Coins of Ancient Rome.
The minting of gold coins during the Roman Republic (until 46 BC) occurred sporadically and, in terms of the mass of processed metal, does not exceed the issue of one such city as Phocaea or Mytilene. The gold that came to the treasury as war booty was melted down into ingots and stored in the treasury of Saturn (aerarium sanctius).
For a period roughly from 357 BC before the seizure of the treasury by Caesar in 49 BC, gold accumulated in this treasury, according to various sources, was in range from 4135 pounds to 15000 dimensionless ingots. Even if we assume that these 15,000 ingots had a mass of 1 Roman pound each (about 327 grams), then “only” about 5 tons of gold collected in the treasury of the Roman Republic over 300 years.
However, in the triumphant for Caesar 46 BC an extremely plentiful issue of aureus was made with the name of Aulus Hirtius, prefect of Rome, personal friend and political colleague of Caesar. These coins were minted based on the norm of 40 aureuses from one Roman pound, that is, they had an average weight of about 8.18 grams. Only this one episode of the issue of aurei surpassed all the minting of gold in the previous history of Rome.
But, the period of the Roman Republic in our collection is represented by a different, very interesting coin - this is a gold stater minted in Attic weight, the images of which imitate the plots of republican coinage: the Roman consul, accompanied by two lictors on the obverse (denarius M. Junius Brutus, 54 BC) below the signature ΚΟΣΟΝ and an eagle with spread wings, standing on a scepter with its left paw, holding a wreath in its right paw (denarius Q. Pomponius Ruf, 73 BC). The first attempts to identify coins of this type date back to 1543, when their large treasure was discovered in the mountains of Transylvania. There is no consensus on this issue even today, but taking into account the data of recent studies on the composition of the alloy of similar coins the version about the minting of coins by the Geto-Dacian king Kotison looks very likely. The coin variant presented in our collection (without a monogram) was made from local natural raw materials, most likely in the 30s. BC. At this time, Cotison actively collaborated with the triumvir Octavian, and the minting of the coin was possibly made to pay for the Geto-Dacian mercenary troops sent to help Octavian.
In the future, the standard for the mass of aureus has repeatedly changed in the direction of reduction. So, one from 78-79 AD presented in our collection already minted at the rate of 45 coins per pound (average 7.27 grams).
This coin is associated with the controversial personality of Titus, who remained in history as the ideal of the emperor, endowed with many noble qualities - generosity, justice, mercy, while being a co-ruler and heir to his father, he aroused fears among his contemporaries for cruelty, greed and depravity. He was destined to become the fulfiller of Jesus' prophecy about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (70th year), but he also became famous as a great builder - under him the construction of the largest arena of antiquity, the Colosseum, was completed. The consequences of the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79, which resulted in the death of the cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae, were eliminated at the expense of the treasury at the behest of Titus.
Gold coins of the same weight were also minted during the heyday of the Roman Empire - the era of the 5 good emperors (96-180 AD). The coins of this period in the history of the Roman Empire stand out for their excellent quality of minting, and the portraits are made at the highest artistic level and perfectly reflect the character of emperors and members of their families - this is precisely the most important feature of Roman coins for which numismatists value them so much. This is the time of the greatest territorial expansion of Rome and its best, truly universal coins. The stable economic situation in the state and order in the monetary system caused a relatively uniform intensity of gold minting at the level of about 40 obverse dies per year, which, however, is not higher than the same indicator at the level of 44 obverse dies per year for the era of Alexander the Great and the Diadochi (340- 290 BC).
The Roman Empire at its height stretched from Britain in the north to Egypt in the south, from the Spanish Atlantic coast in the west to Mesopotamia in the east.
Our collection features the aureus of Emperor Hadrian, famous for his love of Greek culture and his travels on foot through the provinces of the Empire. Aureus minted c. 125-127 AD after the emperor's visit to Athens, and his portrait is executed in the spirit of the best examples of Hellenistic art. On the reverse side of the coin, most likely, one of the numerous equestrian statues of the emperor is depicted, similar to which was installed on the site of the Holy of Holies of the Jerusalem Temple during the restoration of the city, begun by Hadrian in 130 AD, which lay in ruins since its assault by the legionnaires of Titus. As a result of Hadrian's actions to restore Jerusalem as a Roman city, a Jewish uprising broke out under the leadership of Shimon bar Kokhba (132-135), suppressed by the colossal power of the Empire. On the site of Jerusalem, the city of Elia Capitolina was rebuilt, into which the Jews did not have the right to enter, except for one day a year (the ninth of Av).
The crisis of the 3rd century was also reflected in the coins. The golden coins of emperors Valerian I (253-260) and Gallienus (253-268) often weigh only a little over 2 grams, clearly indicating the dire financial situation of the Empire. Unsuccessful wars for the Romans with the growing power of the Sassanides state resulted in the death of the emperor Gordian III in 244 and the obligation to pay a huge indemnity in gold given by the emperor Philip the Arab, as well as the captivity of the emperor Valerian and his army that followed in 260. These events are immortalized in the inscriptions and rock reliefs of the conqueror of the Romans, shahinshah Shahpur I. His gold dinar minted in Ctesiphon in 242-252/3 is a witness to the highest glory of the New Persian state.
The gradual stabilization of the position of the Empire occurred due to the versatile reforms begun during the reign of Diocletian (284-305) and continued by Constantine I the Great (306-337). During his reign, the capital of the Empire was moved to the site of the ancient Greek city named Byzantium, and during the life of the emperor it became known as Constantinople. Constantine made Christianity the state religion and himself was baptized before his death. Gold coins of this time were called "solid" and were minted at the rate of 72 coins from a pound (4.54 grams).
Our collection includes a solid of the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire Theodosius II, minted in 424-430. On the reverse of the coin, the emperor is depicted in full growth, holding in his right hand a labarum with a chrism (the monogram of Jesus Christ) - the legendary banner of Constantine the Great, the image of which he saw in a dream before the decisive battle for power and heard a voice: “Win with this!”.
On the obverse of the coin, we see an undoubtedly beautiful, but figurative portrait of the emperor, in which one should not look for resemblance to a real person. This image is fully consistent with the mood of the era and the influence of the state religion - Christianity, which is expressed in the primary attention to the inner, spiritual world, and not the changeable and sinful material world, and does not correlate with a real person, but rather with a certain generalized, idealized image of the emperor as an power institution.
A gradual transition from a realistic portrait to an abstract image was outlined in the fine arts of Rome approximately after the reign of Gallienus. The images on the coins of Constantine the Great and his closest followers are already often abstract and practically devoid of individual features; they lose their significance as portraits, thus giving way to Byzantine iconography.