Featured The white sow of Lavinium

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Jochen1, Sep 17, 2019.

  1. Jochen1

    Jochen1 Well-Known Member

    Dear Friends of ancient mythology!

    Here I have a Republican coin I want to present together with its mythological background. It is one of my most beautiful Republican coins and I'm a bit proud to have it in my collection.

    The Coin:
    It is a denarius of the mintmaster C. Sulpicius C. f. Gala of the gens Sulpicia.
    AR - denarius, 20mm, 3.67g
    Rome, 106 BC
    Obv.: Conjugate heads of the Di Penates, laureate, l.
    D.P.P. before (abbreviation of Di Penates Publici)
    Rev.: Two male figures standing vis-a-vis, both holding spears, the right one points
    with r. hand to a sow, laying between them to left.
    above N (control mark)
    in ex. C.SVLPICI.C.F
    Ref.: Crawford 312/1; Sydenham 572; Sulpicia 1
    rare, EF
    The scene of the rev. is often called an oath scene. But the depiction of a Fetial sacrifice at an oath scene is not much likely because the victim animal was always killed with a silex sacrum (a sacrificing key made of stone), and this is not seen here.

    With the rev. scene we are in the group of myths around Aeneas. These are not Greek but Roman myths. The Di Penates Publici already belongs to Aeneas. He has taken them together with the Palladium from Troy to Italy. The rev. is referring to this.

    When Aeneas fled from Troy Helenus, a son of Priamos, has predicted Aeneas, that he would built a new city where a white sow would cast 30 piglets. Another forecast was, that they would find a new home where they eat their tables.

    When Aeneas and his Troyans came to the coast of Latium after a long odyssee from Carthage, they hungry set down at the beach and began to eat. In this moment Ascanius, the joung son of Aeneas, mentioned that they eat their tables, for they have put their food on leafs of wild parsley or hard bread. So the first prophecy was fulfilled: here was the place to settle down. Aeneas prepared to sacrifice a pregnant white sow he has brought in his ship for this purpose, but the sow escaped and fled 24 stadiums in the inland, layed down under an oak-tree (or ilex-tree) and casted 30 white piglets. Because of that Aeneas knew that this prophecy too became true and he should built a city here. He sacrificed the 30 piglets and erected a shrine at this place. The new city he called Lavinium referring to Lavinia, daughter of king Latinus. The 30 piglets represented 30 years only after which his successors became the real owners of the new land.

    But sadly the story was not so straightforward: King Latinus gave his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas not before he was defeated by the Troyans in a war. But Lavinia already was affianced to Thurnius the king of the Rutuli. He began a war against the Latini and the Troyans but was defeated. In this war he and Latinus were killed. So Aeneas became king in Latium. The wars between the Rutuli and the Latini went on and Aeneas was killed, his body taken away by a river and so he disappeared. Ascanius became king thereafter. And he succeeded in defeating the inimical nations and the Latini now became stronger and more powerful so that they built a new city, called Alba Longa.

    Alba Longa was founded just 30 years after Lavinium and so the prophecy was fulfilled here too. The name Alba Longa is said to be derived from the white sow (meaning the long white). So Lavinium was the mothertown of Alba Longa and finely of Rome itself.

    On the Forum of Lavinium stood a bronze statue of the sow, its body was conserved by the priests in pickle. The Penate of the destroyed Troy Aeneas gave a new home in Lavinum, which was the home of the Sulpicii too, the family of the mintmaster. During republican times is was usual that the dictators and the Roman magistrates having an imperium came to Lavinium at the assumption of their office to take the oath of office in the temple of the Di Penates.

    I have attached a pic of the relief from the westside of the Ara Pacis on the Campus Martius in Rome. It shows Aeneas preparing for sacrificing the sow of Lavinium as it was prophesized in book III and VIII of Vergil's Aneide. The attendants are laureate, hold the sow and a bowl with fruits. Aeneas with veiled head is pouring a libation. He holds a spear as symbol of his power. The young Ascanius is wearing Troyan clothes and holds a herdsmen staff (Paul Zanker).

    But I don't want to conceal that there is a different interpretation of the relief too. It could be Numa and a unknown king who are sacrificing above an early peace altar to confirm the made peace. The two other figures then could be Jupiter and Dis as witnesses of the agreement.


    (1) Der kleine Pauly
    (2) Vergil, Aeneis
    (3) Cassius Dio, Rom, Vol.VI, Frg.3
    (4) Origo Gentis Romanae

    Best regards
    eparch, Pellinore, Puckles and 20 others like this.
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    These are nice coins. I just picked one of these up a couple of weeks ago.
    C. Sulpicius C.f. Galba.jpg
  4. Alegandron

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

    Very nice, @Jochen1 !

    I have two coins depicting Oath Ceremonies: one from Rome, one from the Marsic Conferation who OPPOSED Rome in the Social War... neither depict the silex sacrum.

    I betcha those pig roasts were a great party those nights!

    Roman Oath Ceremony
    RR Veturius 137 BCE AR Den Mars X Oath Scene pig S 111 Cr 234-1.jpg

    RR Veturius 137 BCE AR Den Mars X Oath Scene pig Sear 111 Cr 234-1

    Marsic Confederation Oath Ceremony

    Marsic Confederation denarius 90-88 BCE Italia Left-Corfinium Oath Ceremony over pig Sear 227 SCARCE

    Puckles, Johndakerftw, Bing and 2 others like this.
  5. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks for the writeup, Jochen.

    This A-Pi As, one of my favorite coins, depicts the white sow of Lanuvium with a few of her piglets.

    Antoninus Pius - As Pigs 103.jpg
    AE As. 11.02g, 28.6mm. Rome mint, AD 140-144. RIC 733; Cohen 450. O: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P COS III, laureate head right. R: IMPERATOR II, Sow seated by a river under an oak tree suckling three piglets, another one before her; SC in exergue.
    Ex Old Sable Collection
    Pellinore, Puckles, SeptimusT and 4 others like this.
  6. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Here’s my less nice example of the same coin @TIF @zumbly posted.


    And also a second century relief in the British Museum that hews close to the iconography on the coin:

    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  7. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Thanks, that's the nicest thing anyone's said about me all day. :D
    SeptimusT likes this.
  8. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    Hah, need to not keep two tabs open at the same time, confused myself...
    zumbly likes this.
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