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Fulmen. A thunderbolt. Lightning, the weapon of Jove, forged by Vulcan, is commonly delineated on ancient sculptures, paintings, and coins, as cloven into three or more points or forks.
[A winged thunderbolt with forks of lightning]
Amongst other examples of the fulmen appearing on Roman coins are the following:
- Vulcan is seen forging it in the presence of the goddess Minerva, on a brass medallion of Antoninus Pius.
- First brass coins, struck under Tiberius to the memory of Augustus, bearing the obverse legend DIVVS AVGVSTVS and DIVVS AVGVSTVS PATER, typify his portrait with a thunderbolt before it, as if he were become, through his apotheosis, Jupiter Latii, and invested with the fulminating power, reigned in heaven with the king of gods and men. And as Jupiter is represented bearing the thunderbolt, so the figure of Augustus, with radiated head, and holding the fulmen, appears on a brass medallion of Tiberius, minted by the minicipium of Turiaso, now Tarazona, Spain, (engraved in Vaillant, Sel. Num. Descamps).
- On a coin of another Hispanian colony, viz. Caesar-Augusta (Zaragoza), struck in honour of Augustus during his lifetime, is a winged thunderbolt similar to the one on the above engraving.
One of the earliest examples of a Roman coin with an eagle standing on the fulmen is to be seen on a denarius of of M. Antonius. The same symbol appears frequently on coins of Augustus, restored by Titus and by Domitian, either isolatedly, or with an eagle standing atop it. On a large brass dedicated to Caligua by the Spanish colony of Caesar-Augusta (C C A) the Roman eagle is placed on a thunderbolt between two standards. The same type occurs on coins COL A A PATR struck under Claudius and under Nero. There is a large brass of Galba, on which Rome stands holding transversely the legionary standard, which is distinguished by an eagle, with the fulmen in his talons (Morell. Thesaur. Impp. Tab v). The FIDES EXERCITVVM of Vitellius has the eagle and the thunderbolt for its accompanying type. Vespasian's CONCORDIA EXERCITVVM also exhibits the thunderbolt beneath the claws of the legionary eagle. On a silver of Vespasian, and on a gold and silver of Titus appears a thunderbolt, placed horizontally on a throne (see wood cut below).
Although particularly assigned to Jove, there are instances of this attribute being appropriated to another divinity, viz. Jove's daughter.
- On a silver and middle brass of Titus, and more frequently of Domitian, Minerva stands holding the hasta in her left hand, and the fulmen in her right. - A large brass of Domitian exhibits the sedent image of IVPPITER CVSTOS, with the thunderbolt and spear (Morrell. Impp. Tab xiv).
- Another large brass of Domitian represents the emperor himself holding Jove's thunder in his right hand, and the hasta of divinity in his left, crowned by Victory from behind (Morrell. Tab xv No. 24).
- IVPPITER CONSERVATOR, eagle with expanded wings, standing on the fulmen; silver and middle brass of Domitian (Ibid, Tab vi No. 14).
- PRINCEPS IVVENTVTIS, thunderbolt surmaounted by and eagle (Ibid, Tab xvii No. 14). Before quitting the examples furnished from the Flavian mintages, a specimen of Vespasian's silver is subjoined:
Reverse: TR P IX IMP XV COS VIII P P, the fulmen placed on a throne (viz. that of Jupiter). The lightning was regarded as symbolical of warlike power (Wilde) - a power also conjoined (according to Berger) with public utility, as indicated on a denarius of the Fabia gens.
In the CONSERVATORI PATRIS PATRIAE brass medallion of Trajan, we see the figure of Jupiter holding his protecting hand, armed with a thunderbolt, over the head of the emperor, standing at his feet. A similar type is described by Mionnet, from a large brass of Hadrian.
- A two-fold representation of ths tutelary object of imperial invocation is finely displayed on a brass medallion of Lucius Verus, in which he and Marcus Aurelius stand beneath the towering figure of "the Thunderer."
- On a gold coin of Antoninus Pius the image of Jupiter is seated, with the fulmen and hasta pura; the legend IMPERATOR II (Spanheim, Pr. i 429).
- The lightning was emblematical of Divine Providence, as is clearly shewn on those coins which represent the fulmen, conjoined to the legend PROVIDENTIA DEORVM, to be seen on gold, silver, and large brass of Antoninus Pius.
- Coins struck under Caracalla and also under Maximianus respectively bear for their type of reverse a lion, with radiated head, carrying a thunderbolt in its mouth.
- On a brass medallion of Dioletian, Jupiter seated holds the fulmen and the hasta, and an eagle stands at his feet.
- For a finely designed type of JUPITER PROPUGNATOR, brandishing the fulmen, see Severus Alexander.
When in Spain Augustus narrowly escaped being killed by lightning, and held a thunderstorm in great dread ever afterwards. See IOVIS TON(ANTIS).