Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.3.7

Lorenz Winkler, Salus. Vom Staatskult zur politischen Idee. Eine archaeologische Untersuchung. Archaeologie und Geschichte, Band 4. Heidelberg: Verlag Archaeologie und Geschichte, 1995. Pp. 226, 11 pls. ISBN 3-980-1863-5-0.

Reviewed by Angelos Chaniotis, Department of Classics, New York University.

Lorenz Winkler's book, very appropriately published in the series "Archaeology and History" (edited by T. Hölscher), is much more than the modest subtitle "an archaeological investigation" indicates. Like numerous other archaeological dissertations supervised by Tonio Hölscher in the University of Heidelberg,1, W.'s dissertation exploits the archaeological evidence in order to answer historical questions: how the semantic field, the perception, and the cult of Salus developed in the Roman World from the early Republic to the late 2nd century AD and how these changes reflected political, constitutional, and social changes or were associated with specific historical events.

At first sight a new study on Salus may not seem an urgent desideratum, especially since only recently M.A. Marwood has presented the textual evidence on the cult of Salus (The Roman Cult of Salus, BAR International Series 465, Oxford 1988), supplementing several previous works by A. Alföldi, H.U. Instinsky, M. Le Glay, J. Liegle, and K.H. Schwarte. It is not surprising that the desire for the well-being of the people and (in imperial times) the well-being of the ruler was personified and become the object of religious worship; consequently, the study of the development of this personification does not necessarily promise to reveal many fine nuances. If W. succeeds in presenting a differentiated and original picture, it is not only because of the detailed study of the numismatic material -- an excellent source for the development of this particular abstract idea (cf. the catalogue of coins with Salus representations in pp. 179-188) -- but primarily because of his alertness in observing fine differences and nuances, his avoidance of misleading generalizations, and his effort to interpret the numismatic and other iconographical material against the background of the textual evidence. The result of this enquiry will interest the historian of Roman imperial ideology no less than the historian of art and the historian of religion.

The material is presented in eight chapters which cover different phases of the development, which I will attempt to summarize here, focusing on the ideological and not the iconographical aspects of the study. The cult of Salus was introduced in Rome after the Samnite Wars (late 4th century BC), in the historical context of Roman self-representation after their military victories and in the cultural context of the introduction of other cults (particularly that of Asklepios) and the personification of abstract ideas. As W. rightly points out, although the personification of abstract ideas is the result of Greek influence, the Romans personified ideas which had deep roots in their own traditions and in their own set of moral values. W.'s attempt to associate the early stages of the cult of Salus in Republican Rome with the cult of early Hellenistic kings as Soteres is, however, not sufficiently supported by the evidence.2 Already the earliest representations of Salus on coins (1st cent. BC) reveal two aspects of Salus, which developed further in imperial times: her association with Victoria and with Valetudo. Under the influence of the civil unrest in the late Republic, Cicero reevaluates Salus as the ideal of public welfare which depends on the rescuing intervention of the statesman and dictates his actions. The dependence of Salus on the person of a rescuer crystallizes, naturally, under Augustus. In this period Salus is associated with peace and concord (augurium salutis of 29 BC, dedication of statues of Salus, Pax, and Concordia); more importantly, the idea of public welfare becomes for the first time connected with the person of Augustus both in rituals (vota pro valetudine Caesaris, later vota pro salute Augusti) and in the iconography. W.'s analysis of coins issued in AD 22/23, which identify Salus with Livia and associate Salus with Iustitia and Pietas, reveal new nuances in her perception under Tiberius. Tiberius' coins, after the arrangement of his succession in AD 22, identified Livia as representative of the imperial house, underlined the linkage of public welfare with the imperial family, and propagated dynastic continuity; the appeal to iustitia and pietas in the same context pointed to two basic foundations of public welfare. W. observes a new significant development after Piso's attempt on Nero's life: while under Augustus the public Salus was guaranteed by the concrete deeds of the emperor, and under Tiberius Salus became connected with the position (not the person) of the emperor, under Nero Salus depends on the mere existence of the emperor: the public Salus becomes identical with the Salus of the ruler. The iconography and the inscriptions on the anonymous coins of AD 68/69 (issued by Galba) bring further differentiations in the perception of Salus: they evoke the punishment of the tyrant (representation of Mars Ultor), they return to the republican ideal of Libertas (Salus et Libertas), they remind that the principate was founded by Augustus on the basis of Concordia and Pax, and, finally, for the first time they associate the population of the provinces with the idea of Salus (Salus Generis Humani). It was also under Galba that a separate iconographical type was created for Salus Generis Humani. The idea of Salus Generis Humani, associated with Victoria, Fortuna Augusti, and Fortuna Redux, not only expressed the idea that the welfare of the world depended on Galba's victory and was connected with his fate, but indicated also a reevaluation of the provinces. Trajan adopted the same idea, when he celebrated another victory over tyranny and promoted the cultural integration of the provinces. When Hadrian used the same iconographical type he did it in connection with Salus Publica, thus expressing the thought that the welfare of the provinces was part of the public welfare. In one of the most brilliant chapters of the book, W. analyzes the development of a new idea, Salus Augusti (not Salus Augusta) under Galba/Vespasian. The iconography of Hygieia (probably a particular statue or relief of the goddess) was used for this idea, which placed the personal health of the emperor in the foreground. W. demonstrates that the association of Hygieia and Salus corresponds to a change in the semantic fields of salus and valetudo in contemporary literature: Since from the 2nd cent. AD the word valetudo is used to mean 'illness', salus appropriates the old positive meaning of valetudo (bodily health) and is used to mean 'recovery'. The adaptation of the iconography of Hygeia for Salus Augusti makes the idea of public welfare exclusively connected with the person of the emperor. The importance of this semantic development can be seen very clearly in the construction of a new iconographical type for Salus (Hygieia with a snake). After the consolidation of an iconography, Salus is continually present in Roman coinage in a variety of types. From Hadrian on, the representation of Salus does not necessarily allude to concrete historical events (sickness, safe return, and succession of the emperor), but is an integral part of imperial ideology. Finally, a variety of coins from the late 2nd cent. AD to the reign of Constantine demonstrates the continual use of older conceptions of Salus.

Several chapters of the book contribute to the history of religion in the Roman World, e.g., the discussion of the representation of the snake in association with healing deities (pp. 101-110) and the political significance of Asklepios and Hygieia from the Flavian period on. W. shows how the relation of Salus with Hygieia under the Flavians promoted the political significance of the cult of Asklepios in Rome,3 without changing the nature of the worship. Originally, Asklepios did not have a prominent political significance. The occasional joint cult of Asklepios and the emperor in the East4 is no proof of the opposite, since the emperor could be worshipped jointly with almost any deity. The increased political significance of Asklepios and Hygieia from the Flavian period on, as a result of the iconographical identification of Hygieia and Salus, can be seen, e.g., in the representation of Asklepios in the pediment of the tempel of Jupiter on the Capitol, where the vota pro salute Augusti were performed. Similarly, the erection of statues of Hygieia outside of Asklepieia (see the catalog in pp. 189-212) was occasionally politically motivated. W. correctly avoids generalizations, but succeeds in demonstrating the variety of ideas connected with these Hygieia statues, from the concrete reference to Salus Augusti and the association with the army (e.g., in a group of Salus, Mars, and Victoria in Karlsruhe) to a more vague expression of loyalty and allusion to public health. In all these chapters W. succeeds in showing that his interpretation of the iconography of the coins is in conformity with the ideas expressed in contemporary literature (e.g., Cicero and the younger Pliny) and in the inscriptions on the coins.

Winkler's book is undoubtedly an important contribution to imperial ideology. With his sound judgement, the meticulous examination of the literary and archaeological sources, the cautious avoidance of speculations and generalizations, and -- most importantly -- with his focus on fine nuances and differences, he has written a book which in many ways can serve as a model for analogous studies on personifications of abstract ideas. Unfortunately, W. does not provide a summary of his results and an evaluation of their relevance to other fields of research. One has to read the whole book to appreciate fully its value and to dig up the interesting theoretical remarks which are scattered in its 200 pages (see, e.g., pp. 122f. on the Roman 'Bildersprache'). It is also regrettable that W. did not include in this important study a discussion of more general methodological and theoretical issues (e.g., the addressees of the coinage, interdependence of text and image on the coins).


1. I mention three dissertation of the 'older' generation of Hölscher's school: Caterina Maderna, Iuppiter, Diomedes und Merkur als Vorbilder für römische Bildnisstatuen. Untersuchungen zum römischen statuarischen Idealporträt, Heideberg 1988; Thomas Schäfer, Imperii Insignia. Sella curulis und fasces. Zur Repräsentation römischer Magistrate, Mainz 1989; Rolf M. Schneider, Bunte Barbaren. Orientalenstatuen aus farbigem Marmor in der römischen Repräsentationskunst, Worms 1986.

2. It should be added that the official cult of Prolemy I as Soter in Rhodes (p. 26 with note 87) is not certain: see R.A. Hazzard, "Did Ptolemy I get his Surname from the Rhodians in 304?", ZPE 93, 1992, 52-56.

3. On the Asklepios cult in Rome see now F. Graf, "Heiligtum und Ritual. Das Beispiel der griechisch-römischen Asklepieia", in: A. Schachter (ed.), Le sanctuaire grec. Huit exposes suivis de discussions, Vandoevres-Geneve 1990 (Entretiens Hardt, 37), Geneva 1992, pp. 159-199.

4. It is also attested for Kos: see M. Segre, Iscrizioni di Cos, Rome 1993, p. 99 ED 142.