Featured Romulus and the first triumph

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Sep 3, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    Romulus has been depicted on coins not before Augustus. It was said that Augustus was flirting with the idea to take the name Romulus for himself. But as we know he has abstained it. Romulus indeed was the founder of the city, but as first king definitely not a good example for the Republic. Quite the opposite to it he was seen as tyrant and Cicero compared some of his adversaries like Sulla, Lepidus or Caesar with Romulus. At Horaz the mythological fratricide became the original guilt ('Erbschuld') which was responsible for the misery of the Civil War. And that was the reason why Augustus quit the adoption of the name Romulus. It was not until the Flavians when Roman mythological themes occured on coins again.

    The Coin:
    Hadrian, AD 117-138
    AR - denarius, 20mm, 3.33g
    Rome, AD 134-138
    Laureate head r.
    Romulus, bare-headed, in military cloak, walking tip-toed r., holding transverse spear in r. hand and with l. hand trophy over l. shoulder
    Ref.: RIC II, 266; C.1316; BMC 711
    nice VF
    The depiction shows Romulus with the spolia opima, he has won from the Sabine king Acron whom he has killed when he conquered the city of Caenina.

    This mythological episode is chronologically directly attached to the Rape of the Sabines. I refer to my relating article. Titus Livius (Ab urbe condita 1.10) writes:

    "The feelings of the abducted maidens were now pretty completely appeased, but not so those of their parents. They went about in mourning garb, and tried by their tearful complaints to rouse their countrymen to action. Nor did they confine their remonstrances to their own cities; they flocked from all sides to Titus Tatius, the king of the Sabines, and sent formal deputations to him, for his was the most influential name in those parts. The people of Caenina, Crustumerium, and Antemnae were the greatest sufferers; they thought Tatius and his Sabines were too slow in moving, so these three cities prepared to make war conjointly. Such, however, were the impatience and anger of the Caeninensians that even the Crustuminians and Antemnates did not display enough energy for them, so the men of Caenina made an attack upon Roma territory on their own account. Whilst they were scattered far and wide, pillaging and destroying, Romulus came upon them with an army, and after a brief encounter taught them that anger is futile without strength. He put them to a hasty flight, and following them up, killed their king and despoiled his body; then after slaying their leader took their city at the first assault. He was no less anxious to display his achievements than he had been great in performing them, so, after leading his victorious army home, he mounted to the Capitol with the spoils of his dead foe borne before him on a frame constructed for the purpose. He hung them there on an oak, which the shepherds looked upon as a sacred tree, and at the same time marked out the site for the temple of Jupiter, and addressing the god by a new title, uttered the following invocation: 'Jupiter Feretrius! these arms taken from a king, I,Romulus a king and conqueror, bring to thee, and on this domain, whose bounds I have in will and purpose traced, I dedicate a temple to receive the spolia opima which posterity following my example shall bear hither, taken from the kings and generals of our foes slain in battle.'

    Such was the origin of the first temple dedicated in Rome. And the gods decreed that though its founder did not utter idle words in declaring that posterity would thither bear their spoils, still the splendour of that offering should not be dimmed by the number of those who have rivalled his achievement. For after so many years have elapsed and so many wars been waged, only twice have the spolia opima been offered. So seldom has Fortune granted that glory to men."

    Like Trajan Hadrian too has often emphesized traditional values, perhaps to establish a good relation to the Senate. The selection of Romulus as coin depiction points rather at his role as founder of the city than at the first king of Rome. Important seems to be his deification which strengthens the Imperial Cult. But actually an equation with Numa would have been more adaequate. His juridiction and his humanization would much better match the deeds of Numa, also his stress on the ancient religion. ut this equation could not be successful because Hadrian was not counted among the 'good rulers'. The equation with Numa was transferred thereafter to Antoninus Pius.

    The figure of Romulus could be recognized decisively first on coin depictions of Hadrian. He is walking with a remarkable trippig step (tip-toeing). This step is characteristic for the Mars type with which Romulus is sharing attitude and armament. With this depiction he appears until 3rd century AD. First he occurs on a wall painting in Pompeji. There he forms the counterpart to the escape of Aeneas from Troy. These two figures therafter were found in the exedras of the Augustus Forum and as decoration of statues of the Divus Augustus Temple. According to that this depiction of Romulus seems to be known since the 1st century BC. Probably it has been equalized to the Mars type. The tip-toeing step is known less for warlike figures but adequate for the victorious Romulus. Later on both types, Mars and Romulus, merged and on the VIRTVS AVGVSTI types they are no longer distinguishable, which could be intended from the beginning.

    Spolia opima:
    Spolia opima (Lat. = 'glorious spoils') in the time of the Roman Republic was the term for the armour which was removed from a conquered enemy leader by the Roman leader in a single combat by his own hands, which afterwards was consecrated in the temple of Jupier Feretrius. In the Roman history succeeded only Romulus against Acron, Aulus Cornelius Cossus against Lars Tolumnius and Marcus Claudius Marcellus against Viridomarus (referring to Plutarch). The claim of Marcus Licinius Crassus (grandson of the famous triumvir) after his victory over the leader of the Bastarni in 29 BC to consecrate too the spolia opima was denied by Augustus, because he was not the commander-in-chief but only the general of Augustus.

    Feretrius means such as 'he who carries away (namely the spoils of war)'.

    I have added the pic of the denar of P. Cornelius Marcellinus, Crawford 439/1; Sydenham 1147 from 50 BC from CoinArchives. It reminds of the capture of Syracuse by his ancestor M. Claudius Marcellus in 121 BC. It shows the head of Claudius Marcellus with a triskeles (symbol of Sicily) behind and on the rev. Marcellus carrying the trophy to the temple of Jupiter Feretrius.

    Then I have added a pic of the French painter Jean-Baptiste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), The Triumph of Romulus over Acron, pen, brown ink, watercolor over pencil on paper, after AD 1812, now in the Louvre/Paris.

    (1) Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita (English Translation by. Rev. Canon Roberts)
    (2) Plutarch, Vitae parallelae
    (3) Michael Krumme, Römische Sagen in der antiken Münzprägung, 1995
    (4) Benjamin Hederich, Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon,
    (5) Der kleine Pauly
    (6) Wikipedia

    Best regards
    galba68, eparch, Factor and 24 others like this.
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  3. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    Great report! Thanks. You illuminated a series of icons that I for one knew nothing about. So, I appreciate the insightful lesson.
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