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RIC I (second edition) Augustus 126, Spain, ‘Uncertain mint 2’ (Colonia Patricia?),
c. 20-19 BCE JIAAW 036.07.06, 3.59g


Can you describe this coin for us?

The coin features the emperor's youthful portrait on the obverse. Augustus was the first living Roman leader to consistently mint coinage with his own portrait on it, and it became standard practice for all Roman emperors after Augustus. The reverse shows the astrological sign of the Capricorn, portrayed as a sea-goat, holding a globe and rudder with a cornucopia hovering above. The Capricorn does not correspond with Augustus’ birthday of September 23rd but may, according to some scholars, represent the astrological sign of his conception instead.

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

This coin is a silver denarius minted around 18 BCE during the reign of Augustus. By the time this coin was produced, Augustus had been in uncontested power in Rome and its empire for over a decade. Despite the large amount of coin production that had transpired at the end of Republic, Augustus continued to mint coinage of high quality in order to pay off the troops he had used both to secure his own power and Rome’s borders. The coin was minted in Colonia Patricia in the province of Hispania Baetica (modern Spain), where four legions were stationed at the time and needed pay. While Colonia Patricia profusely produced coins from 20 to 17 BCE, the mint was soon supplanted by one in Lugdunum, in the province of Gallia Lugdunensis (modern France), which opened around 15 BCE.

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

This denarius provides fascinating information on Augustus’ choice of self-representation during his reign and the context in which it was made. However, one of the elements of this particular coin in the Joukowsky collection is also one of the most interesting. This coin features a small “L” in the bottom right of the obverse, just below the chin of Augustus. This singular letter stamped into the coin is a banker’s mark. Banker’s marks were often small incisions on the surface, typically made with a punch, to show that the purity of a coin had been tested and verified. That means that this particular coin was at one point tested for its purity and passed inspection.

Mary-Evelyn Farrior
h o m e
late 3rd c BCE
2nd c BCE
1st c BCE