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Introduction: The purpose of this study is to identify the reverse figure on the CONSENSV dupondii (See coin portrait on this page of seated figure of dupondius), struck during the reign of the Emperor Caligula. There has been much controversy over this reverse type, which, along with portraits in the round of Caligula, will be examined in some depth. Through numismatic, literary and epigraphical evidence I will study the seated figure, which has been traditionally accepted as Augustus, and not Caligula.
Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus was born in A.D. 12. His birthplace was most probably Antium (modern day Anzio).1 He won his nickname Caligula or "little boot" (caliga) by way of the army, because he grew up among the troops and wore the miniature uniform of a private soldier. According to ancient biographers Caligula's physical features were unusual and far from handsome. Seneca, a contemporary of Caligula, writing after the Emperor's death, described him in this way: "So repulsive was the whiteness of his face, which showed mad escapades, so haggard were his eyes hidden under his forehead, which like that of an old man, and so large was the repulsiveness of this baldness of his head which was only partly covered with hair, his legs were thin and his enormous."2 While this type of evidence is helpful for an idea of Caligula's general appearance, it is not useful for understanding of what Caligula may have actually looked like. Images on the coinage of Caligula, therefore, will become an important part of bringing the portraiture of Caligula together, as well as iconographic and literary evidence. Portraits tend to depict Caligula as the idealized Julio-Claudian emperor. Caligula placed great importance on his famous family, and so begins the work of a propagandist. On coinage struck during Caligula's reign we find a pattern of well-thought-out imagery on both the obverses and reverses of all of his coinage. Most notably-and what this study attempts to recognize- is the seated figure on the reverse of the CONSENSV dupondius.3 In the historical Museum of Bern. The Bern piece is clearly meant to represent Caligula, and not Augustus, as has been believed for many years by numismatists and scholars of art history.4
First let us examine how imperial portraits may have been distributed throughout the empire. For the production of imperial portraits outside Rome, F.H. Swift has suggested that standard types of cannons, originating in Rome in authoritative works, were sent out in clay or waxen models to be reproduced in monumental form in the provinces. These models, he believes, were commonly known as imagines. Furthermore, M. Stewart has suggested that communities outside of Rome, imported their portraits of the imperial family ready-made from the nearest provincial art center. His conclusion is that distribution of imperial portraits throughout the empire was effected privately through channels of the art trade.5 Identifying portraiture of the Julio-Claudians is often difficult given the many members of the family and familial similarity (not to mention intentional imitation and assimilation of features).6 Identifying portraiture of Caligula can be difficult because, upon his death, the senate wanted to order damnatio memoriae, or the removal of all caligulan portraiture-an order the Emperor Claudius "officially" opposed but secretly approved. Coins that carried the unpopular portrait were melted down by decision of the senate. There is an example of a mutilated small bronze portrait of Caligula,7 as well a numerous coins struck during Caligula's reign where the praenomen C (ie. Gaius) has been chiseled off.8 Countermarks common in other principates rarely occur on the coinage of Caligula. For instance, the countermark NCAPR from the mid-Neronian period can found on sestertii from the reign of Tiberius through the reign of Claudius, but is never found on bronze coinage with Caligula's image.9 On some of Caligula's Vesta asses the countermark TICA does appear to obliterate the praenomen C (ie. Gaius) Caesar. Of course, the argument for demonetization can be drawn from the scarcity of coins found in hoards which bear Caligula's portrait. For example in Pozzarello hoard near Bolsena, 719 copper and orichalcum coins from the republic to Nerva were found, but no AEs of Caligula in any denomination (this also applies to precious metals).10 At Bredgar in Kent, R.A.G. Carson associates this hoard with the Claudius invasion of 43.The aurei found in this hoard are as follows:
Caligula................ 0 (note 11)
In a numismatic seminar held at U.C. Berkeley on coins in sanctuaries, R. Stroud found further proof of demonetization. Speaking on Roman coins found in the sanctuary of Demeter at Corinth, Stroud listed similar results:
On Corinthian Duoviri Coins:
Reign of Augustus............ 12
On Roman Imperial Coins:
Nero..................................1 (note 12)
There is still, however, no clear consensus on whether demonetization was carried out. An immediate and total recall would hardly have been practical, since there was no de facto damnatio. On the other hand, Claudius may have wanted, most likely for personal reasons, to erase any memory of the hated Emperor.13
Of the fifteen remaining inscribed portraits of Caligula, only five cab be dated with any accuracy, and only two of them to the years before 37 A.D. when Caligula became Emperor.14 One, from Calmna in Asia Minor, dated to A.D. 18 when Caligula travelled to Asia Minor with his father Germanicus;15 one, from Vienna, dated to the year A.D. 33; and three from after A.D. 37.(16) We know that Caligula gave the Greeks permission to erect six statues of him:17 One each in Delphi, Isthmia, Nemea and Olympia; and two in Athens.18 These portrait inscriptions are too few to offer any reliable conclusions. However, the fact that two of the three datable inscriptions are from A.D. 37/38 may suggest the production of his portraits was greatest at the outset of his reign.
Caligula (Getty Museum) Photo used under educational guidelines
Photo courtesy of Tommy Rabins
Caligula's coinage is one of the most interesting and innovative of the Julio-Claudian period. The most controversial question concerning his principate involves the moving of the mint for precious metals from Lugdunum to Rome. When did this occur? Strabo, writing about A.D. 18, states that imperial gold and silver were minted at Lugdunum, and his assertion receives some support from inscriptions, which indicate the presence of individuals connected with the mint at Lugdunum early in Caligula's principate.24 By the Trajanic period, however, the minting of gold and silver at Rome is attested on inscriptions, and the homogeneity of precious metal and AE issues has been traced back to the time of Vespasian. Therefore, the minting of gold and silver coinage was transferred to Rome at some point between Tiberius and Vespasian. It has long been argued that the transfer of the mint of Rome is to be dated early in Caligula's principate.25 This theory (proposed by Mattingly) rests on a basic feature of Caligula's early coinage. Coins issued between March, A.D. 37 and March, A.D. 38 have an obverse bare head. Some issues in this period (and all later years) have an obverse laureate head, indicating a change in the choice of type during Caligula's first year, one that is accompanied by slight changes in the letter forms. This is seen as an appropriate point for the change of mint. Sutherland has pointed to other differences in the style of heads, and reinforce Mattingly's theory, although he does concede that changes could be explained by the appointment of new staff at Rome.26 Recently, however, the weight of scholarly opinion seems o have moved against the notion of a change of mint under Caligula. In particular, J.B. Girard has drawn attention to the discovery at Parlay-le-Mondial (Saone-et-Loire) in Gaul of two dies for precious metal coins of Caligula, each with laureate heads, and has associated one with coins minted as late as A.D. 40. Girard believes that these dies represent the remains of the mint of Lugdunum and that the equipment was looted and scattered around the town. Mattingly has recently observed that the dies on gold and silver (unlike his AEs) remain unadjusted throughout Caligula's reign, and started to become adjusted after Nero's currency reform in A.D. 64. (27) Also worth noting are the AV quinarii, the only precious metal coins struck during Caligula's reign that can be dated between April A.D. 38 and January A.D. 40. This coin provides evidence of a breaking tradition, that Caligula held consulship in every year of his reign except A.D. 38. His dies imperii was March 18 A.D. 37. Like Tiberius before him, Caligula refused to accept the praenomen imperatoris.28 On the coins struck during the reign of Caligula, there are three images of the Emperor that are not simply busts.29 The first is a sestertius which shows a pietas on the obverse, facing left with a patera (libation dish) in her hand; in the exergue the inscription PIETAS.30 Behind her stands a small figure of unknown identity and significance. On the reverse, is a hexastyle temple decorated with festoons, and figures on pediment and cornice; in the foreground stands the Emperor Caligula, veiled with patera in one hand, facing left, in the act of sacrificing on an altar, to which the slaughterman is dragging a bull. A second Acolyte stands behind Caligula. The design is flanked by the inscription DIVO AUG SC. The sestertius is from the Rome mint. The temple before which the sacrifice is being conducted has been identified as that of the Divine Augustus. This coin's high level af artistic achievement places it securely among the historical sculptures of the Julio-Claudian period (and incidentally constitutes one of the earliest know examples of historical relief on a Roman coin).31 The second example is the adlocutio cohortis sestertius.32 This type is completely original as it is the first depiction on coinage of an imperial speech to the army. The coin more than likely represents Caligula's donative to the praetorians on his accession (although H.W. Ritter believes that its reissue was connected with the episode of the Briege at Baiae, at which the praetorians were present).33 As S.C. does not appear on this coin, it may have been a special issue for the praetorian guard. The obverse bears legend C(aius) AUG (ustus) GERMANICUS PON(ifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunica) POT(estate), and shows the head of Caligula, laureate, facing left. The reverse reads: ADLOVT(io) COH(ortium). and shows Caligula, togate, standing on a platform, extending his hand to five armed soldiers, of whom each soldier in the two rearmost pairs carries an aquila. Perhaps the most interesting coin of all, however, is the third one, the much debated dupondius which depicts a seated figure believed by many to be Caligula.34 Prompting this conclusion is the unmistakable resemblance of the seated figure's head to the obverse portraits on Caligula's Vesta AEs. It is reasonable to assume that the Vesta AEs is the chief coin that all portraits in the round of Caligula should resemble. In his book Die Bildnesse des Caligula, Vol.4, D. Boschung displays eight different photos of the Vesta aes with slightly different styles of obverse portrait type.35 It is clear from these comparisons that Boschung understands the importance of the Vesta AEs iconographically, and that the Vesta AEs is the best reference to the Bern dupondius iconographically.36 So what portraits in the round would agree with the profile imagery of the Vesta aes, as well as the CONSENSV dupondius in profile imagery are the Worcester head and the Getty head. Of course the Bern dupondius is on a much smaller scale than the Vesta AEs but still merits closer examination. The Worcester head bears the most impressive resemblance to Caligula iconographically. Presumably found near Marino,37 It has been suggested that this marble head was posthumously created in Neronian times. Nevertheless, in profile and iconography, it clearly resembles both the Vesta aes and the seated figure on the Bern dupondius. Traits of Caligula which we have established are apparent on this piece: Hollow temples in the forehead, a broad Claudian cranium, deep set eyes, a narrow chin, and the locks over the forehead are fuller. Other Caligulan traits in resemblance to the aes and dupondius are the slightly bulbous nose, vertical or sloping forehead and protruding upper lip. The hair does not go down the nape of the neck quite as far as hair on the aes and consensv dupondius, but this head is well preserved and may be the most representative in-the-round image of the Emperor Caligula in existence.38 The Getty head,39 made of fine-grained marble, 41 cm. high, is said to have been from Asia Minor, but, as Johansen suggests, the style of this head is not provincial, most likely, it was made in Rome or elsewhere in Italy and exported to Asia Minor. The Getty head, however, was not made posthumously, but most probably shortly after Caligula's accession. It, Too, closely resembles the AEs and CONSENSV dupondius iconographically, and must be considered as an essential portrait in attributing Caligula's portraiture. The hair falls down the nape of the neck further than on the Worcester head, and the forks at the center of the forehead, a common occurrence in Caligulan portraiture. One final aspect of the seated figure of Caligula on the CONSENSV dupondius is worth examining. Could Caligula have been the first living princeps to ever appear radiate on Roman coinage? B.E. Levy. in her article entitled "Caligula's Radiate Crown," finds traces of a radiate crown on two pieces: One in the Princeton University Library; the other in a private collection. Some scholars believe this theory strengthens the argument that the seated figure is Augustus and not Caligula. H.M. Von Kaenal advanced this interpretation of the dupondii this way: His first argument is that on some of the reverses you could identify Caligula's features; secondly, that the reverse legend iis suited to certain events of his accession. As Dio tells us, the event was altered by an eruption into the senate- house of equites et populus,40 and in Von Kaenal's view it is to this, and not the award of an honorific statue, that the legend CONSENSV SENAT ET EQ ORDIN P Q R must refer.41 H. Kuthmann brings even stronger evidence of the reverse type not being Augustus when he suggests that on pre-Flavian coins the curule chair is the seat of the living princeps, while that of Divus Augustus is a throne.42 This is strong evidence that the seated figure is that of Caligula. (Interestingly, Kuthmann identifies the seated figure as Claudius.)
Levy brings further evidence to light when she suggests that the bronze provincial issues of at least three or four mints show Caligula with radiate attribution (one from Alexandria, but this issue may represent Helios.)43 Another issue from the province of Asia shows a spikey Hellenistic crown.44 Even stronger evidence that the radiate crown did exist can be seen on CONSENV dupondii , where the die engraver shortened the vertical bar on the T in ET to accommodate the crown, while the entire letter T is slightly raised in the second Princeton piece. Levy mentions that the radiate crown is neglected in descriptions which follow illustrations in catalogs. In specifically looking for the radiated crown on the CONSENSV dupondii, There are at least three issues that have been found via the art trade.45 It has been suggested that the radiate crown is occasionally used on Roman coinage to distinguish a newly elevated Emperor. Thus, the Roman radiate crown was not a true piece of insignia: Its meaning was flexible and its use optional.46
Note the "T" in "ET" to make room for spikey attribution?
Just as we see seated Augustus radiate on this sestertius, we see the attempt on the seated figure of Caligula? Some type of radiate attribution.
Sestertius 22-23, Æ 27.35 g. DIVVS AVGVSTVS – PATER Augustus, radiate, seated l., feet on stool, holding laurel branch and long scepter; in front, altar. Rev. TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVST P M TR POT XXIIII round S C. C 309. BMC 74. RIC 49. CBN 50.
Ex NAC sale 7, 1994, 675; Superior 8-9 December, 1995 and UBS 72, 2007, 207 sales.
The main function of Tiberius’ dated AEs of 22/23 was to publicize a new dynastic structure. With the death of Germanicus late in 18, the last Julian man of sufficient age and qualification had exited the political scene. Cautious of the public outcry that would result if he immediately proclaimed his own son, Drusus, his new successor, Tiberius bided his time, waiting nearly four years before he formulated what is sometimes called the “Tiberian Dynasty.”As this series reveals, Tiberius made his announcement by mid-22, establishing a clear line of succession. As emperor and head of the Imperial domus, Tiberius assumed the leadership position, with the next in line being his son Drusus, whose toddler sons Tiberius Gemellus and Germanicus Gemellus represented the promise of a third generation.
Divus Augustus was an integral part of this dynastic arrangement, for he was the divine fore bearer from whom Tiberius derived his right to rule. Indeed, it was during Tiberius’ reign that we encounter the first use in inscriptions of the term Domus Divina, a phrase that implies that the deified status of Augustus extended to other Julio-Claudians.
It has long been recognized that Augustus’ ‘Jovian’ seated figure reproduces the signum divo Augusto patri ad Theatrum Marcelli, a statue that Tacitus says that Livia erected near the theater of Marcellus in 22, the year this coinage began. It was a locus for the imperial cult and it was the site for the worship of Augustus before construction of the temple of divus Augustus was completed under Caligula. Tacitus describes how Livia had offended Tiberius by putting her name before his on the dedication, but she no doubt considered her role as Augustus’ consort and political partner for 52 years to be more important than Tiberius’ good fortune to be his adopted son and successor.
Radiate Image of Claudius on " imago clipeata". flanked by simpulum (dipper) and a lituus (wand), the symbols of the office of Pontifex Maximus; Diam. 24.7 c.m.
+ I should like to thank Mr. John Pollini, Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, for his help in locating many materials on the portraiture of Caligula. I should also like to thank Brooks Levy at the Princeton Umiversity Library for insightful views on Caligula's radiate crown. Many thanks to the Classics Department at the University of California at Berkeley for their scholarly seminars on numismatics, especially Prof. R. Stroud and Prof. R. Knapp. I am also thankful to the San Francisco Ancient Numismatic Society, and thanks to Susan Wood for her help in in finding material on the portraiture of Caligula. Lastly I would like to thank Miriam Griffin for her encouragement and the first book she suggested on the Julio Claudians. For Full Bibliography get: SAN Index by Issue, Volumes XI - XXI
Index of the Coins Illustrated on the Covers of SAN (1969-1984) - William ...
Portraits of Caligula: The Seated Figure? - Joe B. Geranio Book Reviews ...
47. Geranio, Joe. "Portraits of Caligula : the seated figure?" in The Celator Vol. 21, no. 9 (Sep 2007), p. 6-26 : ill.