESSALONICA
    AE19
    OBVERSE: Laureate head of Zeus left
    REVERSE: Two rampant goats, monogram in lower center fiekd
    Struck at Thessalonica 187-168 BC
    6.6g, 19mm
    SNG Cop 350. Moushmov 6595
    C RENIUS.jpg
    C RENIUS
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Helmeted head of Roma right, X behind
    REVERSE: Juno Capriotina in biga of goats right, C RENI below goats, ROMA in ex
    Struck at Rome 138 BC
    3.6g, 16mm
    Cr231/1, Syd 432
    aigai.jpg
    AEOLIS, AIGAI
    AE 10
    OBVERSE: Laureate head of Apollo right
    REVERSE: Head and neck of a goat, AIΓAE behind
    Struck at Aigai, 300-200BC
    .9g, 10mm
    SNG von Aulock 1593; SNG Copenhagen 1
    Ex JAZ Numismatics
    L Pompomius Molo b.jpg
    L POMPONIUS MOLO ROMAN REPUBLIC; GENS POMPONIA
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Laureate head of Apollo right; L POMPON MOLO around
    REVERSE: Numa Pompilius standing right before altar preparing to sacrifice a goat which is being held by a youth; NVMA POMPIL in exergue
    Struck at Rome 97 BC
    3.7g, 18mm
    Crawford 334/1; Pomponia 6
    CN PLANCIVS 2.jpg
    CN. PLANCIVS ROMAN REPUBLIC; GENS PLANCIAAR Denarius
    OBVERSE: CN.[PLANCIVS] AED.CVR.S.C. around Diana Planciana right, wearing petasus, earring, and necklace
    REVERSE: Cretan goat right; bow and quiver behind
    Rome 55 BC
    18mm, 3.6g
    Cr 432/1
     
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