Obverse: CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE; Laureate Bust of the Emperor
The inscription of the obverse, “CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F(ilius) PATER PATRIAE,” can be translated as, “Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Julius, Father of the Country,” which refers to Augustus as the rightful father of the Roman Empire. The image of Augustus crowned in a laurel wreath portrays the emperor as a victorious general.
Reverse: C L CAESARES AVGVSTI F COS DESIG PRINC IVVENT; Gaius and Lucius Ceasar Standing Facing with Shield and Spears in Between Them; a Simpulum and a Lituus Above
The text on the reverse, “C(Gaius) L(ucius) CAESARES AVGVSTI F(ilii) CO(n)S(ules) DESIG(nati) PRINC(epes) IVVENT(utis),” can be translated as, “Gaius and Lucius Ceasar, sons of Augustus, consuls elect, first among the youth.” This inscription refers to Augustus’ dynastic aspirations. Gaius and Lucius Caesar were the sons of Augustus’ daughter Julia and her husband Marcus Agrippa. They were adopted by Augustus as young boys in 17 B.C. in order to someday become his heirs. The depiction of the young men standing holding spears and shields represents their coming of age, for both had now completed their military service and could be elected to the consulate. Pictured above them are a simpulum and a lituus. The simpulum was one of the insignia of the college of pontiffs and is symbolic of Gaius who became a pontiff in 7 BC. A lituus is an augural staff that was the symbol for the college of augurs and refers to Lucius who was appointed as an augur.
Augustus was born with the given name Gaius Octavius Thurinus, great-nephew the famous Roman dictator Julius Caesar. Although young Augustus was in Apollonia, Epirus when Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., he quickly rushed back to Rome to claim his rightful patrimony as the adopted heir of Caesar. Soon after, he changed his name to Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Through an unprecedented stroke of political mastery, the relatively unknown Octavian was able to secure power by crafting an alliance with the generals Marc Antony and Marcus Lepidus. Together, they formed the second Triumvirate to rule over Rome. However, when Anthony ceded Roman provinces to his children by his mistress, Cleopatra of Egypt, Augustus declared war on Anthony. By 31 A.D., the Roman navy had delivered a crushing defeat to the combined forces of Anthony and Cleopatra and Octavian had become the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. This fact was affirmed on January 16th, 27 B.C. when the Senate proclaimed Octavian to be “Augustus,” or “the exalted.” They also bestowed upon him control of Rome’s religious, civil and military affairs, effectively making him the first Roman Emperor. Under his rule, Rome achieved a golden age of political, military, and cultural triumph. Over a hundred years of civil warring came to an end, the empire was expanded, new roads connected distant provinces, and literature flourished with the likes of Virgil and Horace, two of the greatest Latin writers. After his death, Augustus was worshipped as a deity, revealing the profound effects of his rule on the populace.
How many hands have touched a coin in your pocket or purse? What eras and lands have the coin traversed on its journey into our possession? As we reach into our pockets to pull out some change, we rarely hesitate to think of who might have touched the coin before us, or where the coin will venture to after it leaves our hands. More than money, coins are a symbol of the state that struck them, of a specific time and location, whether contemporary currencies or artifacts of a long forgotten empire. This stunning hand-struck coin reveals an expertise of craftsmanship and intricate sculptural detail that is often lacking in contemporary machine-made currencies. This ancient coin is a memorial to an emperor’s reign passed down from the hands of civilization to civilization, from generation to generation, which still appears as vibrant today as the day it was struck.