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Aeneae Pietas







Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
Aeneae Pietas: The filial piety of Aeneas - This hero is represented, on many imperial coins, in the act of carrying the aged Anchises on his shoulders, and the Trojan palladium (image of Pallas) in his right hand, Ascanius following him, Sometimes the palladium is omitted, and the boy has hold of Aenas's hand. This son of Aeneas was also called Iulus, and the members of the Julia family pretended to derive their origin from him; a claim which is frequently indicated on the coins of Julius Caesar. Another allusion to so favourite a theme of national flattery, with the Romans, is seen on a very rare denarius of the Livineia gens, struck by Livineius Regulus, monetary triumvir under Augustus. Among the splendid and interesting series of bronze medallions, struck at Rome under Antoninus Pius, is one (of which the above is a copy after Mionnet's plate), with the legend P M TR P COS III and the type of Aeneas bearing Anchises from Troy, and leading Ascanius by the hand. The old man, covered with a robe, holds a casket; the youth wears a Phrygian bonnet. The reference of this medallion to the piety of the Trojan chief (says Havercamp), is to be regarded as connecting itself with the surname of Pius, which Antoninus bore, and as conveying an eulogium on the filial virtues of that Emperor. - Capitolinus, speaking of the affection which Antoninus evinced towards his parents, states that the name of Pius had been conferred on him, because, in the presence of the assembled Senate, he had given his arm to his father-in-law, who was broken down by old age, and thus assisted him in walking.
There is a very rare first brass, with a similar type, minted between the third and fourth consulates of Antoninus (A. D. 140-45), and both were probably designed as a compliment to the good Emperor, whose dutiful attachments as a son were further shewn by the statues which he dedicated to the memory of his father and mother, as well as to others of his defunct relations. - See Havercamp, Médailles de Christine, pl. xvi. p. 77.
Amongst the contorniate medals, which have on their obverses the respective heads of Nero and Trajan, is one with Aeneas for legend of reverse, and for type the group of Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius: that well-known subject having been copied from earlier coins, Greek as well as Latin.



Aenea Adventus. - Arrival of Aeneas in Italy. - In his celebrated work "De la rareté des Médailles Romaines," Mionnet has given a beautiful engraving (whence the subjoined is carefully copied) of a brass medallion, which on its reverse, with remarkable minuteness of graphic illustration, typifies the description, given by Virgil, of this aboriginal legend of Rome.


On the obverse, we read ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P TR P COS VI and are presented with a remarkably fine portrait of that Emperor. The reverse, which is without epigraph, depictures Aeneas and Ascanius, disembarking from a vessel anchored close to shore, on the coast, as may be supposed, of Latium. Opposite to this group lies a sow suckling its young, under a tree: above which are to be discerned the walls of a city. Here, in the first place, we are reminded of the Trojan's dream, in which, while "laid on Tiber's banks, oppress'd with grief," he was addressed by "the Father of the Roman flood," in these words: -

Jamque tibi, ne vana putes haee fingere somnum,
Littoreis ingens inventa sub ilicibus sus,
Triginta capitum foetus enixa, jacebit,
Alba, solo recubans, albi circum ubera nati.
Hic locus urbis erit, requies ea certa laborum:
Ex quo ter denis urbem redeuntibus annis
Ascanins clari condet cognominis Albam.
                                                Aenid, viii. 42.

And that this nightly vision may not seem
Th' effect of fancy, or an idle dream,
A sow beneath an oak shall lie along,
All white herself, and white her thirty young.
When thirty rolling years have run their race,
Thy son, Ascanius, on this empty space
Shall build a royal town, of lasting fame;
Which from this omen shall receive the name.
                                     Dryden's translation.

Next, we have the fulfilment of the sign given to Aeneas, according to the promise of Tiberinus, as described a little further on, in the same immortal poem: -
Ecce autem subitum, atque oculis mirabile monstrum.
Candide per silvam cum foetu concolor albo,
Procubuit, viridique in littore conspicitur sus.

Now on the shore the fatal swine is found:
Wondrous to tell; she lay along the ground:
Her well-fed offspring at her udders hung;
She white herself, and white her thirty young.

The city delineated on the above medallion is clearly Lavinium.


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