By Joël van Dam – Owner, Joëlnumismatics, for MA-Shops.com ……
Jupiter, the Roman Zeus
Last month I spoke a little about mythology on ancient coins. This month, I want to begin to discuss the gods and goddesses, and heroes and monsters of myth–beginning with the Roman god Jupiter. I came to the conclusion when I started to investigate the various coins available on MA-Shops that almost 1,500 coins have a iconographic reference to Jupiter.
To be honest, I was little surprised. I know that Jupiter was an important god on Roman coins but that such a large portion of all the Roman coins on MA-Shops make reference to Jupiter amazed me. It is possible that it reflects the amount of coins minted with Jupiter on them, but before I make that conclusion I felt that I should delve deeper into my research.
Jupiter can be seen on coins since the beginning of the Roman coinage until the appearance of Christianity.
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Constantine I The Great – “Jupiter”
- Weight: 5.45 g
- Diameter: 23.00 mm
Silvered Follis. Heraclea Mint 312 CE.
Obverse: IMP C FL VAL CONSTANTINO PF INV AVG, laureate head right. Reverse: IOVI CONSERVATORI, Jupiter standing facing, head left, chlamys draped from shoulder, holding globe and scepter, wreath to left; HTA in exergue.
EF and a rare type with these obverse legends. Choice quality with silvering.
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Jupiter in the Roman Period
Jupiter was above all the king of the gods in the Roman period. Besides this he was also the god of the sky and of course the god of thunder. On a lot of coins he has a thunderbolt in his hand (for example, on the aureus of Hadrian below). Besides the thunderbolt, he wears a cloak and has a sceptre in his left hand. The sceptre refers to his high status. This was normally a symbol of a ruling monarch but it was now the symbol of the ruling god. Jupiter was the equivalent of the Greek god Zeus. On a lot of Greek coins you can detect Zeus as well–for example, on the many tetradrachms and drachms of Alexander the Great. Zeus is here seated on a throne.
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Aureus c. 121-4 CE Hadrian
- Weight: 7.23 g
Obv: IMP CAESAR TRAIAN – HADRIANVS AVG Bust laureate, draped, cuirassed r., seen from front.
Rev: P M TR P – COS III Jupiter standing r., head front, nude except for cloak hanging over l. shoulder, holding thunderbolt and scepter.
AE Sestertius (115) of Trajan
- Weight 28.98g
- Alloy: bronze
- Diameter: 33mm
Obverse: Draped and laurated bust right IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER DAC PM TR P COS VI PP
Reverse: Naked jupiter standing left, holding scepter and a thunderblot over the head of a small figure of Trajan, who is standing left in toga with laurel branch and scepter CONSERVATORI PATER PATRIAE S C
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Jupiter with the Roman Emperor
On a lot of Roman coins and medals we see Jupiter in combination with the emperor himself. The question is why does the emperor illustrate himself in this way (as in the fantastic medallion below)? On the reserve we see Jupiter flanked by Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. What Marcus Aurelius is trying to do is to provide legitimacy for himself and his co-emperor Lucius Verus by making it seem that Jupiter himself gives his approval to these emperors to rule over Rome.
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Medallion 168 CE Marcus Aurelius
- Weight: 51.67 g
- Diameter: 40.1 mm
Obv: M ANTONINUS AVG ARM PARTH MAX; laureate, draped bust of Marcus Aurelius.
Rev: TR P XXII IMP IIII COS III; Jupiter standing to the left, with lightingbolt and sceptre, flanked by Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.
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