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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.

Date:

28 BC, issued by Octavian

Artist:

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

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 153

Culture

Ancient Roman

Title

Denarius (Coin) Portraying Octavian

Origin

Roman Empire

Date

28 BCE

Medium

Silver

Inscriptions

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

Dimensions

Diam. 2.1 cm; 3.52 g

Credit Line

Gift of William F. Dunham

Reference Number

1920.3046

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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