Musée Saint-Raymond
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Coins


Aureus of Antonia Minor, Octavius’s sister, Claudius’s mother, and Caligula’s grand-mother. Struck in Lyon between 41 and 45.
Aureus of Antonia Minor, Octavius’s sister, Claudius’s mother, and Caligula’s grand-mother. Struck in Lyon between 41 and 45.
During Roman times, the coin was an object of everyday life as it is today. People of all social categories came in contact with it.
In addition to their economic function, coins are propaganda tools at the current regime’s disposal.
Each new emperor had coins fabricated in his name upon his accession to the throne. The message delivered on the small metallic object that passed from hand to hand was understood by all, from the senator to the slave.

Sestertius of Antonius Pious depicting the personification of the Tiber. Minted in Rome between 140 and 144.
Sestertius of Antonius Pious depicting the personification of the Tiber. Minted in Rome between 140 and 144.
Coins allow the emperor to make his image known to the people while often associating it with images of family members, such as his wife, his mother, and especially his children, biological or adopted, brought up to succeed him. His portrait is embellished with numerous attributes, such as civil or military clothing, jewelry, or weapons. The hairstyles, for men and women, have a considerable influence on the current fashion.
These depictions are completed with legends which note the numerous titles conferring the emperor’s authority: Plebian Tribune, Augustus, Father of the Country, high priest, conquer of the Parthians, Dacians, or Germanic peoples. The back of the struck side, also known as the “reverse,” responds to the text on the obverse, the side with the principal design, also known as the “right.” The legend is sometimes the same on both sides, but the chosen representation of the reverse side often depicts events that punctuate the emperor’s reign. The coins boast of conquests and military successes and depict religious trends and monuments that were recently erected or restored. 

Aureus of Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla. Minted in Rome beginning in 201.
Aureus of Septimius Severus and his son Caracalla. Minted in Rome beginning in 201.
Finally, coins also announce births in the imperial house, as well as the deaths of princes and the deification of emperors and even certain empresses. Coins can be considered the first media outlet in a civilization that knew how to aptly use the imperial image.
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