Celsus appears as a surname of the Papia gens on several coins of the republican period, but does not occur in any ancient writer. Two of the most remarkable of these coins are given below. On the obverse the former contains a youthful head with a trophy behind it, the latter the head of Juno Sospita.
The reverse of both represents the same subject, namely, a wolf with a piece of wood in its mouth, and an eagle standing before a burning heap of wood.
This subject appears to refer to a legend related by Dionysius (1.59
) in connexion with the foundation of Lavinium by the Trojans.
He tells us, that the forest in which the city was afterwards built took fire of its own accord, and that a wolf was seen bringing dry wood to feed the flame, which was fanned by an eagle with its wings; but that a fox at the same time tried to extinguish the fire by its tail, which had been dipped in water; and that it was not till after several efforts that the wolf and eagle were able to get rid of him. Now we know that the Papia gens came originally from Lanuvium, which was also one of the chief seats of the worship of Juno Sospita. Hence it has been conjectured, that Dionysius has made a mistake in referring this legend to Lavinium : but it is not improbable that the same story may have been told, in later times, of the foundation of each city.