Wednesday, August 21, 2013


A Roman Coin Portraying a Soldier Shielding His Comrade

In Greater Love Hath No Man, I mentioned the Greek verb ὑπερασπίζω, meaning "cover with a shield, defend." The verb occurs (as aorist active participle) in Appian, Civil Wars 2.16.106 (about Julius Caesar; tr. Horace White):
His likeness was painted in various forms, in some cases crowned with oak as the savior of his country, by which crown the citizens were accustomed formerly to reward those to whom they owed their safety.

σχήματά τε ἐπεγράφετο ταῖς εἰκόσι ποικίλα, καὶ στέφανος ἐκ δρυὸς ἦν ἐπ᾽ ἐνίαις ὡς σωτῆρι τῆς πατρίδος, ᾧ πάλαι τοὺς ὑπερασπίσαντας ἐγέραιρον οἱ περισωθέντες.
White's translation is a bit free. More literally: "by which crown those who had been saved were accustomed formerly to reward those who had covered them with a shield."

Cf. Suetonius, Life of Julius 2:
At the storming of Mytilene Thermus awarded him the civic crown.

a Thermo in expugnatione Mytilenarum corona civica donatus est.
The storming of Mytilene occurred in 80 B.C. Thermus was the propraetor M. Minucius Thermus. On this and another award of the civic oak-leaf crown to Caesar, see Stefan Weinstock, Divus Julius (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971; rpt. 2004), pp. 162-167.

By an odd coincidence, there is a Roman coin issued by another Thermus (Q. Therm. M. f.) showing a Roman soldier shielding his comrade:

Michael H. Crawford, Roman Republican Coinage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974; rpt. 2001), vol. I, pp. 324-325 (no. 319), dates the coin to 103 B.C., identifies the moneyer as "Q. Minucius M.f. Ter.", and says, "The types doubtless allude to an act of martial heroism by one of the moneyer's ancestors — it is idle (pace C. Cavedoni, Bullettino 1845, 184) to speculate which."

The reference is to C. Cavedoni, "Di alcune medaglie di famiglie romane," Bullettino dell'Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica per l'Anno 1845, pp. 177-192 (at 184-185).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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