Featured This Coin Depicts a Long-Lost but Infamous Statue in the Forum

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    This is one of my favorite coins because its reverse depicts a famous statue that has been lost to us over the centuries.

    Tranquillina Deultum.jpg

    Tranquillina AD 241-244
    Roman provincial Æ 24.1 mm, 8.06 g
    Thrace, Deultum, AD 241-244
    Obv: SAB TRANQVILLINA AVG, diademed and draped bust, right
    Rev: COL FL PAC DEVLT, Marsyas as Silenus facing right, carrying wine skin over left shoulder and raising right arm
    Refs: Moushmov 3757; Youroukova 425, 4/II; cf. SNG Cop 549

    The statue of Marsyas in the Roman Forum came to symbolize the city's libertas and was associated as well with the notion of abundance and fruitfulness (ubertas). It is only known to us on coins and on the plutei of Trajan, two marble reliefs discovered in 1872 and which now are sheltered inside the Curia. They date from the time of Hadrian.

    One of them commemorates Trajan's program of food relief (alimenta) for children of the poor; the other depicts the burning of records (syngraphae, written acknowledgments of debt) from the Tabularium in a remission of tax debt, probably by Hadrian in AD 118, who remitted nine hundred million sesterces owed the State (although after the conquest of Dacia, Trajan also forgave debt, cf. Pliny the Younger, Panegyric, XXXVII.1ff). Both of the reliefs were found in an area of the Forum Romanum thought to be the location of the statue of Marsyas and the fig tree and both depict a statue of Marsyas beside a fig tree (the Ficus Ruminalis) each on pedestals. The plutei also depict several identifiable buildings in the Forum. For this reason, the figure of Marsyas on a pedestal depicted in the bas relief is thought to be an accurate representation of the now-lost statue in the Forum.

    Marsyas is the figure under the fig tree carrying the wine skin over his left shoulder depicted at the far left of the bas relief commemorating Trajan's food relief program:

    Plutei Trajani Right.JPG

    He is placed on the far right, under a fig tree and carrying a wine-skin, in the bas relief commemorating Hadrian's (or possibly Trajan's) remission of taxes:

    Plutei Trajani Left.JPG

    I'll show the coin and the statue of Marsyas as depicted in the plutei of Trajan side-by-side for comparison:

    Marsyas statue and coin comparison.JPG

    Imagine the statue with a raised right arm and the similarity is striking. The coin almost certainly depicts the statue in the Forum.

    The statue in the Forum depicted Marsyus as Silenus (the companion and tutor to the wine-god, Dionysus/Bacchus) nude, with his right hand raised to signify the freedom of the state (as fitting a devotee of Bacchus, Liber, the god of liberty) and his left hand grasping a full wine skin over his left shoulder.

    Augustus was scandalized that his daughter Julia sold her favors at the statue of Marsyas during her nocturnal revels (Seneca, On Benefits, VI.32) and deplored the fact that she once had placed a wreath of flowers on the statue (Pliny, XXI.9). The statue was known to have been a place to procure prostitutes, as well as being a meeting place for lawyers (Martial, Epigrams, II.64). I'll let @Sallent think about that for a minute. It even may have been considered sacred, as someone who stole its chaplet was put in chains (Pliny, XXI.8).

    Associated by Pausanias with Silenus, who actually calls him by that name, the Marsyas of the Forum--and thus of this coin--is better understood to be that figure rather than the flayed satyr of myth.

    As always, please feel free to post any coins you feel are relevant. Thanks for reading!
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    On a related note, @Mikey Zee has a denarius depicting a less flattering and obviously more drunken Silenus/Marsyas of Lucius Marcius Censorinus, which he discusses here. I wonder if this is a play on words between his nomen, Marcius, and Marsyas.
    Okidoki, gregarious and Andres2 like this.
  4. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum

    Interesting write up @Roman Collector
    L Censorinus a.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: Laureate head of Apollo right
    REVERSE: L CENSOR, the satyr, Marsyas, standing left with wineskin over shoulder; behind him, column surmounted by draped figure (Minerva?)
    Rome 82 BC
    3.66g, 17mm
    Cr363/1d, Marcia 24
  5. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Here's my provincial AE of Elagabalus from Berytus (modern Beirut, Lebanon), with a reverse featuring Marsyas standing in a temple:
    Elagabalus Berytos.jpg
  6. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago

    Wonderful coin !! Terrific write-up!!!

    That seems plausible, considering the Roman love of word-play.

    Since you have listed my link and Bing just posted that particular coin....I'll throw in Trajan's column and a Republican depicting a stylized version of a famous painting:

    trajan denarius and column.JPG trajan column denarius reverse.JPG rr Plautius Plancus Medusa painting JC.jpg

    "This reverse was inspired by a specific ancient work of art, the painting "Victoria quadrigam in sublime rapiens" by Nicomachus of Thebes. This famous Greek work is believed to have been the personal property of Plautius Plancus at the time he commissioned the dies for this issue, to celebrate the victories of Julius Caesar in 48 and 47 BC."
    Dafydd, Carthago, Okidoki and 23 others like this.
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter in hoc signo vinces

    Thanks for the history lesson, I was unaware of that deity.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  8. Alegandron

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

    WOW, nice History and info! Thank you.

    I have NONE of Marsyas!

    I Do have a Tranquillina... but she is with Hermes.


    And, I only have one coin depicting LIBER / Bacchus:

    RR Porcius Cato AR Quinarius 89 BC Bacchus Liber Victory seated S 248 Cr 343-2.jpg
    RR Porcius Cato AR Quinarius 89 BC Bacchus Liber Victory seated Sear 248 Craw 343/2
    Dafydd, Okidoki, Curtisimo and 17 others like this.
  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    That's an obverse die match to my coin!
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  10. Alegandron

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

    LOL, we be TWINS!
    Roman Collector likes this.
  11. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    Wonderful write-up! Very interesting Coin!
    Roman Collector likes this.
  12. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES! Supporter

    great write up and cool coin, thats awesome!

    here's a greek coin i have from lampsacus that i think shows the athena parthenos statue.


    here's a scale model in nashville TN, that's me to give an idea of scale.

    Ajax, Okidoki, Curtisimo and 20 others like this.
  13. TJC

    TJC Well-Known Member

    Cool OP coin and write up!
    @ chrsmat71: cool statue!
    Roman Collector likes this.
  14. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Fascinating type! I also didn't know that the Plautius Plancus denarius depicted a painting... very cool.

    I have a mini collection of coins depicting the Farnese Hercules, from Gordian III, Gallienus, and Maximianus:

    Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 1.38.35 PM.png
    Screen Shot 2017-07-02 at 1.39.31 PM.png
  15. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Excellent coin and great write-up!
  16. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Neat coin and excellent write-up... I really enjoyed it. The Censorinus denarius is on my list but I'd never read up much on the Forum statue itself and wasn't aware of the depiction on the plutei.

    Mine's on a rather ratty Gallienus from Alexandria Troas.

  17. Alegandron

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

    NASHVILLE PARTHENON! Lived there during the 80's. :)
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  18. Ed Snible

    Ed Snible Well-Known Member

    The coins of Alexandria Troas feature Marsyas facing either left or right, on or off a pedestal.

    1000-3-080.jpg Alexandria Troas, Time of Gallienus (cira 253-268 AD), Æ 25 6.98 g
    Obv: Turreted and draped bust of Tyche right; to left, vexillum inscribed CO/AV in two lines
    Rev: COL AVG TROA, Marsyas standing right, on pedestal, right hand raised and holding wine-skin over his shoulder.
    Agora Auctions, auction 3, January 2014, Lot 080

    The image of Marsyas seems to have been popular all over the Roman world. Was it because of the statue in the forum? The story itself is strange ... who would want the runner-up in a battle of the bands as their city emblem? Roman Berytus (modern Beirut) was the capital of Phoenicia during Roman times.

    Phoenicia, Berytus, 100 BC to Imperial Times, 1.36g, AE12
    Obv: CO-L; Marsyas
    Rev: BER; Prow
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  19. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Note how all the coins depicted in this thread have Latin--not Greek--inscriptions and were Roman colonies. I think this may be significant.
    Alegandron likes this.
  20. Valentinian

    Valentinian Supporter! Supporter

    Nice group!

    I have a Maximinus II to add to it:
    Delta in field left, SMN below
    21 mm. RIC VI Nicomedia 68, c. 311 with co-rulers Licinius and Constantine, but not issued for them at Nicomedia.
    Parthicus, Ajax, Okidoki and 11 others like this.
  21. zumbly

    zumbly Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana Supporter

    Wow, that reverse is outstanding!
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