By Joël van Dam – Owner of Joëlnumismatics, for ……

Family Theme Types

The iconography of coins from antiquity had two main purposes. On the one hand it made clear which authority had minted the coin. On the other, it spread a message that was hidden in the iconography.

In the early Roman Republic, coins were minted just like in the Greek coin tradition of that time. They only referred to the city of Rome and/or their gods (in a future blog I will discuss these coins more specifically).

This coin tradition lasted until the end of the Republic. But after the passage of the lex Gabinia (Gabinian law) in 139 BCE, the traditional theme became less common on Roman coins and was replaced by something new. Namely, the theme with the so-called “family types”, propagating the images and prestige of the mintmaster’s family. As can be deduced, the mintmaster had a great influence on the coin-type selection during the Late Republic.

Denarius 74 BCE Cornelius Lentulus Spinther

2,605.89 US$

  • Catalog: Cr. 397/1, Syd. 791
  • Weight: 3.72 g
  • Diameter: 17.00 mm

Media Group

In the Late Republic, coins were part of a media group that propagated familiar ancestors. Among these media were monuments, buildings, statues with their inscriptions, games and celebrations, paintings, triumphs and, of course, coins.

Throughout these media, reference is made to familiar gods and virtues, and the fact that these particular families are descended from important historical persons. Also, the performances of ancestors are depicted in military, political and religious areas.

Of all the media used by the families, coins are, above all, an important resource for modern historians since coins offer a view of images created within the political climate of the Late Republic. This is in contrast to the many other media that had been created in a private sphere.

Denarius 63 BCE L. Cassius Longinus

497.49 US$

  • Catalog: Crawford 413/1; Sydenham 935
  • Weight: 3.73 g
  • Obv: veiled, diademed bust of Vesta to the left; S before, kylix behind.
  • Rev: (LO)NGINIIIV; togate citizen standing to the left, depositing ballot inscribed V into cista.

Reverse off-centre, nevertheless extremely fine.

Lex Gabinia

You may be wondering: What, exactly, was the the lex Gabinia? It was a law that was made by the tribune Gabinia in the year 139 BCE. This law ensured that votes were no longer oral but in writing during the magistrates elections.

You may also be wondering: What had such a law to do with coin types? Because of this law, votes could no longer be controlled by the patronus on his cliens. Only the loyalty of the cliens could ensure that he voted as his patronus wants.

Because of this the aristocracy in Rome realised that they needed to find another way to ensure their votes. One way was to advertise themselves. And it is obvious they used coins for this purpose.

Denarius 69 BCE GENS PLAETORIA M. Plaetorius M. f. Cestianus

2,250.54 US$

  • Catalog: Craw., 405/2; B.M.C.R.R., 3525; Syd., 801
  • Material: Silver
  • Weight: 3.83 g – Diameter: 19.69 mm

Roman Republic, GENS PLAETORIA, M. Plaetorius M. f. Cestianus, SILVER DENARIUS / SILBER DENAR / DENIER / DENARIO, Issue: 69 b.C., D/ Busto muliebre (Fortuna ?) a d., R/ Busto della dea Sors, sotto, una cartella con il nome della divinità, Zecca di Roma / Mint of Rome, Rif. bibl. / References: Craw., 405/2; B.M.C.R.R., 3525; Syd., 801; Metal: AR, gr. 3,83, (MR110228), Diam.: mm. 19,69, BB / VF, (RR).

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