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moonmoth
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« on: December 31, 2005, 12:32:12 am »

Greetings, all!

There is an excellent article on Sol and Serapis by Patricia Lawrence here:

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Colored%20Statues

which shows Sol subsuming the attributes of Serapis, with a Doug Smith photo of the relevant coin of Maximinus II.  (Like all of Pat Lawrence's writing, it is a joy to read.) 

So, what about this coin from a decade earlier.  Is Sol wearing Serapis' robe here as well?  There's nothing so obvious here as holding the deity's head.

..  And what does Sol's gesture actually mean?  Is this palm-out gesture a salute, or a rebuff, or an indication of mastery?  The article states that Sol is shown on the Maximinus II coin assuming "the identifying gesture of Serapis."  But Unconquered Sol was ALWAYS shown using this gesture, so it is clearly inseperable from the concept.

Thanks ...  Bill Welch
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2005, 04:19:15 am »

Hi Bill,
On this type Sol is wearing his chlamys (cape), but it is spread behind which gives a fuller appearance.

I'm also very interested in Sol's hand gesture, and would like to learn the origins of it. I'm not sure if Pat intended to refer to it as coming from Serapis, as in the following paragraph she also refers to the gesture as Sol's own. As an aside, it's interesting to see Maximinus II's civic Apollo type and Sol type side-by-side... I wonder if Sol's multi-colored robe might not be related to that of Apollo as much as of Serapis?

The raised hand gesture also appears as an imperial bust type, such as on my Maximinus II coin (issued by Constantine), below, where Maximinus is mirroring Sol not only in gesture but also by way of radiate crown and holding a globe. On other types where we see this bust type, the gesture and globe seem to usually go together, although the radiate crown is not always present.

It's interesting that this gesture is a fixed part of the numismatic representation of Sol Invictus, but it also seems to predate him, since I've also noticed it on medallions of Gordian III (238-244) from Moesia Inferior, as can be seen here:

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

Sol Invictus himself doesn't appear - at least on coins - until the beginning of the reign of Gallienus (we can say beginning since he also appears on coins of Quietus and Macrianus) in 260.

I'm not sure how far back the gesture goes.

Ben

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moonmoth
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2005, 05:02:40 am »

Hi, Ben.

That's rather a lot of material for a chlamys, I thought.  The groin and thighs are draped in something in front, as well as a cloak falling behind.  There's certainly much more material than Sol Invictus usually wears.  On the other hand, it's not elaborately decorated like Serapis' robe.

Those imperial gestures are interesting.  I think that Sol on coins makes sense if you assume that he ie meant to represent, or parallel, the emperor.  Or rather, vice versa.  Power and invincibility are rather nice attributes.  And of course the radiate crown was used from almost the start of the empire.  I presume that the globe indicates mastery of the world, whether held by Sol or an emperor.  There's certainly a lot of handing of globes to emperors to be found on reverses.

Sol Invictus may have been promoted by Aurelian in the 270s, but the cult must have been well-known before that.  Here's a Septimius Severus on Coin Archives:

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

And below is a Gordian III antoninianus.  The postures are exactly what you'd expect.  The Severus has a whip, and the Gordian a globe, so both traditional attributes are there.

Bill
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2005, 05:42:55 am »

I'd always assumed that Sol appearing before the Soli Invicto legend was the more general Oriens rather than Sol Invictus (which is possibly equated with Mithraism), although the distinctive gesture does at least tie the depictions together.

It would certainly help to know the origins of the gesture!

Ben
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2005, 06:03:33 am »

Bill,
It seems that you're right to equate the Sept. Severus Sol with Sol Invictus.

Here's an awesome aureus of Geta where the catalog description makes that same association.

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

So perhaps the hand gesture (whatever the origin) is an attribute of Sol Invictus - differentiating him from Oriens.

Ben
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« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2005, 06:37:37 am »

Ben  -

That aureus is truly spectacular.  It's also nice that it shows a clear idenfification between an Augustus and Sol.  I wonder what the soruce of those comments is.

Isn't Oriens the same as Sol Invictus, but shown in the special sense of the sun rising?  This would figuratively represent the rising fortunes of the empire and the emperor himself.  There are plenty of Oriens reverses showing the typical pose and gesture, and there doesn't appear to be a clear distinction between these and the images labelled as Sol Invictus.

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

Bill



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« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2005, 07:29:18 am »

Bill,

My understanding is that Sol Invictus was a more specialized cult (perhaps the public face of Mithraism?) than the general Sun worship that had preceded it, which the Romans had inherited from the Greeks (Helios). I'd certainly welcome any corrections or clarifications to that, though!

As far as I can tell from searching Coin Archives and the ANS database, it seems that Septimius Severus was the first to depict Sol in this way (both standing and giving this gesture), and per that catalog description if we are to take that as Sol Invictus, then I assume that all following similar depictions, labelled as Oriens until the Soli Invicto legend was introduced by Gallienus, are also Sol Invictus. Aurelian, who really boosted the cult of Sol Invictus was the last to use the Oriens Avg legend.

What I'm not sure about is when the cult of Sol Invictus was formed, and therefore what should be made of earlier use of the bust of Sol with Oriens legend (e.g. by Hadrian). I still tend to assume this is pre Sol Invictus. One other numismatic data point is Nero's Avgvstvs Germanicvs type (denarius/aureus), where he depicts himself as Sol and holding a branch rather than giving the raised hand gesture. This type is a depiction of the huge statue, apparently copied from the Collosus of Rhodes, that Nero made of himself, and therefore seems more connected to Helios, which perhaps explains the lack of the hand gesture if it seems that may be associated with Sol Invictus.

Ben
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« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2005, 12:41:27 pm »

This is a wonderful thread.  Ever since Cumont's Mithraism books were issued in PB fifty years ago I have been fitfully infatuated with these questions.  So far as I know, there are lots of loose ends, and perhaps (I sometimes have thought) it actually happened as a bundle of cultural, theological, artistic, and ethnic loose ends.  In an unfootnoted book, Cornelius Vermeule said that Septimius had the Nero-Colossus next to the Flavian Amphitheater remodeled to look like Caracalla: that would fit in with the Sol iconography of Caracalla's Rome coins, unless it is reverse-reasoned only from the coins themselves.  Was the arm gesture part of the Colossus Helios image, as reconstructions show?  I definitely am fascinated by the AETERNITAS complex of iconography which goes back farther.
I think that on the coins I used in my little article it is necessary to emphasize that the garb of Serapis is the patterned (encrusted and/or embroidered) one and his kalathos headdress (also embossed and gem-encrusted or carved), and the gesture is, indeed, typical of Serapis on Severan coins (in order of image creation, the Serapis and the Colossus of Rhodes belong to the same generation), but the cult image of Serapis by a Bryaxis did not have that pose.  Also, the Sol on the follis holds a Serapis head.  What exactly this all meant in terms of creeds, I do not know.
On the Gallienus, et al., the Oriens and the Invictus wear the radiate crown, and Serapis is absent, so that the gesture is that of Sol.  Also, I don't recall seeing a claw-like, enlarged hand on a Serapis.
Certainly, Gallienus's Sol wears a chiton / tunic as well as his chlamys.  But his garment is not a stiff, heavy robe, as on the follis.
Question: is there a link here with the development of the kind of royal robes that Justinian (at Ravenna, for example) will wear?  Byzantine court wear is very alien to traditional Greco-Roman state attire.
There was an exhibit in the late 70s at the Metropolitan Museum called The Age of Spirituality; that was defined as c. 200 to c. 700.  Well, from a number of points of view one can make such era-divisions, but the 3rd c. CE was pivotal in many ways.
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2005, 02:05:51 pm »

Pat -

Thanks for your response - most interesting!   I have to modify my website quite often as I learn more, and the Sol page is due for a revision any day now!

You mention the enlarged, claw-like hand sometimes seen.  Such enlargement may well mean that the particular feature is important.  The fingers of Spes' hand, showing the delicacy of her grip on her flower, is perhaps a comparable example - they are sometimes well out of scale.  

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

So, if this is a true parallel, Sol's gesture is of particular importance, perhaps in detail.  The claw-like hand shown below has the thumb held low and forward .. I wonder if this is significant?  Other Sol Invictus images do the same thing, but in a less exaggerated way.  

The meaning of this must have been so obvious at the time ...

Bill
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« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2005, 02:24:53 pm »

Many (most) coins of the Constantine era exhibit claw like hands (when the fingers are visible). I think it  only means engravers had a hard time with hands, specifically the fingers (they are tough!)

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« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2005, 02:57:22 pm »

Hi Victor,
You can see these claw hands on the Rome issues of 313-314. It's not just that the hands are badly engraved, but rather that specifically the gesturing hand is massive and out of proportion. Of course we already know from this gesture being a fixed feature (even on the tiny Sol driving the quadriga on my coin above), as well as occuring as part of an imperial bust type, that the gesture is significant, but it does appear as if this Rome celator wanted to draw particular attention to it!

Ben
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« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2005, 03:01:55 pm »

I believe the only significance is that the engravers had problems with fingers. The hand holding the globe is also out of proportion...is that also significant? As I said you can look at many coins of the era and they all seem to exhibit the same artistry to some degree and rather than think it is something significant, I find it easier to believe it is just hard to engrave a realistic hand with fingers!
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« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2005, 04:00:53 pm »

Quote from: Victor on December 31, 2005, 03:01:55 pm
The hand holding the globe is also out of proportion...is that also significant?

Only if that's abnormal compared to baseline expectations!  Wink

Ben (with a photofile of over 200 Soli's!)
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« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2006, 12:32:56 am »

Quote from: Victor on December 31, 2005, 03:01:55 pm
I believe the only significance is that the engravers had problems with fingers.

Well, that's a good hypothesis.  But doesn't it lead back to the same issue .. Sol's hands are bigger and claw-ier than all the other examples.  So, why was it so important to show the hand with the configuration of the fingers?  What exactly IS the meaning of this frustratingly simple gesture?  Possibilities might include:

Here I am, the invincible one!
You see my hand before you see my face!
Kneel, puny humans!
Cover your eyes, for I radiate unbearable light from all parts of me!
I bring life to the world!

But really, I suspect that most such ideas are over-interpreting.

Bill
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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2006, 03:23:20 am »

(And to follow up ...)

Here are two more large claw-like hands on coins which are otherwise stylish and well executed.  On the Probus, the engraver could depict four horses in some detail.  On the Diocletian, the figure is well scaled and lifelike.  But both have those large hands.  This has to me important!

Bill
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« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2006, 09:50:16 am »

The idea of there being some import in the distorted hands of Sol also ignores the fact that some engravers were better at hands and  got them very close to proper scale (the bottom pic is a very normal looking hand, indeed!). 

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« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2006, 01:35:01 pm »

I think we're veering a bit off topic here...

There can be no doubt that the raised hand gesture of Sol Invictus is significant (meaning that it's an attribute of the character rather than a chance portrayal), because it's a fixed attribute of the [full body] figure, just as is his radiate crown.  While Sol is depicted slightly differently by Gallienus, Aurelian, Constantine, Maximinus II, etc, the gesture itself is a fixture. It doesn't matter what Sol is wearing (chlamys, tunic, robe), what he is doing with his other hand (holding nothing, globe, whip, bow, victriola), whether accomanied by captives or not, standing alone or driving a quadriga - the right hand is always making this gesture.

The oversized  gesturing hand of the Rome celator of 313-314 (the only one that strikes me as semi-consistently noteworthy) therefore needs to be evaluated in light of the fact that we already know that the gesture is significant... It's not primary evidence of the significance of the gesture, but rather perhaps an interesting example of the relation between mental model and artistic portrayal, perhaps rather like a young child's drawing of a parent where the head itself might be the size of the rest of the body - a crude depiction but nonetheless giving some insight into what was in the mind of the artist. Without wanting to overemphasize this tangent, this is really quite typical of the numismatic art of this time... the depictions are typically crude to the point of being cartoon-like sets of the symbols that carry the message. We can see another example of this on my Trier Sol, below.... what happened to the left arm?! Obviously the celator wanted to depict the symbolism of Sol holding a globe, and realism (& Sol's missing arm) wasn't an issue. But given that a whole missing arm wasn't an issue, why did the celator then go to the extreme of depicting individual fingers on the hand of the right arm?... because the right hand, unlike the left arm, is itself significant - part of the symbolism.

Incidently, the arragement of the fingers on these examples of the exaggerated hand does not appear to be significant. The gesture appears to be simply a raised palm-out hand with all fingers extended, and shown more clearly on the facing Sol on the Max Daia aureus below (sadly not mine!).

Does anyone have any examples of this gesture earlier than on the Sol of Septimius Severus?

Ben
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« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2006, 02:04:59 pm »

The Grappling Hand is not just a large, roughly drawn hand.  I do not know the answer to the question, and again I'm not sure anyone has it, but I think that the crux of the question can be considered in relation to late 3rd century and Constantinian coins where the Emperor, radiate and in full regalia, has this hand--and so has Sol on the reverse of the same coin.  It is in some sense not a 'real' hand: on Sol it is supernatural and on the Emperor it is Sol-like.  I even ask whether, for the Emperor, it is not an object, an ensign or emblem, a golden (perhaps) Sol Hand that he carries.
Kraay & Hirmer is not the best place to look for examples, but I found one which I'll add to this as soon as scanned.
The contemporary medals show very plainly that when the Rome mint wants a normal hand it has access to engravers who can produce it.  The Grappling Hand is not a representation of a natural hand.
I forget whether it was off line or in Forvm that I was in a discussion of this last year; I'll try to find out.
Anyhow, the one that I found in Kraay & Hirmer is OK to illustrate the concept I'm getting at.  There are quite a few of them.  Pat Lawrence.
Here it is.  632. IMP MAXIMINVS AVG AD 312 RIC 836 (BrMus), according to Kraay catalogue at back of picture book.  "Maximin is identified with Sol, a rôle which suggests that the intimate association with the Sun-god of Constantine, himself identified with Mars (no. 631) had not yet been developed".  You Constantine guys will know about that better than I do.
See also BenB's Reply #1, above.
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virtvsprobi
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« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2006, 02:26:51 pm »

"... the outstretched hand is an almost universal iconographic symbol. In the Mediterranean world, for example, the outstretched right hand of the king has magical power; there must be a close connection with the power of salvation in the right hand of the Roman emperors. This all-powerful hand, or magna manus, as it was called, was connected with emperor and deity alike: Constantine signifies the act of ruling by stretching out his right hand[2], and God, as savior makes the same gesture.

  The origin of the raised right hand should probably be sought in the Middle East, whence it must have spread both eastward and westward. It is a common gesture in Gandharan sculpture, and in Roman art from the time of Severus, the emperor is depicted with the raised right hand.[3] In Semitic religious rituals, for example, this gesture was used as a magic blessing having apotropaic powers. "When it is made by a god, it protects all his servants against malign influences and evil spirits: thus it becomes a tutelary sign, a symbol of benediction. When the faithful worshipper himself makes it, he reinforces thereby his prayer or his incantation, and the action of the hand is added to that of the sacred words, in order to save him from all evil."[4] In Persia, the cosmocrator Ahura Mazda in the world ring stretches out his right hand [5} in a similar gesture of power. Moreover there are numerous biblical references to the magical powers and omnipotence of the magna manus:[6] "Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand" (Psalm 89 : 14,5).

This concept of the right hand apparently penetrated into ancient Greece, but it fell into disuse around the third century A.D. The use of the gesture in Christian iconography is attested very early. By this sign Christ [7] is designated as the all -powerful monarch, cosmocrator and pantocrator. It may be noted, too, that that the gesture evolved from a sign of power and rule to one of transmitting the law. According to the so called traditio legis, this is the sign of Christ who gives his doctrine to the world [8]. And, like Christ he lawgiver and pantocrator, the Buddha assumes the double role of lawgiver and protector. "The preference for the right hand is perhaps connected with the apparent course of the sun from east to west, and the consequent idea that a sunwise course, keeping the object always on the right hand, is of good omen and the opposite of evil." [8a]..."

- E. Dale Saunders Mudra: A study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture


2 - L'Orange Studies on the Iconography of Cosmic Kingship in the Ancient World , pp. 140-141
3 - L'Orange, p. 147, "It is from the orientalized world of gods of the third century A.D.  the gesture has been transferred to the emperor."
4 - Cumont, "Fouilles de Doura Europos", pp. 70 ff.
5 - L'Orange - fig. 63, p. 92.
6 - Ibid., Pp 159 ff.
7 - Ibid., fig. 116, fig. 117
8 - Ibid., fig. 119
8a - Hastings Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, VI, 493
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« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2006, 02:29:09 pm »

Why is it such a big hand? Well, it was called the magna manus wannit?  Grin Grin Grin

G/<
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« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2006, 02:32:17 pm »

Everything VirtvsProbi says is good general background that we all need to know, but please consider also the specific realia that I was preparing while he posted.  We do need to get past that generic Great Right Hand.  P.L.
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« Reply #21 on: January 01, 2006, 02:39:44 pm »

Pat - It's interesting that you refer to "the Grappling Hand".  Is this a known designation?  I hadn't thought of it as being "grappling," because it never seems to grasp anything (except that on one coin of Aurelian, Oriens is brandishing an olive branch, and on another, Sol is handing a globe to Mars Invictus, but these don't seem to be the results of grappling). 

Maximinus' claw certainly looks completely unhuman!  Real hands might appear oddly sized (as on the abdication folles) but this is surely a step too far.  I would suspect from this that your conjecture that it is some sort of artifact is correct.

Bill
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« Reply #22 on: January 01, 2006, 03:02:17 pm »

I wonder wether the gesture of Augustus from Prima Porta f.e. has the same meaning? Or am I wrong with that?

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« Reply #23 on: January 01, 2006, 03:59:11 pm »

Well, Augustus is doing a pointy thing, not the palm stretched outward.

Having seen, in my youth, Augustus' gesture replicated on countless statues of Lenin, I can tell you exactly what it means: "This way to Socialism."

Grin Grin

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« Reply #24 on: January 01, 2006, 04:38:17 pm »

Ok, I'm convinced!

A happy new year to you and your family!
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« Reply #25 on: January 01, 2006, 05:14:24 pm »

And Augustus's gesture is the speaking gesture of all angels who come to tell something, from Gabriel's annunciation to the angel appearing to the Maries at the tomb and on through the Middle Ages to the Renaissance: Adlocutio.

I said 'grappling' (which is not 'grabbing' or 'grasping') because it so resembles unpleasant metal devices (cf. also scissors hands).  I was remembering the tools which together with pointed poles are used to manage logs coming downstream to a pond in Oregon.  I wanted to use a word that would make people look and see that it is nothing natural, whether ill drawn or well, whether emphatic in its gesture or not.

The ones the emperors hold look like something you'd use in whaling to make vegetarians blench at the sight.  These are surely highly significant things.  Consider them semiotically!  And, yes, in that right hand of power.  As VirtvsProbi said, they remind one of political art that is NOT NICE at all.

It was Doug Smith I was exchanging e-mails with, and it was about the Emesa equestrian Septimius that has one.  He called them "lobster claws", but I wanted to suggest something harder and crueller.  The term 'grappling hand' has no authority at all, but it worked!
Pat Lawrence
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« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2006, 06:23:44 pm »

Here it is.  632. IMP MAXIMINVS AVG AD 312 RIC 836 (BrMus), according to Kraay catalogue at back of picture book.  "Maximin is identified with Sol, a rôle which suggests that the intimate association with the Sun-god of Constantine, himself identified with Mars (no. 631) had not yet been developed".  You Constantine guys will know about that better than I do.

Yes - it's an interesting point as far as dating goes.

The Maximinus/Sol coin is part of a special series of 3 issued by Constantine c.313. The three coins, with fixed obverse/reverse pairings, are Constantine (w/ martial bust)/VLPP, Maximinus/Sol and Licinius/Iovi. The series is most recently dated to 313 by Bastien in "L'emission de monnaies de billion de Treves au debut de 313", but really any date between c.310 when Maximinus started to claim the title of Augustus, and 313 when he died, is possible.

Constantine's dedication to Sol (which immediately displaced Mars to 2nd place on his coinage) started sometime c.310, likely mid-310 after a vision of Apollo recorded in a panegyric, and it certainly seems a bit unexpected that he would cede Sol to Daia after that date. It's also notable that when Constantine in 312-313 (after his victory over Maxentius) chose to recognize Maximinus and Licinius by briefly issuing their reverse types from his Aquileia mint, that he did so by issuing Iovi for Licinius and Genio Avgvsti (not Sol) for Daia.

This association of Sol with Daia rather than himself does seem to suggest that an earlier date (early 310) for this series might make more sense. The VLPP reverse arguably makes as much or more sense at that date, when Galerius was dieing and Constantine, Maximinus and Licinius were already asserting themselves.

Ben

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« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2006, 06:30:30 pm »

"... the outstretched hand is an almost universal iconographic symbol. In the Mediterranean world, for example, the outstretched right hand of the king has magical power; there must be a close connection with the power of salvation in the right hand of the Roman emperors. This all-powerful hand, or magna manus, as it was called, was connected with emperor and deity alike: Constantine signifies the act of ruling by stretching out his right hand[2], and God, as savior makes the same gesture.

Thanks, virtvsprobi!

I'll have to follow up on your references - this is all good stuff that I was not aware of!

I would still like to attempt to trace the use of this device specifically associated with Sol Invictus to see if it's possible to see precisely where/when he picked up this familiar attribute of power.

Ben
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« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2006, 08:06:43 pm »

Has anyone seriously checked for an occasion when the emperor(s) adopted as a badge that 'hand', and the hand of Sol coincidentally was made stylized like the imperial 'hand'?  For there is no doubt that Septimius and Sol, Sol Oriens before Invictus, made an extremely assertive gesture before the extreme and highly stylized, abstracted, form appeared.  The hand gesture, though with all four fingers carefully executed, of the baby radiate Caracalla-Sol on the aureus Leu 93, no. 72, cited above, seems to me meaningfully similar, but it is not an ensign of the gesture such as we see for Maximinus but a human hand making the gesture.
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On Tuesday, which I intend to spend largely in the university library, I'll see whether the Sol article in LIMC is much, if at all, to this point.
The tool-like 'hand' looks like the top of a scepter, replacing an eagle.
Pat Lawrence
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« Reply #29 on: January 02, 2006, 01:44:20 pm »

An arrangement: it may happen that the gesture  would  be better to discuss in a more general context.   
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« Reply #30 on: January 02, 2006, 03:28:09 pm »

An arrangement: it may happen that the gesture  would  be better to discuss in a more general context.    

You seem to have more than one gesture in this interesting collection.  Two fingers held out with both hands, with the two smaller fingers and the thumb folded in,  is something quite different from the single raised open hand.

What Sol is shown as doing, and what Pat Lawrence calls the "grappling hand",  can be replicated if you raise your hand, spread the fingers slightly, but keep your thumb and fingertips relaxed.  This is certainly the gesture that Ben gave this link to:

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Even within this one gesture, we must be looking at several things: an ideal of a gesture; various representations on coins of the gesture given by a deity; representations on coins of the gesture being given by a human; and a representation on a coin of an artifact designed to represent or bring to mind the ideal of the gesture.  However, I think you're spreading the net too widely!

Bill

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« Reply #31 on: January 02, 2006, 04:05:20 pm »

But don't forget the raised hand of a priest in blessing pose!

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« Reply #32 on: January 02, 2006, 04:23:15 pm »

Almost every gesture traditional in the Church (taking all the sacrament-centered ones together) goes back to late antique court gestures, and those go back further and wider.  There is a vast literature concerned with this gestural continuity; by alluding to the gesture of Gabriel somewhere above I meant to evoke the whole subject.  It is true, though I wouldn't vouch for every Romantic reading of it.

I agree with Bill that if we have any hope of nailing down something here and now we need to stick to a specific question, with the confidence that anything ascertained in particular can become helpful in clarifying the general picture.  That is why I singled out the coins where the Sol and the Emperor are just alike, and the Emperor seems to substitue a Sol-arm (I love to imagine it gilded) for his own mortal hand, though the gesture and the hand outline originated in mortal gestures imputed to Sol.  But then it becomes suddenly hardened, formulated.  When talking with Doug Smith, I wondered whether carrying something like that not only was a Signifier but also saved the Emperor from having to keep his own hand in that position for hours on end at some ceremony.  Notice where I use verbs like wonder and imagine!  Also, the verb 'grapple' has done its work; better to call it schematized or emblematic--only those terms allow us to shade off into generalities again.
I thought, while I was trying to model a spearhold, I'd try the Sol gesture--not easy to handle a largish digital camera with one hand, but it had to be my right, so the gesture is...sinister!
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« Reply #33 on: January 02, 2006, 07:31:42 pm »

I agree with Bill that if we have any hope of nailing down something here and now we need to stick to a specific question, with the confidence that anything ascertained in particular can become helpful in clarifying the general picture.  That is why I singled out the coins where the Sol and the Emperor are just alike

As far as I've found so far, it seems that the gesturing Sol, Serapis & emperor all originate with Septimius Severus & his sons.

Here's a rather posessed looking Septimius mirroring Sol, paired with Serapis, both making the gesture (which despite being on horseback is noticably different than a regular raised hand "adventus" greeting).

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I wonder if there's any connection between Septimius's association of himself with Sol and Serapis, and Julia Domna's Mater Castorvm/Vesta/Avgg reverses as well as Mater Devm?... Is Julia herself being presented as Cybele?

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« Reply #34 on: January 02, 2006, 11:22:22 pm »

So, if I may make an imaginative leap all the way back to the head of the thread, does the question become (a) when did Sol and Serapis together get syncretized into the Imperial cultic stew; was it really because of the Emesa sun cult under the Severans? and (b) at what point, did this become hardened into court ceremonial and accoutrement, such as we see for Maximinus?  Is that what you're wondering?  Pat L.
And check out that Alexandrian billon of somebody in Numerianus's middle image of Reply #29.
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« Reply #35 on: January 03, 2006, 02:07:33 am »

not easy to handle a largish digital camera with one hand, but it had to be my right, so the gesture is...sinister!
Pat - I think you are curling your smaller fingers too much.  My lighter camera allows me to be more .. dextrous ...

If you wish to know what I am wondering, I can express it quite simply: what did this mean?  That this simple question leads into complex and interesting considerations is one of the things that makes it worth asking.  That there are people here who might know the answer, and even if not, certainly know what the question means and how to respond to it effectively, with evidence, makes this an interesting and worthwhile forum.

Here's another approach which requires no evidence and therefore might not be very meaningful, but which is fun.  If I were a sun god, what would I mean by such a gesture?  In my other hand I might be holding a whip, and if I am, I'm probably driving my sun chariot across the sky (even if you don't see it at the moment).  Otherwise I'm holding a globe, which probably means I have dominion over the entire earth.  (Does the globe that gets passed to emperors on coins mean this?  This might be another good question.)  In either case I have almost unlimited power and I am so bright I will burn out your eyes if you look directly at me.  Perhaps I am telling people to bow or to avert their eyes?

Bill
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« Reply #36 on: January 03, 2006, 07:38:41 am »

So, if I may make an imaginative leap all the way back to the head of the thread, does the question become (a) when did Sol and Serapis together get syncretized into the Imperial cultic stew; was it really because of the Emesa sun cult under the Severans? and (b) at what point, did this become hardened into court ceremonial and accoutrement, such as we see for Maximinus?  Is that what you're wondering?  Pat L.

Well, it does seem that we need to broaden the question a bit (accepting the need to keep it somewhat focused to make any progress) since it seems that the adoption of this gesture by Sol occured at the same time as adoption of it by Serapis and the emperor, although this co-incident timing stills needs some confirmation.

My question about Julia was really just driven by the fact that we seem to have arrived at the reign of Septimius, and that while Septimius seems to be syncretizing Sol & Serapis (although not the first to do so - see Hadrian with Serapis Pantheos below), and associating himself with the duo, there also seems to be a notable pantheistic coinage for Julia, perhaps with some emphasis (the various Mater legends) on the mother god Cybele... Magna manus & magna mater... Just wondering if there's some bigger picture as to what's going on at this time period or specific reign.

To keep a focused track though, it'd be nice to futher pursue the proximate origin (virtusprobi having supplied the longer view) of this gesture as adopted by Sol. Some specific questions (but not necessarily the best) are:

- Was this gesture by Sol (and/or Serapis) adopted under Septimius Severus, or can it be traced earlier?
- What non-numismatic evidence is there for the earliest adoption of this gesture? (statues, mosaics, text references, etc)?
- What different representations of Sol and/or Serapis without the gesture exist immediately prior to Septimius? (e.g. Serapis standing with Cerebus - what else?)
- Can we tie the adoption of this gesture and/or image to the cult(s) of Sol Invictus / Mithraism?

The syncretization of Sol and Serapis is in of itself an interesting topic (maybe part of the move towards widespread monotheism?), but perhaps we should leave that to another time to the extent that the two topics can be separated. Given that Serapis was already a syncretic god, perhaps he (and the population of Egypt) is just being "updated" to keep in sync with the shifting Roman religous beliefs? Certainly as far as Rome itself was concerned, the emphasis (& segue into Christianity) seems to have been based on Sol Invictus, with Serapis playing a much lesser role. Interestingly even on the Festival of Isis coinage (started by Diocletian) we also see radiate gesturing Serapis as well as in his traditional form.

What do we know of the Emesa Sun cult? Is it particularly tied to the Severans? The only factoid I am aware of is the Emesa stone type of Elagabalus (is there any evidence for when this assumed meteorite fell?), who's beliefs seem a bit out of the mainstream of the time (based on Baal rather than Helios and/or Mithras?).

Quote
And check out that Alexandrian billon of somebody in Numerianus's middle image of Reply #29.

I'm not sure who that is. The closest match on Coin Archives is for Trebonius Gallus (after Sept. Severus). Numerianus?

Ben
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« Reply #37 on: January 03, 2006, 10:42:08 am »

The second image (of Serapis)  is, indeed, from Trebonianus Gallus 4dr, the first is the obverse of Ivan Alexander, the  last one the gesture of sol from
CONCORDIA AVG  reverse of Probus coin (Rome mint).

Now two (the most famous) gestures of emperors. I am not so sure for the first one. 
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« Reply #38 on: January 03, 2006, 05:11:43 pm »

Those are both Ave (and Listen): The Primaporta statue is the commander in chief addressing, perhaps, most particularly the legions, and the Marcus Aurelius is addressing them from horseback, and both are significantly bareheaded: imperatores but not at war in these depictions.
As I thought I spent an afternoon in the library without finding a single work on imperial iconography that broke that impermeable membrane between history and numismatics.  Meaning, the book on Sol Invictus cited coins only for legends and only from Cohen.  But the LIMC article on Sol attacks the complexity of the subject and has no special bias.  The library closed early, so I'll have to go back to finsih with it.  The book on Sol Invictus that I found may be very good on Aurelian's Sol Invictus.  The LIMC on Sarapis is not useless, either.  That Hadrianic Pantheos coin of Hadrian may be over the top, but it sure is a knock-out.  The Sarapis-Sol syncretism is 2-3 century, but the standing nude in chlamys with whip in his raised r. and globe with zodiacal markings is already present in a fresco at Pompeii and almost certainly alludes to Nero's Sol-Colossus.
I need to absorb a lot of basic knowledge before forming harder-edged ideas about the hand that looks like a tool or a claw, which I did not find in any book I found on shelf!  Of course, I could have found it in numismatics books, but I was trying to find whether someone sound has tried putting it all together.  When it comes to those fancy folles, the disciplines' impermeable membrane seems to be perfect!  Cannot be so.  I may find an abbreviated reference in the LIMC article, which does zero in a couple of times on Maximinus Daia.  The Belgian who wrote on Sol Invictus, in my opinion, pays too little attention to Alexandria, but so far as Aurelian's official acts are concerned is certainly sound.
Pat L.
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« Reply #39 on: January 05, 2006, 12:04:01 pm »

Here is a link to a new COTD subject, where Probus's eagle scepter is exceptionally clear.  Now what if an emperor who subsumed all other gods under Sol put that claw or curved trident Hand of Sol thing instead of Jove's eagle on his scepter?  I was holding back on this notion, but I'll toss it into the arena.
http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=24887.from0#new
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See above, Reply #17.
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« Reply #40 on: January 05, 2006, 03:10:55 pm »

Pat,
I think that the idea of this Sol-related (or syncretized Sol-Serapis related) gesture deliberately replacing the symbol of Jupiter is quite possible. This pagan monotheistic gesture then giving way to the nimbus and crosses of Christianity. I'm not so sure about the Sol gesture being realized as an adapted sceptre (vs an actual hand gesture), since I'm not convinced that we see this depicted anywhere. It may still be that the unnatural "trident" hand is deliberately meant to look like an eagle (two wings plus head), although it seems we just as often see something looking like a reasonably natural hand.

If this gesture is taken as a symbol of monotheism, with a gesturing Serapis just as symbolic of the changing religious climate as Sol, then perhaps that helps explain (along with the attraction of Isis that it seems we can infer from the inherited iconography) why Constantine and his successors tolerated (or were happy to support?) the Festival of Isis at a time when one would have thought it might have been frowned upon.

Whatever role the gesture played (although perhaps having a theory helps), there's still the question of how/where/when it became associated with Sol Invictus.

Ben
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« Reply #41 on: January 05, 2006, 05:28:23 pm »

Yes, I agree with that line of inquiry, as a line of inquiry.  I am not yet half through Gaston H. Halsberghe's The Cult of Sol Invictus, which however limited, deliberately, to keep it within bounds where the author is comfortable, is certainly very useful.  But I was thinking, at the same time as the true style of the Follis is ripe, the time was also ripe for symbolic gestures to become symbolic insignia (just as court dress was becoming more and more like Byzantine and less and less Greco-Roman).  I think it is too Sol-like to be seen as an eagle.  Whether it is an abstracted and designed Hand of Sol would probably depend on how much importance the end of the 3rd century attached to the meaning(s) of that raised Hand when it is Sol or the emperor identifying with Sol.  Is it in the category of the ankh before the noses of the Amarna kings of Egypt?  Not meaning Sol's breath of life, of course, but equally important in the cult?  For Akhenaten, apparently, the Ankh was much more than a hieroglyph; it was hypostatized.  I do not see that the hands of Sol before the Tetrarchy have reached the stage of The Hand, The Ankh, The Cross; I think the culture had not quite lurched into that phase yet.  Halsberghe, by the way, is evidently an Aurelian specialist.  There is an inquiry for a solid book on the Tetrarchy under the Books heading here.  Good luck!  And tell me if you find one.  I do think that Maximinus Daia may be important here, but who knows much about him?  Do you?  Pat L.
P.S.  We call it monotheism, but did they?  And do we skew our inquiry even if only slightly by using that word, if they didn't?  And would it be, rather, syncretism or, from anohter point of view, henotheism?  Wouldn't Stoic Nous come closer to monotheim?
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« Reply #42 on: January 06, 2006, 10:21:44 am »

Just to add another interesting coin to this thread .. I found a small coin shop I didn't know existed in my local town, inside a railway station, open 3 mornings a week.  This morning I had a browse through their half dozen trays of mixed quality Roman coins and found this one .. which is now Mine, all Mine!!!   It dates from 260-265 and is from the Cologne mint.

The reverse is SERAPI COMITI AVG, and of course the companionship was echoed for Sol a decade later.  Serapis' robes are not as ornate as Sol's on the coins which show him carrying Serapis' head.  But that may be the Gallic style.  They are certainly not plain.

Apparently the boat is not present on all versions of this - it's not shown on Sear's example, 2005 ref 10992.  This does not look like a galley's prow, but the front of a smaller boat.

But doesn't he have a lovely claw?

Bill
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« Reply #43 on: January 06, 2006, 10:33:57 am »

What a nice found! Congrats!
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« Reply #44 on: January 06, 2006, 02:22:48 pm »

Hi
This bronze (Art Etruscan) of the I° century BC is found in museum Etruscan of Florencia (Italy). 
The name of the statue is: The Haranguer - and the name comes from the gesture of the orator that turns him to the people. 
This is a gesture that is also found on the coins...

ser

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« Reply #45 on: January 06, 2006, 03:04:23 pm »

An orator or an angel or an emperor, all hold out their arm to address their listerner(s).  Serapis and Sol STRETCH their arms high, pulling their garments, if any, taut.  In their gesture, it is not 'Friends, Romans, and Countrymen, lend me your ears' or 'Ave Maria gratia plena'.  The Arringatore, Aulus Metellus, is interesting in another way, though: his speaking arm is larger than his other arm; this exaggeration for significance is common in Etruscan art (also in Western Medieval art) but rare, very rare, in Greek art.  Pat L.
P.S. I went through CoinArchives today.  Getting the Emperor and Sol with hands made to match is not so common as I imagined.  I did find this argenteus with the emperor holding a 'trident' scepter and his hand showing as well, but, behold, it is Maximinus II again!  And Trier!  P.L.
To which I add the only one I found in Failmezger, no. 249M2, M2 being Max II Daia, also Trier.
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« Reply #46 on: January 10, 2006, 03:48:07 pm »

  Hello to all!!!
     I've come to this thread late, but have enjoyed it immensely!!   Two thoughts occur to me about the distorted hand.
1.  In a two dimensional art form, how would the hand appear if the intent was to show it extended and coming out of the coin toward the viewer?  It requires a change in visual acuity (perception), but it works.
2.  The hand extended palm outward is a common (even today) demonstration that it does not hold a weapon meaning 'I intend no harm' or 'I come in peace'.  It is an age old symbol that even the Romans used in military salutation.
Just my thoughts.
Best regards, Bob
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« Reply #47 on: January 11, 2006, 09:37:31 am »

Hi, Bob!

1.  In a two dimensional art form, how would the hand appear if the intent was to show it extended and coming out of the coin toward the viewer?  It requires a change in visual acuity (perception), but it works.

How about this?  It doesn't look much like a gesture of peace - it's out to one side, and still looks very claw-like.

Bill
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« Reply #48 on: January 11, 2006, 09:43:53 am »

I'm afraid you have the "grim reaper" on the above coin. You can clearly see the bones of the arm and hand and skull with a crown - and the sickle on the right. Hard to believe all the experts missed it!  Grin
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« Reply #49 on: January 11, 2006, 10:15:00 am »

   Hi Bill!   Pat L. is the Art Historian and I make no pretense to the same.  I can only say that the technical difficulties for sculpting in miniature and in metal with the tools of the time must have presented great difficulties.  Otherwise when seen in detail you see what prompted silentium's comment.  I wonder if the art form of depth perception was more successful when working in tiles or wall paintings?  By the way, thats a great coin!!!
Best regards, Bob
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« Reply #50 on: January 11, 2006, 10:29:00 am »

There are (at least) three sub-types of Sol in spread quadriga that I have on the coins of Probus, Sol facing forward, hand forward as seen above, Sol facing forward and hand out to side and Sol Facing to the side with hand to the side.
In some Sol holds a globe and in others a whip.. Any insight into the different meanings?

Regards,
Martin
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« Reply #51 on: January 11, 2006, 12:11:05 pm »

Matrin - One obvious driver is that profiles stay recognisable under the pressures of circulation and wear for much longer than full faces.  Also, as Bob suggests, they must have been much easier to carve.  And the hand in profile is also easy to carve and easy to recognise.  But if you CAN do the full face, it's a much more impressive symbol of the sun.

As to the globe and whip, I suspect that the whip means Sol is driving his sun chariot across the sky and dazzling us all.  In this case the chariot is right there on the coin, but often it's not.  And I suspect that the globe means he has dominion over the earth.  (This is presumably the same globe that sometimes gets passed to emperors).  But this is certalnly subject to correction from the historians among us.

(Bob, thanks for the compliment on the coin.  It is nice, but it wasn't cheap!)

Bill
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« Reply #52 on: January 11, 2006, 12:30:50 pm »

Bill,
I must admit that I am not convinced that the decision for face-on pr portrait was quite as arbitrary as that. For RIC 911 from Cyzicus, the coins of emission 2 are always face-on for all officina and for emissions 3 and 4 they are always in portrait.
I would also like to compliment you on the excellent Probus. Thanks for sharing it.

Regards,
Martin
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« Reply #53 on: January 11, 2006, 12:31:43 pm »

Definitely a nice coin there, Bill!

I've also been inspired by this thread to add a couple more gesturing Sol's to my collection:

1) What seems to be the first appearance of Sol Invictus on Septimius Severus's coins, with Sol featuring a skull-like head, supporting silentruin's "grim-reaper" hypothesis!  Grin

2) An upgrade to my Daia Sol type (which I previously had in worse grade for Constantine), which nicely shows the gaudy robes that Pat's article describes.

I wonder if Follibus's comments on nude deities outranking clothed ones holds here? Daia seems to associate himself more closely with the nude Iove depicted on his coins, so is the robed Sol here deliberately depicted as 2nd fiddle, or is there some inference to be drawn? Are there any surviving statues of Sol Invictus, clothed or otherwise?

Ben
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« Reply #54 on: January 11, 2006, 03:41:48 pm »

Bill,
I must admit that I am not convinced that the decision for face-on pr portrait was quite as arbitrary as that. For RIC 911 from Cyzicus, the coins of emission 2 are always face-on for all officina and for emissions 3 and 4 they are always in portrait.
Martin -

I didn't mean to imply that ease of production and usefulness in circulation were the only criteria for deciding whether to produce full face-on portraits. But I do suggest that they play a part.  There are very few full-face Roman obverses or reverses in silver or bronze (coins which could be expected to circulate and be heavily used).  Even where personifications stand facing, their heads are usually turned to one side.  One might also suggest that this is a cultural or artistic tradition which happens to be practical.

It would follow that  there are probably special reasons when face-on depictions are produced.  A face that represents the disc of the sun might be such a reason.  (A gorgoneion is another, as in the well-known denarius of L. Plautius Plancus.  And look how soon the nose gets worn off on that!  And of course there is a suggestion that the traditional gorgoneion might have subsumed some of the characteristics of Apollo, another sun-face.)

Bill
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« Reply #55 on: January 23, 2006, 03:51:40 am »

Hi all,

While flipping through the plates of Michael Grant's "Roman History from Coins" (Cambridge, 1958).  I came across this medallion of Numerian. I think it illustrates very well one of the points Pat raised about the hand as depicted on portraits of the emperor not being a natural hand.  Not to mention all the other wonderful attributes it has.

Steve
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« Reply #56 on: January 23, 2006, 08:36:27 am »

   I had never noticed before that this medallion shows TWO emperors simultaneously addressing the army.  That is a motif that occurs in no other Adlocutio type on Roman coins, unless I've overlooked it elsewhere too!
   However, I've never liked the look of this BM medallion of Numerian, and wonder about its authenticity.  Its centering on the flan is suspiciously similar to another illustrated specimen, J. Hirsch XXIV, Consul Weber 2423.  Gnecchi 1 lists further specimens in Paris and three in Vienna, one from a collection of medallions purchased in Rome c. 1720.  I probably examined these three when I was living in Vienna, but can't recall whether I thought them authentic!   
    I don't agree that there is anything artificial about the raised hands of the emperor or Sol or Serapis in the coin types under discussion.  I think the engravers just had to make them larger, in order to show fingers and make them recognizable!
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« Reply #57 on: January 23, 2006, 11:10:43 am »

Apart from the question of the authenticity of the medallion: it is the scepter terminating in a hand instead of, typically, an eagle, held in the hand of the emperor himself, on the obverse of the coin, that exemplifies what made me wonder whether, when a hand on a scepter is stylized in the same way as the hand of Sol, whether the hand of Sol had not become Sol's symbol of authority, as the eagle is Jupiter's.  There is no Sol on the reverse of the Numerian coin, nor is the hand so violently stylized as on the Maximinus II one that I posted early on in this thread, but this medallion does show a hand-scepter rather than an eagle scepter.  I hold no brief for Sol, I assure you, but the regalia of the late-3rd-century emperors certainly show changes of several kinds.  I do remember seeing a coin image wtih the emperor's hand visible holding a hand or trident-like scepter, but, since I have looked at many such things when teaching late Roman art, I might have seen a photo of the Numerian itself.  My visual memory is only too retentive, but I was not always so interested in coins as I am today.  Pat L.
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« Reply #58 on: January 23, 2006, 11:42:32 am »

Pat,
     Where do we find a scepter topped by a hand?  Legionary standards topped by hands, yes, but where a scepter?
     Numerian on the medallion is of course holding the canonical eagle-tipped scepter, to go with his consular robes.
Yours,
Curtis
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« Reply #59 on: January 23, 2006, 06:20:36 pm »

I'll take your word on that being an eagle (though I can't make it out as one), but for a scepter topped by an abstracted hand, here again is the scepter held by Maximinus II Daia, which I take for an abstraction of the most claw-like or trident-like of the Sol hands, because for sure this is no eagle (it is half of the Kraay-Hirmer 632 image that I first posted in Reply #17) and it is the finial of a scepter.  It is the thing that intrigues me.
I didn't start this thread, but if I had I'd regret it, because we've had every sort of raised hand brought in, and only the most extremely lobster-claw-like, least hand-like are relevant to this particular question, of when a hand might cease being just an expressive hand and become an abstracted symbol for a while associated with a religion embraced by certain emperors.
I did write the short piece about colored and embellished garments, of course, which had the syncretism of Sol and Serapis in it.  Since then I've been looking at everything I could, which is not enough, and I still am not sure whether the agressively stretched arm belonged first to Serapis or first to Sol.
Anyway, I wanted to explore, to find out whether serious research existed on such a question.
Pat L.
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« Reply #60 on: January 23, 2006, 08:31:26 pm »

Pat,
     Surely the eagle atop the scepter on the Numerian medallion is clear, standing frontally with wings raised, body inclined r., head l.?  Apparently the eagle is standing on a globe; I'd have to check whether this detail occurs in other depictions of eagle-tipped scepters too.
     I wouldn't consider that a scepter on the Daia coin, just a crudely drawn hand!  His left hand seems to be a claw too.
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Curtis
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« Reply #61 on: March 03, 2007, 11:42:46 pm »

P.S. Bibliographical note.  When a link brought me back to this thread today, I noticed that several times I absentmindedly referred to the Hirmer picture book on Roman Coins with the wrong author's name: it is, of course, Kent & Hirmer (the book on Greek Coins, by Franke in the German edition, was re-written by Kraay in the English edition--and you can see which one I have looked at longest!).  Pat L.
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« Reply #62 on: March 04, 2007, 06:48:06 am »

I didn't start this thread, but if I had I'd regret it, because we've had every sort of raised hand brought in, and only the most extremely lobster-claw-like, least hand-like are relevant to this particular question, of when a hand might cease being just an expressive hand and become an abstracted symbol for a while associated with a religion embraced by certain emperors.

I have to disagree with this, since it seems that you're assuming that the gesture, while no doubt iconographic, did in fact become an abstracted symbol as opposed to a real hand, and I see no evidence to support that conclusion. The depiction is surely crude and exaggerated simply because of the degenerate nature of 4th century roman art where realism has given way to symbolism. We can see this in great contrast on the Arch of Constantine where the realism of the earlier reused Hadrianic/etc portions contrasts so greatly with the Constantinian sections. As applied to the depiction of Sol, if we were to interpret the larger than life crude emphasized had as something more than an emphatic symbolic representation (of what was in essence an attribute of Sol), then surely we'd have to interpret the rest of the depiction in the same vein... yet we don't question (see example I posted at the beginning of this thread) why Sol is often missing his entire left arm, since we understand that it's not necessary - the symbolism of holding a globe requires only the crudest bowl-like depiction of a left hand to show the globe is being held, and the arm itself is redundant!

The gesture itself is a raised hand with palm out facing away from the body and the various degrees of "claw like" depiction is just the profile view of this palm-out hand. That this is a real hand can be seen in the rare examples where we see a frontal vs profile depiction of the gesture, or on finer quality aureus dies where even in profile a more accurately rendered hand is shown. I included one facing depiction from a coin at the beginning of this thread, and now attach another - from a Danubian (aka Thracian) rider plaque. Here also is Caracalla with a realistic hand. I think the principle here should be to let the more accurate renderings inform as to the intent of the cruder renderings, rather than to assume that the cruder renderings are in fact depicting something else - an abstracted form with an existence to itself.

Ben

http://sights.seindal.dk/sight/299_Arch_of_Constantine.html
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« Reply #63 on: March 04, 2007, 01:29:10 pm »

Precisely.  Your examples make my point.  One cannot use the concept of degeneracy (as distinct from change), because it begs the point.  Even I, who prefer classical art, cannot see the art from Aurelian onwards as 'degenerate'.  As I said in part at Reply #10 at http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?topic=35743.from1172991281#new
"I'm sure that some of what I'd need to know about Sol Invictus is languishing in very small museums and, if published, only in ephemeral journals that, unless in Greek, may be in languages that I can't hack.  It seemed to me last year (if last year it was) that the lack of high quality descriptive ancient literature on Sol Invictus is a problem; I kept wishing we had an Apuleius or a Lucian to vividly evoke the meaning of what we were seeing." 
That is a wonderful relief that you posted: Thank you!  As for the Arch of Constantine, it is the prime example, especially in the narrative friezes, of a monument erected in a great hurry, not only reusing older material but also, more to the point of your observations, hiring whatever carvers of sarcophagi and the like happened to be resident in Rome to carve the narrow friezes (these of course are based on drawings provided to them; the carvers did not, I should  think, actually design the compositions).
The beautiful aureus...well, since when were the prime dynastic aureus issues typical of coinage?  Also, so early in the Severan dynasty, the best intaglio men of the Antonines were still available.  Besides, for such an issue, engravers from any place in the Empire might be brought in if not in Rome at the time.  Surely, of course, it was someone accustomed to the expectations of the Rome mint.
When trying to isolate what is representative, neither the finest nor the roughest and hastiest work ought to be the selected first.
Pat L.
P.S. When Curtis made me realize that Numerian's scepter in Reply#57, posted by Steve Minnoch, was the ordinary eagle, I saw (from much experience of such psychological phenomena) that it was time to stand back from the question (see attached sketch, however crude), though I disagree soberly with both of you concerning the specificity of the hand.
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« Reply #64 on: March 04, 2007, 03:43:31 pm »

Pat, your theory that this gesture evolved into an abstract symbolic form begs the question what that abstract form is. The line dividing crude depiction verging on symbolism and abstract symbol may be a little thin, but surely the chief characteristic of an abstract symbol is the replacement of varying realism with a fixed form...

However, if we look at the depiction of Sol across all mints then rather than seeing a fixed symbolic form we instead see a staggering variety of crudely realistic hands, ranging from a fingerless profile, thru palm and thumb profile to versions where the palm displays two or three splayed fingers, and finally all fingers depicted in the facing versions. We also see the bizarre disproportionate forms of the Rome mint c.314-315, the toaster fork hand from Trier, small featureless hands, well detailed hands, etc.

The most obvious explanation for the variety is surely that it was NOT a fixed abstract form! These are just crude hands!

The Arch of Constantine was certainly executed in a hurry, but I don't see that the difference between 2nd and 4th century art that it exhibits is misleading - it's the exact same change that we see on the coinage... Realism giving way to more symbolic representation.. something that's often been noted on these boards.

Ben

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« Reply #65 on: March 04, 2007, 06:24:42 pm »

"Abstract symbolic form" is your phrase.  We do not understand, and therefore cannot reasonably criticize, each other.   That is why I regret trying to inquire or contribute on this topic.  For me learning is not a matter of winning or losing.  I do not see that 'right' or 'wrong' is a reasonable judgment of any of the ideas that contributors have offered.  I must admit that you may be trying to convey something different from what I think you mean.  P.L.
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« Reply #66 on: March 04, 2007, 09:12:11 pm »

"Abstract symbolic form" is your phrase.  We do not understand, and therefore cannot reasonably criticize, each other.

The term you used was "Abstracted symbol" - sorry if it wasn't obvious. You also referred to the Maximinus coin above as depicting him holding a sceptre topped with an "abstracted hand", and I do believe that a suggestion that specific is either going to be right or wrong! I believe it's just a hand, not a sceptre at all; this is perhaps more obvious if you look at my specimen I posted early in the thread, but the more general point I was attempting to make above is that the totallty of the evidence is against this being an abstract symbol at all. The reason I brought this topic back to life was your post in the other thread reiterating your position that this isn't just an "inept" (i.e. merely crudely depicted) hand... While we're obviously missing the precise origin and meaning in context of this gesture, and I would love to know what it is, I don't see there's any reason to believe that it's an abstracted symbol - the usage evidence doesn't show the consistency that would require.

Ben
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« Reply #67 on: March 04, 2007, 09:53:38 pm »

Of course, something either is or isn't anything other than a hand, but I never meant to say that I'd proven anything, and equally I wouldn't want to say that it had to be just an inept hand, either.  I read all the way through that Belgian monograph for a clue to why Sol and the emperors who embraced the cult are as they are and found nothing telling.  Similarly in LIMC.  Then I got sick and tired of Sol Invictus and his believers.  When I was young, I think, I'd have persisted; once I was extremely interested in the language of specific gesture in Late Antique art.  Now, at 72, it is as if I feel that I have no time for anything but formal beauty, in art or music or poetry, that only the finest efforts of human minds are worth bothering with.  Note that I said 'feel'.  That is not a judgement.  And argument is no longer much fun.  I need to convince myself that I'm helping someone to a kind of understanding that is worth possessing, and to do so is not always easy: there must be a limit to vanity.
P.L.
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« Reply #68 on: March 13, 2007, 12:46:23 pm »

Ran across these by accident.  Most such symbols were inherited.
The sword of justice and the hand of justice were the regalia of the highest penal authority of French kings.  The Louvre has an ivory one of the Romanesque period.  Relevance?  Continuity from late antiquity?  Justice of Sol Invictus???
[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]
http://concise.britannica.com/ebc/art-30924
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« Reply #69 on: March 13, 2007, 01:14:38 pm »

That "hand of justice", with it's two folded fingers, looks to me very much like the "IC XC" (abbreviation for Jesus Christ, in Greek) Christian symbol. I'd not be surpised if it is related to Sol's gesture, but given the time separating the two I'm not sure how close the meaning may be. I think we need to look to Sol's eastern Severan origins to find the original meaning.

Ben
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« Reply #70 on: March 13, 2007, 04:58:00 pm »

Whether blessing or as Pantokrator, Christ has his thumb folded, whereas what the Wikipedia article calls the 3 finger hand of justice, whether the ivory one, or the one from the Treasure of St. Denis or the Ms. showing Louis IX, all have the thumb out and straight.  I state that merely as a fact, in a context where there are few accidents.  I post the sharpest picture I could find, the one at Cefalù (12th century).  I leave anything more to experts.  Pat L.
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« Reply #71 on: March 13, 2007, 09:27:37 pm »

Well, I don't think any of this is directly related to the question at hand (pun not intended!) about Sol's all-fingers-extended gesture, but for what it's worth it does appear that the "hand of justice" is intended to show a hand raised in benediction:

http://www.napoleon.org/en/essential_napoleon/symbols/index.asp
[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

On some depictions of Jesus (mosaic below is 6th C from San Apollinaire Nuovo, Ravenna) his hand is shown in this same position, while on others it is with the touching thumb (but also commonly described as "raised in benediction"), which apparently isn't the IC-XC gesture, but rather an orators gesture, according to WikiPedia. It'd be interesting, although off-topic for this board, to know how old this orators gesture is, since as such it need not have any relation to Sol.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Pantocrator

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« Reply #72 on: March 13, 2007, 11:33:24 pm »

Good.  Well, this probably is all child's play to a specialist, I suppose.  The other mosaics were 12-13c, and this one is 6c, since it seems to be the enthroned Christ flanked by angels at the head of the martyrs in the nave mosaic. 
Let us know if you find an earlier 'hand of justice' wand, preferably an actual object or, as with Louis IX, a king holding one.  I can't think of a Carolingian one.
http://www.allposters.com/gallery.asp?aid=856633845&item=1343908
This is all I could find, better than a line drawing, for the Treasure of St.-Denis one, "Romanesque"**
So far as French regalia are concerned, it is not(?) a blessing gesture.  What I ran across was a description of one of the latest truly regal portraits, Callet's of Louis XVI (1789), 'with all the props in place: the great velvet mantle with fleurs-de-lys, the collars of royal orders, the crown, the "hand of justice", the short sceptre, the "sword of Charlemagne", and a massive throne.'  It was in a review of an exhibit, Citizens and Kings, now London Royal Academy (lately Portraits public, Portraits privés at the Grand Palais in Paris), by John Rogister, TLS Feb 9 2007.  As I said, I wasn't looking for 'hands'; I always read the art reviews first when the TLS comes
But that coin of Max. Daia, above Reply #61, really nags at me.  Pat L.
** P.S. I found the Ingres portrait at the very bottom of the Popery web page, with the very St-Denis Hand.  Trust Ingres!  That really does look like his Jupiter, the one from the ceiling of the Charles X wing of the Louvre.  But that's not evidence for us, except for Napoleon.
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« Reply #73 on: March 14, 2007, 05:52:49 am »

Pat, I think you're being a bit misled by that specific Daia obv die; for every one where the hand is poorly rendered I can show you another, such as my own, below, where it is better rendered. This is only a single mint issue (and from a very brief period of issue), but still we have a variety that does not sugggest a fixed form, nor was it fixed in the 100 years of Sol since introduction by Severus.

The hand of justice is interesting in it's own right, but it is 13 th C French rather than 3rd-4th C Roman, and anyway as indicated seems to have it's own lineage ultimately based on a different hand gesture (the orators gesture).

Ben
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« Reply #74 on: March 14, 2007, 10:50:55 am »

To follow-up, I googled for orators gesture, and arrived at the book "Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome" which I've just ordered a copy of ($25 w/ free shipping from Amazon). Apparantly there was a broad repertoire of gestures used by roman orators which would be used as part of the body language to emphasize differing types of point. Here's a Bryn Mawr review of the book:

http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2000/2000-03-08.html

The Amazon "search inside" feature does show that it contains a number of illustrations, for example the one below (slightly different from above - but still evocative of same).

This roman gestural repertoire would seem to be another possible source for Sol's gesture (and apparently also for Jesus's oratorally derived gesture of benediction, if WikiPedia is to be believed - no source given), although I would still tend to think that the former may have come from the east when Severus "imported" Sol and he seemingly displaced Helios with his characteristic torch. Even if the benediction gesture (& subsequently derived Hand of Justice) are not directly derived from the Sol gesture, there is of course the possibility that the iconography is derived, just as Jesus' rayed Solar halo is derived from Sol's radiance (sometimes shown in an almost identical rayed halo form), yet the "rays" are assigned a symbolic Christian meaning rather than their prior literal pictoral one.

Ben
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« Reply #75 on: March 14, 2007, 02:05:05 pm »

Yes, I saw the Bryn Mawr review, but thought that the book would deal mostly with literally speaking gestures, and what I was curious about was not initially a speaking gesture, as I made haste to make clear by objecting to the Arringatore and the Primaporta Augustus, inter alios.  I do, naturally, know the rich repertory of actors' gestures in the Terence Mss and others.
The French object called the "Hand of Justice", the elaborately mounted ivory hand (which, whatever its exact date, is surely not later than 12c, apart from its mounting), did not for Napoleon any more than for Louis XVI or XIV or Henri IV or Louis IX, signify regal oratory, any more than any scepter or scepter-substitute on a consular-type imperial portrait does.  At any date at all, it has to do with Authority, not Rhetoric.
Whether there is any connection between images like Max. Daia's coin and the French "Hand of Justice" I do not know, certainly cannot show.  I was just interested to know whether.  When one pursues research in order to prove something, one is apt to end up with cold fusion.
The Christ images all are speaking gestures, papal I think today.  The crossing of two of the fingers which some Wiki said is the chi of Christos I take for evolved monastic and altar guild lore, a category of lore that has a pious signification for absolutely anything.  (Wiki and other encyclopedias, of course, have no authority unless articles are signed and unless adopted without altering the author's text, despite their containing a great deal that happens not to be wrong; they are useful sometimes for suggesting what needs to be followed up on).
Pat L.
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« Reply #76 on: March 14, 2007, 02:45:16 pm »

I've seen web sites that associate the HOJ not just with authority but specifically the ability to inflict capital punishement (as such it reminds me of the fourches patibulaires as sign of power/rank - apparently a French "thing" at that time), but I don't see that this necessarily needs to be in conflict with the sign-of-benediction origin that those web sites I linked earlier claim (i.e. divine power/justice, perhaps). It does at least have the same form as that gesture, while it seems to have little in common with Sol's gesture (other than being a raised hand - another Primaporta Augustus to be ignored, perhaps!). Are you saying, between the lines, that you think the HOJ was not derived from the benediction gesture?

Ben
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« Reply #77 on: March 14, 2007, 05:00:40 pm »

Not 'between the lines'.  A front view of the Serapis on the attached, and other, coins would show an open hand in your face--a universally threatening gesture, a curse in some lands.  I think I said early on that Sol's hand (did the Colossus at Rhodes actually hold a torch?  Merely curious), as we see it on coins of the Severan age, is raised straight up, yanking his himation up, quite differently from any speaking gesture, whether Imperial or Christian.
Just how the straightforward Severan Serapis reverses relate to the post-Gordianian, especially post-Aurelian, representations of Sol, I do not know.  The only link is those apparently sycretistic 'folles' with Sol dressed and posed like Serapis and holding the latter's bust.
An afternoon's browsing suggests that there are too few surviving representations of Carolingian kings, or even of Ottonian ones outside of frontispieces of Gospels, to guess whether Charlemagne (for instance) held a second scepter, with a hand, in his left hand (as apparently Napoleon thought he did--else I doubt Ingres would have put it there).  I'd have to read all of Carolingian lit. to find out whether he and his successors had one, mentioned in a contemporary source! 
Hans Swarzenski, BTW, dates the ivory hand itself, 11-12c, but marks its St.-Denis provenance "(?)".  He sites an article by W. Martin Conway in Archaeologia, 1915, p. 50.  Period.  As you doubtless know, Swarzenski's Monuments of Romanesque Art is a marvelous treasury of 8th-12th c. Kleinkunst whose text never got written: just an annotated list of illustrations.
I do not expect to find anything in A. Goldschmidt's Elfenbeinskulpturen, of which our library has a copy (rpt).  I don't recall anything there.  We don't have Panofsky's Abbot Suger, which might have a lead in a footnote.  Or not.  The standard iconographic handbooks have nothing relevant.  Googling does bring up scads of garbage, too!
Even mention of a 'Hand' in an account of the coronation of Charlemagne would not be more than suggestive of Charlemagne's scholars thinking it was Imperial to have one.  When Byzantine emperors are shown, it usually is endowing or presenting something and they are shown without Imperial regalia, barring a crown: they didn't go to church carrying any scepter or scepter-like objects.
So here is a Serapis, to bring us round to coins, finally.  All 5 fingers spread.  Pat L.
• 27 04 04 AE 30 16.42g  axis 1:00.  SerdicaCaracalla, laureate, head to r.  AVT K M AVR SEV    ANTONINO S.  Rev., Serapis stg. l., holding scepter and wearing kalathos.  OVLPIAS    SERDIKES.  Varbanov III, p. 22, no. 341.
ADDED:
• Frontal, Rome, Caracalla sole augustus.
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« Reply #78 on: March 14, 2007, 08:51:44 pm »

I've found what would seem to be an authoritive source for the hand-of-justice meaning - the French Dept. of Justice web site, and it says "The Hand of Justice has three open fingers, and the King held it in his left hand. It symbolizes simultaneously the hand that strikes, caresses and blesses."

[BROKEN LINK REMOVED BY ADMIN]

The emphasis on the three fingers and tri-partite meaning, would seem to rule out direct derivation from any gesture that didn't also have the three fingers. Given that this was a symbol of the Holy Roman Empire (and that the King's regalia already contained the threat of the sword of justice), I wonder if this meaning might be a partial secularizing of an original purely religious meaning, since it does match the shape of the christian benediction gesture (where, incidently, the three fingers may represent the holy trinity - a claim that I've seen made for the HOJ, presumably just based on it appearing to be the same).

So, back to the five fingered gesture of Sol/Serapis... I'm not at all certain that this is necessarily the stop/in-your-face threat gesture that you suggest, since it doesn't generally appear to be depicted that way. It's generally more like a hand raised high in salute/greeting (another "universal"), than the aggressive horizontal in-your-face, but there are also the cases where it's used as part of a bust vs full figure where it doesn't appear raised at all, and on at least one full-figure representation where the same gesture might be presumed it is also just a hand held closely in front of the body (see rev of attached picture - another Daia coin, but this time issued by himself vs Constantine). The only entirely common element seems to be the gesture itself, rather than the precise place/mode of delivery.

While I don't expect that Sol's gesture is an oratorial one, I don't think that the occasional vigorous himation raising depictions in of themselves necessarily rule it out - that is after all just an emphatic form. The gesture book I mentioned isn't really about normal speaking gesture but rather oratorical theatricism (partly based on the surviving descriptions of Quintilian and Cicero), although it's more broad than that.

Ben
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« Reply #79 on: February 10, 2008, 11:21:57 pm »

I hesitate to bring up this old thread again (well, not really), but this hand gesture (which Pat L. has called the "egregious hand") appears not only as a gesture of Sol, Serapis, or the emperor.  As I was belatedly placing coins in 2x2's, I came across this AE32 of Philip I of Corycus, SNG von Aulock 5684 (this coin), depicting Thalassa (or Amphytrite) on the reverse clearly making this mudra (to employ a technical term from another, Buddhist, tradition that seems to express what is being talked about here).  An apotropaic gesture imperiously calming the waves, perhaps?  Cheers, George Spradling
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« Reply #80 on: February 11, 2008, 12:17:10 am »

Not to forget Homonoia, if indeed it is she, on Maximianus' tetradrachms.  Also a calming gesture, possibly?

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« Reply #81 on: February 11, 2008, 01:54:44 pm »

I do NOT want to recommence discussing the Hand.  Only, there is a natural tendency to include rather generic and merely ill drawn raised hands suggestive of power or proclamation.  By using words like 'grappling' and 'egregious' I only wanted to try to call attention to the character of  a few that do seem extraordinary--that seem like very well drawn non-fleshly hands.  The number that are merely gesturing 'Hi, Sailor' (so to speak) are innumerable.  Anyhow, even the egregiously different ones may mean nothing special, after all (and, of course, I meant 'egregious' in the literal Latin sense).  Pat L.
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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numism  |  Reading For the Advanced Collector  |  Topic: Sol's gesture and Serapis' robe « previous next »
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