Featured Words of the first Emperor

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Sulla80, Jun 4, 2020.

  1. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    upload_2020-6-4_21-38-38.png There was a post last year on this type of anchor and dolphin from Domitian by @Orfew that included a reference to an interesting blog (Hazelton Collection) on related, and more rare, coins of Domitian. While my coin is not a Flavian rarity (C2 in RIC II), is a type referenced by Domitian. It is from Titus in the year that the Colosseum opened, AD 80, that connects ancient Rome and the modern world.

    The reverse of this coin is a visual reference to the adage and oxymoron, "festina lente" or "make haste slowly". For centuries, publishers have reused this symbol, which, apparently, is just as applicable to making good books as it is to a successful Roman military and government.
    Titus Dolphin Anchor 80.jpg
    Titus, AD 79-81, AR denarius, Rome, AD 80 (1-Jan to 30-Jun 80)
    Obv: IMP TITVS CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M, laureate head of Titus right
    Rev: TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P, dolphin coiled around anchor
    Ref: RIC 112
    Note: a much prettier version of this coin from @David Atherton

    This symbol of "dolphin coiled around anchor", representing the adage can be found in various forms on many books:
    upload_2020-6-4_20-19-51.png from Doubleday 20th Century
    upload_2020-6-4_20-20-0.png from Dent in the Everyman series, 20th Century
    upload_2020-6-4_20-20-10.png from Pickering, 19th Century
    upload_2020-6-4_20-20-25.png The oldest, a printers mark from Aldus Manutius, AD 1449-1515, Venetian publisher during the Renaissance. Erasmus, writes of Aldus, his publisher: "Aldus, making haste slowly, has acquired as much gold as he has reputation, and richly deserves both." In his long essay on "Festina lente", Erasmus writes of the links to Emperors Augustus and Titus.


    "Augustus was so greatly delighted with this saying — as Aulus Gellius relates in the eleventh chapter of the tenth book of his Attic Nights (whom Macrobius follows in the sixth book of his Saturnalia) — that he not only used it very often in his daily conversation, but also frequently inserted it into the language of his official letters, advising by these two words that his ministers in carrying out their duties should employ both the dispatch of efficient business, and the slowness of careful reflection."
    - Erasmus Adagia II.1.1 (translated in English)

    "From the ancient coins minted by Titus Vespasian we can easily gather that this same proverb pleased him, too. Aldus Manutius showed me a specimen, a silver piece of old and clearly Roman workmanship, which he said was sent to him as a gift by the Venetian nobleman Pietro Bembo, who honored the youthful Aldus as an example of the foremost students and diligent investigators of literary antiquities in his time."
    - Erasmus Adagia II.1.8 (translated in English)

    This coin is a visual reminder of advice from the first emperor, a marker from the opening of the Colosseum, an inspiration to book publishers - and many others that I have omitted, and a 3g token of the long lasting influence of the Roman empire.

    As always, comment, correction and additional references are appreciated. Post your coins of dolphins with anchors, coins of Titus, or anything else you find interesting or entertaining.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I was of the opinion that the type was part of the series issued following the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius honoring several of the gods by showing symbols related to them. This was Neptune. My example is for Domitian shortly after Titus died.
    PeteB, eparch, Johndakerftw and 10 others like this.
  4. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    More recent scholarship ties the pulvinar series to the religious ceremonies for the opening games of the Colosseum. Which may explain why the series was struck by Domitian as well (he finished the top level of the structure).
    Sulla80 likes this.
  5. Voulgaroktonou

    Voulgaroktonou Well-Known Member

    What a coincidence! Last night I was reading Roberto Weiss' The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity (Oxford, Blackwell, 1969), and specifically, his chapter 12: "The Study of Ancient Numismatics". On p. 169, he mentions numerous prelates who were passionate coin collectors and specifically notes how Bembo "presented the great printer Aldus with a gold coin" of Titus with the dolphin motif, which Aldus adopted as his own printer's mark. Whether it was gold or silver, it certainly impressed the printer!
    Orfew and Sulla80 like this.
  6. Sulla80

    Sulla80 one coin at a time Supporter

    @dougsmit, a beautiful coin - as with the one of @David Atherton I am happy to see and could only be happier to own:). Also worth noting that the dolphin/anchor association with "festina lente" is likely an invention of the Renaissance and the image certainly pre-dates Augustus e.g. this mosaic from Delos:

    The eruption of Vesuvius also important context for the time (and I don't know enough to weigh in on how direct the link to the issue of these coins), here's a relevant quote from one article I read:

    "In AD 80, the year in which Titus' Colosseum coin type was produced, a series of 'pulvinaria type' coins was struck, which depicted couches of the gods. It was generally assumed in the past that the couches were voted by the Senate and the coins issued in the wake of the disastrous eruption of Vesuvius and the fire which damaged much of Rome (Suet., Titus 8; Dio 66.24.2; Aur. Vict., De Caes. 9), but Dámsky has suggested instead that the couches were voted and the coin types issued in conjunction with the inaugural games of the Colosseum."
    - ELKINS, N. (2004). Locating the Imperial Box in the Flavian Amphitheatre: The Numismatic Evidence. The Numismatic Chronicle (1966-), 164, 147-157​

    I have been so far unsuccessful in getting a copy of the 1995 SNG article referenced above: B. Damsky "The throne and curule chair types of Titus and Domitian" SNR 74 1995. Edit: found here

    In reading about these coins, "pulvinar" was a new word/concept for me; the neurobiology reference didn't help: the the largest nucleus in the thalamus whose function is related to the visual system. In the Colosseum context: the box seats (or couch) where the images of the gods and deified emperors were placed to see circuses and spectacles. In the Circus Maximus, Augustus enjoyed the view from the "pulvinar" (Seutonius Aug. 45.1).

    Glad it was timely information and thanks for sharing the reference.
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
  7. ab initio

    ab initio Well-Known Member

    I have been collecting those in silver and gold for the last 50 years. The reverse had to be perfectly centered, the obverse did not matter. The idea was to make a display of jewellery with them as the subject. At some point, fairly recently, I changed my mind, feeling it would be both a shame and a sacrilege. So the silver is up for sale -watch out for it in "Solidus". There are no reserves set by myself. The auctioneers will make sure everything sells. Provenances are from US and European auctions from the 1970's to the 2010's with very few exceptions where the coins were bought from the stock of a dealer at a show. I hope they will all go to good homes and not to ...jewellery! The few gold pieces I will keep for the time being. They are lovely to look at and handle.
    Sulla80 likes this.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page