Coins of Rome

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Coins of Rome: Cash or
Propaganda?
Year 10 History
Semester Two, 2009
Basic Facts
• The study of coins is known as numismatics
• Roman currency consisted of
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–
–
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the aureus (gold),
the denarius (silver)
the sestertius (bronze)
the dupondius (bronze)
and the as (copper)
• These were used from the middle of the third
century BC until the middle of the third century AD
Septimius Severus, 193–211 AD
Aureus (7.23 gm) Struck 193 AD
to celebrate the legion that
proclaimed him emperor
Aureus of Octavian
c. 30 BC
Tiberius. AD 14-37. AV Aureus (19mm, 7.55 g). Lugdunum (Lyon)
mint. AD 36-37. Laureate head right / PONTIF MAXIM, Livia (as
Pax) seated right on chair, holding sceptre and olive branch; feet
on footstool; single-line below chair; ornate chair legs. RIC I 29;
Calicó 305c. VF, a few minor marks.
Julius Caesar. Struck in February-March 44 BC
CAESAR IM P M, laureate head right; crescent
behind
L AEMILIVS BVCA, Venus standing left,
holding Victoria and sceptre.
Flavia Domitilla, daughter
of Vespasian and sister of
Titus and Domitian
Struck 82-85 AD under
Domitian
DIVA DOMITILLA AUGUSTA
Caligula (AD 37-41). Orichalcum sestertius (27.92 gm). Rome, AD 37-38.
C CAESAR AVG GERMANICVS PON M TR POT, laureate head left
AGRIPPINA DRVSILLA IVLIA S C, Caligula's three sisters with the attributes of
Securitas, Concordia, and Fortuna: Agrippina leaning on column, holding
cornucopia, and placing left hand on Drusilla's shoulder; Drusilla holding
patera and cornucopia; Iulia Livilla holding rudder and cornucopia.
Bronze Sestertius of Trajan with the appreciation of his
victory and the title "The Senate and Roman; the best
Princeps."
• Unlike most modern coins, Roman coins had
intrinsic value. While they contained precious
metals, the value of a coin was higher than its
precious metal content
– Thus they were not bullion
• The first images to appear on coins during the
Republic were rather limited in diversity and
generally represented the entire Roman state
• The job of deciding what imagery to feature
belonged to the committee of tresviri monetales
('trio of money men')
– The position was created in 289 BC and lasted until at
least the middle of the third century AD
• While moneyers had earlier issued coins with
portraits of ancestors, Caesar’s was the first
Roman coinage to feature the portrait of a
living individual
• The main focus of the imagery during the
empire was the Emperor
– He embodied the state values
– Coins were an important means of disseminating
this image throughout the empire
• Some emperors attempted to associate
themselves with the divine by putting pictures
of Roman gods on the reverse of their coins
Featuring the portrait of an individual on a coin,
which became legal in 44 BC, caused the coin to
embody the attributes of the individual portrayed.
Dio wrote that following the death of Caligula the
Senate demonetized his coinage, and ordered that
they be melted.
Regardless of whether or not this actually occurred,
it demonstrates the importance and meaning that
was attached to the imagery on a coin. The
philosopher Epictetus jokingly wrote:
"Whose image does this sestertius carry?
Trajan’s? Give it to me. Nero’s? Throw it away, it
is unacceptable, it is rotten."
Terms
Pontifex Maximus: High priest of the Pontiffs; the
most important position in the ancient Roman
religion; gradually subsumed into Imperial office.
Tribunician Power: the power of a Tribune; veto
power on legislation, authority to propose
legislation and personal inviolability, i.e., no one
could lay a hand on him; authenticates the power
of the Emperor
Imperator: ‘commander’; English word ‘emperor’
derives from the latin word ‘imperator’
On the front is a Laureate bust of Nero. The words around it and
their meaning:
NERO CLAVD(IVS) CAESAR AVG(VSTVS) GERM(ANICVS) P(ONTIFEX)
M(AXIMVS) TR(IBVNICIA) P(OTESTATE) IMP(ERATOR) P(ATER)
P(ATRIAE):
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, pontifex maximus, with
tribunician power, imperator, father of the country.
CAESAR AVGVSTVS
Caesar Augustus
DIVVS IVLIV
Divine Julius
CLAVDIVS CAESAR
AGRIPPINAE AVGVSTAE
Agrippina was only the second woman to be awarded the title, Augusta, in
her lifetime and the first who was married to a living emperor. The title
implied a sort of equivalency between the couple.
Here she is portrayed as the goddess Ceres, goddess of the ideal woman,
motherhood, etc. This implied a motherhood of emperors; according to S.
Wood, Agrippina “enjoyed the reflected glory of the emperor’s mother.”
Claudius was her husband.
Agrippina Augusta, wife of the divine Claudius,
mother of Nero Caesar
While heads of Nero and Agrippina appear on the obverse, the reverse
shows a wagon being drawn by 4 elephants. The seated figures on the
wagons are generally designated to be the deified Claudius and
Augustus. Links to both predecessors through Agrippina are stressed.
There is also an allusion to the fact that Agrippina had an official
position as priestess of the deified Claudius.
IMP CAE L SEP SE-V PERT AVG, laureate head right
LEG XIIII GEM M V, TR P COS in exergue, legionary
eagle between two standards.
31-32BC, Found in Alexandria
Left: [CLEOPATRAE R]EGINAE REGVM FILIORVM [REGVM]
Right: ANTONI ARMENIA DE[VICTA]
Left: CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE
Right: C L CAESARES AVGVSTI F COS DESIG PRINC IVVENT
Right: ‘Caius et Lucius Caesares Augusti Filii Consules Designati Principes
Juventutis’
Caius and Lucius, Sons of Caesar Augustus, Designated Consuls, Principes Iuventi =
the first among the young (pronounced ‘Ping-keps You-venti’)
Left: IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG
Right: CAESAR AVG F COS CAESAR AVG F PR
Left: Imperator Caesar Vespasian Augustus (= Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus)
Right: Son of Caesar Augustus, Consul, Son of Caesar Augustus, The Senate and the
Roman People
(AVG F or FIL Augusti or Filius - son or daughter of the August or Emperor)
June-July, 79AD
Left: IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG P M TR P P P COS III
Right: IVDAEA CAPTA, S C
Right: Judea Captured, Struck by Authority of the Senate (- Minted by Vespasian when he
was a general and had captured Judea)
Left: Imperator Caesar Vespasian Augustus, Pontifex Maximus with Tribunician Power,
Father of the Country, Consul for the third time
July-July, 79AD
Left: IMP T CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG
Right: TR POT VIII COS VII
Left: Imperator Titus Caesar Vespasian Augustus
Right: Tribunicia Postestate (Holding the power of the Tribune) for the eighth
time, Consul for the seventh time
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