A denarius issued at year 56 depicts a head of a man on one side and an equesterian statue over aqueduct on other side.
This is an extremely interesting piece of evidence from the last decades of the Roman republic. First of all this little coin can tell us a lot about how Romans constructed the history of their republic and more importantly their family. It also is about constructing an image for political purposes. And still it reveals us an interesting fact about one group of families.
Let’s start with the coin itself. The head belongs to ancient Roman king Ancus Marcius, as the text ANCVS tells us, there is practically no other alternative.
The text on the other side says PHILIPPVS, and with great certainity means that moneyer was L. Marcius Philippus, as even though we do not know exactly who this moneyer Philippus was and to whom he was related, the links to the family of Marcii on the coin are so evident, that moneyer had to be a Marcius Philippus, and with Lucius being first choice of praenomen in amongst the Marcii Philippi of the era, it’s safe to assume it as a praenomen here too.
What is interesting is the equesterian statue and aqueduct. The text on the aqueduct says AQUAMR (or AQUA MAR with ligatur), that is Aqua Marcia, a aqueduct of Rome built by Q. Marcius Rex (praetor of 144) about a century before the issuing this coin. It is also very probable that the equesterian on top of the aqueduct is the same Q. Marcius Rex as he had a statue at the end of Aqua Marcia.
So we have a coin depicting Rome’s fourth king and honouring Q. Marcius Rex issued century later by a L. Marcius Philippus.
Choosing a legandary king as motive for coin is not that peculiar, the obvious message being that the Marcii are ancient family with roots as long as the Rome itself. Certainly we don’t have any evidence for this claim, and most propably not everyone believed it even when the coin was issued, but we do not have any evidence actually against it either. In any case it was a claim that believable enough to be used in this very public way back in its time.
What is peculiar here is that Marcius Philippus has chosen to honour a Marcius Rex, a very distant relative as the Marcii Philippi and Marcii Regi had not had blood relations for at least four generations! It is not even certain that a blood relation actually existed, but perhaps we could assume there had been one.
Here is a diagram of the branches of the Marcii families: Philippi, Figuli, Regi and Censorini. Philippi and Figuli are somewhat close branches at 50’s with common ancestor within 4-5 generations back in the family. But there isn’t such connection between these two branches and the other branches of Marcii.
Is this coin a cheap trick to use the fame of the Regi branch by a Philippus? I think this is unlikely explanation as the Romans were very much family orientated and all the networks they belonged underlined the importance of family connections so it doesn’t seem probable that people wouldn’t recognise the difference between a Marcius Philippus and a Marcius Rex.
Perhaps a more probable explanation runs along the lines that the coin is a conscious effort to play down the differences between the two branches and tell the general public that they stand united. This is not common in the republican era Rome. Much more often the branches are quite clearly separated and have not that much to do with each other. Perhaps we should see the Marcii as an exception of this rule?
One way to approach this question is to look the list of consulships of the members of the different branches of the Marcii at this era:
Q. Marcius Rex was consul at 118
L. Marcius Philippus was consul at 91
Q. Marcius Rex was consul at 68
C. Marcius Figulus was consul at 64
L. Marcius Philippus was consul at 56
At the 60’s and 50’s there is a decade with three Marcii as consuls, so certainly this group of families was a formidable group at the era. Still the years in office do not follow each other so closely that any far-reaching support for any exceptional unity of the Marcii can be found.
However, when we look at the marriages between Marcii and other families, we note an interesting connection: marriages with Claudii Pulchri. The father of consul of 91 Philippus was married with Claudia, who was a daughter of Ap. Claudius Pucher, consul of 143. Q. Marcius Rex, consul of 68, was also married with Claudia, daughter of Ap. Claudius Pulcher, consul of 79, and his mother was Caecilia Metella, who was a daughter of Q. Caecilius Metellus Balearicus, consul of 123.
Now, if we examine the links between Marcii branches with Claudii Pulchri and Caecilii Metelli, there is a pattern to be seen in the list of consulships:
119: L. Caecilius Metellus Dalmaticus
118: Q. Marcius Rex
117: L. Caecilius Metellus DIadematus
92: C. Claudius Pulcher
91: L. Marcius Philippus
80: Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius
79: Ap. Claudius Pulcher
69: Q. Caecilius Metellus Creticus
68: L. Caecilius Metellus and Q. Marcius Rex
64: C. Marcius Figulus
57: Q. Caecilius Metellus Nepos
56: L. Marcius Philippus
38: Ap. Claudius Pulcher and L. Marcius Philippus
There is a clearly many generations long cooperation between these families, with key being the relationship between Metelli and Regi with common connection to Claudii Pulchri. In the family relationships diagram it looks like this:
So what this amounts to is that to understand, why a Marcius Philippus at the 50’s wanted to endorse Marcius Rex, is that they are part of the same network of connections, that formed an important power block in the Roman politics at the 60’s and 50’s, when political turmoil was increasing in Rome. Still this makes the connection between the distantly related families an exceptionally close one and the denarius in question here is an important and interesting piece of concrete evidence we have for this relationship.