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Monday, 25 August 2014

Money Mondays: Septimius Severus coins

Beyond the most familiar use, can you imagine in which way can a coin be used? It can be used, for example, to illustrate history.

During the Roman Empire coins were a means of propaganda and celebration of dynasties as well. Roman Emperors had always used coins to promote themselves, representing their victories and their relatives also through symbolism.

For my Money Monday handling table I chose to use coins from the Beau Street Hoard to look at Lucius Septimius Severus  who achieved several victories during his reign. One of the most important ones was against the Parthian Empire, the archenemy of the Roman Empire for centuries. This achievement was so important for the Empire and for Severus' dynasty that, in order to celebrate this big happening, a monumental triumphal arch was built in the Roman Forum in Rome and several celebratory coins were minted all over the Empire. Some of these represented the Parthian victory and the greatness of Roman Empire containing some well-known symbols to deliver the message.

The Winged Victory

The Nike (the winged Victory) symbolized the good result in a war or campaign as well as some Goddesses such as Minerva which was the Goddess of Strategy.

Minerva, the Goddess of strategy

Severus was one of the Roman Emperors declared by the army. This element of his personal story is also present in the coinage of his age. The number of coins minted under his reign was increased because of some reforms to improve the military life. In fact, he promised to his loyal legions an increase in salary and a better quality of life. For this reason  a greater production of coins was needed. The symbolism related to the army was on several of these coins.

Eagle with open wings, symbol of Roman Army

Another key-element of coinage of Severus was his desire to make and promote his imperial dynasty as one of the most ancient ones. He celebrated his sons, Geta and Caracalla, and his second wife, Julia Domna.

Julia Domna, as a Roman woman and an Emperor’s wife, was represented as Roman Goddesses such as Venus, Juno, and Diana, but also as Pietas and Pudicitia, the deifications of important values such as chastity and respect for gods, nation and family.

Julia Domna as Pudicitia

Coins can be read as a book focusing on someone’s life, where the obverse is the title and the reverse is the chapter, condensed in one meaningful and allegoric image.

 Eufemia Iannetti (MA Leicester)

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