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Cæsaris." Yet there are some who maintain that the Senate had power over the whole mintage of Rome; but though all the brass coins with very few exceptions, have the “Senatûs Consultu” upon them, the gold and silver, with still rarer exceptions, are without it. Vespasian minted in the precious metals before his title was acknowledged in Rome, whereas the brass was only struck when the Senate received him. Albinus appears as Augustus on gold and silver coins, but on the brass series only as Cæsar; and it was for assuming the former title that he was put to death. The soundest antiquaries, therefore, look upon the divided privilege of coinage to be satisfactorily established.
The Mint was a more important institution in ancient Rome than with us, when steam performs the office of numbers of men ; and it was more extensive because its produce was to supply a currency for the World. In the rebellion of the Moneyers, under Aurelian, that Eniperor lost 7,000 of his best troops ; and the offices and appointments of the money-departments were considered as equally honourable and lucrative. It may here be mentioned that the engravers of the dyes were called Cælatores ; the assayers of the metals, Spectatores, or Nummularii ; the refiners, Cænarii; the melters, Fusarii, or Flaturarii ; the adjusters of weight, Equatores monetarum ; and the men who struck the dye, Malleatores. The chief person in each office was denominated Primicerius, and the next in rank, Optio, or Exactor.
A well-selected series of Imperial large-brass affords interest and information in the highest degree; and as these coins were struck by sovereigns common to all Europe, they are almost recognizable as the currency of our own country. They offer the most elegant of all the branches of ornamental literature, and have been resorted to by the most distinguished architects, sculptors, poets, and painters, for the grace and dignity with which they are replete. Caraccio, Raphael, Petrarch, Politian, and Rubens were among their warmest admirers ; Halley, the astronomer, was no mean medallist ; and Flaxman, who himself possessed a collection, was delighted with some of the coins in the cabinet here described. Upon medals are preserved the entire forms of many ancient edifices, and the attitudes and figures of the most celebrated statues, executed and grouped with a bold and elegant exertion of mind as well as of the eye and hand. In devices of this nature,” says Addison, “one sees a pretty poetical invention, and may often find as much thought on the reverse of a medal as in a Canto of Spencer.” The types on the obverse relate to its great subject—the Emperor, whose likeness it bears ; and the legends round his bust generally show what part he took in the administration of public affairs; what civil offices he bore ; how many times he had been Consul, or had exercised the
Tribunitian Power; and how often he had been saluted “ Imperator" by the army. On the reverse we find recorded—if he were a man of enterprise and ambition, bis exploits ; if mild and provident, his benefits ;—thus they not only register the great military and imperial acts, but also those of peace and utility—such as a remission of taxes, the opening of a road, repairing a port, raising an edifice, or celebration of a festival. In a word, the large-brass series exhibits most faithful and striking portraits of the Emperors, Empresses, and other celebrated personages, for more than three centuries, with their habits and implements; many of them in a style of beauty, boldness, and vigour, which few Greek coins can surpass ; and realizing the “quantum rerum, quantum exemplorum, quantum antiquitatis tenet” of Pliny. The ordinary devices may be classed under the following heads :
Deities, moral virtues, temples, pontifical offices. 1. Religious. Altars, sacrifices, sacerdotal implements.
Funereal pyres, consecrations, apotheoses.
Provinces, colonies, cities, rivers, ports, bridges.
Secular and circus games, naumachiæ, combats of wild animals.
Victories, adlocutions, alliances, expeditions, triumphs.
linplements of war, ships, standards, trophies, titles of honour. The Large-Brass series comprises the whole of what is termed “the Higher Empire," from Julius Cæsar to Gallienus, and exhibits Roman art from the dawn of its perfection to the eve of its decline. The facts thus recorded are also clear and satisfactory, not obscured by the dense mists with which the stream of time too often throws an impenetrable gloom over the pages of history; nor is the antiquary here uselessly labouring with a slender string of conjectures to fathom the depths of an interminable abyss, as frequently occurs in attempts to trace an object through the obscurity of remote ages, where the mind is too prone to follow glimmering and dubious lights. It is true that the Senate, in servile adulation, prostituted the arts by conferring honours on the most depraved of men; and while the obverse of a medal was made subservient to ambition, the reverse was degraded with flattery; hence the Emperors were often represented as clothed with all the majesty of Jupiter himself, and the Empresses usually figured as those goddesses, whose attributes were ascribed to them by conceit or obsequiousness.
From this license of adulation the Moderation of Tiberius, the Clemency of Vitellius, the Triumphs of Domitian, the Conquests of Verus, and the Piety of Elagabalus, might induce a Novice to rank them with the Vespasians, the Nervas, the Trajans, the Antonines, and the Alexanders. But here the judgment must be exercised by a reciprocal examination of medallic and historic evidence: as the brass
coinage was under the express direction of the Senate, both satire and obscenity were curbed; but its productions commemorate as well as tyranny, servility, and blood, facts of benevolence, piety, and utility ;—while all these various facts and attributes are expressed by legends of such admirable force and brevity, as to convey in a few abbreviated words and appropriate symbols more than is found in whole
of the historian. These coins, moreover, furnish an invaluable commentary on ancient writers, by explaining ambiguous statements, confirming dates, authenticating records, and rendering the testimony of history conclusive. By the aid of coins you teach posterity the events of iny reign,” are words ascribed to Theodoric, by Cassiodorus. A conviction of this, added to the beauty and value of a collection received from my friend Mr. J.C. Ross, of Malta, made me relinquish the dubious pursuit of Greek Colonies, which I had entered upon, and confine myself to the Large-Brass series. But I must confess that my attachment is to the certain æra of Roman History; for I never believed in Æneas and his Trojan colony; nor Romulus and Remus, and the Wolf, their nurse; nor the rape of the Sabines ; nor the Falerii surrendering their liberties because a pedagogue was scourged. No faith can be placed in virgins heaving up ships high and dry ; in the cutting of flints with razors; in the contest of the Horatii and Curatii ; in the patriotic leap of Curtius ; in the story of Horatius Cocles; in that of the Gauls and cackling geese ; in the rape
of Lucretia ; in the uncomfortable tub of Regulus ; nor indeed in a tythe of the magnanimous impostures and splendid improbabilities, which are said to have happened five hundred years before there were historians in Rome, and confidently peated after the public documents had been destroyed.
While mentioning that the early history of Rome, like that of other countries, is enveloped in doubt, fiction, and improbability, a sailor may allude to a “ vulgar error,” which has obtained, though the historian who transmitted it, has also left its refutation. This is the amusing story of the Romans being entirely ignorant of sea affairs, till they got hold of a wrecked galley, and that then, by a system of " dry-rowing” they became at once a first-rate naval power, and assumed the dominion of the seas. Now it is well known that some of their earliest
money bore the prow of a galley on its reverse ; that Ancus Martius, the fourth king of Rome, assigned certain woods for the express purpose of ship-building ; that the fleet of Antium was captured and moored in a reach of the Tiber expressly set apart for the construction of shipping, two hundred years before the victory of Duilius ; that a Roman fleet was defeated off Tarentum B.C. 279; and that in a treaty made with the Carthaginians, iminediately after the expulsion of the Tarquins, it was stipulated that neither the Romans nor their allies should sail beyond the “Pulchrum Promontorium.” Even the judicious Polybius, who would make us believe that the Republican gallies emerged from obscurity so suddenly, and blazed forth a meteor of naval power, has also given us transcripts of two other treaties of nearly the same tenor and effect with the one just quoted. Shipwrights cannot be made by mere intuition, nor sailors by dry-rowing; nor would Decius Mus's motion, for the appointment of two Commissioners of the Navy, have been carried B. C. 304, had there been neither arsenals, ships, nor marine stores.
There are persons who think it lost time to study antiquities with ardour, or tremble at the sneers of those who have no taste for such pursuits. But tastes surely are only deserving of contempt, or condemnation, when they are nugatory or mischievous, and whatever really increases our stock of knowledge cannot be brought under either of those categories. Medals, moreover, besides the light they throw upon former times, are highly interesting as works of art; and, furnishing a history of it from its infancy to its decay, they offer a comprehensive, varied, and elegant amusement, less expensive and more convenient than either that of painting or sculpture. A love of the fine arts has been cultivated by men distinguished for their talents, from a very early period. Scipio Africanus, Lucullus, Julius Cæsar, and Augustus, were among the best antiquaries of Rome: Cæsar's collection excelJing in Cameos, and that of his successor, in Vases. Vibius Rufus, the fourth husband of Terentia, boasted, with the exultation of a Stukely, that he possessed two of the greatest curiosities in the world—a woman who had been Cicero's wife, and the chair in which the great dictator had been stabbed. Lucian tells us that the Earthen lamp which Epictetus used, was sold for the extravagant sum of 3000 drachmas. Juvenal longed for a portrait of Hannibal, .that niost sagacious, wary, and magnanimous warrior—of whom it is lamentable to say, no medal exists; and in the spirit of a true antiquary describes the Roman soldier breaking a stolen vase to decorate the phaleræ, or trappings of his horse :
“ Then the rough soldier, yet untaught by Greece,
Might blaze illustrious round his courser's chest." The poet then adds in an animated strain, that the soldier might have employed the fragments of the vase, in decorating his own helmet, and having the story of Rome, such as the descent of Mars to Rhea, or the Wolf and twins, represented upon it. Here his words “pendentisque dei,” which sorely puzzle the commentators, are aptly enough interpreted by a second-brass coin of Antoninus Pius,
which Addison has figured in his “ Travels,” but which had also been published and illustrated by Oiselius. The late Mr. Gifford, whose translation of Juvenal has just been quoted, says—"I have followed Mr. Addison's explanation of this passage,”—but he adds"I am no medallist, and can therefore say nothing as to the genuineness of the coin.” This candid confession of an able writer, is noticed in exemplification of what I advanced respecting the ignorance of even classical scholars, on the subject of medals and inscriptions: for there can be no good reason why one, whose principal study was Juvenal, should not have gained some insight of a pursuit which would have proved one of the best guides in explaining various difficult passages of his author. Even the allusion of the Satirist himself, might have awakened attention :
“ Concisum argentum in titulos, faciesque minutas.” In thus asserting the utility of this study as furnishing the most valuable illustrations and irrefragable proofs of the truth of History, some brief remarks upon money in general may not be deemed inadmissible—especially as there are several other coinages, besides the Large-Brass, mentioned in the course of this Catalogue ; and it is evident that no particular series can be treated of, without allusion to its monetary connexions.
It has been warmly disputed, whether what are usually termed medals of the Roman Empire were current money, or merely testimonials of the glory of its princes; but it would seem that they must have constituted the cash of the realm, for otherwise it may be asked, “ what has become of the current coin?” And these pieces are not met with here and there one, but are found by tens, and hundreds, and thousands. Among the moderns, the difference between coins and medals is sufficiently obvious, because they are expressly distinguished both by their execution and object. But the same rule cannot be applied to ancient money. Even the very origin of the terms is questionable. Vossius derives the word medal from “metallum;" Scaliger, whose position is quite untenable, from the Arabic “metalia;' and Du Cange, with a far-fetched derivation, from “mediates nummi," as being half of another piece. Coin is deduced from “cuneus," a primitive wedge-shaped ingot; or, according to Coke, from the French word“ coin,' because ancient money was square, and therefore cornered.
In commerce, the term money is the well-known one for any representation of property, that acts as a circulating medium at a value affixed by public authority ; but among numismatists, it is nearly confined to the produce of the mint; and coins and medals differ therefrom, only as the species from the genus. Money performs a function essential to the exigencies of civil society, and is probably