Collecting Ancient Roman Coins Part II: The Issuer.

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Collecting Ancient Roman Coins Part II: The Issuer.

How to identify the issuer.

Being able to properly identify the Issuer of Roman Coins is very important for a collector. A prompt and accurate identification can help when buying a coin to avoid misunderstandings or a deliberate attempt at fraud.

It’s pretty much impossible to know every Roman Coin issued by heart, this is proven by the great many studies and books written on the subject, but a good working knowledge can be very useful. .

When you hold a Roman Coin in your hand, establishing the issuer is the first step. With Roman Imperial Coins the issuer is always the emperor or one of their family members.

Roman Rulers’ names follow some set rules with the name being in three parts; Pre-name/First Name, Family Name or Surname and Common or Nickname.

Using Caesar as an example. His name is Caius Julius Caesar.

Caius is the praenomen, or first name.

Julius is the nomen or nomen gentile, his family’s name or surname.

Caesar is the cognomen or common/nickname, which in this case means either the bald or that he was born by cesarean section.

The poet’s name, Publius Ovidius Naso follows the same rule. Naso being the cognomen and meaning “big nose”. Sometimes the first name can be abbreviated as C for Caius, P for Publius, Ti for Titus, Cn for Cnaeus and so on. Names can also carry more than one cognomen.

In the case of legal matters, the name also contains an extra part, the father’s name. This part appears between the nomen and the cognomen and it is accompanied by the word “filius” meaning “the son of…”. For example, Caesar’s father was also Caius, so Caesar’s full name is “Caius Julius Caii filius Caesar”. Translated: “Caius Julius Caesar, son of Caius”.

The emperor’s name is basically the same.

When Octavian (Caesar’s great nephew) took the supreme power in the Roman State, he changed his name. His official name from this moment on was “Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus”.

“Imperator” was his first name. It was the name of the function that he had as ruler. In modern times it can be likened to Field Marshall, although in modern languages it translates to “emperor”. This name indicated this was a person of high military standing.

Caesar was his adoptive father’s cognomen but Octavian used it as his family name, to suggest a close connection with the important leader.

“Divi Filius” means “the son of the divine (Caesar)” and entitles him religious authority, as the son of a god.

Augustus was his cognomen and means both sacred and authority.

All the emperors after Augustus kept this formula for the name, sometimes adding some more “nicknames”, usually representing functions or strategic victories, and of course changing the father’s name.

In time, the names became more and more complex. For example, an Aureus of Trajan has the following legend around the emperor’s head: “IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG GERM”. On the other side, the next part is “PONT MAX TR POT COS II”.

“IMP” is Imperator (commander).

“CAES” is the abbreviation for Caesar.

The next part of the name is missing but it can be understood as “NERVAE FILIUS”, the son of Nerva, his adoptive imperial father.

“NERVA TRAIAN” is Nerva Traianus. The presence of the Traian formula shows that it cannot be only the emperor Nerva.

“AVG” is Augustus.

“GERM” stands for Germanicus, the “Winner of the German population”. These triumphant names are given in the honour of the great imperial victories over barbarian populations. These titles were used by an emperor for imperial propaganda and played the role of cognomen. Also, the abbreviation can appear as “DAC, PARTH, SARM, GOTH” and so on, for Dacicus, Parthicus, Sarmaticus, Gothicus.

In some cases the “MAX” is added at the end, and means Maximus. As an example, Germanicus Maximus means the supreme winner over the Germans. This title, “MAX”, was given after important battles were won, their presence or the absence is an important clue in dating the coin more precisely.

“PONT MAX” or sometimes only “P M” means “Pontifex Maximus”, supreme priest, an important high function. It can only be given to the emperor himself at the beginning of the reign. Even if there are two emperors simultaneously on the throne, only one can be “Pontifex Maximus”.

“TR POT” is the abbreviation for Tribunicia Potestatis, a function that means tribune (champion of people’s rights). This is the most important dating detail. Every year, on the 10th of December, the emperor and only he took this function. It is represented on the coin as the first (number I=1 is omitted yet from II=2 onward).

“COS II” means Consulus 2 or Consul bis, that is “consul for the second time” and it means that he was or is consul for the second time. It is also a dating clue, because Trajan was consul 7 times. This function is one of the most important, in modern times this could be compared to the position of Prime Minister.

Two other names/abbreviations are missing from this coin.

The first one is “P P” or pater patriae, the father of the country. It always appears at the end of the name and it must not be taken by mistake as “P M”.

Another important title is “CENS” or Censor, responsible for supervising public morals. Every 5 years, the censor ordered a population numbering and also studied the structure of the Senate. If considered necessary he appointed new members and retired others in order to uphold morality. Because it was a function that gave great power, it was almost exclusively used by the emperor. Sometimes the word “PERPETUUS” is added, meaning that he is “forever Censor”( forever responsible for the morals of the public).

Over time legends changed, either becoming much simpler or much more complex. Letters used were occasionally changed e.g. In the third century the form “IMP” was sometimes written “IIIIIP" due to a change in the method of writing the letter “M”. Almost all emperors started using the name “Marcus Aurelius Antoninus” with the imperial names which creates some confusion.

ey8gzkqfcnjoi83a.jpg

See the range of Roman Coins on Coins-Auctioned.com here.

Collecting Ancient Roman Coins Part II: The Issuer.

How to identify the issuer.

Being able to properly identify the Issuer of Roman Coins is very important for a collector. A prompt and accurate identification can help when buying a coin to avoid misunderstandings or a deliberate attempt at fraud.

It’s pretty much impossible to know every Roman Coin issued by heart, this is proven by the great many studies and books written on the subject, but a good working knowledge can be very useful. .

When you hold a Roman Coin in your hand, establishing the issuer is the first step. With Roman Imperial Coins the issuer is always the emperor or one of their family members.

Roman Rulers’ names follow some set rules with the name being in three parts; Pre-name/First Name, Family Name or Surname and Common or Nickname.

Using Caesar as an example. His name is Caius Julius Caesar.

Caius is the praenomen, or first name.

Julius is the nomen or nomen gentile, his family’s name or surname.

Caesar is the cognomen or common/nickname, which in this case means either the bald or that he was born by cesarean section.

The poet’s name, Publius Ovidius Naso follows the same rule. Naso being the cognomen and meaning “big nose”. Sometimes the first name can be abbreviated as C for Caius, P for Publius, Ti for Titus, Cn for Cnaeus and so on. Names can also carry more than one cognomen.

In the case of legal matters, the name also contains an extra part, the father’s name. This part appears between the nomen and the cognomen and it is accompanied by the word “filius” meaning “the son of…”. For example, Caesar’s father was also Caius, so Caesar’s full name is “Caius Julius Caii filius Caesar”. Translated: “Caius Julius Caesar, son of Caius”.

The emperor’s name is basically the same.

When Octavian (Caesar’s great nephew) took the supreme power in the Roman State, he changed his name. His official name from this moment on was “Imperator Caesar Divi Filius Augustus”.

“Imperator” was his first name. It was the name of the function that he had as ruler. In modern times it can be likened to Field Marshall, although in modern languages it translates to “emperor”. This name indicated this was a person of high military standing.

Caesar was his adoptive father’s cognomen but Octavian used it as his family name, to suggest a close connection with the important leader.

“Divi Filius” means “the son of the divine (Caesar)” and entitles him religious authority, as the son of a god.

Augustus was his cognomen and means both sacred and authority.

All the emperors after Augustus kept this formula for the name, sometimes adding some more “nicknames”, usually representing functions or strategic victories, and of course changing the father’s name.

In time, the names became more and more complex. For example, an Aureus of Trajan has the following legend around the emperor’s head: “IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG GERM”. On the other side, the next part is “PONT MAX TR POT COS II”.

“IMP” is Imperator (commander).

“CAES” is the abbreviation for Caesar.

The next part of the name is missing but it can be understood as “NERVAE FILIUS”, the son of Nerva, his adoptive imperial father.

“NERVA TRAIAN” is Nerva Traianus. The presence of the Traian formula shows that it cannot be only the emperor Nerva.

“AVG” is Augustus.

“GERM” stands for Germanicus, the “Winner of the German population”. These triumphant names are given in the honour of the great imperial victories over barbarian populations. These titles were used by an emperor for imperial propaganda and played the role of cognomen. Also, the abbreviation can appear as “DAC, PARTH, SARM, GOTH” and so on, for Dacicus, Parthicus, Sarmaticus, Gothicus.

In some cases the “MAX” is added at the end, and means Maximus. As an example, Germanicus Maximus means the supreme winner over the Germans. This title, “MAX”, was given after important battles were won, their presence or the absence is an important clue in dating the coin more precisely.

“PONT MAX” or sometimes only “P M” means “Pontifex Maximus”, supreme priest, an important high function. It can only be given to the emperor himself at the beginning of the reign. Even if there are two emperors simultaneously on the throne, only one can be “Pontifex Maximus”.

“TR POT” is the abbreviation for Tribunicia Potestatis, a function that means tribune (champion of people’s rights). This is the most important dating detail. Every year, on the 10th of December, the emperor and only he took this function. It is represented on the coin as the first (number I=1 is omitted yet from II=2 onward).

“COS II” means Consulus 2 or Consul bis, that is “consul for the second time” and it means that he was or is consul for the second time. It is also a dating clue, because Trajan was consul 7 times. This function is one of the most important, in modern times this could be compared to the position of Prime Minister.

Two other names/abbreviations are missing from this coin.

The first one is “P P” or pater patriae, the father of the country. It always appears at the end of the name and it must not be taken by mistake as “P M”.

Another important title is “CENS” or Censor, responsible for supervising public morals. Every 5 years, the censor ordered a population numbering and also studied the structure of the Senate. If considered necessary he appointed new members and retired others in order to uphold morality. Because it was a function that gave great power, it was almost exclusively used by the emperor. Sometimes the word “PERPETUUS” is added, meaning that he is “forever Censor”( forever responsible for the morals of the public).

Over time legends changed, either becoming much simpler or much more complex. Letters used were occasionally changed e.g. In the third century the form “IMP” was sometimes written “IIIIIP" due to a change in the method of writing the letter “M”. Almost all emperors started using the name “Marcus Aurelius Antoninus” with the imperial names which creates some confusion.

ey8gzkqfcnjoi83a.jpg

See the range of Roman Coins on Coins-Auctioned.com here.

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