From Art to Artifact:  Making Sense of Roman Coins

Denarius of Q. Pomponius Musa

Temple of Hercules musarum




It has been suggested that Musa’s coins document the sculptural program of the temple of Hercules Musarum, a series of sculptures which are no longer extant. We know of the temple’s existence from literary sources (Pliny, Natural Histories, 35.66; Ovid, Fasti 6.797-812), as well as its appearance in a fragment of the Forma Urbis Romae (shown above, and in relation to surrounding fragments at left), a marble plan of the city constructed between 203-211 CE during the reign of Septimius Severus. The podium of the temple was discovered in the cellars to the east of the Via di S. Ambrogio in 1980-1. The temple was built by Marcus Fulvius Nobilior after his campaigns in Ambracia in 189 BCE. Nobilior is said to have chosen the divinity for his temple after learning of Hercules Musagetes, companion and leader of the muses, during his time in Greece. Contained in the temple were nine statues of the muses, and one of Hercules playing the lyre. The statues were taken by Nobilior from Ambracia.