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Denarius (Coin) Portraying King Ancus Marcius

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.


56 BCE, issued by L. Marcius Philippus


Roman; minted in Rome

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. Thereafter, profile portraits of rulers or other members of the imperial family became the standard subject on coins throughout the Roman Empire.

In the mid-50s BC, it became common to portray ancestors that reinforced an important family lineage. The politician Lucius Marcius Philippus, who commissioned this coin, traced his lineage to the legendary King Ancus Marcius, who was believed to have lived in the late seventh century BCE.

The front (obverse) of this coin depicts the head of King Ancus Marcius diademed and facing right; behind him is a lituus (curved augural staff). The back (reverse) of the coin depicts an equestrian statue facing right on an aqueduct between arches of which are the letters: AQVA MAR. Under horse, a branch tipped.


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Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Ancient Roman


Denarius (Coin) Portraying King Ancus Marcius


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.

Struck 56 BCE




Obverse: ANCVS Reverse: PHILIPP[VS]; AQVA MAR (in arches of aqueduct)


Diam.: 1.8 cm (3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson

Reference Number


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