All 2 entries tagged Apollo

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February 13, 2015

The Social Life of Images in the Social War

In the period 90-88 BC several Italian allies revolted from Roman control, objecting that they contributed resources and troops to the Roman cause while receiving little in return. The assassination of Marcus Livius Drusus, who proposed granting Italian allies Roman citizenship, in 91 BC sparked revolt. The Italians created their own confederation named Italia, with a new capital at Corfinium, which was renamed Italica (see Diodorus Siculus 37.4).

rrc_335
Roman Republican Denarius showing Apollo and Roma
(RRC 335/1). © The Trustees of the British Museum

The Italians also began to strike their own coinage, which carried a mixture of Roman and non-Roman elements. The coins were denarii, and circulated alongside Roman issues (at least, we find them buried alongside Roman denarii in hoards). Alongside Latin, Oscan was used. Some types derived from Roman coinage; one in particular demonstrates how imagery can shift and change meaning according to context, an idea explored in several other posts on this blog. In c. 96 BC the moneyers at Rome released a type showing the wreathed head of Apollo on the obverse and Roma seated on a pile of shields on the reverse, holding a sword and shield and being crowned by Victory (RRC 335/1-2).

This imagery was then adopted by the Italians during the Social War, but the head of Apollo and the figure of Roma were given a very different meaning. On one type (HN Italy 412a) the laureate head is given a necklace and accompanied by the legend ITALIA: the head has now become the personification of Italia herself. On the other issue (HN Italy 412b), the legend ITALIA is found on the reverse, suggesting that the image of Roma being crowned by Victory has transformed into a triumphant image of Italia.

hn italy 412a HN_Italy_412b
Denarius of the Italians from the Social War (HN Italy 412a). © The Trustees of the British Museum.
Denarius of the Italians from the Social War (HN Italy 412b). © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Thus during their rebellion from Roman control the Italians took existing imagery and converted it to support their cause, communciating these new meanings through the clever use and placement of legends. That the Italians felt the need to strike their own coinage demonstrates the role of money in the formulation and expression of identity. These coins and others struck by the Italians represent one of the few pieces of evidence that suggest dissatisfaction with Roman Republican control. The Romans did not take too kindly to this material manifestation of opposition: at the end of the war, it is clear that the coinage of the Italian allies was melted down and converted into Roman denarii. What is left to us today are those coins which were lost before the conclusion of the war, or those which somehow were overlooked during this process.


January 24, 2014

Sosius, Zacynthus, and the Temple of Apollo Sosianus in Rome

sosius
Coins of Sosius from Zacynthus

Gaius Sosius, one of Mark Antony's generals, provides an excellent example of the role played by individuals other than the triumvirs in the civil wars at the end of the Republic. Sosius, who was governor of Syria and Cilicia in 38 BC and assisted in placing King Herod on the throne, was a staunch supporter of Antony, and was in a position of some power at Antony's naval base at Zacynthus. We know this because between 39 BC (when the base was founded) and 32 BC, a series of coins were struck under Sosius' authority (RPC 1 1290-3).

The obverse of the first two coins carries the portrait of Antony. The reverse of issue 1 bears a Ptolemaic eagle, a reference to Antony's alliance with Cleopatra. The second issue, struck in 36 BC, names Sosius as imperator and carries a military trophy on the reverse, a reference to Sosius' victory in Judea. It is unusual that Sosius uses his coinage to advertise his own personal achievements rather than that of the triumvirs, though the portrait of Antony on the obverse underlines the fact that Sosius was acting under Antony's support and patronage.


apollo_sosianus
Temple of Apollo Sosianus

The third issue carries the head of Apollo on the obverse, and a tripod on the reverse. Sosius is named as consul designate. The imagery is identical to the pre-Roman local coinage of the island, which had a famous cult to Apollo. But after his triumph in Rome in 34 BC (for his victories in Judea), Sosius vowed to rebuild the temple of Apollo in the Campus Martius, today known as the temple of Apollo Sosianus. The declaration that a supporter of Antony was rebuilding a temple to Apollo in Rome, soon after Octavian had vowed his famous Apolline temple on the Palatine, was a powerful statement. It may be that this third issue of Sosius references his building activities in Rome, and the Roman general adopted local iconography to communicate his message. The users of the coin may have seen either a reference to the local cult of Apollo and local coinage, or a broader reference to Sosius' activities, or both.

The fourth coin, which carries a head of Neptune on the obverse and a dolphin and trident on the reverse, was struck after Sosius had fled Rome early in his consulship in 32 BC, and references his position as a commander of Antony's fleet just before Actium. Although Sosius fled the capital only a few days or weeks into his consulship, the coin still names him as consul, indicating that both he and Antony believed he still held the position.


(Coin images reproduced from Bahrfehldt, JIAN 11 (1908), pl. XIII)


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