Pietas in Action

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by arnoldoe, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member

    A new coin arrived a few days ago.. a denarius issued by Marcus Herennius in 108-107 BC..

    The obverse of the coin depicts the personification of Pietas.. Pietas which Cicero described as the virtue "which admonishes us to do our duty to our country or our parents or other blood relations." The man who possessed pietas "performed all his duties towards the deity and his fellow human beings fully and in every respect,"

    The reverse of the coin is an act of "Pietas in Action" depicting one of the Catanaean brothers rescuing his father from a volcanic eruption of Mt Etna.

    Here is the story of describing how the Catanaean brothers saved their parents... written by an unknown author. Probably before the eruption of Vesuvius, as the author stated volcanic activity is extinct in the region...

    "Once Aetna burst open its caverns and glowed white-hot: as though its deep-pent furnaces were shattered, a vast wave of fire gushed forth afar upborne by the heat of the lava-stone, just as when the ether lightens under the fury of Jupiter and plagues the bright sky with murky gloom. Corn-crops in the fields and acres soft-waving under cultivation were ablaze with their lords. Forests and hills gleamed red. Scarce yet can they believe the foe has struck camp; yet they were quaking and he had already passed the gates of the neighbouring city. Then every man strives to save his goods with such courage and strength as avails him to snatch at them. One groans beneath a burden of gold; another collects his arms and piles them again about his foolish neck; another, faint under what he has seized, has his flight hindered by his poems! Here the poverty-stricken man hastens nimbly beneath the lightest of loads: everyone makes for safety with what he held dear upon his shoulders. But his spoil did not follow each owner safe to the end: fire devours them as they linger: it envelops the greedy ones in flame. They think they have escaped, but the fire catches them: it consumes its prisoners' booty: and the conflagration feeds itself, set on sparing none or only the dutiful. Two noble sons, Amphinomus and his brother, gallantly facing an equal task, when fire now roared in homes hard by, saw how their lame father and their mother had sunk down (alas!) in the weariness of age upon the threshold. Forbear, ye avaricious throng, to lift the spoils ye love! For them a mother and a father are the only wealth: this is the spoil they will snatch from the burning. They hasten to escape through the heart of the fire, which grants safe-conduct unasked. O sense of loving duty, greatest of all goods, justly deemed the surest salvation for man among the virtues! The flames held it shame to touch those duteous youths and retired wherever they turned their steps. Blessed is that day: guiltless is that land. Cruel burnings reign to right and left. Flames slant aside as Amphinomus rushes among them and with him his brother in triumph: both hold out safely under the burden which affection laid on them. There — round the couple — the greedy fire restrains itself. Unhurt they go free at last, taking with them their gods in safety. To them the lays of bards do homage: to them under an illustrious name has Ditis allotted a place apart. No mean destiny touches the sacred youths: their lot is a dwelling free from care, and the rightful rewards of the faithful."
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  3. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

  4. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    What a gorgeous coin! Yours is from some of the more artistic dies for the type and the toning is lovely :)

    Thanks for the Aetna excerpt-- I hadn't read it before and was happy to learn that the brothers also saved their mother. Figures that they only deemed the father's rescue worth depicting on the coin :mad::D
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  5. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    The reverse might suggest that he was rescuing his mother.
  6. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..that figure looks like a woman being carried to me..
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  7. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Gorgeous coin! The Stoecklin family sure had a taste for fine coins, no?

    I agree the figure being carried on the reverse is possibly (probably?) a woman.

    Here's a dupondius depicting Pietas, which various numismatists have postulated is a depiction of Livia, Vipsania, and even the disgraced Livilla:

    Vipsania dupondius.jpg
    Tiberius, AD 14-37
    Roman orichalcum dupondius, 14.32 gm, 29.15 mm, 1 h
    Rome, AD 22/23
    Obv: PIETAS, veiled, diademed and draped bust of Pietas, right
    Refs: RIC Tiberius 43; BMCRE Tiberius 98; CBN Tiberius 74; Cohen 1; Sear 1741.
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  8. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Maybe you're right! That looks like a long garment on the carried figure, although I suppose it could be a formal toga. Do I see breasts though, and long hair? Looks like it to me! (we'll ignore her Popeye forearm :D)

    Maybe the description needs to be changed. Off to the archives now to see if other carried figures on these denarii appear to be female :)

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  9. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    A quick tour of archives shows that on all of these coins, the carried figure is wearing a long garment. Some coins show what appear to be breasts, like Arnoldoe's coin, although we've all seen "breasts" on known male figures-- a function of overzealous engraving or limitations due to the tiny canvas cruder gravers.

    Here's a blurb about these Herennius denarii from Roma's archives:

    "There are two possible interpretations of this reverse design, each with merit. The first is that the moneyer M. Herennius, who perhaps had a connection with Sicily, chose to illustrate a local example of Piety: the brothers Amphinomus and Anapias, who are supposed to have saved their parents from an eruption of Mt Etna by carrying them from danger on their shoulders. The second interpretation reaches back to the mythological founding of Rome; Aeneas, during the fall of Troy, carried his father Anchises from the burning ruins of the city. Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city of Rome, through their descendence from him, made Aeneas progenitor of the Roman people. Long before Virgil makes reference to ‘pious Aeneas’ in his Aeneid, the Roman concept of piety was threefold; duty to the gods, to one’s homeland and to one’s family, which neatly links the reverse type with the obverse on this coin."

    If some of these coins do show a woman being carried, then it would clarify which story forms the basis for the type.
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  10. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    haha!.. you are quite the graphic artist TIF. it was a time before pants and we are prone to be bias in judgment based on our own experience & cultures. but i declare those do lQQk like bew bees to me.. could be a representation of both parents..idk..could be ole dad was a crossdresser:rolleyes:
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  11. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    it would do that..maybe. i would think it's as plain as the mammary's on the chest :)
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  12. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  13. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member

    To me i think the Aeneas interpretation seems like it may be more likely..
    The reverse is almost identical to this coin of Octavian showing Aeneas

    compared to the coins of Sextus Pompey, which were struck in Sicily (where the eruption happened) and depict both brothers..


    As as to why it may only show one brother (if the Catanean brothers interpretation is correct), the earliest known telling of the story by Lycurgus of Athens (330 BC) says that there was only one brother who saved his father.

    "Let me take an illustration. There is a story that in Sicily,—the tale, though half a legend, will, for the younger ones among you, be well worth the hearing,—a stream of fire burst forth from Etna. This stream, so the story goes, flowing over the countryside, drew near a certain city of the Sicilians. Most men, thinking of their own safety, took to flight; but one of the youths, seeing that his father, now advanced in years, could not escape and was being overtaken by the fire, lifted him up and carried him. Hindered no doubt by the additional weight of his burden, he too was overtaken. And now let us observe the mercy shown by God towards good men. For we are told that the fire spread round that spot in a ring and only those two men were saved, so that the place is still called the Place of the Pious, while those who had fled in haste, leaving their parents to their fate, were all consumed."

    Yeah, I also found out that that coin was from the Haeberlin Collection too..
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
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  14. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Well-Known Member

    OMG, TIF.....:eek::p:D:confused::shame::hilarious::nailbiting::rolleyes::joyful::jawdrop::happy::happy::happy:...!

    (Btw, fyi something's coming & if I deem it worthy I will post it!...Don't hold your breath. :smuggrin:)
  15. Bert Gedin

    Bert Gedin Well-Known Member

    I, too, would guess it was a woman being carried. Mammalian glands before me I see ?
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  16. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    your S. Pompey coin is kool.. the reverse reminds me of Indo Greek style..
  17. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Wow! Pretty cool having a provenance like that!
  18. arnoldoe

    arnoldoe Well-Known Member

    Not mine, the Sextus Pompii sold for 16,500 CHF + fees (quite a bit more than my entire collection) and the Aureus sold for 220,000 CHF.
    ominus1 likes this.
  19. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    o wow!.. ok..quite a bit out of my pocketbook too :)
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