To your health and the health of the republic!

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Dec 8, 2018.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    roma-tempio-della-concordia-al-foro-romano-temple.jpg A recent thread in CoinTalk on technology, got me thinking that maybe the ancients would be proud their descendants or even envious of our technologies - instead of laughing at us. A coin that I received a few months ago arrived with an interesting letter from Christmas 1967 and opened a door to the turbulent date in Rome, technology, medical practice in ancient Rome, and a connection to another well known denarius. This "Acilia 8" is the coin:
    Acilia Salus.jpg

    Man. Acilius Glabrio circa 49 BC AR Denarius
    Obv: SALUTIS Laureate head of Salus right
    Rev: IIIVIR VALETV M ACILIUS Salus standing left, leaning against column and holding serpent.

    This coin was minted at the beginning of the Roman Civil War that would last four years and see Julius Caesar declared “Dictator perpetuo” and then assassinated on the ides of March. Between 60 BC and 53 BC the republic had been governed by a triumvirate of Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompeius (Pompey the Great), and Marcus Licinius Crassus. When Crassus died in 53 BC in his attempt to conquer Parthia. Political tension between Pompey and Caesar grew, and the health of the republic was at risk. “IIIVIR” or triumvir refers to the office of the mint magistrate or moneyer (triumvir monetales). “M ACILIUS” Manius Acilius Glabrio was the moneyer and a supporter of Pompey.

    The coin's images could be a message of personal support to Pompey who fell ill or was recovering from illness around this time, or a broader message in support of the health of the republic. Salus was also known by other names, the reverse on this coin refers to “VALETV” for “Valetudo” (health) another Roman name for the Greek goddess Hygeia.

    Salus, was the daughter of Aesculapis, and the goddess of health. Aeskulapis (or Greek Asklepios) was the son of Apollo and the Thessalian princess Koronis. After ordering Koronis to be killed for adultery, Apollo rescued Asklepios, and put him in the care of the Centaur Chiron, who taught Asklepios healing. Asklepios had 5 daughters, Hygeia the greek goddess who aligns to the Roman Salus. His four other daughters were Panacea: universal remedy, Iaso: recuperation from illness, Aglea: glow of health, and Aceso: healing process.

    The other well known denarius that this coin is linked with is the Caesar elephant - in my example a worn fouree:
    Caesar Elephant.jpg
    Julius Caesar, circa 49 BC, AR denarius (fouree)
    Obv: Elephant advancing right, trampling horned serpent
    Rev: CAESAR in exergue / Pontifical implements: ladle (simpulum), sprinkler (aspergillum), axe (securis), and pontiff's cap (apex).

    The tools of pontifex maximus can also be seen as a message in support of the health and well being of the republic of the republic. What these two coins also have in common is a snake…and perhaps more. Michael Harlan in his book, and in this internet exchange, discusses the possibility that the elephant trampling the snake could be a media reply to the first coin. In this case the elephant, associated with Pompey supporter Mettelius, is trampling the snake, a symbol of the health of the republic. Somehow it brings to life the politics of Rome to think about Caesar calling out his rival with a denarius tweet.

    Healthcare ancient & modern
    The snake is associated with the staff of Asculapius. We can recognize the staff or rod of Asculpius in many modern contexts like this logo for the world health organization:

    Why is a snake, a symbol of evil and a deadly threat, linked to healthcare and medicine? The link has been made to Moses healing Israelites afflicted by a plague of serpents, as well as to the shedding of a snakes skin as a form of rebirth, and the snake itself as a source of healing medicine.

    The Acilia 8 arrived with a 2x2 flip insert and a letter (I’ve redacted last names and addresses for privacy). These materials tell a story not only of the coin but of previous owners of the coin and their relationship and the practice of medicine today and in ancient Rome. The receiver of the coin in 1967 was a well-respected leader in his field:

    “Many thanks for your kindness to Alessandra earlier this year. The man whom this coin commemorates Archagathos, a Greek surgeon. Pliny states that when he first opened up practice in Rome, he was called VULNERARIUS (wound surgeon) – later when the Romans got to know him better he was called CARNIFEX (butcher)! No comparison is intended – and I wish you and Agatha a Merry Christmas. Affectionate Regards, Adrian.”

    In the quote from Pliny, he tells us that Arcagathos was a doctor in 219 BC:
    "who came over from Peloponnesus, in the year of the City 535, L. Æmilius and M. Livius being consuls....from the cruelty displayed by him in cutting and searing his patients, he acquired the new name of "Carnifex"
    - Pliny the Elder, The Natural History (full context)

    Marcus Valerius Martialis, "Martial", who lived between 38 and 104 AD, writes of medicine in imperial Rome - apparently not much improved from the times of the early republic:

    "less popular physicians were sometimes compelled to take more lucrative callings to escape starvation. Martial refers to one who became an undertaker's assistant,
    Dialus, who was once a surgeon,
    Now assists an undertaker,
    Here at length he finds the office,
    To which alone his skill is suited."
    - The Practice of Medicine in Rome, William A. Scott, MD

    I am glad I wasn't a patient in ancient Rome, and that I live in a world with cell phones, pharmaceuticals, cloud computers, helicopters, genetics, and many other technologies of modern healthcare, not to mention the infinite information resources and collaboration technologies of the internet. The ancients, would probably be amazed and envious of their descendants.

    Share your Salus coins or other links between ancient coins and medicine, science, and technology.


    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
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  3. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    Elagabalus 5.jpg
    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: IMP CAES ANTONINVS AVG, radiate draped bust right
    REVERSE: SALVS ANTONINI AVG, Salus standing right, feeding serpent from patera
    Struck at Rome, 219 AD
    3.28g, 18mm
    RIC 137
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  4. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Informative and obviously well-researched post! Thanks so much!

    You might be interested in this piece I wrote about the Asklepian snake on Roman coins.

    Here's my favorite Salus!

    Maximinus I, AD 235-238.
    Roman orichalcum sestertius, 26.7 mm, 18.01 gm.
    Rome, AD 236-238.
    Obv: MAXIMINVS PIVS AVG GERM, Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust, r.
    Rev: SALVS AVGVSTI SC, Salus enthroned l., feeding snake arising from altar.
    Refs: RIC-85; BMCRE-175, Sear-8338; Cohen-92.
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  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Man. Acilius Glabrio ( 49 B.C.)
    AR Denarius
    O: SALVTIS behind, laureate head of Salus right, wearing earring and necklace; hair in knot, falling down neck.
    R: MN. ACILIVS III. VIR. VALETV, Valetudo (Salus) standing left, holding serpent, resting elbow on column.
    Sear 412; Crawford 442/1a; CRI 16; Sydenham 922
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  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Thanks @Roman Collector, your post on the Asklepian snakes is a great read, and the collection of snake coins very nice as well - the Gordian and Gallienus especially grab my attention and the Maximinus above!

    Interesting to think of snakes as healing medicine and support for the sick, or protectors of the home as in these recently uncovered Pompeii frescos:

    @Bing Great Salus on that Elagabalus!
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  7. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    Salus even had time for poor Domitian.

    D145.jpg Domitian
    AR Denarius, 3.50g
    Rome mint, 82-83 AD
    RIC 145 (R). BMC 54. RSC 412.
    Obv: IMP CAES DOMITIANVS AVG P M; Head of Domitian, laureate, bearded, r.
    Rev: SALVS AVGVST; Salus std. l., with corn ears and poppy
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  8. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

  9. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    An essential add, @ominus1. As highlighted in the title of the OP, Salus could connect the deeds of the senate/emperor to the health of the republic/empire, and be more directly linked to the personal physical well being of the emperor:

    "while under Augustus the public Salus was guaranteed by the concrete deeds of the emperor, and under Tiberius Salus became connected with the position (not the person) of the emperor, under Nero Salus depends on the mere existence of the emperor: the public Salus becomes identical with the Salus of the ruler"


    Related to the health of Nero, the Pisonian plot attempted to assassinate Nero in 65 AD and Nero's gruesome retribution as 19 were executed or committed suicide is written up nicely here:
    ominus1 likes this.
  10. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    kool info, thanks :)
  11. Cucumbor

    Cucumbor Dombes collector Supporter

    Interesting topic and writing
    My few Salus

    Livia (+ AD 29), Dupondius - Rome mint, AD 22-23 under the reign of Tiberius
    SALVS AVGVSTA, draped bust of Salus (Livia) right
    13.90 g, 27 mm,.
    Ref : RCV # 1740 (450), Cohen # 5 (6), RIC I, 47.
    Ex Auctiones.GmbH

    Hadrian, As - Rome mint, AD 126
    HADRIANUS AVGVSTVS, Laureate head of Hadrian right
    SALVS AVGVSTI COS III, Salus standing left feeding snake arising from altar. SC in field
    11.24 gr
    Ref : RCV # 3692, Cohen # 1357

    Marcus Aurelius, Dupondius - Rome mint c.AD 168-169
    M ANTONINVS TRP XXIII, Radiate head of Aurelius right
    SALVTI AVG COS III, Salus standing left, feeding a snake on an altar. S C in field
    11.19 gr
    Ref : Cohen #545, RCV #5042 var

    Gordian III, Denarius Rome mint, AD 241
    IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG, laureate and draped bust right
    SALVS AVGVSTI, Salus standing right, feeding snake
    4.4 gr
    Ref : RIC IV part III # 129a, RSC # 325, RCV # 8681

    Tetricus I, Antoninianus
    IMP TETRICVS P F AVG, Radiate and cuirassed bust right
    SALVS AVGG, Salus standing right, feeding snake
    2.60 gr
    Ref : Cohen # 153,

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  12. Alegandron

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


    RR Man Acilius Glabrio 49 BCE Salus Valetudo snake Craw 442-1a Sear 412.JPG
    RR Man Acilius Glabrio 49 BCE Salus Valetudo snake Craw 442-1a Sear 412


    RI Victorinus 269-270 CE BI Ant Gallic Empire Salus.jpg
    RI Victorinus 269-270 CE BI Ant Gallic Empire Salus

    RI Leo I 457-474 CE AE 4 10mm Salus Emp stdg hldg Globe and Standard.jpg
    RI Leo I 457-474 CE AE 4 10mm Salus Emp stdg hldg Globe and Standard

    RI Hadrian 117-138 AR Denarius Salus stdg feeding Snake.jpg
    RI Hadrian 117-138 AR Denarius Salus stdg feeding Snake

    RI Valentinian II AE 13mm Salus CHI-RHO.jpg
    RI Valentinian II CE 375-392 AE 13mm Salus CHI-RHO
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
  13. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ..that one looks suspiciously republic to me...:oldman:
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  14. Alegandron

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

    LOL, oooopppss, FIXED! You are right... I goofed with my Cut-and-Paste! Thanks for the ketch!
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  15. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    :)that's what old buddies are for..
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  16. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    Epilogue: a new arrival & not everything you read is true (I'm sure that applies to my notes too)

    One of my references above (OP) describes: "The first Roman coin to feature a personification of Salus was a denarius serratus in the Republican series struck by moneyer Roscius Fabatus in 64 BC."

    This attractive illustration, an 18th century drawing by Joseph Eckhel, shows the coin:
    At the time of writing the OP I did not yet have a coin of this type in my collection - however I had bid on one and it arrived a few days later from a sixbid linked auction.

    I generally prefer my coins unslabbed - and carefully applied my trusty hammer.
    IMG_0250.jpg Please read the fine print: removing coins from slabs will reduce the value of your coin, damage the coin, it is a crazy thing to do, don't do it, you accept all liability for even considering it, I am not recommending that you crack open your coins, coins are more valuable and look better in slabs, slabs are the greatest invention of the 20th century and have revolutionized the coin collecting world.

    Worth noting, that although there is a snake involved, this coin does not show Salus on the reverse but rather an annual ritual of Lanuvium associated with Juno Sospita, who is on the obverse. Lucius Roscius Fabatus was most likely born in Lanuvium, and the coin celebrates his home town. In the annual ritual, a virgin enters a dark cave to feed a fasting serpent. It is a test of her chastity, and if she emerges the whole town rejoices, anticipating a fruitful year. I cannot find a good description of what happens if she doesn't emerge or how frequent this unfortunate outcome might have been.
    Lucius Roscius Fabatus, AR, Denarius Serratus, circa 64 BC
    Obv: L ROSCI behind the head of Iuno Sospita right, wearing goat's skin, crocodile control mark behind
    Rev: maiden standing right, feeding serpent erect before her, scorpion control mark behind, FABATI in exergue.

    And finally a question: is the earliest appearance of Salus on a Roman republican coin the denarius of D. Silanus ~91BC? and is there any reason that you wouldn't describe the bust of Salus on this coin as an example of "personification of Salus"?
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2018
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