Wired Gets All Wired Up About a Denarius

I’m sure most of you have seen this — it’s been making the rounds these past couple of days — from Wired:

*This one features the Moon driving her chariot over a housefly.

*I can’t doubt that this made perfect sense at the time. It’s like: you got drunk, and you went to the gladiatorial games, and you watched half a dozen guys get slaughtered. And then you were broke. And hung over. And then you asked your friend, Julius: “Hey. Can you loan me a couple of houseflies? Just to tide me over till payday?”

“No problem, buddy.” Clink. Clink.

… accompanied by a very large photo:

It was also accompanied by a link to the British Museum catalog, whence it presumably came, but, alas, it didn’t work. So for those of you who were wondering, it’s a Denarius dated to 179-170 B.C. … official description:

(obverse) Helmeted head of Roma, right; behind, denominational mark. Border of dots.
(reverse) Luna in biga, right, with horses prancing; below, mark; in exergue, inscription. Line border.

... the ‘fly’ is designated as an inscription. The BM has several examples of this coin (here, here, here, here, etc.)

The fly is curious, but the one I’ve always wondered about is the grasshopper, e.g. on this one from the 90s B.C.:

… or this one from 92 B.C.:

I’ve often wondered whether these little things (which are often beneath the rearing feet of a horse) are some sort of family/national symbol or something, but have never been able to check that out. Does the grasshopper indicate a year when grain was threatened and the threat averted? Was the moneyer’s family rewarded with an agnomen because of it? Was including the grasshopper the fulfillment of some sort of vow?

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