All entries for Monday 15 April 2013
April 15, 2013
A coin in the name of a woman (HN Italy 1258)
Before the Roman Empire, women were rarely featured on ancient coinage. Even with the arrival of an emperor and his associated empress, it took some time before women featured regularly on coins (Livia, for example, was not shown on the coinage of the first emperor Augustus). A bronze coin struck at the city of Paestum in Italy, however, proves a rare exception to this general rule.
Mineia and the city of Paestum
Coin of Paestum showing the woman Mineia M.f.
Amongst the bronze coins struck by the city of Paestum is an issue naming a female inhabitant of the city, Mineia M.f. The coin may also show her portrait (although others suggest that this is the goddess Bona Mens). From inscriptions we know that Mineia was the wife of a senator, Cocceius Flaccus, who was an officer (quaestor) under Julius Caesar, and who had an active role in the Civil Wars at the end of the Roman Republic.
After the death of her husband, Mineia sponsored a construction programme in the forum of Paestum, including the construction of a new basilica. Within the niches of this new basilica inscriptions were found honoring her dead husband and her son, who may also have predeceased her. This coin shows Mineia on one side and the basilica she sponsored on the other. The question is: did Mineia also sponsor this coinage (meaning her image was placed on it), or was the coin issue voted for her in gratitude by the city? It is impossible to know. The S C legend on the reverse of the coin, on either side of the basilica, may refer to the Senate of Paestum, and that the coinage was issued by their decree. The issue of Mineia is an example of how coins and other ancient monuments can interact, and often communicate the same message.
Interactions with Rome
As Burnett demonstrated in 2011, one of the effects of growing Roman power was a changed understanding of coinage in areas under Roman control (JRS 2011). Unlike many other ancient states, the Romans saw coinage as more than just money; coins were a medium to commemorate events and history, often highlighting the achievements of the moneyer's family (in this sense they were 'monuments in miniature'). With increased Roman power and control, this attitude to coinage spread to other regions, seen here in this example, which commemorates the activity of a female patron of Paestum. This method of using coins to highlight achievements and civic structures should be seen as a result of interaction and entanglement with Rome.
(Coin image reproduced courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group (Electronic Auction 169, Lot 5) (www.cngcoins.com))