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Standards Restored

"I compelled the Parthians to restore to me the spoils and standards of three Roman armies and to ask as suppliants for the friendship of the Roman people. Those standards I deposited in the innermost shrine of the temple of Mars the Avenger."
-Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti, 29.2

Detail of the breastplate showing a Parthian returning the Roman standard, Augustus of Primaporta, 1st century C.E., marble, 2.03 meters high (Vatican Museums) (photo: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Augustus restored the standards taken by the Parthians from M. Crassus at the battle of Carrhae in 53 BC, from Decidius Saxa in Syria in 40 BC, and from Marc Antony in his invasion of Armenia in 36 BC.

While the pacification of the west was going on, in the east the Parthian king restored to Augustus the Roman standards which Orodes had taken at the time of Crassus' disaster,​ and those which his son Phraates had captured on the defeat of Antony. This title of Augustus was deservedly given him​ on the motion of Plancus with the unanimous acclaim of the entire senate and the Roman people.
-C Vellius Paterculus, II.91

Phraates returned the standards to Agrippa, to avoid war with Augustus.

"Some time after, when Caesar had finished the Spanish war, and had proceeded to Syria to settle the affairs of the east, he caused some alarm to Phraates, who was afraid that he might contemplate an invasion of Parthia. Whatever prisoners, accordingly, remained of the army of Crassus or Antony throughout, Parthia, were collected together, and sent, with the military standards that had been taken, to Augustus. In addition to this, the sons and grandsons of Phraates were delivered to Augustus as hostages; and thus Caesar effected more by the power of his name, than any other general could have done by his arms."
-Justinus, Epitone, XLII.5.11

This restoration of Rome's honor became an important elements of Augustus' narrative.

"The prisoners and the standards, a fairly marginal issue for Phraates, were turned into one of the mainstays of Augustus’ propaganda in Rome. In fact, at the end of his life, Augustus had to admit that the Parthians were not overcome in war." 
-Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, Phraates IV

Augustus, P. Petronius Turpilianus, AR Denarius (2.78g), 19 BC, Rome

Obv: TVRPILIANVS III. VIR. radiate bust of Feronia draped right, FERON, below.

Rev: CAESAR AVGVSTVS SIGN RECE, kneeling Parthian right, presenting standard

Ref: RIC 288


The moneyer, P(ublius) Petronius Turpilianus was, probably a self made man (homo novus) from Samnium. He was probably praetor in 8/7 BC and proconsul Baeticae in 6/5 BC. His father may have been Sex. Petronius Turpilius who was praefectus Aegypti from 25-20 BC. (The Moneyers issues under Augustus, Cornelis GJ Pannekeet, 2013).


Feronia, on the obverse, is an ancient Roman goddess associated with wildlife, fertility, health, and abundance. She was particularly venerated in rural areas and was believed to protect freedmen and the lower classes. Feronia's worship was widespread in central Italy, including at her sanctuary at the base of Mount Soracte in Lazio, which was a significant center for her cult.

Feronia was also associated with freedom, as slaves would be set free in her presence during certain festivals. This aspect of her worship underscores her role in promoting social cohesion and the well-being of the community. She is sometimes linked to other deities related to agriculture, forests, and springs, reflecting her connection to nature and the prosperity of the land.

For the story of Phraates IV and the gift that Augustus gave him see: Coins of Parthian-King Phraates IV.

References:

  • Marcus Junianus Justinus, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus. translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson. London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).

  • Image of Feronia was AI generated by openai.com's ChatGPT 4.0 on 3/17/2024

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