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Denarius (Coin) Portraying Octavian

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.


28 BCE, issued by Octavian


Roman; minted in Pergamum or Ephesus

About this artwork

Portraits of important people appear on local currency all around the world. The same was true in ancient Rome, which began producing its first coinage in the late 4th century BC. Early coins depicted the heads of gods and goddesses on the front side, often in profile, while the back depicted animals, natural resources, symbols, and references to historical events. It was not until 44 BC that the portrait of a living person—Julius Caesar—appeared on coins. While the front side depicted the sovereign’s portrait, the back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or aspirations.

On this coin, Octavian celebrates his triumph over the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC; a defeat so thorough that both committed suicide rather than be humiliated as prisoners of Rome. With the inscription on this coin, Octavian announced boldly “Egypt [is] captured.”


On View, Gallery 153


Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Roman


Denarius (Coin) Portraying Octavian


Roman Empire (Minted in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

28 BCE




Obverse: CAESAR.DIVI.F COS VI Reverse: AEGYPTO (across above) CAPTA (across below)


Diam.: 2.1 cm (7/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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