About this artwork
Certainly the best-known face in antiquity was that of Alexander the Great (reigned 336-323 BCE), whose profile graced coins for two hundred years. He collected the treasure of conquered kingdoms as he swept across the Near East, and with this rich booty he set up mints that produced coins bearing his portrait. Such self-advertising was new to Greece. It had been only forty years since a portrait of a living person first appeared
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.
The front (obverse) of this coin portrays the bust of Honorius, facing right, draped, cuirassed, and laureate. The back (reverse) depicts Honorius standing to the right, holding a military standard and globe surmounted by Victory. His right foot rests on a captive.
Rather than defending the Roman Empire, the emperor Honorius (reigned 394–423) lived to see Italy overrun by Visigoths led by King Alaric, who virtually ended the rule of Rome.
Currently Off View
- Arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium
- Solidus (Coin) of Honorius
- Struck 405 CE
- Obverse: D N HONORIVS P F AVG Reverse: VICTORIA AVGGG in Exergue: RIV COMOB
- Diam. 2.1 cm; 4.39 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson