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Fabia











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Fabia gens - An ancient, nogle, and powerful family, that gave many great men to the republic of Rome. It extended itself into six branches, five of which (Buteo, Labeo, Pictor, Hispaniensis, Maximus), exhibt their repestive surnames on coins. Discarding the fable of Silus Italicus, who carries its origin to Fabius, the son of Hercules, and giving scarcely more credit to historians who kill off all the males of the family save one, in a general engagement which they entered 306 strong, near the Caemera, against the Veientes in 447 BC; the celebrated characters who are supposed to have sprung from the sole survivor of that fatal day amounted to 36 individuals, and who in the space of 250 years, were invested with 48 consulates, eight censorships, and ten tribunates of the Plebs, five Principes Senatus, together with the honours of thirteen triumphs, and of two ovations. From Fabius Maximus, surnamed Cunctator, the famous dictator in the second Punic war, down to the reign of Tinerius, the Fabii sustained the splandour of their race at Rome.

There are eleven or twelve distinctly different types, and many more unimportant varieties in the coins of the gens; but they offer few subjects of interest, even on the most select and rare of their reverses. To make amends, however, for historical and mythological deficiencies, the initial letters and abbreviated words, on some of them, have supplied ample themes for execising the ingenuity, and for displaying the erudition, of numismatic antiquaries.

The brass pieces belonging to this gens are asses, or parts of the as, and Imperial Greek.

The following are among the denarii most open to historical illustration:


1. EX A PV, bust of a veiled and turreted woman right. / C FABI C F, Victory in a rapid biga; beneath the fore feet of the horses is a vulture or other bird of prey. In the field of the coin some letter or other of the Latin alphabet, silver [The obverse type is probably the head of Juno, in whose temple the public money was kept].

There is a large brass as with the name of this family, published by Liebe, bearing on the reverse side the usual ship's prow, but with a vulture, or a buteo standing on the lower part of it.

With respect to peculiar yet constant symbols, Borghesi is of opinion that when they appear on single denarii of Roman families, and especially when they are repeated on their brass coins, they bear allusion to the surnames of that particular family. Hence he is induced to regard the vulture, or whatever bird it may be, which is represented on the two coins above described, as having relation to the cognomen of the family C FABIUS BUTEO. Ursin and Eckhel appear to have viewed it in the same light. The earliest numismatic writers, in general, believe the silver coin to have been first in that metal struck by the Romans, and attribute it to a C. Fabius Pictor, consul with Q. Ogulnius Gallus in 270 BC; and that the EX A PV indicates authority of the Roman people, who in that year caused it to be minted. But its workmanship, and its style of representing objects, preclude the acceptance of this opinion. Borghesi, looking to the symbols above mentioned, considers them belonging to the time of Marius. And with him others concur, that they were coined in Africa by Casius Fabius Adrianus, pretor and pro-pretor of the consuls L. Cornelius Cinna and Cn. Papirus Carbo, in 85 and 84 BC, partizans of Marius, (who died the previous year 86 BC). Cavedoni thinks it probable that it was C. Fabius, who being in 84 BC pretor in Africa, expelled thence Q, Metellus; and two years afterwards he himself, on account of his cruelty and avarice whilst pretor, was burnt alive (Liv. Epit. 84-86). See Riccio.

2. LABEO ROMA. Galeated head of Rome, before the neck X. / Q FABI, Jupiter Tonans, in rapid quadriga, brandishing the thunderbolt, and holding the sceptre. Beneath the horses a ship's head.

The learned refer this silver coin to Quintus Fabius Labeo, who in 189 BC, under the consuls of M. Fulvius Nobilior and Cneus Manlius Vulso, and during the war with King Antiochus Major, was appointed pretor to the command of the fleet. But peace with Syria, having in the meanwhile been made, he landed at Crete, and rescued from captivity the Roman citizens, who were dispersed through the greater part of that island, on which account (according to Livy) he claimed and enjoyed the honours of a naval triumph. It was for this reason also, as is believed, that the ship's prow displays itself on his coins (Eckhel, v p 208).


3. N FABI N PICTOR, a galeated figure, seated to the left, holds in the right hand the pontifical apex; in the left the hasta pura; near her, resting on the ground, is a shield inscribed QVIRIN; ROMA in exergue. Obv. Head of Rome, with mark of the denarius.

Differeing from Ursin, Vaillant and Spanheim, who have all three interpreted the abbreviation on the shield QVIRINus, and who have even yielded to the strange supposition that Quirinus (or Romulus) himself is represented in the seated figure, Eckhel (v 209) affirms, that an accurate inspection of all the specimens of this silver coin proves it to be the type of a woman, and observes that Quirinus is usually depicted with a long beard [In the above cut, the galeated figure on the reverse has not a womanly countenance; but in other respects it agrees with the martial character in which deified Rome usually appears on coins]. For these reasons Eckhel coincides with Havercamp, both in pronouncing the image to personify Rome, and in reading the inscription QVIRINalis, that is to say Flamen Quirinalis, an office hereditary in the Fabia family. Of the Fabii who were Flamines Quirinales frequent mention is made in Livy and in Val. Maximus. The surname Pictor is stated to have een derived to this family from C. Fabius, who in 394 BC gratuitously painted the temple of the goddess of Health (Aedes Salutis), erected after the samuite war, by Casius Junius Brutus Bubuleus, which painting was, it seems, in existence until the time of Claudius, during whose reign that sacred edifice was destroyed by fire, as is testified by Pliny, who considers that effort of art to have been creditable to the Fabia family; and opinion, however, widely dissented from by Val. Maximus, who, in narrating the same fact, denounces painting as an occupation too mean for a citizen of the noblest rank to persue, and treats the performance of Pictor with corresponding distain.

Riccio (p 88) says: "Numerius Flavius Pictor, great grandson of the famous C. Fabius above mentioned, was the author of this silver coin, but the precise time when he exercised his monetal triumvirate is not known. See QUININUS.

4. L FABI L F HISP, Victory in a fast going quadriga, holding a palm branch; under the horse' feet Q. Obv: C ANNI T F T N PRO COS EX S C, head of a woman, adorned with small mitre, earrings,and necklace; behind it a caduceus: sometimes within a cown, sometimes not.

Lucius Fabius, son of Lucius, was pro-questor in Spain to the pro-consul C. Annius, sent thither by Sulla in 83 BC, to subdue Sertonrius, of the Marian party.


5. Q MAX ROMA, galeated head of Rome; before it X / Cornucpiae with fruit, and with which a thunderbolt is put crosswise; the whole within a crown formed of poppies and corn ears.

Cavendoni says that this denarius, with the initial Q. belongs to Quintus Fabius Maimus Servilianus, consul [with Cecilius Metellus] in 142 BC; and that the cornucopiae traversed with the fulmen, still the symbol of the city of Valentia in Spain, alludes to the exploits of the father, and of the brother, against Viriatus, in that country. It is to be observed, that the crown which encompasses the field of the above silver coin, is composed of leaves tied together with heads of poppies, and finishes with corn ears, May not these (asks Riccio) point to the corona obsidionalis, the honour of which was earned by Quintus Fabius Maximus, the delayer, as he was called?



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