n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - The image of Africa : the evidence of the coinage

Volume 44, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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The standard iconography for the personification of Africa in Roman art was the figure of a woman wearing as headdress the schalp of an elephant. The elephant-scalp had already been used, with portraits, on coins, gems and furniture attachments by the Ptolemaic, Seleucid and Bactrian kings. Its first use for the personification of Africa has been dated variously to the early 4th century BC, Agathocles of Sicily, Pompey the Great, Hiarbus in Numidia or later 'African' kings. This paper discusses these claims, and concludes that the type was not in use before the 1st century BC. It was not an indigenous 'African' type. Its use by indigenous 'African' kings in the 1st century BC was linked to Roman use, often by the Pompeian party, and a Roman concept of the territory. The interpretation of this image as Roman Africa is confirmed by the details of dress, facial features and attributes. From the time of Hadrian onwards, the presentation of 'Africa' as one of a series, in an attitude similar to, and in a subordinate position taken by, other provinces, is again an indication that the image of Africa is a Rome-centered one, and correlates with the iconography in other media and in literature.

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