Ops and Consus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Apr 16, 2022.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear friends of ancient Mythology!

    Ops is a very rarely depicted deity. Because my coin is too poorly preserved, I have chosen a coin from Wildwinds here.

    1st coin:
    Antoninus Pius, 138-161
    AE - Sestertius, 22.76 g, 33 mm
    Laureate head n. r.
    Rev.: OPI - AVG
    in ex. S C
    Ops enthroned l., left foot on footstool, holding long sceptre with right hand across right shoulder and pulls the fold of her robe upwards from the shoulder with the left hand; left elbow bent and resting on the throne.
    Ref.: RIC 612, pl.V, 105; C. 569; BMCR 1258; Sear 4197
    rare, VF, brown patina
    ex Roma Numismatics Auction XII, Sept. 2016.

    Finding out the true character of Ops turned out to be unexpectedly difficult. The reason was that her original meaning is obscured and that she was later connected to the Greek Rhea. I have therefore omitted all mythological references to Rhea.

    Here Ops is correctly depicted seated, as befits a chthonic deity.

    The Latin ops, opis (f.) is related to the Old Indian "apnas" = yield, belongings, and the Greek "ομπνη" = crops. It means:
    in the singular: 1. power, strength, fortune, 2. help, assistance, and in the plural: 1. means, fortune, wealth, 2. troop power, armed forces

    Ops, with full name Ops Mater (Varro), is an ancient Roman deity of the oldest religious order. Her cult is said to have been introduced into Rome under Titus Tatius, the co-king of Romulus, and to be of Sabinic origin. She is a personification of the rich abundance of harvest blessings and is therefore cultically connected with the harvest god Consus.

    This connection is, however, obscured by the fact that the ancient authors already transferred the Greek ideas of Kronos and Rhea to Ops and associated her with Saturnus. This was supported by the idea that the temple of Saturn on the Forum was dedicated to both deities. But today the inscription Opi(s) et Saturni has turned out to be a forgery.

    The affiliation of Ops and Consus is proven by the fact that Consiva, the epithet of Ops, refers to her as Consus' comrade. Even if this epiclesis does not come directly from Consus, it is derived from the Latin condere (= to store, to save). Thus it is clear that Ops does not belong to the seed god Saturnus, but to the harvest god Consus. This is also proven by the position of her two festivals in the old Roman calendar. While the feasts of Consus fall on 21 August, the end of the harvest, and 15 December, the end of threshing, they are followed by the feasts of Ops, on 25 August Opiconsivia and on 19 December Opalia, both only 4 days apart.

    A third feast day on 10 August was added to the festival calendar in 7 AD to commemorate the foundation of altars to Ceres mater and Ops augusta. The epithet augusta is only found on weight inscriptions (see below), on an inscription from Theveste in Numidia and on coins of Antoninus Pius.

    Coins of Pertinax depict her as a seated woman with ears of corn in her hand and bear the legend Opi divin(ae), probably as a designation of the harvest wealth sent by the gods, if it is understood as "divine help". These very coins have given rise to a number of forged writings with the consecration Opi divinae (Roscher).

    2nd coin:
    Pertinax, 193 AD.
    AE - Sestertius, 28.21g
    Laureate head r.
    in left and right field S - C
    Ops enthroned l., holding ears of grain in her right hand and supporting
    himself on the throne with his left hand.
    Ref.: RIC 20; Cohen 34; BMC 42; Sear 6054
    Extremely rare

    ex Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 51, Lot 341, March 2009.

    In the Roman provinces we know of only two places with the cult of Ops. Theveste, already mentioned, and Lambaesis, also in Numidia. Here, however, Ops Regina, just like Saturnus Dominus, is only the Latin name for a native Punic deity.

    The unification of Saturnus and Ops into a pair of gods, which is not founded in Roman religion but is common in literature, dates only from the time when the Roman cult experienced a complete Hellenisation, from the beginning of the 2nd Punic War. After Saturnus had been identified with Kronos, it was obvious to equate Rhea with Ops. The December festivals of Saturnus and Ops were close to each other and Rhea was also an earth goddess.

    The phrase Ops terra est (Ops is the earth) is found several times and means that Ops is called Terra because all human works are produced by the earth. Therefore Saturnus and Ops were regarded as principes dei, as heaven and earth, and Ops was also equated with other earth goddesses, especially with Bona Dea. The equation with Rhea, however, is as old as Roman literature.

    Other interpretations, such as that she, as earth, belonged to the deities of the newborn, have nothing to do with actual religious practice. Also, that Ops was the actual patron goddess of Rome, whose name was kept secret, is only a learned construction based on the mystery surrounding the worship of Ops in the Sacrarium of the Regia.

    Etymologically, Consus comes from Latin condere (= to hide, and (as in German) to conceal). He is therefore not a god of sowing, but a god who hides the harvested crops in the barns.

    Consus was an ancient Italian chthonic earth and seed god whose altar lay underground in Rome's Circus maximus and was only uncovered on his main festivals celebrated by shepherds and peasants, the Consualia, on 20 Aug (after the harvest) and 15 Dec (after the end of threshing!). On the former feast, the robbery of the Sabine women is said to have taken place (Livius); on the latter, the draught animals, horses and mules, also celebrated with the people. Their heads were wreathed and the pontifices held races in the circus, especially of mules. This is why Roman authors mistakenly equated Consus with the Greek horse god Poseidon. This is also the case with Livius, who speaks of a festival of Neptune in connection with the robbery of the Sabine women. He was even sometimes called Neptunus Equestris (Greek Poseidon Hippios).

    According to the legend, Consus was the god who gave Romulus the advice to rob the Sabine women. Therefore he was considered the god of secret plots. But this is only one of the many misinterpretations. The Roman authors have mistakenly combined the name Consus with the Latin consilium = advice (so Servius).

    The temples of Ops
    There must have been at least 3 temples of ops in Rome:

    (1) In the older times the only place of worship of the Ops was the Sacrarium of the Regia. In ancient Rome the Regia was a building on the east side of the Forum Romanum next to the temple of Vesta. It originally belonged to the property of the kings, then around 509 BC, when the monarchy was abolished, it became the seat of the Rex sacrorum, who had taken over the sacral functions of the king, and then of the Pontifex Maximus. It was thus the site of the Collegium, the assembly of the pontifices.

    According to tradition, the Regia was built under Numa Pompilius, the legendary second king of Rome. Today's remains come from a restoration in 36 BC. At that time, the Regia was a five-sided house. It burned down several times, but was always rebuilt.

    Inside was a sanctuary of Mars in which the twelve lances and shields of the Salians (from Latin salire = "to leap") were kept. In addition, the Regia also contained a sanctuary of the Ops Consivia, which was so sacred that only the pontifex and the vestal virgins were allowed to enter. In honour of the goddess, a harvest thanksgiving festival was held every year on 23 August on the Capitol. The annals of the city were also stored here.
    Square of the former Regia on the Forum, Wikipedia

    (2) Only later did the goddess receive a temple on the Capitol. It stood in the square in front of the temple of Iuppiter Optimus Maximus next to the temple of Fides. This temple was first mentioned in 186 BC as aedes in Capitolio in connection with a lightning strike (Livius). It collapsed several times and was rebuilt. According to a remark by Cicero, the statue of Scipio Africanus stood here.

    Gaius Iulius Caesar deposited the state treasure of 700 million sesterces in the Temple of Ops on the Capitol. Marcus Antonius is said to have appropriated this treasure after Caesar's death. Georg Ürodgi 1978 wanted to disprove this by purely technical considerations.

    During the secular celebrations (ludi saeculares) in 17 BC, the matronae gathered in the temple, and in 80 AD, the Arval brothers. On the walls of the temple hung civic awards to soldiers, and inside were kept the standard weights of the State, including a bronze weight with the inscription templ(um) Opis aug(ustae) (Roscher). This proves that the goddess worshipped here assumed the epithet augusta in the course of the imperial period.

    The day of inauguration fell on the feast of Opiconsivia on 25 August. It was still in use during the 4th century and was finally closed during the persecution of the pagans by the Christian emperors in the late Roman Empire.

    Remains found near the church of Sant'Omobono (along with column remains, remains of a podium and a large female marble head, probably from an acroterion) had previously been identified as parts of the Temple of the Ops. Now it is believed that they are more likely to be from the temple of Fides, as a bilingual inscription in Greek and Latin has been found next to it and parts of a contract between Asia minor and the Roman Senate - and Fides was the goddess of diplomatic relations.
    Aedes Opis in Capitolio (2) (Wikipedia)

    (3) In addition, there must have been a third temple of Ops; for Pliny, in an account of L. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus, who was elected pontifex maximus between 123 and 114 BC, writes of an aedes Opiferae. This is also evident from a note in the lists of the Fasti for 19 December: Opal(ia); feriae Opi . Opi ad Forum. Ops on the Capitol, however, was never called Opifera. Therefore this temple must have stood on the Forum.

    Ops opifera is otherwise only mentioned once again at the Volcanalia (to ward off the conflagrations) appointed by Augustus on 23 August, when sacrifices are made to her on the Forum. This is understandable because a fire is especially feared when the harvest is already stored. Afterwards, the foundation day of the older temple on the Capitol with the Opiconsivia was combined with that of the younger temple of the Ops opifera [in foro] with the Opalia.

    Nothing more is known about the festive customs for Ops. We only learn that the sacrarium of the Ops Consiva, located in the Regia, could only be entered by the vestal virgins and the pontifex maximus. Their cult was secretive and closed and had a parallel in that the altar of Consus, located at the Circus maximus, lay underground and was only uncovered at festival time. All typical characteristics for chthonic deities.

    The statement that vows were made to Ops while sitting and touching the earth, however, probably refers not to the Roman goddess but to Rhea, who was later equated with her.

    Art History:
    I have added the following illustrations (both from Wikipedia):
    (1) An image of the marble statue of Livia Drusilla as Ops, with sheaf of grain and cornucopiae, Roman, 1st century AD, now in the Louvre. Since Ops is depicted standing, it is not the old, original deity. Here it has clear echoes of Abundantia.

    (2) This is also the case with the following oil painting by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), "Abundantia", ca. 1630, today in the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, in which the putti are enjoying the fruits from the cornucopia. Under the right foot a purse. This painting is probably the preparatory study for a tapestry.

    (1) Livius, Ab urbe condita
    (2) Macrobius, Saturnalia
    (3) Cicero, de Natura deorum
    (4) Cicero, Letters to Atticus
    (5) Pliny, Naturae Historia
    (6) Sextus Pompeius Festus, On the Meaning of Words.

    (1) The Kleiner Pauly
    (2) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon, Leipzig 1770 (online too)
    (3) Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (online too)
    (4) Theodor Mommsen, Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL)
    (5) Georg Ürodgi, Caesar, Marcus Antonius and the Public Money Stored in the Temple of Ops, 1978.
    (6) Der Kleine Stowasser, Lateinisches Schulwörterbuch,1960
    (7) Gemoll, Griechisches Schul- und Handwörterbuch

    Online sources:
    (1) zeno.org
    (2) theoi.com
    (3) wildwinds.com
    (4) nabkal.de/romtag.html
    (5) Wikipedia

    Best regards
    eparch, Limes, Carl Wilmont and 23 others like this.
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  3. Dafydd

    Dafydd Supporter! Supporter

    I found this information very interesting Jochen, thank you.
    I was unaware of this deity and have learned something new.
    Your historical references are fascinating and it was particularly pleasing to see such a perfectly preserved statue. When I visit museums I am disappointed to see so many statues that have been vandalised over the past two millennium. I understand the political and theological reasons why this occurred but nevertheless it is a shame it happened.
    Your thread also made me smile as my father was Dutch and a familiar term for Grandfather in Holland is "Opi". My grandchildren call me that although they are not Dutch nor am I.
    I will have to show them your thread and explain to them that I may have some interesting ancestral roots........
  4. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Antoninus Pius (138 - 161 A.D)
    AR Denarius
    O: ANTONINVS AVG PI - VS PP TR P COS III, laureate head right.
    R: OPI AVG; Ops seated left, holding scepter and resting her head on right hand.
    Rome Mint, 140-143 A.D.
    RIC III 77, R2

    Only two specimens in Reka Devnia.


    Published on Wildwinds!
  5. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    @Dafydd I have it looked up: Opa, Opi, m. 'grandfather', shortened formation of children's language (19th c.) from Großpapa. Cf. nl. opa (1777) and apapa for Goethe's grandfather in the language of his grandchildren (c. 1820ff.).

    Best regards
  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member

    What an entertaining, thought-provoking, and educational write-up, @Jochen1! Now I need to add Ops to my pantheon of reverse types!
    Spaniard, DonnaML, Jochen1 and 2 others like this.
  7. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thank you for that informative write-up, @Jochen1 I have two of the Antoninus Pius sestertius type in my collection - both quite worn, which made attributing them a real challenge since I'd never heard of the goddess Ops before.

    I'll bet the boys in high school called her "Oops". I know I would have.:shame:

    Antoninus Pius - Sest. Ops Lot May 2020 (0 comp).jpg
    Antoninus Pius Æ Sestertius
    (140-144 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    [ANTO]NINVS AVG PIVS PP T[R P CO]S III laureate head right / [OPI] A[V]G S-C, Ops seated left, holding transverse sceptre and raising the drapery from her shoulder.
    RIC 612a; Cohen 569.
    (24.66 grams / 31 mm)
    eBay Feb. 2021
    RIC 612a; Cohen 569.
    (23.80 grams / 30 mm)
    eBay May 2020
  8. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member

    Probably the most common but not the cheapest way to add Ops to the collection is the Alexandria mint denarius of Pertinax. These seem to be more common than the Rome mint coins but were only recognized as what they are about 30 years ago.
    The Pertinax type is Reka Devnia 6 but we have no way of knowing if the six were all Rome mint, all Alexandria or a mixture. I'm not sure exactly where on the RD scale I would start using the term 'rare'. Certainly 2 is more rare than 200 but there are quite a few types not in RD which strike me as a really good sign of rarity unless they attracted the attention of people handling the hoard before the report was done. The fact that there were no coins of Pescennius Niger in the report does suggest that some may have been pilfered when the hoard was being split to the museums. That brings up a question that I doubt has an answer. The RD hoard book only illustrated coin types not listed by Cohen so it is impossible to tell if a coin was there if it was in that group. I wonder if there is any reason to believe that any of those 77 coins still exist. What is the current status of the ~81k others. Melted? Museum basement?
    Carl Wilmont, zumbly, Shea19 and 7 others like this.
  9. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    An informative and enjoyable post @Jochen1, and I am still curious to see your coin.
  10. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    What I learned from the very informative writeup is today we need more feasts!:shame:
    Jochen1 and DonnaML like this.
  11. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Antoninus Pius, RIC III, 625
  12. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Well-Known Member

    The coins from the hoard were packed in crates and taken to two museums in Bulgaria, with 68,783 coins sent to the museum of Sofia, and 12,261 to Varna, after which it was cataloged and published by Nicolas Mouchmov in 1934. Unfortunately for scholarship, more than 20,000 coins were looted and dispersed to collectors in the process, largely from the contents shipped to Varna. As far as I know, they are still in these museums. Coin Talk's own @curtislclay cautions in the 2003 reprint of Mouchmov that the Varna list contains numerous errors and omissions. These Pertinax coins are probably among these omissions.


    "Coin Hoards of the Roman Empire." Hoard Details 3406, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, https://chre.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/hoard/3406.

    "Reka Devnia Hoard." Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reka_Devnia_Hoard.
    Carl Wilmont, Spaniard and DonnaML like this.
  13. Tejas

    Tejas Well-Known Member

    I visited the temples of Oped and Khonsu today in Karnak, Egypt. The Khonsu temple was breathtaking. I guess they have nothing to do with Ops and Consus, though despite the similar names.

    Anyway, happy Eastern from Luxor!
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2022
    DonnaML likes this.
  14. curtislclay

    curtislclay Well-Known Member


    What do you mean by "that group" and "those 77 coins"?
  15. DonnaML

    DonnaML Well-Known Member

    Does anyone happen to know just how many feast days/festivals the Romans had every year? Did a week ever go by without one?
  16. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    @DonnaML I don't know how many festivals the Romans celebrated every year. There must have been a great many. But it was not the case that the whole of Rome celebrated one of these festivals, but that it was only certain, limited groups that celebrated their own festivals. The national festivals were of course limited in number, otherwise the state would have come to a standstill.

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