Object Record

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Collection Roman Collection
Catalog Number 2015.7.32
Object Name Coin
Description Roman Imperial coin, silver, AR denarius. Struck during the reign of Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus in Rome, 77-78 C.E. The laureate head of Vespasian faces left in profile, on obverse with the inscriptions "IMP CAESAR VESPASIANVS AVG" surrounding image. On reverse, the standing figure of Mars, the god of war and agricultural guardian, faces left holding a spear in his left hand and a trophy against his right shoulder and an ear of corn or wheat to his right with the inscriptions "COS VIII" on left and right of image. Obverse and reverse inscriptions difficult to decipher due to fading; slight damage around edges of coin.
Date range: 77-78 C.E.

Remarks: Fourth emperor to rule in 69 C.E., Year of the Four Emperors. Titus Flavius Vespasianus was born at Falacrina in 9 C.E., the son of Flavius Sabinus, a tax-gatherer, and Vespasia Polla. Despite this humble origin, his military skill carried him to a series of important posts under Claudius. In 67 Nero appointed him to quell the Jewish rebellion and he prosecuted the war successfully during the troubled period following Nero's death. On July 1st, 69, the legions at Alexandria proclaimed him emperor and the Danubian legions followed suit and invaded Italy, defeating the forces of Vitellius at the Battle of Cremona. Vespasian reached Rome in 70 and quickly set about repairing the damage caused by the civil wars. He proved to be a just and industrious ruler and the condition of the State soon improved. He died at Rome on June 24th, 79, and was deified by the Senate.

The denarius of Vespasian has a non-specific legend, but the image is very clear; instead of striding out in an abstracted way, Mars stands with a sword in his hand, ready to defend the crops shown behind him (apparently wheat). This probably symbolised the role of the emperor and his army in maintaining a stable grain supply, which was the subject of several of Vespasian's coins. Vespasian's coins were minted in Rome, Tarraco, Lugdunum, Byzantium, Ephesus, Antioch, Alexandria, and possibly Poetovio, Philippi, Samosata, and at unidentified mints in Lycia and Judaea.

References: David Sear, "Roman Coins and Their Values" , London 2000 (Vol I), #2288, pg 435; Harold Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, II, 1966, 202, compare 203, Pl. 6, 5., Forum Ancient Coins, Mars, the God of War (2010), https://www.forumancientcoins.com/moonmoth/reverse_mars.html
Title Vespasian
Date 77-78 CE
Material Silver
Dimensions Dia-0.75 inches
Credit line Gift of Arthur G. and Roswitha Haas
Place of Origin Europe/Italy/Rome
Subjects Roman Empire
Ancient Rome