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Research Coins: Printed Auction

 

Earning the corona vallaris

Description

CNG 79, Lot: 1040. Estimate $10000. Sold for $10000. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

C. Numonius Vaala. 41 BC. AR Denarius (3.90 g, 4h). Rome mint. Bare head of Numonius Vaala right / Soldier advancing left, holding sword and shield, attacking a vallum defended by two soldiers. Crawford 514/2; CRI 322; Sydenham 1087; Numonia 2. EF, handsome gray cabinet toning. Bold portrait on a broad flan. Rare.


Ex L.A. Lawrence Collection (Glendining, 7 December 1950), lot 270; Clarence S. Bement Collection (Naville VIII, 25 June 1924), lot 261.

The unusual spelling of his cognomen aside, it is quite possible that this moneyer is the Numonius Vala whom Horace mentions in Epistle 1.15.1-6. As Horace’s Vala was apparently familiar with the countryside of southern Italy, particularly Velia and Salernum, it seems probable that the gens Numonia derived its origin from Campania, and, as novi homines, acquired Roman citizenship as a result of the Social War (91-88 BC). As with many of the moneyers' types of the late 1st century BC, C. Numonius Vaala's reverse type refers to an historic event in his family's past. We do not know which specific ancestor is referred to, but the scene depicts military action that brought a specific honor to the soldier involved. During the siege of a city or an enemy camp, the first soldier to breach the walls was awarded the corona vallaris, or "wall crown.” The cognomen Vaala became a hereditary title among the Numonii, to be displayed proudly by the first member of the family to achieve the office of moneyer. A later Numonius Vala was not so courageous, for while serving as a legate of Quinctilius Varus and commanding his cavalry during the disaster at the Teutoburger Forest, he was killed while attempting to flee the battle (Vell. Pat. 2.119.4).