Quintus Pomponius Musa was a moneyer for the Roman Republic during 56 BC. According to H. A. Seaby, in “Roman Silver Coins”: “The representation of Hercules Musagetes and of the nine Muses on his coins are intended as a reference to the cognomen of the moneyer. We probably have a representation in detail of the statues in the temple in the Circus Flaminius built in their honour by M. Fulvius Nobilitor. Hercules, as leader of the choir, is represented playing on his lyre and the Muses are shown with their various attributes.”
The Muses are the daughters of Zeus, King of the gods and Mnemosyne, the Titan of memory. A daughter was born each of the nine nights they spent together. The muses and their attributes are portrayed on the series of coins as such:
Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry – (Pomponia 9 and 10) Laureate head of Apollo with lyre-key behind / Calliope standing right, playing lyre resting on a column.
Clio, the Muse of History – (Pomponia 11) Laureate head of Apollo with tied scroll behind / Clio standing left, resting elbow on pedestal and reading from a scroll.
Erato, the Muse of Erotic Poetry – (Pomponia 12) Laureate head of Apollo with flower on stalk behind / Erato standing right, head facing, playing kithara.
Euterpe, the Muse of Lyric Poetry – (Pomponia 13) Laureate head of Apollo with two flutes behind / Euterpe standing right, holding aulos/tibia (double flute).
Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy – (Pomponia 14) Laureate head of Apollo with scepter behind / Melpomene standing facing, head right, holding club and tragic mask.
Polymnia, the Muse of Sacred Poetry – (Pomponia 15 and 16) Laureate head of Apollo with wreath behind / Polymnia standing facing, wearing wreath.
Terpsichore, the Muse of Dancing – (Pomponia 17 and 18) Laureate head of Apollo with flower on stalk behind (17) or tortoise behind (18) / Terpsichore standing right, holding lyre and plectrum (which she is said to have invented).
Thalia, the Muse of Comedy – (Pomponia 19, 20 and 21) Laureate head of Apollo with sandal behind / Thalia standing left, resting against pedestal, holding comic mask and sometimes pedum (shepherd’s crook).
Urania, the Muse of Astronomy – (Pomponia 22) Laureate head of Apollo with star behind / Urania standing left, pointing with wand to a globe on a tripod.
One of the first things a person who would like to collect this series will discover is the Erato coins are about 10 times as rare as all of the other pieces in the series. Personally, from the drawings I have seen so far, I would have attributed the pieces Seaby lists as Pomponia 17 as a variant of Erato, not Terpsichore. The reason being is each of the Muses has one attribute on the obverse of the coin, but Terpsichore has either a flower with stalk (same as Erato) or a tortoise. I’m not certain why the pieces with the Muse facing right, but in the same pose as Terpsichore and not Erato are traditionally cataloged and described that way.
This series is quite popular among collectors of Republican coinage, and thus most of the examples in the price range of the average collector will have banker’s marks (which were the marks made by the redeemers of coins to check for counterfeits) or be off-center or weakly struck. Although we do not currently have an example of each of the Muses available right now on VCoins, a nice selection awaits your consideration.