Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sarah Bond: The Tale of the Leather Asses: Numa Pompilius and Leather Coinage

By Dorothy King's PhDiva

Detail from the fresco Numa Pompilius institut...
Detail from the fresco Numa Pompilius institutes the cult of the Vestals by Cavalier d'Arpino (1636-1640) CE in the Hall of the Horatii and Curiatti (Photo credit: mharrsch)
A wealthy Roman by the name of Valentinus came into possession of an illustrated codex for the year 354 CE. Beyond the lists of consuls, bishops, and kings it transmits, the codex preserves the work of the renowned calligrapher Furius Dionysius Filocalus and immaculate full-page illustrations. However, what caught my eye was a passage from the so-called Chronography of 354 that discusses the reign of the second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius (c. 715-673 BCE, if regal dates can even be trusted).

Numa Pompilius regnavit ann. XLI. pontifices, virgines Vestales, instituit. hic duos menses ad X menses Romuli instituit, Ianuarium diis superis, Februarium diis inferis. hic prior hominibus adinvenit grabata mensas sellas candelabra. congiarium dedit scortinos asses et militibus donativum aere incisum dipondium semis.

"Numa Pompilius reigned for 41 years. He established the pontiffs and the vestal virgins. He added two months to the 10 months of Romulus, January with more days and February with less. He was the first among men to devise beds, tables, chairs and candelabra. He gave a largess of leather asses and a donative to the soldiers of half a dupondium of engraved metal."

The word scortinus comes from the root word scortum, which means hide (not to be confused with the same word, which can be applied to harlots and prostitutes), but what does the Chronographer means by leathered asses? Moreover, is it possible that Romans even used such types of currency?

More to read and original Article: http://phdiva.blogspot.com/2013/01/sarah-bond-tale-of-leather-asses-numa.html