The Servilian triens reconsidered

Cristiano Viglietti


This paper addresses the meaning of a "mythical" story cited by Pliny the Elder (Nat. 34.38.137), in which the Servilian gens is said to have worshipped a bronze coin (triens) that miraculously changed in size in correlation to the honores and deminutiones that this family underwent. Challenging some aspects of the theory elaborated by H. Zehnacker, I maintain that that coin should not be interpreted as a symbol of the Servilian patrimony, but as a symbol of the Servilian gens – i.e., of the patrician Servilii – itself. The triens' behaviour can hardly be explained on the basis of the economic desires or expectations of the Servilii, in fact. More likely, it has to do with the socio-political ambitions (honores) and fears (deminutiones) of the most prestigious branch of this ancient and noble Roman family, which in the later Republic was in danger of disappearing from the political scene.

Viglietti_The_Servilian_Triens.pdf591.38 KB