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Volume 4, Issue 1

Images of Africa on Roman Imperatorial Coinage
as Propaganda at the End of the Republic

  By: Gabriela Vlahovici-Jones (University of Maryland Eastern Shore)

‘This legion alone,’ he said, ‘I discharge from the army; but when I return from Africa, I will nonetheless give everything I promised to it as well. And once our enemies are dealt with, I shall also give land to everyone – not in the style of Sulla, by taking property away from the people and settling new owners alongside old and making them enemies of each other for ever, but by making distributions of publicly owned land, and of my own, and purchasing whatever else may be needed.’ They all clapped and cheered, but the Tenth legion was deeply hurt because Caesar seemed implacable towards them alone, and they requested him to have lots drawn and punish some of their numbers with death. But as he had no need to rouse them any further now that they had truly repented, he made his peace with them all and immediately departed for the campaign in Africa. (Civil Wars II.94)

In the second century A.D., Appian of Alexandria embarks on the monumental undertaking of writing a Roman History. Only the Civil Wars survive today – a testimony to the Greek intellectual’s attempt at unraveling the series of events that brought about the fall of the Republic. Among these events, Caesar’s military actions against the Pompeians in Africa are some of the most important, as they eliminated the last stronghold of opposition to Caesar’s authority and precipitated the demise of the Republican order. Yet, the attention Appian gives to the events on the African battlegrounds is almost evenly matched by the attention he offers to the comparatively unimportant mutiny of Caesar’s Tenth Legion.

Appian’s account relates how Caesar’s troops, weary of battle and discontent with the delayed reward for their service, mutinied against Caesar and demanded to be discharged with proper compensation. Without hesitation for his safety, Caesar walked among his riotous soldiers and, with the power of his speech alone, he manipulated them so successfully that they begged Caesar to let them fight with him in Africa, forfeiting all their requests. To Appian, the mutiny of the Tenth Legion was just as instrumental to the end of the Republic as the battles on the African front, which all but stamped out the remnants of the Pompeian faction. However, the mutiny is not important as a military development, but as a showcase of Caesar’s masterful eloquence, of his ability to gamble his life on the power of his words and win.

Caesar’s ability to transform his soldiers’ concern for their rights into a desire to serve him unquestioningly, skillfully captured by Appian, testifies to a radical and irreversible change at the heart of the Republic: the shift of the citizen soldier’s allegiance from the ideals of Rome to those of their commanding general, on whose success in battle depended their life and their profitable discharge. Gaius Marius, the husband of Caesar’s aunt Julia, cemented this shift when, during his consulship of 107 B.C., he all-but-removed the property requirements for enlistment in the army and filled the ranks with disenfranchised Romans whose loyalty to Rome, which no longer could support the poor soldiers’ dream of owning land, became a question of formality.

The soldiers’ real allegiance thus turned to the powerful warlord whose success in battle meant the acquisition of booty and new land. Military triumph, however, was not enough. Because all new territory legally belonged to the Republic, the general’s ability to distribute the spoils to his veterans depended also on his ability to represent the veterans’ interests with the governing body. Hence, a new breed of imperator, embodied by Marius and Sulla, and later Pompey and Caesar, emerged as a cross between a general and a politician, with eyes set steadfast on the office of consul. Each of these imperators pursued the highest office in Rome with every means at his disposal, and none but Sulla relinquished willingly. For this breed of imperator, building and successfully operating a political propaganda machine was just as important as commanding his soldiers’ loyalty on the battlefield.

This study inquires into the propaganda machine of the Roman imperators, as reflected by the coinage struck in their names at the end of the Republic. The study focuses on the coinage issued by the warring sides of Julius Caesar and the Pompeian supporters for the African front of the civil war, as a showcase to the question of whether the combatants develop different “languages” of propaganda or use a similar “language” for different political purposes. The decoding of the language of imperatorial coinage and its political message relies on an examination of the treatment of Africa in the issues for the African campaign. This examination accounts for the relationship between the types selected for these issues and the established Republican imagery stock, areas of innovation (in terms of the creation of new types or the novel use of established types), and the impact on later coinage. Caesarean propaganda receives attention in the light of the question of whether Rome and its values can survive outside the strict functioning of the Republic, under the control of one individual. Conversely, Pompeian propaganda receives attention in light of the question of whether the Republic can survive in exile, outside of the geographical confines of Rome.

Historical and Numismatic Context
In the decades preceding the end of the Roman Republic, the Roman province of Africa, carved from the territories of Carthage after the destruction of the city in 146 B.C., served as one of Rome’s most fertile breeding grounds for some of her most successful and dangerous men, and witnessed some of their most promising victories and humiliating defeats. Africa saw the rise of Marius, who usurped the command of Quintus Caecilius Metellus in the war against Jugurtha of Numidia. The same war propelled to power Sulla, who, as a young legate under Marius’ command, convinced king Bocchus of Mauretania to betray his ally Jugurtha, causing Jugurtha’s defeat in 106 B.C. Africa also served as refuge for Marius after Sulla, in a shockingly unprecedented act, marched on Rome in 88 B.C. Sulla’s relentless hatred of the Marians in Africa later fueled the ascent of young Pompey, who earned the title Magnus as the result of the African victory of 81 B.C. against Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and the Numidian king Hiarbas. Also in Africa, Julius Caesar suffered the painful defeat of his praetor Curio to the allied forces of Attius Varus and King Juba of Numidia at the end of 49 B.C. Finally, Africa saw Caesar turn the tide of the civil war irreversibly in his favor, after subduing the Pompeians and their Numidian allies at the battle of Thapsus in 46 B.C.

Caesar’s success at Thapsus was preceded by a series of steady but difficult victories, which forever changed the face of Rome and of the territories under her control. Three years before, in 49 B.C., Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon had prompted an equally unimaginable act for the Pompeian camp: the evacuation of Rome in the hope that the cause of the Republic could be rekindled and protected in exile. Once in control of Rome and the Senate, Caesar dealt a deadly blow to this hope in Macedonia, where, after the stalemate at Dyrrachium, he defeated Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 B.C. Pompey himself managed to escape Pharsalus and seek refuge in Egypt, but fell victim to an assassination plot orchestrated by Ptolemy XIII. Caesar, who had followed Pompey to Egypt, had a close encounter with defeat during the siege of Alexandria in 47 B.C. but finally emerged victorious and consolidated his support there with the accession to power of Cleopatra, sister of Ptolemy XIII and expectant mother of Caesar’s son. After also defeating Pharnaces of Pontus in Asia, Caesar then returned to Rome to prepare for the campaign in Africa, where Pompey’s supporters had made the strongest attempt at re-creating a Republic in exile.

The events of the African campaign show a reversal of fortune characteristic of many of Caesar’s hard-earned victories, a reversal due, to a large extent, to the success of Caesar’s personal magnetism and propaganda message. Caesar arrived in Africa under the specter of Curio’s defeat 1, under severe disadvantage caused by a storm which scattered his fleet and separated him from his supplies and reinforcements. The Pompeians, however, had built a stronghold in Africa after Varus’ victory against Curio, with the local support of king Juba of Numidia, a staunch ally of the Pompeian cause. The bulk of the Pompeian forces, gathered in Utica, further benefited from the arrival, after Pharsalus, of Cato and Metellus Scipio, Pompey’s father-in-law. As Caesar struggled to assemble his forces, Scipio had firm command over the Republican forces and the support of capable generals like Labienus, Afranius, Petreius, Varus, Pompey the Younger, and Cato.

The tables turned, however, as Caesar quickly gained ground as the result of mass desertions of troops from the Pompeian side and support from the local cities. Caesar was able to fortify Ruspina and occupy Leptis without resistance, as well as wear down Scipio’s forces at Uzitta after receiving a flow of deserters from his camp. On April 6, Caesar attacked Thapsus, inflicting high mortality among Republican leaders while suffering relatively light casualties. Upon receiving news of the defeat, Cato committed suicide in Utica, thus facilitating the city’s eager surrender to Caesar’s forces. Juba, after being denied access to his capital Zama, which had also defected to Caesar’s side, killed himself in a suicide pact with general Petreius 2. Scipio, facing inevitable defeat in the port of Hippo, drowned. In the aftermath of Thapsus, Caesar transformed the eastern part of the kingdom of Juba into the province of Africa Nova, under the governor Gaius Sallustius Crispus, and divided the rest of the kingdom between Bocchus II of Mauretania and Sittius, who had served with him in the campaign.

The African war was a massive military undertaking for both sides, financed by coinage minted for the purpose of supporting the war effort. The coinage issued for both Julius Caesar and the Pompeian camp falls outside the regular activity of the Roman moneyers 3 and reflects the deep displacement of the Republic’s authority in a state of world war. The coinage of Julius Caesar for the African campaign consists of two denarius issues: a small issue by the proconsular governor of Sicily, Aulus Allienus, and a rather extensive issue out of a military mint traveling with Caesar in North Africa. For the Pompeian camp, Metellus Scipio produced one issue of gold aureii and five issues of silver denarii, out of Utica or moving military mints. Also for the Pompeian camp, Cato produced, out of Utica, one basic denarius issue with three variations and one issue of silver quinarii. In support of his Pompeian allies, Juba produced two main denarius issues, along with silver quinarii and sestertii, as well base metal issues, consistent with the monetary practices of his predecessors.

Africa in the Coinage of Julius Caesar

a. The Coinage of the African Campaign

The first denarius issue struck for Caesar’s African campaign contains no direct reference to Africa. It is a small issue minted late 47 B.C., most probably in the Sicilian port of Lilybaeum, where Caesar stopped to prepare his forces before embarking for Africa. This issue belongs to Aulus Allienus, the proconsular governor of Sicily and depicts, on the obverse, the diademed and draped bust of Venus, surrounded by the inscription C CAESAR COS ITER, and, on the reverse, the naked Trinacrus holding triskeles in his right hand, his foot set on prow, surrounded by the inscription A ALLIENVS PRO COS (Cr. 457; Pl. 2). In most respects, the types for this issue, as well as their composition, are typically Republican: the obverse features a tutelary family deity (Venus, tutelary goddess of the Julia gens), while the reverse features a tutelary regional deity (Trinacrus, son of Neptune and protector of Sicily). The importance of this small issue is conferred, however, by the first-time appearance of Venus on the coinage of Julius Caesar, an appearance which, after this point, re-emerges consistently on coins struck in his name .

The presence of a goddess on the obverse type is not inconsistent with Republican minting practices – Roman moneyers placed favorite deities on obverse types as early as private types made their initial appearance in Rome’s denarius coinage . That this goddess is Venus is not unusual either; before her appearance on the coins of Julius Caesar, her most recognizable presence was on the coinage of Sulla, whose trust in the patronage of his favorite goddess was legendary (Cr. 359/1,2; Pl. 1). That Caesar’s Venus may have represented an allusion to Sulla is, however, difficult to determine. In his political career, Caesar was aware of the obvious similarities between Sulla’s occupation of Rome and his own and took precautions to prevent further parallels by practicing clemency in place of proscriptions. Caesar, furthermore, had a history of enmity with Sulla and was critical of him, not on account of Sulla’s extended claim to dictatorship, but on account of the political ignorance Sulla demonstrated when he gave it up . Although it is not inconceivable that Caesar might have intended to present himself as a new and improved Sulla, possessed of the same strength but of more political finesse, it is more likely that the Venus on Caesar’s coinage served the primary purpose of proclaiming Caesar’s divine origin as the foremost representative of the Julia gens, which, in turn, claimed direct lineage to Venus herself .

The second denarius issue for the African campaign, struck in 47-46 B.C. by a moving military mint, features a stronger relationship between Caesar, Venus, and Africa. On the obverse, Caesar’s African denarius features the diademed bust of Venus; on the reverse, it features naked Aeneas holding the Palladium and carrying his father Anchises on his shoulder, accompanied by the inscription CAESAR on the right (Cr. 458; Pl. 3). In many respects, the selection of obverse and reverse types for the African campaign achieves an ingenious fusion between quintessentially Republican mythos and the boldest self-centered propaganda. The obverse type continues to propagandize the image of Caesar’s divine ancestor, while the reverse type points simultaneously to the mythical origins of Africa and of Rome. The origins of Africa feature implicitly through the presence of Aeneas, known to myth as the lover of Dido, queen of Tyre and mythical founder of Carthage. The origins of Rome feature explicitly in the scene depicted on the reverse: Aeneas, the son of immortal Venus and mortal Anchises and father of Ascanius (or Iulus, the primogenitor of the Julia gens), is shown carrying his aged father out of burning Troy and preserving the Palladium (the sacred statue of Athena that had protected Troy), so that it may later protect the city of Rome. The striking originality of this issue consists in the use of the same “language” as established private issues of Republican moneyers: a family deity on the obverse and a bit of family history on the reverse, with the provision that Caesar’s family history happens to coincide with the family histories of both Rome and Africa. The message appears to leave little room for ambiguity: Caesar is the true son of Rome and heir of Africa.

The success of the propaganda message linking Caesar to Africa through Venus seems supported by the coinage in honor of Caesar’s quadruple triumph struck by the moneyers of 46 B.C. Manius Cordius Rufus honors Caesar’s African victory by using Venus as the obverse type, accompanied by Cupid on the reverse (Cr. 463/3,5a-b; Pl. 4). Gaius Considius Paetus also uses Venus as the obverse type for the African triumph, but accompanied by Victory in quadriga on the reverse (Cr. 465/3,4). Furthermore, the propaganda success of Caesar’s mythical family history is supported by the selection of types for a denarius issue of Titus Carisius. Carisius’ denarius, representing the head of the Sibyl Herophile on the obverse and a seated Sphinx on the reverse (Cr. 464/1; Pl. 5), alludes to Caesar’s Trojan origins by venue of the Sibyl’s birthplace of Gergis in the Troad, close to ancient Troy .

The success of the propaganda message hailing Caesar as a true son of Rome, who validates – not threatens – her values, also seems supported by contemporary literary sources from Caesar’s camp. The anonymous author of the African War presents a consistent rebuttal of Pompeian fears that Caesar had set out to break the ultimate Roman taboo and proclaim himself king of Rome by portraying the Pompeians in a worse light than they could have portrayed Caesar, not only as ruthless tyrants, but, much worse, as Roman citizens subservient to a foreign king. Thus, in stark contrast with Caesar’s ability to command the loyalty of his troops and attract deserters from the other side, the Pompeian tactics leave Africa in utter devastation . Furthermore, in contrast with the self-reliance that Caesar’s soldiers demonstrate in the face of adversity, the Pompeians subject themselves to the humiliation of paying tax to king Juba and modifying their appearance to suit Juba’s fancy . In spite of the obvious bias of the anonymous writer’s account, the African War testifies to the same reality captured later by Appian: that for the common soldier the reality of a strong, talented, brave, and successful commander was indeed the Roman reality which mattered most.

The apparent success of Caesar’s propaganda message suggests that, to the question of whether Rome and its values can survive under the control of a single individual, the coinage of the African campaign answers with a bold affirmative. Caesar presents himself not as a threat to Rome, but as the very embodiment of what is quintessentially Roman, because he is Rome. Nevertheless, the Rome he represents is not necessarily the old Republic, but something much older, closer to its origins, and therefore more true to itself. To those in the opposing Republican camp claiming the need for a return to Republican ideals, he presents a Troy reborn. To those fearing his indomitable abilities as a conqueror, he presents the example of Africa, brought back into the Roman fold by its rightful heir.

b. Caesar’s Elephant Issue

Caesar’s famous elephant and pontifical emblems issue pre-dates the African campaign but deserves special attention due to its strong but sometimes overlooked connection to Africa. This is the first and largest issue in Caesar’s name, which probably began in 49 B.C., prior to Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon, and possibly continued after Caesar’s occupation of Rome, until the restoration of activity in the Capitoline mint in 48 B.C. The obverse of Caesar’s first denarius features an elephant walking right, trampling on a serpent head rearing before it, with CAESAR in exergue (certain die variations, however, do not feature the serpent), while the reverse features the emblems of the pontificate – the simpulum, aspergillum, axe, and apex.

The relatively unproblematic reverse type propagandizes Caesar’s holding of the office of Pontifex Maximus; the obverse type, however, still remains a matter of discussion. Generally, the obverse is interpreted as the triumph of good (Caesar as the elephant) over evil (the Pompeians as the serpent head) . The consideration of this type in relation to previous occurrences of the elephant on Roman coinage reveals, however, a strong reference to Africa which, in turn, adds further depth to its propaganda message.

The elephant first appears in Roman Republican coinage on a bronze ingot issue struck 275-242 B.C. (before the eruption of the First Punic War almost until its conclusion), where it features on the obverse, in combination with a sow on the reverse (Cr. 9). Crawford suggests that the combination of the obverse and the reverse types commemorates an incident from the Pyrrhic war, when Pyrrhus’ elephants were frightened by the presence of pigs (at the battle of Heraclea in 280 B.C.) . Because this issue continued and circulated throughout the First Punic War, the mythos of the elephant scared by the pig probably began serving the propaganda purposes of this war and became intended as a snub of Carthaginian power, which also prided in its war elephants. This bronze ingot issue also represents the only instance, prior to Caesar’s denarius issue of 49 B.C., where the elephant features as a single (or central) obverse type.

The elephant later appears consistently in the coinage of the Metellus family, to which also belonged (by adoption) Metellus Scipio, the commander of the Pompeian forces in Africa. The elephant in the coinage of the Metelli commemorates mainly the accomplishments of two illustrious family members over an African opponent: the victory of L. Caecilius Metellus, consul of 251 B.C., over Hasdrubal during the First Punic War, and the victory of Metellus Numidicus, consul of 109 B.C., over Jugurtha of Numidia. L. Caecilius Metellus is commemorated in the coinage of Caecilius Metellus Diadematus, moneyer of 128 B.C. (Cr. 262/1,2 ) and of C. Caecilius Metellus Caprarius, moneyer of 125 B.C (Cr. 269/1,2), by means of an elephant’s head on the reverse (Cr. 262/1,2 and 269/2) or by means of a pair of elephants driving Jupiter’s biga, also on the reverse (Cr. 269/1). Metellus Numidicus is commemorated in the coinage of Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius , moneyer of 82-81 B.C. and consul of 80 B.C., by means of a walking elephant on the reverse (Cr. 374; Pl. 8). In the coinage of the Metelli, the elephant thus functions as a trophy from a battle against an enemy based in Africa.

In Italian coinage from the Second Punic War, the elephant features on the coinage of Carthaginian allies, such as Capua in Campania (SNG ANS 147) or Val di Chiana in Etruria (SNG Cop. 47-50), which, along with Syracuse and Tarentum, joined Hannibal’s forces after the annihilation of the Roman army at Cannae in 216 B.C. Although the elephant is not an emblematic Carthaginian animal, it appears consistently as the reverse type in Carthaginian coinage of the Second Punic War, conceivably as an emblem of Hannibal and his family, in conjunction with a laureate male head (possibly the god Melkart with the features of Hannibal) on the obverse (SNG Cop. 382-3; Pl. 7). Regardless of the significance of the elephant on Carthaginian coinage, scholars agree that the elephants on the Italian issues of the Second Punic War are not representations from real life but symbols of the Carthaginian ally . In Italian coinage, therefore, the elephant signifies the very opposite of what it does in Roman coinage – not a trophy but a symbol of the power of Carthage.
Considering that the previous occurrences of the elephant in Republican and Italian coinage contain a direct reference to an Africa-based power, whether enemy or ally, the question emerges as to how the generally accepted interpretation is affected by this African connection. The established interpretation, which claims that the elephant trampling the serpent stands for Caesar’s anticipated victory over the Pompeians, actually gains support from an understanding of the reception of Caesar’s elephant in the coinage of North Africa. Metellus Scipio, for example, produces an exceptionally interesting rebuttal of Caesar’s elephant issue from the Utica mint, in the form of a series of aureii and denarii featuring on the obverse the head of Jupiter and, on the reverse, a curule chair flanked by an ear of corn and a serpent’s head, with scales balanced on cornucopiae above (Cr. 460/1,2; Pl. 9). The combination of symbols on the reverse suggests that the Pompeians identify themselves with the serpent which Caesar wants to trample, but that they in reality champion the just cause of the Republic (the scales above the curule chair), which can bring about a new age of prosperity (the cornucopiae) for the Republic (the curule chair) and Africa (the ear of corn).

The image of the elephant crushing the serpent is also directly borrowed as the reverse type by coinage issued in the name of Caesar’s successor, Octavian, later Augustus, in the period of the interregnum (SNG Cop. 544) and Augustan Africa (SNG Cop. 566-7). The walking elephant (without the serpent) appears, as well, on the reverse of a denarius of Juba II (SNG Cop. 577-8). The reception of the elephant image by Caesar’s successor suggests that, while Caesar’s opponents identified with the serpent, those who benefited from his victory identified with the elephant, which confirms the role assigned to each party by the two symbols. Nevertheless, the very fact that this confirmation occurs in the coinage of Africa but nowhere else, in spite of Caesar’s victory over the Pompeians on multiple fronts (including Spain, for example), points towards the possibility that a clear African connection for the elephant was already established in Caesar’s time and that further interpretation can offer a wider perspective on the simple political statement of an anticipated victory.
Considering that Republican and Italian coinage confer opposite symbolism to the elephant – of victory over an Africa-based enemy and support of an Africa-based ally, respectively – a new question arises as to where Caesar’s elephant issue stands in relation to these poles of meaning. A connection between Caesar’s elephant denarius and the defeat of an Africa-based power, similar to the connection present in the coinage of the Metellus family, is improbable; the elephant makes an unlikely trophy because Caesar had no African victory at that time. The alternative, the elephant as a symbol of Carthage, may appear surprising. Nevertheless, parallels between Caesar and Hannibal were not missed by Caesar’s contemporaries. Cicero, for example, wondered anxiously as Caesar made progress towards Rome: “Is this a general of the Roman people we are talking about, or Hannibal?” The possibility of a deliberate Hannibal reference opens up, however, when the obverse type is not considered in isolation but in conjunction with the reverse, in a manner similar to the early Republican bronze. On the ingot of the First Punic War, the “story” of the coin emerges out of the interplay between the obverse and reverse, where the sow “reverses” the symbolism of the elephant and transforms it from an affirmation of an alien power into a rejection of that power. Similarly, the logic of an allusion to a Carthaginian invasion of Rome on Caesar’s denarius is difficult to support without the balancing symbolism of the pontifical emblems.
It is conceivable that the combination of the elephant and the pontifical emblems functions as a venue of catharsis for Rome’s worst fears. A deliberate reference to Africa (more specifically, to Carthage and Hannibal) gives substance to Rome’s most dreaded nightmare – the successful invasion of Rome and defeat at the very heart of the Republic. The only other nightmare that matches it in horror is that made real by Caesar himself – the fall into servitude under the control of one individual. The elephant trampling the serpent embodies the double nightmare of a successful invasion of Rome and of its rule by one man, because Caesar accomplishes both. However, the inscription CAESAR, in conjunction with the implements of the Pontifex Maximus on the reverse, suggests that Caesar is not Hannibal, and that the nightmare of foreign invasion and one-man rule is not to be feared, because Caesar is not an alien but a son of Rome – the very individual responsible for preserving Rome’s most sacred traditions and nurturing her relationship with the gods.
The propaganda messages of both the Venus and the elephant issue focus, therefore, on the centrality of Rome and exhibit an inward movement, an effort to bring to Rome what is outside of Rome and to make Roman what is not Roman. Thus, both Africa and Hannibal’s strength become Roman through the efforts of Caesar, Dido’s heir and Rome’s most successful conqueror. The “civilizing” message of Caesar’s propaganda finds resonance with the ideology of the Republic’s early military expansion, which held that a world under Rome is a better world. Caesar thus answers “yes” to the question of whether Rome can survive under the control of a single individual, and does so using the “vocabulary” of the old Republic. Caesar, however, does not indicate that Rome will continue unchanged, but that it will find a deeper, more real, and more stable center than the antiquated formalities of the Republic.

Africa in the Coinage of the Pompeians: Metellus Scipio and Porcius Cato
The coinage of the Pompeians in North Africa was issued by two authorities: Metellus Scipio and Porcius Cato . Metellus Scipio produced three issues out of Utica with his legate Crassus Junianus: a series of aureii and denarii in response to Caesar’s elephant issue, featuring the head of Jupiter on the obverse and, on the reverse, the curule chair, flanked by ear of corn and serpent’s head, topped by scales balanced on cornucopiae (Cr. 460/1,2; Pl. 9); a denarius issue featuring, on the obverse, the turreted head of the city-goddess of Utica accompanied by ear of corn, and caduceus on prow, and, on the reverse, military trophy, flanked by lituus and jug (Cr. 460/3; Pl. 12); finally, a denarius issue featuring, on the obverse, the lion-headed Genius of Africa as Sekhmet holding ankh, and on the reverse, standing Victory, holding caduceus and shield (Cr. 460/4; Pl. 11). Metellus Scipio also produced two denarius issues out of moving military mints: one issue, in the joint names of Scipio and his legate Eppius, features, on the obverse, the laureate head of Africa in elephant-skin headdress, accompanied by ear of corn and plough, and, on the reverse, naked Hercules resting on club (Cr. 461; Pl. 10); another denarius issue, struck in Scipio’s name only, features, on the obverse, the laureate head of Jupiter, and, on the reverse, an African elephant walking right (Cr. 459; Pl. 13). The coinage of Porcius Cato includes a denarius issue with three variations, featuring the bust of Roma or Libertas on the obverse and seated Victory on the reverse (Cr. 462/1a,b,c; Pl. 14), as well as a quinarius issue featuring the head of Liber on the obverse and seated Victory on the reverse (Cr. 462/2). Both the denarius and the quinarius issue are struck in Cato’s name only.

Scipio’s and Cato’s coinage for the African war can help determine the Pompeian answer to the question of the Republic’s survival in exile. If this global question emerges from the Pompeians’ decision to evacuate Rome and take their fight abroad, two more questions emerge from the treatment of Scipio and Cato in ancient sources as opposite extremes: Scipio as an extreme of savagery and cruelty and Cato as an extreme of inflexible Republican virtue . As a savagely destructive general, Scipio receives accusations of accepting subservience to Numidian power as the price of Juba’s support, which prompts the question of whether Scipio’s coinage corroborates the ancient allegations. As an embodiment of strict Republican virtue, Cato earns praise, in part due, to the difference in character between him and Scipio , which raises the question as to whether the Pompeians were able to mount a unified propaganda effort. To address these questions, the coinage of Scipio and Cato receive attention as a system of propaganda rather than as individual issues.

The image of Africa as a female figure wearing elephant skin headdress, featuring on the obverse of Cr. 461 in conjunction with naked Hercules on the reverse, represents one of the most recognizable symbols of Pompeian propaganda in Africa and also one of their most important contributions to later Roman coinage . In Roman coinage, the personification of Africa as a female wearing elephant skin headdress actually represents a Pompeian invention, although Scipio’s denarius is only its second occurrence. Africa, accompanied by jug and lituus, makes her first appearance on the obverse of an aureus struck by Magnus Procos in 71 B.C., with the reverse showing Pompey in triumphal quadriga crowned by wreath-holding Victory (Crawford 402/1a,b). This issue was probably produced for Pompey’s triumphal celebrations of 71 B.C., in commemoration of Pompey’s victory ten years earlier (81 B.C.) against the remnants of the Marian party in Africa, led by Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus and the Numidian king Hiarbas.

Although Pompey’s supporters are the first to place personified Africa on Roman coins, the female head with elephant skin is not a Roman invention. Numismatists generally agree that the image originated with Ptolemy I of Egypt, who used the effigy of the deified Alexander the Great wearing elephant skin headdress as the obverse type of silver tetradrachms issued after 323 B.C. (SNG Cop. 14; Pl. 16). The same image, borrowed by Ptolemy’s successors, progressively became more effeminate and, at an uncertain point, transformed into Africa in coinage produced outside of Egypt . It is worth noting, however, that the image of Alexander wearing elephant skin headdress had already transformed into a female head during Ptolemy’s lifetime, on a gold stater of Agathokles of Syracuse issued 310-305 B.C. (Pl. 17), at a time when Agathokles was fighting a war with Carthage on African soil. Although it is hard to establish with certainty the motivation behind the selection of this type, it is conceivable, considering that the Alexander reference was relatively recent at that time, that Agathokles was drawing from Alexander’s power to advertise an anticipated victory over Carthage, and that the female head was therefore used as the symbol of a would-be victor, not a local.

Nevertheless, the female wearing elephant skin does appear, although infrequently, in local North African coinage, on Æ issues of Hiarbas struck probably 108-81 B.C. (SNG Cop. 520-1) and then again on a silver sestertius (SNG Cop. 526) and Æ denominations (SNG Cop. 532-3; Pl. 15) of Juba I, struck 60-46 B.C. It is very possible that the presence of personified Africa on the aureus of Magnus Procos was influenced by the coinage of Hiarbas, whose defeat by Pompey is commemorated by Procos. It is less likely, however, that the image was used as a compliment to African authority than as the advertisement of an African victory, similar to the stater of Agathokles. Conceivably, Pompey, who customarily fashioned himself as a new Alexander, was honored on the occasion of his triumph by a double reference to Africa and Alexander the Great. Similarly, the presence of Africa on Juba’s coinage might have prompted her presence Scipio’s denarius; however, Scipio more likely used it to advertise his relationship to Pompey and, through Pompey, to Alexander the Great . A position of subservience held by Scipio in relation to Juba does not, therefore, emerge clearly from the selection of Africa as an obverse type.

Sear, however, raises the question of subservience in relation to the reverse, which depicts Hercules resting on a club draped with lion’s skin. Sear acknowledges the difficulty of interpreting the reverse and suggests that Hercules might have been equated with the Phoenician god Melkart – who had an extensive cult in North Africa and was honored as the primogenitor of the Numidian kings – and was thus intended as a compliment to Juba. Although the possibility of a Phoenician reference remains open, this is not necessarily the most likely reference, as Hercules already had an established presence in previous Roman coinage, spanning time and ideologies. Hercules appears as early as 269 B.C. in pre-denarius coinage (Cr. 20) and, relative to Scipio, as late as 47 B.C., in an issue by C. Antius Restio (Cr.455/1), whose family claimed descent from Antiades, son of Hercules . Prior to the beginning of the African war in 47 B.C., Hercules makes his most recent appearance on a denarius of Faustus Cornelius Sulla, moneyer of 56 B.C. This issue pictures, on the obverse, the head of Hercules wearing lions’ skin, and, on the reverse, a globe surrounded by four wreaths: three small wreaths, which stand for Pompey’s three triumphs, and a large wreath, which stands for the corona aurea granted to Pompey in 63 B.C. (Cr. 426/4). This denarius thus draws a direct connection between Pompey and Hercules and confirms ancient historiographers’ accounts of Pompey’s personal devotion to the hero . The standing Hercules on Scipio’s denarius represents, therefore, a much more likely reference to Pompey and his protector deity than to the Phoenician Melkart, although a double reference also remains a possibility.

Scipio’s relationship to Pompey finds further support in the presence of Jupiter Terminalis – a prominent type in the coinage of Pompey (Cr. 445/3, 446, 447/1) – on the reverse of the aureus and denarius issue produced in response to Caesar’s elephant (Cr. 460/1,2) and on the obverse of Scipio’s own elephant issue (Cr. 459). Furthermore, the elephant reverse of Cr. 459, as well as the military trophies on the reverse of Cr. 460/3, supports Scipio’s image as a conqueror via open references to his ancestors’ victories in Africa. The military trophies, in conjunction with the symbols of the augurate, make reference to Scipio’s adoptive grandfather, Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, and his operations against Jugurtha of 109 B.C. As well, the elephant reverse of Cr. 459 probably represents the family emblem of the Metelli, also selected as the result of previous African victories . Although neither the Metellus family trophies nor the elephant emblem represents friendly symbols with regard to Africa, Scipio’s conqueror image needs to be nuanced by the presence of a walking elephant on Æ denominations of Juba (SNG Cop. 528-31). Again, the possibility of a double reference to Scipio’s family and to Scipio’s ally Juba remains open. However, the very fact that a reference to Juba features in conjunction with a primary reference to Roman victories in Africa (over Jugurtha’s predecessors) suggests that, if anything, Scipio was claiming the upper hand with regard to his local alliance, without too much concern for Juba’s sensitivities.

While Scipio’s coinage shows little evidence of reverence towards Juba’s authority, the question remains as to the extent of the reverence it shows to the cause of the Republic. The aureus and denarius issue featuring Jupiter Terminalis, god of the Capitoline hill, accompanied by the curule chair on the reverse (Cr. 460/1,2) promises that the cause of the Republic will survive in Africa. However, the denarii featuring Utica (Cr. 460/3) and the Genius Terrae Africae as Sekhmet (Cr. 460/4) show a Republic transformed almost beyond recognition. Both of these types are the first to break a long-held tradition, as there is no previous representation of a city goddess other than Roma on Roman coinage , and neither is a previous representation of another Genius other than the Genius of the Roman People. In later Roman provincial coinage, this break from the centrality of Rome is common. However, in Republican and imperatorial coinage it is a first.

The integration of Sekhmet, whose cult was widespread in North Africa, throughout Egypt, Zeugitania, and Libya, alongside the surprisingly traditional Victory on the reverse, is both striking and unique in Republican coinage, showing a Rome more willing to change than ever before. However, the political entity propagandized by Scipio is not the Republic, in spite of the stern Republican ideals campaigned by the issue featuring Jupiter Terminalis and the curule chair (Cr. 460/1,2). What Scipio propagandizes is his personal relationship to Pompey, via the head of Jupiter, personified Africa, Hercules, and, according to Sydenham, even Utica . Furthermore, Scipio propagandizes his family background via the Numidian trophies and the elephant, and, possibly, his alliance to Juba via the head of Africa and the elephant. What Scipio does not propagandize is the cause of the Republic; rather, he puts forth the image of an Eastern ruler, perhaps in the vein of Alexander, Ptolemy, or the Numidian kings. 

In stark contrast with Scipio, the coinage of Porcius Cato virtually ignores the African realities of his war against Caesar. His denarius and quinarius issues, depicting, respectively, Roma/Libertas and Liber on the obverse and the same seated Victory on the reverse (Cr. 462/1,2) represent a revival of earlier, almost identical, issues by another M. Porcius Cato, moneyer of 89 B.C. It is possible that Liber, the male counterpart of Ceres, may have doubled as a reference to the fertility of Africa. If this is the case, Liber may represent the only connection between the coinage of Cato and that of Scipio, which also makes reference to Africa’s famed fertility via the ear of corn, which appears next to the curule chair, the head of Utica, and the head of Africa. In spite of this connection, Cato’s coinage finds itself at the very opposite pole of Scipio’s propaganda. If Scipio presents a Rome willing to adapt, Cato presents the illusion of a Rome utterly Republican and utterly unchanged.

Cato’s coinage confirms the sharp difference in personality between him and Scipio, but also confirms the stern and inflexible character attributed to him by ancient authors. Maybe not surprisingly, both Appian and Plutarch , who praise Cato’s integrity and his defense of Utica against Scipio, focus their attention on the manner of Cato’s death. Plutarch, in particular, goes into great detail concerning the last day of Cato’s life, from his refusal of Caesar’s pardon offer, to his reading of Plato, his plea to his servants for control of his sword, and, finally, his suicide. The gruesome manner of Cato’s suicide do-over – as Cato stabs himself but fails to inflict a fatal would, gets bandaged by his doctors, and then rips open his entrails and bleeds to death – reflects the illusions and ultimate inefficiency of Cato’s devotion to Republican ideals. While clinging to the letter of these ideals, Cato had failed to stop the advent of Caesar, had failed to recognize in Scipio an incapable commander, and ultimately failed to commit a suicide in a manner actually fitting of Republican virtus . Cato did not die like a soldier of his Republic, but like a man who simply refused to change his mind. 

Cato’s refusal of Africa and his hopeless defense of a Republic that no longer has real substance is his answer to the question of whether Rome can survive in exile. He, like Scipio, attempts an affirmative answer to this question and, like Scipio, fails to provide a convincing one. Scipio’s message is riddled with contradictions: he claims to champion the Republic which Caesar seeks to extinguish, but follows the propaganda style of eastern rulers; he possibly nods towards Juba, but does so while proclaiming personal and family allegiance to the victors of Juba’s predecessors. Cato’s message, on the other hand, relies on an illusion: he refuses to account for the reality of Africa or, as a matter of fact, for any change in the Republic. The coinage of Scipio and Cato suggests that they failed to present and pursue a common agenda of propaganda for the Pompeian side. Their inconsistent message fractures under the pull of extremes: Scipio’s conqueror agenda and Cato’s public servant agenda, neither of which had sufficient grounding in the reality of the time.

Tentative Conclusions
The coinage of Julius Caesar, Metellus Scipio, and Porcius Cato for the African campaign suggests that the imperators, in spite of their conflicting interests, do not employ essentially different languages of propaganda. Caesar, Scipio, and Cato communicate in a form of “Republic Speak,” with a “vocabulary” of imagery selected primarily from the established Republican stock. The styles of their propaganda language differ, however. Caesar appears cautiously conservative in the selection of his coin types, but the manner in which he uses them is boldly innovative, sending a powerful and consistent message: Caesar is Rome. Cato attempts a similar, but less egocentric statement: Cato is for Rome. However, his stern revival of old Republican imagery deprives his message of context and dries it of substance. Scipio, on the other hand, attempts a more radical statement: Scipio is for a new Rome. Scipio delivers this statement in a highly innovative style, but confronts a triple challenge: he has an “accent,” he strays from his public agenda in favor of his personal agenda, and he seems unsure of what this new Rome is going to be about. Scipio’s “accent,” or his willingness to accept foreign imports into his propaganda vocabulary (such as Sekhmet, Africa, or Utica), may have contributed to his depiction as barbarian-like: cruel, irresolute, and subservient. Nevertheless, his “New Speak” becomes widely accepted in the later imperial coinage of the Roman provinces.

Apart from the same “language,” Caesar, Scipio, and Cato also share the same basic message of faith in the continued existence of Rome, although only for Cato is this the old Republic. For Caesar, it is a Rome renewed; for Scipio, it is Rome in a new world. Scipio and Caesar share, furthermore, the “civilizing” calling to the spread the Roman ways . For Caesar, however, the civilizing process is inward-oriented, from the outer borders towards Rome; for Scipio, the civilizing process is outward-oriented, from Rome to its territories. To carry out the civilizing process and ensure Rome’s future success, Caesar promotes himself as a new kind of traditional leader. In response, Scipio advertises himself as a cosmopolitan leader, while Cato presents himself as an old-fashioned public servant. In the political struggle for the survival of the fittest that follows the civil war, Cato’s public servant image turns sepia-colored – an antiquated picture of virtue for philosophers and moralists. After Caesar’s death, the new breed of politician, in the person of Octavian Augustus, claims that survival lies in the political genes of a tyrant who can be both Caesar and Scipio, both Roman and cosmopolitan, and who can look both inward and outward, towards Rome’s traditions, as well as towards new borders.

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1 Caesar’s account of the defeat and death in Africa of Gaius Scribonius Curio testifies to Caesar’s masterful ability to transform misfortune into advantage in his rhetoric as successfully as he did on the battlefield. Caesar depicts Curio as a tragic hero, exceeding in the virtue of loyalty and courage, but flawed by excessive impetuousness (Civil War II. 23-44). Curio’s death thus allows Caesar to make original use of a standard excuse for a general’s defeat – the quality of the people serving him (Rosenstein 118).

The anonymous author of the African War portrays Juba’s behavior in defeat in colorfully monstrous terms: “Finally, he reached his own kingdom and arrived at the town of Zama, where he had his residence and his wives and his children. Here he had collected all the money and valuables from the whole realm, and had built very substantial fortifications on the outbreak of war. But the inhabitants, who had already heard the longed-for rumor of Caesar’s victory, kept Juba out of town, because when he had gone to war against the Roman people he had stacked up wood and constructed an enormous pyre in the middle of the town square so that if he happened to be defeated in the war he could heap all his possessions on it, kill every one of the citizens and throw them on, and then after setting light to the pyre finally commit suicide himself on top of it and be burnt to ashes along with his wives, children, subjects, and the entire royal treasure” (91).

The activity of the Roman moneyers continued, apparently, without interruption throughout Caesar’s campaigns abroad. When Caesar seized control of Rome early in 49 B.C., he ensured that the normal activity at the Capitoline mint resumed promptly and appointed Manius Acilius Glabrio as sole moneyer for that year. A full college of three moneyers was appointed, however, for the following years. Some of these moneyers openly contributed to Caesarean propaganda (Lucius Hostilius Saserna, for example, celebrated Caesar’s Gallic triumphs), while other moneyers (such as Gaius Vibius Pansa Caentronianus, for example) produced traditional Republican private types, unrelated to the events of Caesar’s wars. A special feature of Caesar’s restored coinage was the reintroduction of the silver fractional denominations (the silver quinarius and sestertius), which had not been struck since the opening decades of the 1st century B.C. (Sear 13). From a propaganda standpoint, the coinage that did not celebrate Caesar actually remarkably supported his cause probably as much as the coinage that did. The presence of traditional private types, as well as of fractional silver denominations, conceivably conveyed the message that, under Julius Caesar, the Republic, in the most traditional sense, operated at its best.

Venus features next in Caesar’s own military issue for his African campaign (Cr. 458), as well as in the military issues for the subsequent Spanish campaign (Cr. 468/1,2). Venus’ importance to Caesar’s propaganda message is also evident in the exceptional issue of gold aureii struck in celebration of Caesar’s fifth consulship in January 44 B.C. (Cr. 481/1).

Crawford contrasts public versus private types in Republican coinage as reflections of different attitudes towards the issuing authority. Public types, beginning with the institution of the denarius coinage in 211 B.C., generally feature the head of Roma on the obverse and the Dioscuri charging into battle on the reverse, and make no mention of the individual responsible for the minting of a specific issue. Private types, on the other hand, acknowledge an individual moneyer’s responsibility for his issues and serve as a means of advertising the moneyer’s origo and family. Jupiter is the first deity to replace the traditional public types, first on the reverse type of Annius Rufus in 144 B.C. and then on the obverse types of various moneyers, beginning 137 B.C. (RRC 712-29).

Plutarch’s account of Caesar’s life opens with a reference to the enmity between Caesar and Sulla, as an illustration of Caesar’s character and a foreshadowing of his future: “The wife of Caesar was Cornelia, the daughter of Cinna who had once held the sole power at Rome, and when Sulla became master of affairs, he could not, either by promises or threats, induce Caesar to put her away, and therefore confiscated her dowry. Now, the reason for Caesar’s hatred of Sulla was Caesar’s relationship to Marius. For Julia, a sister of Caesar’s father, was the wife of Marius the Elder, and the mother of Marius the Younger, who was therefore Caesar’s cousin. Moreover, Caesar was not satisfied to be overlooked at first by Sulla, who was busy with a multitude of proscriptions, but he came before the people as candidate for a priesthood, although he was not yet much more than a stripling. To this candidacy Sulla secretly opposed himself, and took measures to make Caesar fail in it, and when he was deliberating about putting him to death and some said there was no reason for killing a mere boy like him, he declared that they had no sense if they did not see in this boy many Mariuses” (Caesar 1-2).

According to Suetonius, Caesar claimed that “Sulla did not know his ABC’s when he laid down his dictatorship” (Julius 77).

According to Suetonius, Caesar used this illustrious family connection to support his aspirations towards kingship of Rome, aspirations apparent in Caesar’s eulogy to his aunt Julia: “On her mother’s side, my aunt Julia was a descendent from kings, on her father’s she was related to gods. For the Marcius Rex family – that was her mother’s name – goes back to Ancus Marcius, while the Julii, to which our family belongs, go back to Venus. Her family is therefore distinguished by the sanctity of the kings, who are mighty amongst men, and by the majesty of the gods, to whom kings themselves are subject” (Julius 6).

Sear 47. The Sybil also carries soteriological symbolism, associating Caesar with the concept of the coming of a new age (Mashkin 221) and foreshadowing his deification.

“He [Caesar] pointed out that the province of Africa was collapsing and being thrown into chaos by his enemies, whose criminal and treacherous behavior meant that apart from the soil itself there would be nothing left of Africa, not even a roof to take shelter under, unless his allies sent assistance” (African War 26). 

“In the meantime he found out from deserters and local inhabitants the conditions agreed to by Scipio and his supporters in the war against himself, namely the upkeep of the king’s cavalry by Scipio from the resources of the province of Africa, and he pitied them for being so insane as to prefer to pay tax to a king rather than enjoy their fortunes in safety beside their fellow citizens in their fellow country” (African War 8).

“And Juba behaved still more arrogantly, not towards Marcus Aquinus, someone of little significance who was the first of his family to become a senator, but towards Scipio, a person so eminent by birth, status, and record of public office. For although before the king’s arrival Scipio was in the habit of wearing a purple cloak, Juba is said to have put it to him that he ought not to wear the same thing as he himself wore. Thus it came about that Scipio started to wear white instead and complied with the wishes of Juba, a man of monstrous arrogance and very little energy” (African War 56).

Sear 9.

RRC 718.

The identity of L. Caecilius Metellus Diadematus (Cos. 117 B.C.) as the moneyer for these issues is uncertain. Caecilius Metellus Delmaticus (Cos. 119 B.C.) is another viable possibility.

Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius was the son of Metellus Numidicus, who held the consulship with M. Junius Silanus in 109 B.C. Metellus Numidicus was assigned the task of conducting a war against Jugurtha and won a victory at Muthul, but was replaced by his legate Marius. Metellus Pius accompanied his father to Numidia in 109 B.C. and earned the cognomen Pius on account of the piety he demonstrated in obtaining his father’s return from exile in 99 B.C. Metellus Pius became praetor in 89 B.C. and served in the Social War. In 83 B.C. he joined forces with Sulla, with whom he later shared the consulship (80 B.C.). His next office was that of Pontifex Maximus, in which he was succeeded by Julius Caesar in 63 B.C.

Sear makes the following observation on the Etrurian bronze: “Commentary on this enigmatic issue has focused on the significance of the elephant, which appears to be Indian rather than African. This zoological observation seems to rule out a reference to the Carthaginian elephants and thus poses a challenge to dating this coin to the time of the Second Punic War. Yet E.S.G. Robinson, in NC 1964, pp. 47–48, proposed an interpretation that overcomes these difficulties. He submitted that the association of the elephant with an African head, probably representing the animal’s driver, points to an African origin. Rather than dating the coin issue to the time of Hannibal’s invasion, Robinson drew attention to the disaffection of Rome’s Etruscan allies in 208–207, centered on the town of Arretium, and suggested that the coin types expressed the seditious hope that Hasdrubal would arrive to reinforce his brother. In these historical circumstances, the elephant was a symbol, perhaps copied from earlier coin types, rather than a portrayal from life” (Freeman and Sear 14/101).

qtd. Holland 297.

Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius Scipio was the adoptive son of Metellus Pius and the natural son of P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, as well as Pompey’s father-in-law. Scipio rose from the position of tribune of the plebs, which he held in 59 B.C. to that of Pompey’s colleague as consul in 52 B.C. As consul, he supported the decision to force Caesar to give up his command or become the enemy of the state. After the Pompeian forces evacuated Rome in 49 B.C., he received Syria as his command, but was later summoned by Pompey to Greece in 48 B.C. After the defeat at Pharsalus, Scipio fled to Corcyra and then to Africa, where he joined forces with Attius Varus and Juba of Numidia. He survived the defeat at Thapsus and attempted to flee to Spain but was intercepted by the fleet of P. Sittius. Deprived of a venue of escape, Scipio stabbed himself and fell into the sea.

M. Porcius Cato, also surnamed Uticensis, was the great-grandson of Cato the Censor. Cato began his cursus honorum as a military tribune in Macedonia in 67 B.C. and rose to the position of quaestor in 65 B.C., in which he showed exceptional moral rectitude and aversion to corruption. As a tribune of the plebs in 63 B.C., the year of Cicero’s consulship, he argued the death penalty for the Catiline conspirators and won. In 60 B.C. worked to oppose both Caesar and Pompey. The political inconvenience he caused as a result earned him the governorship of Cyprus, where he was made responsible for liquidating the assets of King Ptolemy. He returned to Rome to become praetor in 54 B.C. and ran, unsuccessfully, for the consulship of 52 B.C. After 49 B.C., he joined Pompey at Dyrrachium, where, after Pompey’s victory, he was changed with guarding the camp. Cato was not present at Pharsalus, but on receiving news of Pompey’s defeat, he fled to Africa, where he joined forces with Attius Varus and Metellus Scipio. After Scipio’s defeat at Thapsus in April 46 B.C., he attempted to mount a resistance against Caesar in Utica. His decision was not supported by the Uticans, who were more inclined to accept Caesar’s terms. Cato refused to negotiate with Caesar and committed suicide.

Scipio’s famed cruelty emerges in his treatment of local towns. According to the author of the African War, Scipio took by force the town of Parada, which had previous refused to cooperate with him, and “then inflicted savage punishment on the inhabitants, regardless of age or status, by tying them up and throwing them alive into the flames.” (87)

Plutarch describes Cato’s extreme virtue and inflexibility as evident from an early age. Plutarch illustrates these traits with anecdotes about Cato’s childhood, such as Cato’s rescue of a boy made prisoner in play during a birthday party or his aversion of Sulla, gained during his visits to the dictator (Cato the Younger II.5, III.1-4).

African War 56.

The author of the African War suggests that, when Scipio came to Utica with the intention of destroying the city, Cato and Faustus Sulla bribed his men to leave with money from their own pockets (87).

Personified Africa appears again in the coinage of Juba II (SNG Cop. 554) and in the exceptional aureus issue of Lucius Cestius and Gaius Norbanus of 43 B.C. (Cr. 492/1a,b). The female wearing elephant skin becomes the standard representation of Africa in imperial coinage from the Rome mint, but appears only as a reverse type.

Sear 33.

How much influence Juba had on Scipio’s coinage remains difficult to determine; however, it is important to note that Roman influence on the coinage of Africa was extensive. Roman silver, for example, takes the place of Punic silver after the fall of Carthage in 146 B.C. and begins to serve the monetary needs of the neighboring kingdoms as well. Numidia, for example, produced no silver coinage during Massinissa, Jugurtha, or Hiempsal. Silver coinage re-emerges in Numidia with Juba I, who issued it in support of his Pompeian allies. The coinage of Juba I suggests that the coinage of Africa had become completely integrated with that of Rome, which is further supported by the presence of Juba’s denarii in hoards from late Republican and early imperial times (Burnett 175-7).

HCRI 33.

RRC 471.

RRC 450.

According to Appian, Pompey uses “Hercules the Unconquered” as the password for his troops before the battle of Pharsalus, as opposed to Caesar’s “Venus, Bringer of Victory” (Civil Wars II.76).

As indicated before, in the discussion of Caesar’s elephant issue.

The Republic used the deification of the city of Rome, in part, to escape the need of forming permanent treaties with the Greek states and to enforce demands on them (Ferguson 29-39). The appearance of a new city goddess on Scipio’s denarius challenges the sanctity and centrality of Rome, but at the same time attempts to transfer the principles of the city’s deification (with the attached privileges) onto a new location. 

Sydenham suggests, for example, that the boat symbol below the female head makes a reference to Utica as a naval base and a munitions and provisions depot for Pompey (The Coinage of the Roman Republic 175).

Civil Wars II.98-9.

Cato the Younger LXVI-LXX.

Unlike the Greek arete, which had a primarily ethical significance, Roman virtus stood mainly for martial courage (McDonnel 12-49). The fact that Cato excelled in arete but faltered in virtus suggests that, in many respects, his ideals fell outside the value system of his time. 

The scarcity of references to Africa raises the question as to whether this represented an act of modesty on Cato’s part. Like Scipio, Cato hailed from famous ancestors. His great-grandfather, Marcus Porcius Cato, surnamed the Censor, directly influenced the Senate’s decision to destroy Carthage, possibly as a preventive measure against a resurgence of Carthaginian power and the threat of Numidian expansion (Adcock 77-84). Cato may have intended to obscure this family connection by avoiding references to Africa. On the other hand, his revival of a family member’s coinage may have, at least indirectly, served to proclaim this very family relationship, casting doubt on Cato’s unwavering dedication to Utica’s interests.

The “civilizing” messages of Roman propaganda should be carefully distinguished from 19th century colonial or racist ideologies, as modern scholars agree that racial prejudice in Graeco-Roman cultures finds no grounding in the classical evidence. The Greeks and the Romans had ethnocentric preferences that were common to the cultures of the time, but generally regarded black and white skin as geographic accidents, with no stigma attached, and did not develop a system of discrimination based on the color of the skin (Snowden 256-68). Furthermore, Greek and Roman societies were thoroughly cosmopolitan with regard to ethnic identities, and this cosmopolitanism was also accounted for at the level of myth. The mythical history of Carthage, for example, demonstrates the through integration of Africa into the culture of the Graeco-Roman world (Keita 147-66).


Copyright notices: Article, text and photographs Copyright 2009 by Sameer Kazmi.

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