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Muse Of Astronomy


Q. Pomponius Musa. 56 BC. AR Denarius (18.5mm, 4.03 g, 6h). Rome mint. Laureate head of Apollo right; star of eight rays to left / Q • POMPONI MVSA, Urania, the Muse of Astronomy, standing left, touching with wand held in right hand globe set on base. Crawford 410/8; Sydenham 823; Pomponia 22; RBW 1488. EF, struck from dies of lovely style and attractively toned.

Ex Gasvoda Collection; JD Collection of Roman Republican Coins (Part II, Numismatica Ars Classica 72, 16 May 2013), lot 472 (hammer 5500 CHF); Claude Collection (Triton VIII, 10 January 2005), lot 900.

Although the moneyer Q. Pomponius Musa is unknown to history, his choice of Hercules Musarum and the nine Muses as coin types is remarkable and clearly connected to his cognomen.

This series of coin types, Hercules playing the lyre and the Muses, can be no other than the celebrated statue group by an unknown Greek artist, taken from Ambracia and placed in the Aedes Herculis Musarum, erected by M. Fulvius Nobilior in 187 BC after the capture of Ambracia in 189 BC (Plin. NH xxxv.66; Ov. Fast. vi.812). By the second century BC Rome had overrun most of Greece and was captivated by Hellenic art and culture, not the least statuary. Fulvius is said to have taken the statues to Rome because he learned in Greece that Hercules was a musagetes (leader of the Muses).

Remains of this temple have been found in the area of the Circus Flaminius close to the south-west part of the circus itself, and north-west of the porticus Octaviae. An inscription found nearby, ‘M. Fulvius M. f. Ser. n. Nobilior cos. Ambracia cepit;’ may have been on the pedestal of one of the statues. The official name of the temple was Herculis Musarum aedes, which Servius and Plutarch called Herculis et Musarum ades.