The Olympics at Rome?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by GinoLR, Nov 15, 2021.

  1. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Néron semis.jpg
    Nero, AE semis, 17-19 mm, 4.08 g, Rome 62-68 AD. RIC I (second edition) Nero 244
    Obv.: NERO CLAV CAE AVG GER P M TR P IM, head of Nero, bare, right.
    Rev.: CERTA QV[INQ ROM] CO (Certamina quinquennalia Romae condidit). The legend begins on obv. and continues on rev.: "Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (etc.) instated in Rome the Quinquennial Competitions." / S C on the exergue, S for s(emis) in upper left field, table seen from three-quarters decorated with two gryphons confronting, I / O on side, supporting an amphora and a crown, disc resting on leg.

    There are 33 variations of this semis in the RIC, minted in Rome and in Lyons. The description of the reverse in the RIC which describes an "urn" and a "round shield" should be corrected : the vase on the table is an amphora and the oval object on the floor is not at all a shield (no smurfs in Rome at the time) but a disc. In fact, this reverse type represents most likely the ivory and gold table made by Colotes, a pupil of Phidias according to Pliny, and the disc of Iphitos inscribed with the Olympic Truce. These objects were kept in the Temple of Hera at Olympia, and are described by Pausanias (5.20.1-2):

    "There are here other offerings also: a couch of no great size and for the most part adorned with ivory; the quoit (gr. δίσκος) of Iphitus; a table on which are set out the crowns for the victors. The couch is said to have been a toy of Hippodameia. The quoit of Iphitus has inscribed upon it the truce which the Eleans proclaim at the Olympic festivals; the inscription is not written in a straight line, but the letters run in a circle round the quoit. The table is made of ivory and gold, and is the work of Colotes. Colotes is said to have been a native of Heracleia, but specialists in the history of sculpture maintain that he was a Parian, a pupil of Pasiteles, who himself was a pupil of.... (sentence abruptly stops there, the following word(s) are lost and the text is corrupted, so we don't know if the enumeration that follows is the table decoration or something else) There are figures of Hera, Zeus, the Mother of the gods, Hermes, and Apollo with Artemis."

    The Neronian games (were Neronia their official name?) are advertised by these semisses as a Roman version of the famous Greek traditional Olympic Games in Olympia. Because we are at Rome and not in Greece, the periodicity will not be 4 years but 5 years, a lustrum: hellenization of Rome, but within certain limits... Lovers of Greek culture like Nero did not like too much the traditional Roman gladiatorial fights to the death or corridas where innocent and marvellous animals were assassinated while the aficionados cheered. Nero wanted to introduce civilized sport in Rome, and organize an equivalent of the Olympics at home!

    This reverse with the Olympic table was re-edited by Trajan (without the disc). Under Hadrian the city of Elis, who traditionally organized the Olympic Games in Olympia, minted coins with this reverse too. They are very rare, most of the few known specimens have been found in Olympia itself.

    hadrien elis.jpg Athens, Numismatic Museum
    Elis Hadrian Olympia Museum.jpg Olympia, Archaeological Museum, M 876

    Please post your Neronian agonistic tables, or any other agonistic table on provincial coins: so many cities in Orient organized their own games in the 2nd and 3rd c !
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  3. savitale

    savitale Well-Known Member

    Great write up. Thanks!
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