Numism > Reading For the Advanced Collector

Virgil and the Aeneas Denarius

(1/3) > >>

Inspired by Jochen’s quiz on the Palladium, I would like to pose this question.

On a familiar Julius Caesar denarius ca. 47-46 BC we find Venus on the obverse and a depiction of Aeneas carrying his father Anchises out of a burning Troy on the reverse.  Aeneas is also carrying the Palladium.  See attached image.

However, in the Aeneid Book 2, Virgil repeats this scene, but has Aeneas’s father carrying the penates (the Roman hearth gods), not the palladium.  Here’s Fitzgerald’s translation of the key passage in the Aeneid:

Then come, dear father.  Arms around my neck;
I’ll take you on my shoulders, no great weight.
Whatever happens, both will face one danger,
Find one safety.  Iulus will come with me,
My wife at a good interval behind.
Servants, give your attention to what I say.
At the gate inland there’s a funeral mound
And an old shrine of Ceres the Bereft;
Near it an ancient cypress, kept alive
For many years by our father’s piety.
By various routes we’ll come to that one place.
Father, carry our hearthgods, our Penates.
It would be wrong for me to handle them  
Just come from such hard fighting, bloody work  
Until I wash myself in running water.

This passage is almost an ekphrasis of the Julius Caesar denarius, except the palladium is replaced by the penates, which are held by Anchises, not Aeneas.  Surely Virgil must have had a few of his adoptive father’s denarii jingling in his purse or pocket and would have been quite familiar with the earlier iconography.  Why does Virgil depart so markedly from what would have been a most familiar image to Romans?  He's writing ca. 29-19 BC, so the Aeneas denarius is probably still in circulation in large numbers.

Has anything been written on this numismatic/literary variant?


When Virgil writes "Penates", could he not mean or be including the Palladium?
I imagine a commentary on this Virgil passage would have to address this question.

Considering the Palladium was a small statue like the penates, its reasonable to assume in the face of no other opinion that he meant the term to include the palladium.
                                           LordBest. 8)

The Palladium of Troy was stolen by Odysseus and Palamedes. So it was not possible for Aeneas to take it with him when he left the burning Troy with Anchises and his little son! The rev. of this famous denar must be an invention of the moneyer to explain the presence of the Palladium in Rome and to add to the descent of the gens Julia.


    Myths are of course inventions so need not be consistent or compatible!
    According to Woerner, Palladion, in Roscher's Ausführliches Lexikon der gr. und Roem. Mythologie III.2, col. 3440, Dionysus of Halicarnassus, Ovid, Plutarch, and Pausanias assert that Aeneas took the Palladium from its temple in Troy to Italy.
     Many other authors, however, claim Aeneas received the Palladium only in Italy, from Diomedes who had stolen it from Troy.
     So Caesar's coin type is not just an invention of the moneyer as Jochen suggests!


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version