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XXI

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Sulcus Primigenius

Sulcus Primigenius, literally the original furrow, refers to the furrow plowed by priests leading two oxen in an archaic Roman ceremony that established a sacred area in the foundation of a new city.

The custom of the sulcus primigenius was looked at by the Romans themselves as very old. It was probably adopted from the Etruscans. Romulus performed this rite to found Rome and killed Remus because he jumped over the furrow he had plowed.

Dionysos von Halicarnassus (Ant. Rom. 1. 88) suggests that this act of Romulus has served as example for all later Roman city founding. A foundation ceremony, with two priests leading a pair of oxen, is frequently depicted on the reverse of coins of the Roman colonies including the following cities: Brundisium, Philippi, Caesarea Maritima, Caesaraugusta, Akko-Ptolemais, Ninica Claudiopolis, Berytos, Petra, Rhesaena, Antiochia.

Gaebler describes the practice based on coin pictures and the description of Hyginus Gromaticus: The act of founding the colony has been done in this way: When the colones have arrived and the auspices have been obtained, the legatus coloniae deducendae, the head covered with a part of his toga which was applied in a special kind (ritu Gabino), where a part of it was tied around the waist as belt, plowed around the area which was provided for distribution a furrow (sulcus primigenius). This was done counterclockwise with a dyad which has to be on the right side (outwards) a bull and on the left side a cow. In doing so they held the bent handle of the plow so that the clod fell inwards. At that places were later should be the gates they lifted the plow so that the furrow here was interrupted (Varro LL.5.143)

Already previously the territory has been measured by agrimensores and divided in square areas (centuriae) and these further segmented in a certain number (sortes acceptae). Now the distribution of land began. This was done - as we know by the writings of the gromatic Hyginus - by lot and in three stages: at first the candidates were arranged in decuriae or in conternationes (10 or 3 recipients per centuria), then the order in which this community (consortia) should draw the lots, and not before this was managed the actual drawing of lots sortitio centuriarum has occurred.The legatus then has taken place on the sella curulis and before his feet the urn of lots has stood. From this urn the lots (probably small inscribed wooden rods) were drawn and everyone assigned his piece of land.
 
The ritual act of the founding therefore has consisted of two equal important procedures: the defining of the area by the primigenius sulcus, which confirms the connection to the ager publicus populi Romani, and the distribution of the field lots by the legate (sortitio).


Roman Republic, C. Marius C.f. Capito, 81 B.C.

RR21880. Silver denarius serratus, SRCV I 300, Crawford 378/1c, Sydenham 744b, RSC I Maria 9, VF, rainbow toned, weight 3.900g, maximum diameter 19.2mm, die axis 45o, Rome mint, 81 B.C.; obverse CAPIT XXXVI (control number), draped bust of Ceres right, wreathed with grain, symbol below chin; reverse plowman conducting yoke of two oxen left, control number XXXVI above, CMARICF / SC in exergue; toned, banker's mark in obverse right field


Octavian
, Triumvir and Imperator, c. 31 - 30 B.C., Colonia Julia, Cilicia


RP53838. Bronze AE 19, RPC I 4083, SNG Levante 597, VF, nice green patina, weight 6.208g, maximum diameter 19.9mm, die axis 90o, Colonia Julia mint, c. 31 - 30 B.C.; obverse PRINCEPS FELIX, bare head of Octavian right; reverse COLONIA-IVLIA-IIVIR, two humped oxen pulling plow to left, in field to left monograms VE and TER.


Octavian, Imperator and Consul, Autumn 30 - Summer 29 B.C.

RR66897. Silver denarius, SRCV I 1560, RSC I 117, RIC I 272, Sear CRI 424, BMCRE I 638, F, scratches, corrosion, banker's marks, weight 3.404g, maximum diameter 20.2mm, die axis 0o, Italian (Rome?) mint, autumn 30 - summer 29 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo of Actium right (with features of Octavian?); reverse Octavian, as the city founder of Nicopolis in Epirus, plowing with yoke of two oxen right, reins in right, whip in left, IMP CAESAR in exergue


Octavian
, Imperator and Consul, Autumn 30 - Summer 29 B.C.

RS66857. Silver denarius, SRCV I 1560, RSC I 117, RIC I 272, Sear CRI 424, BMCRE I 638, F, scratches, weight 3.337g, maximum diameter 18.7mm, die axis 225o, Italian (Rome?) mint, Autumn 30 - Summer 29 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Apollo of Actium right (with features of Octavian?); reverse Octavian, as the city founder of Nicopolis in Epirus, plowing with yoke of two oxen right, reins in right, whip in left, IMP CAESAR in exergue


Augustus
, 16 January 27 B.C. - 19 August 14 A.D., Philippi, Macedonia

RP71608. Bronze AE 19, RPC I 1656, Varbanov 3770, SNG Cop 282, BMC Macedonia 86, aVF, weight 4.985g, maximum diameter 19.1mm, die axis 180o, Philippi mint, obverse AVG, bare head right; reverse two priests with yoke of two oxen right, plowing the pomerium (sacred boundary), founding the new colony


Caligula
, 16 March 37 - 24 January 41 A.D., Caesaraugusta, Hispania Tarraconensis

SH54837. Bronze as, RPC I 382, SNG Cop 561 var (different duumviri), VF, smoothing, weight 11.345g, maximum diameter 28.6mm, die axis 150o, Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza, Spain) mint, duumviri Titullus and Montaunus, 38 - 39 A.D.; obverse C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS IMP PATR PATRIAE, bare head left; reverse C C A / TITVLLO ET MONTANO II VIR, Priest plowing with team of two oxen right, goad in right, reins in left


Antoninus Pius, August 138 - 7 March 161 A.D., Komama, Pisidia

SH60172. Bronze AE 27, CNG 169, 105 (same dies); RPC Online -, SNG BnF -, BMC Pisidia -, SNG Cop -, von Aulock Komama - (but same obv die as 7), VF, weight 10.838g, maximum diameter 26.6mm, die axis 180o, Comama mint, obverse IMP CAESAR ANTONINVM, laureate head right; reverse COL AVG COMAMENORVM, founder plowing with two yoked oxen left; very rare


Elagabalus
, 16 May 218 - 11 March 222 A.D., Petra, Provincia Arabia

RY13196. Bronze AE 20, SNG ANS 1373 ff., SNG Cop 150, Spijkerman 56, Rosenberger 35, BMC Arabia -, gVF, weight 5.63g, maximum diameter 19.3mm, die axis 180o, Petra mint, obverse IMP C M AVP ANTONINOC, laureate and draped bust right, from behind; reverse PETΛA COLONI A, founder plowing right with pair of oxen, togate, right hand raised