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RRC 291/1, Rome, 114 or 113 BCE JIAAW 032.04.03, 3.95g


Can you describe this coin for us?

This coin is a silver denarius minted in Rome by M.N. Aemelius Lepidus in 114-113 BCE. The coin’s obverse displays a female figure – identified by M. Crawford as Roma – and the word ROMA is below. She has a laurel wreath and a diadem with stylized curls that fall over her shoulder. On the reverse there is an equestrian figure on a monument. The name M.N. AEMELIVS is over the figure with the letters LEP between the three arches of the monument.

Can you tell us something about the context in which your coin was minted?

This coin was minted in the first century BCE; and what is perhaps the most important piece of knowledge to have about coins minted in these periods was their function that had motives outside the Roman Republic. With the passing of Lex Gabinia in 139 BCE (a quarter-century before this coin was minted), the position of moneyer became a politically necessary device to the launching of state-sector careers. Thus, the office of moneyer saw men with political ambition filling it. These men’s motives were not always in line with the glory of Rome but, instead, the won glory and the glory of their families. Access to the imagery of coinage gave the moneyer the ability to confect the imagery of the coin: he decided the head on the obverse and the scene of the reverse, as well as any legends. With the ability to influence what was on the coins, the moneyer had a direct link to the material matrix of the everyday lives of the people of Rome and her provinces.

What is the most interesting thing you have discovered doing research about this coin?

Maybe the most interesting point is the ambiguity of the imagery used in the coin. M. Crawford postulates that the female figure on the obverse is Roma – a sound conjecture if we take into account that the word ROMA is printed on the obverse, as well. The problem with that assumption is two-fold. As in the case of other deities – such as Concordia, for example – her name also implied virtues or entities beyond herself. In Roma’s case, these include the people and the might of Rome. In fact, we see ROMA on other coins with male figures on them, so we cannot always take for granted ROMA as an identifying mark. The second issue is the iconography itself, which is far more congruent with depictions of Venus. If we look at the depictions of Roma in the years immediately preceding and succeeding this coin, we see Roma depicted in full battle array – a stark contrast from the crown and curls that adorn her here. To put it more clearly, it was most interesting to see how lacking our knowledge can be sometimes; how unclear something so simple and commonplace as a coin can be.

Dylan Platt
h o m e
late 3rd c BCE
2nd c BCE
1st c BCE