Denarius depicting the head of Victoria and Octavian as Neptune with his right foot on a globe (30-27 BCE)



30 BCE to 27 BCE



Rome (?)

Name of Ruler: 

Roman Republic

Obverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Winged bust of Victoria looking right

Reverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Octavian depicted as Neptune (?) with his right foot on a globe, holding a sceptre in his right hand and an aplustre in his left hand

Inscription: CAESAR•DIVI•F

Weight (g): 

RIC 1, n°256, p. 59.
This denarius minted 30 and 27 BCE, probably at Rome, depicts the head of Victoria on the obverse, and Octavian, probably represented as the god of the sea, Neptune, on the reverse. He is designated as Caesar and as "son of the deified (Julius Caesar)".
Victoria, the goddess or personification of victory, was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Nikē. While Victoria is often depicted as a winged figure, which looks like a statue, in this case, only the bust of the goddess is depicted. An earlier example of this iconography of Victoria is found on the obverse of a denarius minted by T. Carisius in 46 BCE (the reverse depicts Victoria on a chariot). From Augustus's reign onwards, the personification of victory became one of the most important aspects of the imperial taxonomy. Indeed, according to Carlos Noreña, victory was one of the tangible benefits of the Roman Empire. Military victory therefore stood as the central imperial ideal around which all others, such as pax, concordia, fortuna, and salus, circled. Victory was in fact the most common benefit type on silver and base metal coins. It is important to emphasize that military victory was always directly connected to the Emperor, who stood at the head of the empire's army.
This is indeed the case here. Victoria is connected directly to Octavian, who is depicted on the reverse. Clearly, the personification of victory refers to the battle of Actium, fought in 31 BCE, because Octavian is depicted holding an aplustre in his left hand. This was the main decorative element of the prow of the oared warship, and Actium was a naval battle, fought on the sea between warships. In the right hand, Octavian holds a sceptre, and his right foot rests on a globe, two elements which symbolize his rule over the oikoumenē. This depiction of Octavian stands at the origin of later depictions of Roman emperors and medieval rulers. The latter were depicted seated on a throne with a globe (in the Middle Ages crowned by a cross) in the right hand and a sceptre in the left hand. This coin clearly conveys the message that at the head of the whole oikoumenē under the hegemony of Rome stands a man, Octavian. Power had shifted from an institution, the Roman Republic, to an individual, Octavian. In 27 BCE, the Senate elevated Octavian to the title of Augustus, thus legitimizing his personal power.

Keywords in the original language: 

Bibliographical references: 
La Rocca, Eugenio, Augusto (Milano: Milano, 2013)
Realized by: 

How to quote this page

Denarius depicting the head of Victoria and Octavian as Neptune with his right foot on a globe (30-27 BCE)
Author(s) of this publication: Samuele Rocca
Publishing date: Thu, 03/08/2018 - 10:42
Visited: Fri, 03/23/2018 - 19:50

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