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RIC II, Part 1 (second edition) Vespasian 266, Rome, 71 CE, JIAAW 039.04.05, 11.16g


Can you describe this coin for us?

The coin is a struck bronze dupondius dating from approximately 71 CE, minted in Rome under the authority of Vespasian. The obverse (front) of the coin depicts the head of Vespasian, facing right and wearing a radiate crown. The obverse bears a legend clockwise around its edge reading IMP CAES VESPASIAN AVG COS III. The reverse (back) of the coin bears the legend CONCORDIA AVGVST(I), also clockwise, encircling the image of the goddess Concordia personified, seated and holding a patera (libation bowl) and cornucupia. The letters S.C. are in exergue (below a solid horizontal line) below.

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

The legend on the obverse lists the honors and titles held by Vespasian, almost certainly those current when the coin was minted. Vespasian holds the titles Imperator (IMP), Caesar (CAES), and Augustus (AVG), and has held the office of consul (COS) three times (III). The presence of these data in the legend means that we can date this coin relatively securely to 71 CE, a time when Vespasian have already received the aforementioned titles and honors. The SC in exergue on the reverse is a common trait of imperial coins. The letters stand for Senatus Consulto, indicating that the coin was minted under the authority of the Roman senate. Unfortunately, the coin has no archaeological context, like most of the coins that come from private donations with no extensive documentation of find spot or context. Thus, the imagery and legends on the coin are the most relevant in dating the coin and placing it within its correct context.

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

One of the most fascinating aspects of this coin is the imagery of Concordia on the reverse, particularly when considered in the social and political context of its year of minting. Coming to power at the end of 69 CE, known as the ‘Year of the Four Emperors,’ Vespasian became emperor at an unstable time in imperial Roman history. The confusion of 69 CE was prompted by a clash of successors to the throne after the suicide of Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian rulers, a smaller scale version of the Civil Wars that lasted from assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE until Octavian consolidated his rule after the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE. Vespasian's first years of rule were marked by the need to legitimize his hold on power. His two main claims in propaganda were his military connection to the previous Julio-Claudian dynasty, under whose emperors (particularly Claudius and Nero) he rose to prominence as a commander, and the success and strength of Rome under his own rule. The image of Concordia promotes the idea that Rome would once again rise to its former glory under Vespasian's rule, leaving behind the discord and civil war that marked the period directly after the death of Nero. By tying the success of Rome to the success of his own power, Vespasian ensured his consolidation in power and the continuation of his own new dynasty (Flavian), which would last through his sons Titus and Domitian.

Sophie van Horne
h o m e
late 3rd c BCE
2nd c BCE
1st c BCE