“Bellum ingens geret Italia”
Personifications of Rome and of ‘Italia’ are fairly rare before the early centuries AD. The earliest is seen left, with an inscription in Oscan and a figure reminiscent of the patron of Carthage. Later, Roma and Italia appear as maternal figures whose attributes shift by stages, first to those of the Hellenistic ‘tyche’ (a city’s patron and guide of its fortunes) to a triumphant but non-martial figure, and only after the middle of the second century AD to one defined in terms of imperium, martial character and rule. ‘Italia’ and ‘Roma’ then finally appear depicted as forms of the warlike Athena.
Composite: (i) background – from a mosaic pavement taken from Antioch, dated to the early 3rdC AD. Now in the Art Museum at Princeton University. (accession no. y 1965-21 /29551 ); (ii) reverse of brass sestertius minted in Rome (140-144 AD) for Antoninus Pius. Now in the Altes Museum, Berlin. (iii) ‘Rome’ as seat of the Roman Emperor. Detail from the Tabula Peutingeriana; (iiii) Late Roman or Byzantine statuette (300-500 AD). Personification of a city, probably Alexandria (given the late version of the ‘Isis knot’). Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Accession no. 47.100.40. It is included only because so often seen online bearing the caption ‘Rome’ or ‘Italy’; (v) detail from the base of the Column of Antoninus Pius (161 AD). Vatican Museum.
- coin showing Laureate head of Italia with inscription ‘CI1EGIA’ (Oscan for ITALIA). Image courtesy of wildwinds.