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is certain, they both of them lay upon the catch for a great action: it is no wonder, therefore, that they were often engaged on one subject, the medal and the poem being nothing else but occasional compliments to the emperor. Nay, I question not but you may sometimes find certain passages among the poets that relate to the particular device of a medal.
I wonder, says Eugenius, that your medallists have not been as diligent in searching the poets as the historians, since I find they are so capable of enlightening their art. I would have somebody put the muses under a kind of contribution, to furnish out whatever they have in them that bears any relation to coins. Though they taught us but the same things that might be learnt in other writings, they would at least teach us more agreeably, and draw several over to the study of medals that would rather be instructed in verse than in prose. I am glad, says Philander, to hear you of this opinion, for, to tell you truly, when I was at Rome, I took occasion to buy up many imperial medals that have any affinity with passages of the ancient poets. So that I have by me a sort of poetical cash, which I fancy I could count over to you in Latin and Greek verse. If you will drink a dish of tea with me to-morrow morning I will lay my whole collection before you. I cannot tell, says Cynthio, how the poets will succeed in the explication of coins, to which they are generally very great strangers. We are, however, obliged to you for preventing us with the offer of a kindness that you might well imagine we should have asked you.
Our three friends had been so intent on their discourse, that they had rambled very far into the fields, without taking notice of it. Philander first put them in mind, that, unless they turned back quickly, they would endanger being benighted. Their conversation ran insensibly into other subjects; but as I design only to report such parts of it as have any relation to medals, I shall leave them to return home as fast as they please, without troubling myself with their talk on the way thither, or with their ceremonies at parting.
This sentence is not expressed so gracefully and easily as it might have been.
SOME of the finest treatises of the most polite Latin and Greek writers are in dialogue, as many very valuable pieces of French, Italian, and English, appear in the same dress. I have sometimes, however, been very much distasted at this way of writing, by reason of the long prefaces and exordiums into which it often betrays an author. There is so much time taken up in ceremony, that before they enter on their subject the dialogue is half ended. To avoid the fault I have found in others, I shall not trouble myself, nor my reader, with the first salutes1 of our three friends, nor with any part of their discourse over the tea-table. We will suppose the china dishes taken off, and a drawer of medals supplying their room. Philander, who is to be the hero in my dialogue, takes it in his hand, and addressing himself to Cynthio and Eugenius, I will first of all, says he, show you an assembly of the most virtuous ladies that you have ever, perhaps, conversed with. I do not know, says Cynthio, regarding them, what their virtue may be, but methinks they are a little fantastical in their dress. You will find, says Philander, there is good sense in it. They have not a single ornament that they cannot give a reason for. I was going to ask you, says Eugenius, in what country you find these ladies. But I see they are some of those imaginary persons you told us of last night, that inhabit old coins, and appear nowhere else but on the reverse of a medal. Their proper country, says Philander, is the breast of a good man: for I think they are most of them the figures of virtues. It is a great compliment, methinks, to the sex, says Cynthio, that your virtues are generally shown in petticoats. I can give no other reason for it, says Philander, but because they chanced to be of the feminine gender in the learned languages. You will find, however, something bold and masculine in the air and posture of the first figure, which is that of Virtue herself, and agrees very well with the description we find of her in Silius Italicus.2
Virtutis dispar habitus, frons hirta, nec unquam
Celsa humeris, niveæ fulgebat stamine pallæ. SIL. IT. lib. 15.
1 "Salutations" had been better.
2 First series. Fig. 1.
A different form did Virtue wear,
Her height, her sprightly blush, the goddess show,
Virtue and Honour had their temples bordering on each other, and are sometimes both on the same coin, as in the following one of Galba. Silius Italicus makes them companions in the glorious equipage that he gives his Virtue.
Mecum Honor, et Laudes, et læto Gloria vultu, [Virtus loquitur.
With me the foremost place let honour gain,
The head of Honour is crowned with a laurel, as Martial has adorned his Glory after the same manner, which indeed is but another name for the same person.
Mitte coronatas Gloria mæsta comas.
I find, says Cynthio, the Latins mean courage by the figure of Virtue, as well as by the word itself. Courage was esteemed the greatest perfection among them, and therefore went under the name of Virtue in general, as the modern Italians give the same name on the same account to the knowledge of curiosities. Should a Roman painter at present draw the picture of Virtue, instead of the spear and paratonium that she bears on old coins, he would give her a bust in one hand and a fiddle in the other.
The next, says Philander, is a lady of a more peaceful character, and had her temple at Rome.2
-Salutato crepitat Concordia nido. She is often placed on the reverse of an imperial coin, to show the good understanding between the emperor and empress. She has always a cornu-copiæ in her hand, to denote that plenty is the fruit of concord. After this short account of the goddess, I desire you will give me your opinion of the deity that is described in the following verses of Seneca, who
1 Fig. 2.