All 2 entries tagged Augustus
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December 13, 2013
|Aureus showing Gaius and Lucius|
The second in our Augustan bimillenium series continues the theme of Roman numismatic memory. One of the key themes of Augustus' principate was the problem of succession, and initially Gaius and Lucius Caesar were advertised on the imperial coinage as Augustus' heirs, as principes iuventutis. Between 2 BC and AD 4 (or perhaps later), the mint at Lugdunum (modern day Lyon) struck aurei and denarii showing the two brothers veiled and accompanied by shields, spears, and priestly symbols (Lactor J58, RIC Augustus 205ff).
That these coins, and the images on them, were viewed by the Romans as 'monuments in miniature' as well as currency, is demonstrated by the later use of this image. During the reign of Trajan a series of coins were struck that modern scholars call the 'restitution' coinage. This was a series of coins that bore the imagery of a much earlier coin type, either from the Republican or early imperial period. These coins celebrated the earlier coinage of the Romans, and Trajan himself is named and honoured as the 'restitutor' (just as an emperor may have been honoured for restoring a building or other monument in Rome). Why these coins were struck, and why particular coins were chosen to be celebrated over others, still remains a mystery to scholars. One of the current ideas is that these coins were struck as the older coinage in circulation was being recalled and melted down. Given the Roman conception of coinage this was a destruction of a monument in miniature, so the 'restitution' series was struck to counter this. Another idea is that the coins may have formed a gift for noble families at the time.
|Restitution coin struck under Trajan (?)|
In this context we should note a 'restitution' coin issue that honours the earlier coin of Augustus showing Gaius and Lucius. The coin in question reproduces Augustus' earlier issue exactly; unlike the other restitution coins of Trajan, he is not named on the coin as restitutor. But Augustus' portrait on the obverse of the coin is of Trajanic or Hadrianic style; this is not an Augustan period coin. Because of Trajan's restoration of other earlier coinages, most scholars place this piece in the reign of Trajan (AD 98-117). What this coin reveals is that Augustus' numismatic imagery was more than just decoration of the currency. The Romans observed, recorded and recalled Augustus' imagery at a later date. Why this particular type was restruck under Trajan remains a mystery, but this, along with the other restitution coinages, would have served to connect the emperor with Rome's past, and its first emperor.
(Coin images reproduced courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group Inc., www.cngcoins.com)
November 12, 2013
|Augustan Aureus showing the suffimenta ceremony|
Given that the bimillenium of Augustus' death falls on the 19th August 2014, we have decided to run a series of blogs highlighting the coins of the emperor. This weekend the JACT Inset Day will focus specifically on Augustus, with a special session examining Augustan coinage. Amongst the coins discussed will be an aureus struck in conjunction with the celebration of the saecular games in 17 BC (pictured right, LACTOR L 26).
The ludi saeculares were held at the beginning of each new 'age' or saeculum, a period defined as 110 years. The performance of these games was believed to ensure the continuity of Roman power. Although an old ritual, Augustus transformed the celebration so that it fit in with his new imperial ideology. The games were closely associated with the deified Julius Caesar, and Apollo, Augustus' divine supporter, received a special place in the carmen saeculare or hymn (composed by Horace). Several coins were struck to mark the games (several incorporating iconography associated with Julius Caesar), including the above aureus. The reverse of this coin shows the distribution of the suffimenta, the materials given to Roman citizens to purify their homes.
|Domitianic sestertius showing the suffimenta ceremony|
This type, and other Augustan numismatic saecular iconography, is referenced on the ludi saeculares coinage of the emperor Domitian in AD 88. The platform with the emperor, the basket of purification materials, as well as the legend SVF P D, all recall the aureus of Augustus. In fact, Domitian's saecular games coinage consciously references other Augustan types as well, although very few of the Augustan coins would have been in circulation at the time.
In AD 204 Septimius Severus would also celebrate the saecular games, and his coins would recall those of Augustus and Domitian. This suggests that these coins did not only serve as currency, but also probably formed an official 'record' of the event, preserved and archived in some way. This would explain how the iconography could be accessed and reused every 110 years, when the next saecular festival came around (after all, no one would have been alive to remember the previous games or their coins!) If this hypothesis is correct, and the designs, dies, or examples of coins were kept on record in Rome, these coin types not only served to decorate the currency, but also functioned as a visual record of the emperor's performance of his religious duty.
(Coin images above reproduced courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group Inc., (Triton V, lot 1857 and Mail Bid Sale 73, lot 875) (www.cngcoins.com))