Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coins issued by Ovinius Tertullus at Nicopolis ad Istrum: I, Earliest

I. The earliest Tertullus issues

Frontispiece.  For its place, see below.
Wishing to present these coins discursively rather than in any tabular form, concentrating on the portraits and reverse types, and to keep the digital files as simple as possible, I am relegating to the end a catalogue list, with documentation and accurate recording of the legends on the specimens used here, together with their weights and measures.  Such presentation also permits considerations and questions where conclusions would be premature.
Beginning with Auspex, and continuing with Gentianus, the obverse dies used with signed reverses at the Nicopolis mint are much more artistically pretentious than those of Marcianopolis, comparable rather in this respect with those of Philippopolis, a richer, larger, older city.  The third of the governors of Moesia Inferior as such (the governors of all Thrace signed coins  of Antonine Nicopolis) was Ovinius Tertullus, for whom we have much data but little real knowledge apart from the coins.  Though Gentianus’s primary portrait die for Nicopolis is very fine, Tertullus used only the Nicopolis mint and was the first to issue signed tetrassaria for Julia Domna; it also fell to him in AD 198 to celebrate Caracalla as Augustus and his brother Geta as Caesar.1

The primary Septimius obverse dies of Auspex and Gentianus with an early Tertullus

The Septimius portrait most closely related to those following Auspex and Gentianus
The image of the Haimos range as a rustic youth in kothornoi (but not the theatrical kind) to protect his shins, with a hunting spear, no more than a bit of drapery across his lap, in rocky terrain, with at least a bear beside him (Aurelius Gallus will give him a leaping deer as well) was not newly created, or newly adapted to coinage, at this time; Gentianus had issued one already for Septimius.
The Gentianus Haimos (photo courtesy ctr)

I am confident that Pick was right: this reverse die, if not original with the die engraver (but it is more pictorial than Pella’s), derives from a painting at Nicopolis.  Pick knew only Julia Domna’s signed by Tertullus; we now have that of Septimius to go with it.  Hereafter, through Elagabalus, Haimos reverses seem to be obligatory for every ruler for whom the Nicopolis mint was used.  It is surprising, perhaps, that Caracalla has none, so far.  The gesture that Sir Kenneth Clark intuitively called ‘passive’ and the crossed legs are body language that we are not confident in reading, but Haimos and Pella have convinced me that they are non-urbane, postures that perhaps would not pass in Theophrastus’s Athens.  Tertullus’s engraver, indeed, adds the apron and uncrosses the legs.  Note, too, the peculiarity (not unique here, however) of writing ep’ istrô rather than pros istron.  Here we may note that, particularly in the brow and nose, the unique Tertullus die for Domna is very probably by the same engraver as this one of Septimius.2
The Tertullus Haimos

Whereas Pick had only Domna’s Haimos, he had only Septimius’s Nike Driving a Quadriga.
For this issue, too, we now have both.  The portrait dies are the same (for Domna, of course, there is only one), but the termination of the ethnic in pros istron shows that the alternative of epi followed by the dative is just that.
Septimius and Domna with Nike in Quadriga

While a Tertullus coin for Domna, however, must always have this one refined and winning obverse die, and its pairing with the Gentianus-like portrait of Septimius (note also the small and careful letter forms in the legends) shows that it is early in Tertullus’s tenure, its pairing with different portrait styles for Septimius leaves the latter in need of other comparanda, even with a reverse giving  us another epi ethnic.
Domna and Septimius with Iconic Hera

With her back mantle spread out flat, with the stiff profile of her head and body, with scepter, veiled head, and patera, this curious image almost certainly is intended as Hera, but as an archaic cult image of Hera (though not so age-old as some venerable xoanon).  The legend of the reverse die—not only its preposition but its small, neatly space letters—resembles that of the Haimos reverse with which we began.
The portrait of Septimius, with a fold of his military cloak wrapped close to his neck and pinned, with his round head and vigorous expression, recalled some of the portraits used in Thrace with reverse dies signed by Statilius Barbarus, such as this one (perhaps representing Thrakia in her own landscape) of Philippopolis:
Sta. Barbarus issue for Septimius at Philippopolis

Certainly the Barbarus portraits are not identical to the Tertullus ones, but their more naturally wavy laurel ties (not as if lifted by wind or electrified) and the heavier forms of the head are more than accidentally similar, and the larger and rather emphatically mannered letter forms also are comparable with some on Tertullus coins at Nicopolis.3

More with ep’ Istrô ethnics
Before attempting to determine more closely the relationship between the tenure in office of Barbarus in Thrace and Tertullus in Moesia Inferior, we may consider the coin shown as a Frontispiece to this web page and the best preserved Tertullus Domna known to me.  Both have Tyche as a reverse, and Domna’s is Pick’s no. 1451 (Varbanov 2005, no. 2093) but it is Septimius’s Tyche that is genuinely statuesque, and it is his coin that has the most perfectly punctuated legends.  His portrait die is evidently that of the Haimos and Quadriga, above, but only the Tyche preserves both the obverse and the reverse legends completely, each slightly more conscientious than usual: AVT•KAI•L•SEPTI•  |  SEVÊROS•PER•  (a point even after the abbreviation of Pertinax) and VPA•OOVINI•TERTULL | OV•NIKOPOLI•EP•ISTRÔ (only the ‘legs’ of the omega survive, but, even when small and cramped, the points are all present).  When a Provincial coin is so well struck and so well preserved, it is tempting not to look beyond the fine portrait and the relaxed contrapposto and convincing drapery of the Tyche.  Domna’s Tyche is not quite its equal,4 but they do look like coins issued as a pair, and both use epi.  By the way, the Domna portrait seems to anticipate in all the pairs so far considered the convention of a smaller scale for the empress’s head and bust, a principle most thoroughly applied in the mosaics of their retinues for Justinian and Theodora in the choir of S. Vitale at Ravenna.  Also, the Septimius bust, in particular, helps us to make sense of the conventions used in the bust with drapery over armor, as seen from behind, on the coins of Macrinus only two decades later.  Some accident, however, has altered the expression of the eye on the Septimius portrait.
Other Tyche reverses signed by Tertullus do not occur with this Domna die and are rather different.  Here Domna’s Tyche is merely more commonplace in style.
Septimius and Domna with corresponding Tyche reverse dies

Another Domna, not known by Pick, exists in a ‘ghost’, barely VG so far as condition goes but sufficient for description.  Unlike the Tyche, which was practically unpublished as Pick 1451, the Hermes coin is not in Varbanov, Engl. edition.  For the Hermes with a Rooster (much finer than the one for Septimius and Caracalla), VPA OOVIN and EP ISTRÔ (in the exergue), together with Domna’s portrait die, guarantee the identification.  The graceful anatomy of the Hermes, also, is sufficiently preserved to distinguish it from later ones.  The design of the reverse is related to that of the Tyche.
The Tertullus Domna with a Hermes and Rooster

In this preliminary essay, I would also call attention to a River coin in another collection that has the same obverse die as the 'statuesque Tyche', the Haimos, and the Nike with Quadriga:
The River God reverse at left, by association with the obverse die most closely related to that of
Gentianus, will be the first of Tertullus's River reverses.

The Eagle with Folded Wings, regardant, holding wreath to left (Pick 1452)
The damage to Domna’s eagle, where an area of the design is lost, may have been to the die, since the shape of the eagle is shown on the Gentianus coin.  The Domna shown here preserves the reverse legend that Pick and Tacchella had to work out between them; as on the last, it has OOVINI, not just OOV; the Septimius and Domna reverse are the same die, but the Septimius portrait is not one of the above and seems to be a worn die, while this eagle reverse (not in Pick or Varbanov for Septimius) has been listed only for Domna.  The sharp and straight edge of the wing on these emphasizes the eagle’s power in flight.
Eagle Regardant: Pick 1452 for Julia, Septimius (rev. die match), Pick 1270 for Septimius, and Gentianus's as their antetype

All of the preceding seem certainly earlier than the first coins for Caracalla at Nicopolis ad Istrum as Augustus.

1. The evidence for the dating of the first three governors (apart from perhaps his brother) of Moesia Inferior can be found in Arthur Stein, Die Legaten von Moesien, Budapest, 1940, pp. 84–85, with citation of their primary publications and commentary, and, transcribed in full, in some cases with further citations in Dilyana Boteva, Lower Moesia and Thrace in the Roman Imperial System (A.D. 193–217/8), Sofia, 1997.  I follow Stein’s more cautious approach to dating, though for Tertullus the monumental inscriptions (the earliest from the summer of AD 198 and the last from AD 201; we have an inscription naming Gallus in AD 202) are quite secure.  We have more primary chronology for him than for any other governor.  For Auspex we only have the single date AD 195, and for Gentianus, for all the elegance of the coins he issued, we only can be certain that he followed Auspex and necessarily must be placed before Tertullus. 
2. Doubtless some smaller coins, especially the 3 assaria of brass, the module usually specific to empresses and Caesars, such as her Aphrodite, have a portrait extremely similar to the sole large die with reverses signed by Tertullus, and the 3 assaria for Caracalla are die-linked to it.  These (a) show Caracalla still as Caesar but not so childish as on the earliest looking coppers, and (b) should be datable either to the term in office of Gentianus or to the beginning of Tertullus’s term, before July of 198.  In a final essay in this series, I shall try to align the small coins with the larger, signed ones.
3. Boteva, op. cit., pp. 332, in fact, aligns Barbarus with Gentianus or “197/8”.  But making the terms in Thrace and Moesia Inferior always begin and end simultaneously seems a little rigid, especially for a governor who, like Gentianus, not only shared pre-existing Auspex dies but also is so apparently continuous with Tertullus and has so few dies of his own, though of the highest quality.  After all, a man might sicken or quarrel or whatever, and be suddenly out of office.  In any case, the resemblance of some Barbarus obverses, not this one alone, is more than accidentally similar to some issued by Tertullus.
4. Domna's Tyche is of the principal variety on coins of Moesia Inferior.  For the statuesque Tyche on this one of Septimius we might compare Tychai at Tomis, but this one, while just as particular, seems likely to have had a unique prototype, of artistic rather than iconographical significance.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The "Ares Borghese" and Philippopolis

The "Ares Borghese" in the Louvre (June 2002)
Statues of Ares (unlike the Roman ones of Mars) are rare.  This type is, indeed, the only one of the last third of the 5th century: that is, it is a copy, and we have only the briefest literary allusions to the type in Athens.  Pausanias saw an Ares by Alkamenes in the sanctuary of Ares in the Athenian Agora alongside an Aphrodite by a different sculptor.  Alkamenes was Pheidias's Athenian disciple, Agorakritos being Parian.  The sanctuary that Pausanias noted, and its temple, had been transported from Acharnes and carefully reconstructed there in the time of Augustus; the masons' marks for reassembling it correctly were studied when the Agora was excavated.  That fact would help to explain why this type of Ares has a helmet that is Roman, though the style of the statue is that of a very good early Imperial marble copy of a 5th-century Athenian statue.  There would be nothing remarkable in updating the god's helmet if an Athenian copyist's atelier needed to make a new one.  And the distinctive stance and bodily expression of the Ares are extremely like the "Dresden Zeus" (whether the latter be Zeus or Hades), so, I think, it is quite certain that both copy 5th-century originals by the same artist, very likely Alkamenes.
(the Dresden statue from an old photo badly scanned but my own)
We have other copies of both of these statue types, so there is no doubt that in the Empire period they were known and admired.  Presumably both were bronze, but remember that Ares' helmet and shield  and the Zeus-Hades' scepter (the Dresden statue's forearms are restored) could have been of other materials.  There is no possibility, I think, that either or both of them were classicizing, imitative creations of the early Roman Empire.  Both have, by the way, more than one 'good' view:
(Consider, too, that the Dresden statues were in a basement gallery)
A cast-gallery photo shows how radically different a late Polykleitan stance and these actually are:
Bonn, Akad. Kunstmuseum cast collection; the Attic statue does not use the "walking pose"
Finally, let us notice that ankle band which so exercised scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries; they took it as a mark of enslavement and wanted to prove which enslavement it pertained to.  Accustomed to macho bangles of all sorts, I have never regarded it as anything else, and it is not as if we had other statuary types of Ares to compare it with.  At least one of the die engravers at Philippopolis in Thrace, in any case, rendered it very carefully, leaving no doubt (as if the pose left much) that it is this Ares type that is shown from Hadrian to Elagabalus on their bronze coins.
There is no possibility of proofs here, but we may summarize that the "Ares Borghese" may be an Augustan version of the Greek war god who, nude and hardly armed, was quite different from Roman Mars, including the equally Augustan Mars Ultor, who is understood to have worn "anatomical" armor.  This Ares, perhaps (if the association in the Agora temple is relevant), was particularly aptly paired with Aphrodite.  It is in Antonine Rome in the reign of Marcus Aurelius that we have wealthy, very possibly funerary, portraits of a man and wife as Ares and Aphrodite (for she is of the "Aphrodite from Capua" type, the prototype for the "Aphrodite from Melos").  Showing not only rulers but others who could afford for funerary use statuary in the guise of deities, Hermes (like the one from Andros) for instance, was not new, and orators and poetesses also (like the younger Herculänerin) also served.  Ptolemaic queens had paved the way for empresses as Aphrodite (though now Hera-Juno was the proper mate for Zeus-Jupiter).  So man and wife as Ares and Aphrodite, Ares' customary mate, was new but not extraordinary in Imperial Antonine society.  Diana Kleiner in Roman Sculpture, p. 280, says, "We know from Cassius Dio (81.31) that Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger were celebrated as Mars and Venus"—but the citation to Dio Cassius must be wrong, because there is no Book 81, and Book 80 is late Severan, and Book 71, which would be the right date, exists only in the epitome, which abjures such tittle-tattle.  However, one must agree that these very datable statue pairs allude to the empress and her husband, though made for perhaps their friends.  Three pairs exist, but the third, from Ostia,  is plainly Commodan.
The Louvre pair, at left, is a little later than the Capitoline pair, at right
The "Aphrodite from Capua", of course, is only half draped and quite bare-breasted, but just as the so-called "Hera  Borghese" could have been Juno when used for the body type of an empress (Livia for example) and given thin drapery to cover her shoulders and breast, but was really an Aphrodite type of c. 410 BC, so the type known to us first from Capua usually wears a thin chiton when as a Roman domina she is paired with Mars as her husband (but not on the Commodan pair from Ostia).
I do not know of this couple on a coin, but the large statuary pairs illustrate how fashionable it was in the Antonine period, and that is when, or rather with Hadrian, the "Borghese Ares" type also belongs to Philippopolis.
Philippopolis, coin of Domitian with Ares-Mars reverse
In Flavian Philippopolis, the god of war is a regular Roman bearded Mars with "anatomical" armor over a tunic almost to his knees and his right hand resting on a Roman shield.  At other Danubian mints, as for example at Nicopolis ad Istrum or Marcianopolis for Macrinus, this Roman Mars will persist, reminding us that Greece had normally no cult of her Ares: as always, myth and cult are not the same thing.
Therefore, it is impossible to decide whether, beginning with Hadrian, Philippopolis had acquired a copy of her own of the opus nobile that we know as the "Ares Borghese" as a civic agalma or to replace a Roman Mars as a statue for the Imperial cult or, least likely perhaps, for the naos of a cult of Ares as a Greek god.  Whichever it was, Philippopolis was proud of it; its governor was pleased to put it on coins for successive emperors.
Philippopolis.  Small coin of Hadrian with "Ares Borghese" seen from proper left
This vantage point is the usual one on the coins (no palm trunk support, of course)
On this specimen of Hadrian's Ares, the shield on his left forearm is not very clear, owing to corrosion.
The Ares coins known to me for Antoninus Pius at Philippopolis are still small.
Philippopolis.  Two reverse dies of Ares for Antoninus Pius
Only the small bronzes with Dionysos reverses are commoner than the Ares
Both of these dies show the only kind of variation that we see in this series, placing the shield (though a Greek shield) on the ground and a spear in his left hand and one of them the stock patera in his right.  We recall, first, that in the statuary portraits the Ares may be given the spear, too, and second that this is the kind of casual placement of detachable attributes that we see both in the realm of copies and on coins (such as those of the Apollo Sauroktonos at Nicopolis) that represent them.  Remember, too, how from one generation to the next, freestanding statuary in churches may experience such changes, the addition of a gold crown of thorns, for example, or the placement on the ground of a heavy attribute until such time as it can be adequately re-attached.
Philippopolis.  Small bronze of Septimius Severus with Ares Borghese reverse
The portrait of Septimius looks rather early in his reign, certainly earlier than the pompous portraits on large bronzes here datable after AD 205 (when Philippopolis was given the title Metropolis).  This time the die engraver not only restores the shield to Ares' left forearm, where the Greek shield permits his holding a spear as well, but shows the body in front view and wearing a baldric (as on the Ostia portrait pair).
1980s photo of the "Ares Borghese" in what we regard as a front view
As in other representations on coins, inappropriate foreshortening, as of the shield with its edge facing the viewer, is avoided, but it has been noticed repeatedly that the foot plinth of this statue also implies its installation favoring the face nearly in side view and the face of the shield (decorated?) quite visible.  The Bonn cast stripped of restorations is useful:
Bonn, Akad. Kunstmuseum.  One of a group of teaching photos from the 1980s
Probably a decade or so later, we have the most detailed rendering, on a large die, of the Ares Borghese at Philippopolis:
Philippopolis.  Large bronze coins, in matching style and letter forms, celebrating both brothers as Augusti, laureate, Caracalla with the Ares and Geta with Nemesis (fully equipped), c. AD 209
Caracalla's Ares, though technically elegant, is, like other figure types commonly from late Severan onward, insensitive to the three-dimensional composition of the statue, especially noteworthy since it seems likely that Philippopolis actually owned one.  In other words, the old Alois Riegl observations, in his Spätrömische Kunstindustrie, that bodily three-dimensionality and the sense of a background as representing light and air in space that three-dimensional things inhabit, are increasingly denied or ignored, are by and large borne out by thousands and thousands of surviving coins.  There are many exceptions, the work presumably of older engravers or of engravers trained in workshops deep-dyed in tradition, and hints of this change can be picked out much earlier, given our hindsight, but not far into the 3rd century of our era the feeling of gingerbread men lying on a cookie sheet comes to prevail.  It is not a falling off of quality; the Caracalla and Geta are beautiful coins (as are, for that matter, the nice, big folles of the Tetrarchy and not a few Constantinian coins).  It is a radical change, as if a cultural genome had evolved to the point of producing a new species of art and of thought, I daresay.
The Caracalla Ares, notwithstanding, is the one that guarantees the identity of the type as an Ares Borghese: that ankle band!  Even for persons disposed to argue that anyone could do a figure in this pose (the sort of thing that doesn't happen, however), there is that ankle band, unique, not something that anyone would have done without a prototype.  It even shows how the Greek shield band permits Ares' holding a spear as well.
Caracalla's is not quite the last Ares Borghese at Philippopolis, though the production for Elagabalus is much smaller and it is the last from the Philippopolis mint.
Philippopolis.  Large bronze for Elagabalus, with reverse showing Concord of another nude male with the Ares Borghese statue-type.
Again, though likewise only a large bronze coin, not a medallion, no larger than a sestertius would be, this is not an ordinary issue, since it boasts a neokoria, a civic distinction rarer in the Danubian cities than in Asia Minor.  Here, certainly, the Ares is not merely the representation of a nice statue that Philippopolis had; it can stand in for her, as the Apollo Lykeios might do for Marcianopolis.  That being so, we must ask the identification of the nude warrior in 3/4 back view, helmeted with a chlamys over his left forearm and holding a spear in his left hand.  A baldric across his back suggests a parazonium suspended on it.  The naming of these handshaking figures in catalogue listings will reveal the difficulty of naming both figures on most of them, and unless the young emperor can be nude in this context, I do not know in this case.
Finally, it is possible that accidents of preservation preclude seeing the ankle band on more of the foregoing.  Finding so many as I have located has been difficult enough without fussing about perfection.
Proper full identifications for the coins are provided in the Picasa album.
Here is a short list of references for use with the statues:

For the Ares, see Evelyn Harrison's article "A Classical Maiden from the Athenian Agora" in Hesperia: Supplement XX (Studies in Athenian Architecture Sculpture and Topography) 1982, pp. 40-53, pls. 4-8 for a whole education on dating--as usual, the article contains much more than the title promises.  This is where I first became interested in the comparison of the Ares Borghese with the Dresden Zeus or Hades, which is real, no matter how you identify and attribute the originals of the statue types.

J. J. Pollitt. The Art of Ancient Greece: Sources and Documents, rev. ed., Cambridge UP, 1990.  For sources cited, in translation.

John Boardman, Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period, 1985, pl. 223.  For further notes, p. 247, beginning near end of first column.

Claude Rolley, La Sculpture grecque, vol. II, 1999, pp. 148-149, for the Ares; his notes, more extensive and up to date than Boardman’s, are in the margin of each page.

Diana E. E. Kleiner, Roman Sculpture, Yale UP, 1992, pp. 280–283, for the Antonine portrait pairs.

Luigi Todisco, Scultura greca del IV secolo, Milan, 1993, pl. 12, for a really good photo of the Dresden statue.

Ivan Varbanov, Greek Imperial Coins, III, English edition, Bourgas, Bulgaria, 2007.  So long as we have no real monograph for Philippopolis, this is the best we have for Philippopolis, the online provisional edidtion for the Antonine volume of Roman Provincial Coins at the Ashmolean Museum itself being limited for the time being.