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A Fresh Start

This past week these notes pages tipped over 200 posts - which gives me an excuse to think about how to better organize these posts going forward. Input from all is most welcome on this subject. I am considering combining and revising some of the existing notes to try to keep the total material in check - and more accessible and useful. I have also added many more RR denarii to the coin gallery , and added more links between the coin gallery (organized by Crawford numbers and dates) and the articles that are relevant.


Today's denarius comes with a fresh start and ritual 5 year cycles of renewal in ancient Rome along with an RR denarius from an otherwise unknown moneyer in 154 BC.

"Suovetaurilia" is a curious word which combines

  • sus - pig

  • ovus - sheep

  • taurus - bull

A suovetaurilia was trio of sacrificial animals : a pig, a sheep and a bull. A lustrum was a five year interval and a name for the cleansing ceremony celebrated every five years that including a taking of the census. This ritual is illustrated in this scene from the Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus.

Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus known as the “Census frieze”. Marble, Roman artwork of the late 2nd century BC. From the Campo Marzio, Rome. Public Domain Image via Wikipedia.


The ritual was led by one of the two censors who were responsible for public morals

  • people with names that might bring luck (like Felix or Dives - happy or rich) would lead the souvetaurilla amongst the people

  • the animals were then sacrificed and burned as an offering to Mars, as a god of fertility

  • The censor would swear to repeat the ritual in five years in exchange for the gods protection

The celebration was a clean, fresh start for public affairs (res publica). The 55th lustrum was celebrated in 154 BC, the year before this denarius that is highlighted today was minted.

"Censors: M. Valerius M.f. M.n. Messalla , C. Cassius C.f. C.n. Longinus - they completed the 55th lustrum."
- Fasti Capitolini, p.68 

"The half-decade (lustrum) was formally ended by the censors; there were counted three hundred and twenty-four thousand citizens."
-Livy, Periochae, XLVIII  

Aside from appearing on this coin the moneyer and family are unknown.

C. Maianius, 153 BC, AR Denarius (18mm, 3.92g, 6h), Rome mint

Obv: Helmeted head of Roma right; X (mark of value) to left

Rev: Victory, holding reins and whip, driving biga right

Ref: Crawford 203/1a; Sydenham 427; Maiania 1; RBW 870

Note: Attractively toned, VF


References:


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