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.
- Ancient Roman
- Denarius (Coin) Portraying Emperor Augustus
- 19 BC–18 BC
- Obverse: CAESAR AVGVSTVS "Augustus Caesar" Reverse: DIVVS IVLIVS "Divine Julius"
- Diam. 2 cm; 3.90 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson