RJ1716

A large and important Roman Silver Signet Ring for C(G)aius Canninius Rebilus, ca. 1st century BC

Very large and heavyweight solid silver finger ring, ovoid in form with a rounded shank, the  large oval stamp seal type bezel with incised Latin inscription in reverse image that reads: “Caivs Canninivs Commonesio Factvs” ie: Caius Canninius so orders this to be done. 

Background:  C(G)aius Canninius Rebilus, a member of the plebeian gens Caninia, and a member of the Quindecimviri.  He was listed for a suffect consulship in 11 BC under Augustus and in 12 BC, was appointed suffect (replacement) consul, succeeding Valgius Rufus although he died while still serving in office. 

His father, C(G)aius Caninius Rebilus, a Novus homo of the late republic, was a Roman general and politician who served with Julius Caesar throughout the Gallic Wars and the Civil Wars. He was Military tribune in Gaul in 52 BC, before becoming one of Caesar's legates in 51 BC.  During the later stages of the Gallic War he commanded two legions on the southern slope of the heights during the siege of Alesia, where Caesar's defenses were weakest. With great difficulty, and the timely support of Titus Labienus, he withstood the last major attack on the Roman position there on October 2, 52 BC. The following year he was sent to pursue Cadurci leader Lucterius, who fled to the stronghold of Uxellodunum which Rebilus proceeded to besiege. Attempting to emulate the tactics at Alesia, he was forced to deal with repeated sorties which disrupted his attempts to complete his lines. Eventually Caesar made his way there to take overall command of the siege.

Upon the outbreak of the civil war, Rebilus accompanied him in his march into Italy and he was sent by Caesar to Brundisium as an unsuccessful negotiator to Pompey.  In 49 BC he was sent by Caesar as a legate under Gaius Scribonius Curio in the hope that Rebilus would compensate for Curio's lack of military experience.  He pushed Curio to take advantage of a break in the enemy lines to achieve victory at the Battle of Utica, and after the latter's defeat and death, he was one of the few who escaped from Africa Province.  In the following year (48 BC), it is assumed that he was made Praetor.

In 46 BC he again returned to Africa as Propraetor with Caesar, under whom he served in the Thapsus campaign, laying siege to Thapsus and accepting the surrender of Gaius Vergilius, the governor of Africa.  The next year he accompanied Caesar to Spain as his legate, joining him to fight in the last stand of the Republicans at Munda, after which he occupied the town of Hispalis during the push to drive out the demoralized Republicans. 

On the last day of December 45 BC, the consul Quintus Fabius Maximus suddenly died and Caesar made Rebilus consul suffectus for the few remaining hours of the year, to the scorn of Cicero, who commented in his Letters to Friends (VII.30), "Understand therefore that in the consulship of Caninius no one breakfasted. However, while he was consul there was no harm done, for he was so astonishingly vigilant that throughout his consulship he never closed his eyes."  

This ring would have been used in a formal capacity although it is unclear whether it was used by either father or son or both.  

Bibliography:  Hornblower, S., & Spawforth, A. (1996). The Oxford classical dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 275.
Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares  (Cic. fam 7.30)
T. Robert S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, Vol II (1952).
Holmes, T. Rice, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol II, Oxford University Press, 1923 Holmes,
T. Rice, The Roman Republic and the Founder of the Empire, Vol III, Oxford University Press, 1923
Syme, Ronald, The Roman Revolution, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1939

Condition:  Beautiful silvery-gray surface patina, the ring is intact and in excellent condition overall.  Main photo reversed to show inscription to the obverse.

Dimensions:  US ring size 11  Weight: 2.45 oz (69.7 grams)

Provenance:  Private collection of pioneering graphic designer, artist and archivist, Elaine Lustig Cohen (1927–2016), assembled 1960s -1970.  Cohen is recognized for her body of design work integrating European avant-garde and modernist influences into a distinctly American, mid-century manner of communication. She was a link between design’s modernist past and its continually changing present.

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