The First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of Italy

By Lucia Carbone for American Numismatic Society (ANS) ……
The First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of Italy The coin in Fig. 1 represents the first attestation of the mention Italia on neologism. It was issued in 90 BCE, in Corfinium / Italica, the capital of the Italic rebels who took arms against Rome between 91 and 87 BCE and about destroyed it in what Roman historians recall as one of the bloodiest wars always fought on italian land ( Fig. 2 ) .
In 91 BCE, Marcus Livius Drusus, a tribunus plebis or “ Tribune ” who supported the bestowal of Roman citizenship to the Italic people, was murdered. This was allegedly the casus belli, the cause of the Social War, the conflict that would devastate the italian peninsula for the following four years .
While the name Italia ( and its oscan correspondent Viteliu ) only appears on coins in the course of the Social War, the being of an “ Italic community ” was already known in the second century BCE to the greek historian Polybius. He is the inaugural known author to make the distinction between Ἰταλιώτης ( Italiotes ), which in authoritative greek indicated only those Greeks inhabiting the colonies of Southern Italy ( 1.6 ), as opposed to the Ἰταλικοί ( Italikoi ), the ensemble of the autochthonal populations living in this region. Italikoi, the Italic people, are thus represented by the entirety of the populations inhabiting the peninsula.

The Italic people, i.e., the people living in the italian peninsula who did not enjoy Roman citizenship, had fought in the Roman army as auxilia ( auxiliary troops ) in the course of all the wars that Rome had waged in the former two centuries, giving a significant contribution to the final victory over Hannibal in the course of the Second Punic War and then in the wars of conquest fight in the East, that had led to the creation of the first provinces of the Roman Empire. italic people were frankincense socii of the Roman people, their allies par excellence. According to Cicero, Publius Vettius Scato, the general of the Marsians, one of the foremost Italic tribe, defined himself as “ matchless who is by inclination a ally, by necessity an enemy. ”
Amplifying Scato ’ mho words, the Roman historian P. Wiseman argues that the “ Social War was a war between friends and relatives, and there have must been many women and children who ( like the Sabine women ) had husbands, fathers, and grandfathers fighting on opposite sides ( Wiseman, 64 ). ”
The narrative adopted by the Romans—and by several historians in our times—is that the Italic people took arms against the Romans because they wanted to have Roman citizenship, to be amply integrated into Roman company, a society of which they were de facto members already. In the words of the Roman historian Justin ( 38.4.11–13 ) :
“ [ I ] nitrogen our very own meter Italy rose up in the Marsic War, not requiring exemption ( libertas ), but a engagement in the rule ( imperium ) and in the citizenship ( civitas ) ” .
The desire to obtain full Roman citizenship surely played an crucial role in the rebellion, as far confirmed by the emanation in 90 BCE of the Lex Iulia de Civitate Latinis et Sociis Danda, which conferred Roman citizenship to all the socii who had not so far rebelled. The law was quite likely aimed at preventing the rebellion of Etruscans and Umbrians, who were the most mighty people amongst socii but who had largely stayed inert at the beginning of the war. In 89 BCE, the Lex Plautia Papiria de Civitate Sociis Danda was passed, which granted Roman citizenship to the allies who had rebelled, and represented a far try to stem the conflict .
however, the rebellion, though downsized, lasted two more years, thus showing Roman citizenship could not have the entirely motivation for the Social War .
The rebellious allies not entirely planned a formal separation from Rome but besides the re-organization of the italian peninsula—Italia in Latin—as its own mugwump confederation, with its own capital at Corfinium, that was renamed Italica ( Fig. 4 ). In M. Pobjoy’s words, “ both the scale of the conflict and the establishment of Italia give the solid impression of a serious attempt at complete interval from Roman authority, and offer good grounds for disbelieving the prevailing ancient version of the aims of the rebels ( Herring, 192 ). ” If we are to believe that the universe of a park Italic identity “ was a ‘ top-down ’ process, initiated and consequently brought ahead by the Romans ( Carlà-Unhink, 293 ), ” surely in the course of the Social War this common identity seems to have established itself, and the Italic community ( at least function of it ) shows a clear will to get rid of the creator of that identity, which is Rome itself .
The denominations and types of the coin presented in Fig. 1 show the aforesaid tension between the necessity of complying with what A. Burnett defines as “ Rome ’ s virtual monopoly of the currency of the solid italian peninsula ( Burnett, 125 ) ” and the longing for an Italic, distinctly non-Roman, identity .
First of all, this coin—as most of the coins issued by the socii—is a denarius. Since its initiation in 211 BCE, this denomination supplanted any other ash grey denomination in the italian peninsula, so the socii found themselves in the awkward position of issuing anti-Roman denarii, i.e., battling against Rome while recognizing that the Roman monetary system was the only one in universe in the peninsula. This is further confirmed by the fact that the denarii of the socii and the ones issued by Rome circulated together for decades after the end of the hostilities .
The First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of Italy The types adopted in the mint represented in Fig. 1 are besides evocative of previous Roman emissions .
On the obverse of this mint, Italy is personified and represented with her question crowned in laurel, in a way that recalls Roma ’ s portrait on a denarius issued by Mn. Aemilius Lepidus in 114/113 BCE ( RRC 291/1 ) ( Fig. 5 ). furthermore, the caption ITALIA is in Latin, the lone terminology coarse to all the rebels. however, the Oscan linguistic process will become prevailing in the late years of the rebellion after the apostasy of the non-Oscan public speaking umbrian and Etruscans from the rebellion in 90 BCE ( Figs. 6–7 ) .
The First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of ItalyThe First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of Italy The theatrical performance on the change by reversal of the coin in Fig. 1 besides presents motives of great interest. As A. Campana rightly points out ( 75 ), the scene depicted is one of coniuratio, or oath-taking. The figure at the plaza of the picture is a Fetial priest, a sacerdos fetialis, who is presiding to the consecration of the alliance between the italian people. The Fetials were a college of Roman priests who acted as the guardians of the public religion. It was their duty, when any challenge arise with a extraneous state, to demand satisfaction, to determine the circumstances under which hostilities might be commenced, and to perform the diverse religious rites related to the earnest announcement of war ( Livy 36.3.18 ) .
In this font, the ritual referred to on the reverse of this coin is the sacrificial one, during which the oral sex of the Fetials, the pater patratus, cursed the enemies and anybody who would have seceded from the coniuratio and evoked for them a death like to the one of the sacrifice hog ( caesa porca, Livy 1.24 ) once again, the rebels were partaking in a ritual they shared with their roman enemies. furthermore, the probably model for the setting depicted on the reverse was, represented by a amber stater with the oath-scene, issued in the course of the Second Punic War ( RRC 29/1 ) ( Fig. 8 ) .
In the case of the Roman stater, the scene is inspired by the treaty between Roman and Latins, respectively represented by Aeneas and Latinus. The lapp scene of oath-taking is presented on the obverse of two other denarii issued by the maverick leader C. Papius Mutilus after 90 BCE ( Figs. 9–10 ).

The First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of Italy While quite surely inspired by the Roman “ oath stater ”, the scenery depicted on the revoke of Fig. 1 represents a reversal of its model. While the oath-taking stater celebrated the peace between Romans and Latins ( an Italic people ), the denarius issued in 90 BCE focuses on the end of that peace and on the beginning of a rightful war between Romans and Italic people. The right of this war is signaled by the presence of the pater patratus, who alone could approve of a bellum iustum, a justified war .
The First Italia on Coinage: Ancient Coins of Italy While expertly navigating the Roman monetary system from the metrological and iconographical point of view, the socii showed that they shared their religious custom with the Romans. even when in open rebellion against Rome, they showed themselves tightly bound to it. In truth, their common identity as Italics could only be maintained in resistance to Rome, the world power that made them a nation in the first base station .
In Burnett ’ sulfur words :
… [ T ] he Italians were trying to create some kind of common identity for themselves. This identity, it seems, grew out of a category ‘ of Italians ’ created by the Romans, a classification to which the Italians were objecting in terms of its political and institutional implications, but which however able of being adopted by them. Italia as a concept was being fought over arsenic heatedly as the farming itself ( Burnett, 167 ) .
The coin analyzed today is therefore a perfect exercise of the tension between the longing for a coarse identity freelancer of Rome and the recognition that the identical lapp common identity was profoundly merged in Roman-ness .
* * *


Burnett, Andrew. “ The currency of Italy from the Hannibalic War to the reign of Augustus ”, Annali Vol. 29, p. 125-137. Istituto Italiano di Numismatica. ( 1982 )
Campana, Alberto. La monetazione degli insorti italici durante la Guerra Sociale ( 91-87 a.C. ). Apparuti. ( 1987 )
Carlà-Unhink, Filippo. The “ birth ” of Italy the institutionalization of Italy as a region, 3rd-1st century BCE. Berlin De Gruyter. ( 2017 )
hypertext transfer protocol : // ? doc=Cic.+Phil.+12 & fromdoc=Perseus % 3Atext % 3A1999.02.0021
Herring, Edward and Kathryn Lomas, et alabama. The emergence of country identities in Italy in the inaugural millennium BC. Accordia Research Institute, University of London. ( 2000 )
hypertext transfer protocol : //
hypertext transfer protocol : // ? doc=Perseus : text:1999.02.0165 : book=36

hypertext transfer protocol : // * .html
Wiseman, T.P. New men in the Roman senate, 139 B.C. – A.D. 14. Oxford University Press : London. ( 1971 )

Originally Published on the ANS Pocket Change Blog

Related Posts

Trả lời

Email của bạn sẽ không được hiển thị công khai.