Denarius (Coin) Portraying Emperor Augustus

A work made of silver.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of silver.

Date:

19/18 BC, issued by Augustus

Artist:

Roman; minted in Spain, possibly Colonia Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) or Colonia Patricia (Cordoba)

About this artwork

The purpose of the first portrait coins was to identify the ruler. The front side became a mirror of the sovereign’s self-image. The back was often used to communicate the ruler’s accomplishments or intentions. The profile portrait was used because it suited the very shallow depth and limited surface of the coin. The tiny images were carved by engravers into bronze dies, one for the front and another for the back. The coins were then struck, one by one, in a process similar to how modern coins are created today.

In place of human ancestors, some rulers substituted real or mythic heroes or even the gods as their progenitors.

When a great comet appeared in the sky after Julius Caesar’s assassination, Caesar’s heir Augustus (r. 27 BC–AD 14) claimed it was proof that Caesar had become a god, making Augustus the son of a god.

On View

Ancient and Byzantine Art, Gallery 153

Artist

Ancient Roman

Title

Denarius (Coin) Portraying Emperor Augustus

Origin

Spain

Date

19 BC–18 BC

Medium

Silver

Inscriptions

Obverse: CAESAR AVGVSTVS "Augustus Caesar" Reverse: DIVVS IVLIVS "Divine Julius"

Dimensions

Diam. 2 cm; 3.90 g

Credit Line

Gift of Martin A. Ryerson

Reference Number

1922.4856

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 .

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