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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  Roman Coins (Moderator: Severus_Alexander)  |  Topic: Caracalla VIRT AVGG from Rome: do they exist? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Caracalla VIRT AVGG from Rome: do they exist?  (Read 951 times)
silvernut
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« on: October 20, 2009, 03:42:42 pm »

I've been looking for several months now for denarii of Caracalla of the type VIRT AVGG, Virtus standing right or left, minted in Rome (RIC 50 & 51). All the ones I've seen for sale in this period are clearly from Laodicea (even the ones advertised and sold as minted in Rome!), unless I'm missing something obvious... I've still to see a specimen clearly from Rome. So I'm thinking they must be quite rare. Or do they even exist?

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Ignasi
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curtislclay
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« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2009, 12:10:40 am »

I think VIRT AVGG occurs at Rome only for Septimius: see first picture below (from Wildwinds). This type passes from L SEPT SEV AVG IMP XI PART MAX (rare) to SEVERVS AVG PART MAX, so it must have been introduced in c. spring 199 and may have been struck for most of the rest of the year. Virtus stands left, seen from the side, right leg advanced and slightly bent, holding Victory out before her and spear and shield resting on ground behind her

Caracalla as ANTONINVS AVGVSTVS has two VIRT AVGG types on new-style Eastern denarii ("Laodicea").

One type is exactly like Septimius' at Rome, except that Virtus places her right foot on a helmet. She is seen from side and holds spear and shield behind her as at Rome for Septimius. This type is rare; my only plaster cast is of a coin in Vienna and I don't recall offhand ever having seen another specimen.

Caracalla's second new-style VIRT AVGG type is simplified and standardized: Virtus now stands left in the normal pose, weight on right not left leg, and her shield is omitted, allowing her to grasp the spear with raised rather than lowered left hand. Sometimes the Victory she holds stands on a globe, a slight Eastern variation of the type. See Wildwinds picture below.

It seems likely that the Eastern mint copied this type from Rome, but struck it for Caracalla not Septimius. Caracalla's first type closely copies the Roman model of Septimius, with the addition of a helmet for Virtus to step on, but very soon the type was slightly altered and simplified for the bulk of the issue.
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2009, 12:52:45 am »

Now Cohen has two erroneous descriptions of a VIRT AVGG denarius of Caracalla as ANTONINVS AVGVSTVS, both cited without source, which I think may be misdescriptions of the two actual new-style types I have just described.

Cohen 664 has Virtus standing RIGHT holding Victory and spear, surely a misdescription of the common new-style type with Virtus LEFT, which is missing in Cohen!

Cohen 663 has Virtus standing left holding SPEAR and SHIELD. No such type exists, but maybe this is a misdecription of the rare type in Vienna, Virtus standing left holding VICTORY, spear, and shield. In stressing the difference between the two types, that Virtus here holds spear and shield instead of just spear, maybe Cohen forgot about the similarity, that she holds a Victory in both cases!

In RIC 50-51, I think Mattingly erroneously listed these two non-existent types under Rome, because he had of course never seen either of them so couldn't know their style! As far as I know only the two new-style varieties that I describe above actually exist.
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2009, 01:25:19 am »

Thank you for the information, Mr Clay. The new-style denarius of the type is actually quite common, and I was wondering if maybe I was being too quick in attributing all of them to Laodicea. One additional feature they all have, as well as the ones you've mentioned, is a piece of cloth (?) flowing downwards from the left shoulder, parallel to the spear, which I see the Septimius Virtus from Rome does not have, so I guess they did add some artistic value in spite of the relative crudeness of the figure as compared to Rome.

I'll make a note with your comments on my copy of RIC.

Regards,
Ignasi
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Maximinvs
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« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2009, 07:26:07 pm »

Curtis,
Why refer to Virtus as 'she'? I have always seen Virtus as male, rather than female. The reverse figure does not look female to me, and the 'skirt' length seems more appropriate to a male...
Regards,
Ian
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curtislclay
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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2009, 12:21:03 am »

Virtus is a feminine word in Latin so her personification must by definition be female! That's why she is typically depicted with her right, feminine breast bare.

If you see the legend VIRTVS AVG accompanying a male figure, then that figure cannot be Virtus herself: it is Mars, Hercules, the emperor himself, symbolizing the imperial prowess named in the legend.

It is, indeed, a very common error, committed even by David Sear in Roman Coins and Their Values, to regard Virtus as a male rather than a female as she actually is!
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2009, 08:15:55 am »

Compare Melville Jones, Dict. of Anc. Roman Coins, article Virtus, p. 322: "When Virtus herself appears (for she is feminine in Latin grammar in spite of her supposed masculine quality)...."
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Curtis Clay
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« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2009, 09:39:53 am »

I came across this denarius recently and thought to myself: definitely a very female virtus!
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Bob Crutchley
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« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2009, 01:38:28 pm »

In Spanish, 'virility' ("virilidad") is a feminine word, as most, if not all, qualities, even though virility is supposed to define men!

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Ignasi
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Robert_Brenchley
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« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2009, 02:50:42 pm »

She has a mascuine ending (-us), and she's attributed to men - I don't think theres any VIRTVS AVGVSTA issue - so it's an understandable error.
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Robert Brenchley

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« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2009, 05:50:40 pm »

The Spanish shows what 'virtus' is; the stem is virtut-, it is an abstract noun.  It is 3rd declension, in which -us is usually this kind of feminine-gender noun.  -us also may be neuter gender, as genus, generis, pl. genera.  On the other hand, genus is the genitive of genu, still neuter, when it is 'knee'.  And then there's domus, also feminine, though it even belongs to the 2nd declension, with  its genitive domi.
Personifications are usually feminine; the hard one is honos, honoris, which is that tricky 3rd declension again, and is masculine.  I think there is a coin or two where force of habit makes HONOS a female figure, but the one that I finally got, of Marcus Aurelius, shows a slender male figure.
As every Latin I pupil knows, even the -a declension is not all feminine, and neither is the first declension in Greek.
Whence the abduction stories in the early lessons of old Latin I books: Pirata, Agricola, Incola, Nauta (the agricola has a daughter puella, filia coming in the next lesson).
Pat L.
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2009, 02:56:21 pm »

Shows how dreadful my Latin is. Wasn't Agricola always defeating the Belgians? I remember him from Latin classes when I was 11.
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Robert Brenchley

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« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2009, 03:06:46 pm »

True, Pat, "honor" in Spanish is one of the few qualities that is masculine, so I guess I now know why. It's interesting to understand where the nuances of one's own language come from.

I'm sure it's weird for English speakers to see that in other languages things have gender. Sometimes it makes sense from a cultural point of view (thus, sun is masculine and moon is feminine in most Latin languages), but others, it's just seemingly random! (For instance, milk is feminine in Spanish, but masculine in Portuguese!).

Regards,
Ignasi
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