Symbols





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Symbols, or signs, on Roman coins.

Some of these allude to the names of families; as Acisculus, on denarii of the Valeria family. Flos, an open round flower, the surname of Aquilius Florus. The Muses, as in the Pomponia family, on account of the surname MUSA. Vitulus, a calf walking, in a symbol of the Voconia family, from the surname VITULUS, etc.

The following symbols have their peculiar and appropriate signification on Roman coins, viz.:-

  • Aplustre, a ship´s ornament, imports maritime power.
  • Apollo´s head refers to the Apollinarian games.
  • Bow, symbolises Apollo.
  • Bow and club, Hercules.
  • Bow and quiver, Diana.
  • Buckler, round, Macedonia.
  • Caduceus, or winged rod with serpents, is an attribute of Mercury, Felicity, and Peace.
  • Caduceus, between two cornucopiae, signifies Abundance and Peace.
  • Caduceus, between corn-ears, Fertility as well as Peace.
  • Camel, symbol of Arabia.
  • Capricorn, or sea goat, the astrological sign of Augustus´s navity.
  • Capricorn, or sea goat, also symbol of Plently and Happiness.
  • Ceres, the goddess, denotes Fertility, and distribution of corn.
  • Cornucopiae, or horn of plently, Fecundity; also abundance of all things.
  • Corn ears (spicae tritici) symbolise Egypt, Africa, Spain, and also Annona and Fertility.
  • Crowns, of various kinds, relate to public games.
  • Crocodile, symbol of Egypt.
  • Crabfish (pagurus) indicates a maritime city.
  • Chimaera belongs to Corinth.
  • Crane (ciconia); this bird symbolises Piety, meaning affection to parents.
  • Club (clava) attribute to Hercules.
  • Colonist driving two oxen to plough, sign of Roman colony.
  • Column, or pillar, denotes security.
  • Dog, attribute of Diana Venatrix; also of the Lares.
  • Dolphin, attribute of the Cyprian Venus; it also marks a maritime town.
  • Eagle, the wings of, Jupiter, whose attribute it is; also a type of Eternity.
  • Eagle, legionary, refers to the army of the commander-in-chief.
  • Elephant, symbol of africa; also of Eternity.
  • Frankinscence, branch of (thuris ramus) attribute of Arabia.
  • Fasces with the axe, imports sovereign authority.
  • Fish, denotes a maritime state.
  • Grain of wheat, marks Fertibility.
  • Grapes, brunch of, indicates a place celebrated for its produce in wine.
  • Horned head, Jupiter Ammon; also regal power.
  • Hasta pura, or spear with blunt point, mark of Divinity.
  • Laurel, attribute of Apollo and of Victory; also refers to public games.
  • Lion, symbol of Africa.
  • Lion´s skin, attribute of Hercules.
  • Lituus, or staff with curved head, sign of the Augurship, or Soothsayer´s office.
  • Lotus flower, Isis; the Egyptian people.
  • Lyre, attribute of Apollo.
  • Modius, or bushel measure, symbol of the Edileship.
  • Modius, or bushel measure, filled with corn ears, signifies provision, chiefly corn.
  • Owl, attribute of Pallas.
  • Olive branch, of Peace.
  • Praetorian galley, represents the fleet of the Republic.
  • Prow of a ship, refers to Rome, or some maritime city.
  • Palm tree, emblem of Alexandria, Damascus, Judaea, Sidon, Tyre, Phoenicia.
  • Panther, attribute of Bacchus.
  • Peacock, of Juno.
  • Pedum pastorale, shepherd´s crook, emblem of Pan and Faunus.
  • Pegasus, a winged horse so called, symbol of Apollo; also of Corinth.
  • Pegasus and Bellerophon, type of Colonial Corinth.
  • Pileus, cap so called, symbolises Liberty.
  • Rabbit, attribute of Spain.
  • Right hand raised, signifies Security, Peace, Health.
  • Rght hands joined, denote concord.
  • Right hand holding caduceus, concord; and at same time Peace.
  • Rocks, or stones, indicate places on lofty sites.
  • Rudder, or helm of a ship, attribute of Fortune; also shows a maritime city.
  • Serpent signifies Prudence and Wisdom; it is also the attribute of Aesculapius; and of Hygieia, or Salus.
  • Star, the numismatic mark of Elagabalus.
  • Stella crinita, or comet, alludes to Julius Caesar.
  • Stars, over the heads of two young men, mark of Dioscuri.
  • Sow, with litter, symbolises the Romans.
  • Staff, round which a serpent is coiled, attribute of Aesculapius.
  • Thyrsus, or spear wraped round with ivy, attribute of Bacchus.
  • Triquetra, three human legs triangularly joined, is an emblem of Sicily.
  • Tropaeum, trophy with captives at foot, betokens a province captured or a people vanquished.
  • Table, with urns upon it, refers to the prizes at public games.
  • Urns, with palm branches issuing therefrom, allude to the same thing.
  • Vases, augural, pontificial, and sacerdotal, insignia of he Augurship, Pontificate, and Priesthood.
  • Veil on the head of a female, sign of Vesta or Vestal virgin; also of consecrated empress.
Symbols.-On the subject of those, by which the superintendence and control of the Curule Ediles over the celebration of public games (Ludi) is designated on Roman medals, Spanheim should be consulted (Pr. i. p. 149), where he refers to such coins as bear the effigy either of the dea spicifera, Ceres; or of the mater magna, Cybele, drawn in a biga of lions; also where the same great writer treats of coins on which appears a curule chair, with a crown upon it, the latter being the reward of victors at the public games, accompanies frequently, on the same medals, with the inscription itself of AED. or AEDIL. CVR. (Aedilis Curulis), viz., those same Curule Ediles, under whose management and directions these games were conducted with due dignity and order. Objects allusive to these matters, always of intense interest and predilection to the people of Rome and of her Colonies, are to be found on coins of the Norbana, Papinia, and Vibia families.

Moreover, as to this class of ediles was commited the curatio annonae: the important charge of securing a constant supply of provision to the Roman capital and circumjacent territories: so we see the exercise of these functions recorded on coins by the curule chair, and a corn ear on each side of it, together with, sometimes, a cornucopiae added, as on denarii of the Lollia, Plautia, Quintilia, and Rutilia families. Indeed, the title AED. CVR. is inscribed on the last three, whilest the modius, or bushel measure, placed between two corn ears, appears with obviously the same signification on medals the Livineia family.

Spanheim, Pr. ii. p. 151, et seq.

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