Sestertius depicting the head of Vespasian and Pax, the personification of peace (71 CE)



71 CE

Brass (Æ)



Name of Ruler: 


Obverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Laureate head of Vespasian looking right


Reverse (Image and Inscription): 

Image: Pax standing left, holding branch and cornucopiae; SC in exergue

Inscription: PAX AUGUSTI

Weight (g): 

The obverse of this sestertius minted in 71 CE depicts the head of Vespasian, while the reverse depicts Pax, the goddess or the personification of peace. The inscription on the obverse refers to Vespasian as imperator, Caesar, Augustus, pontifex maximus, or high priest of the Roman state religion, pater patriae, or father of the fatherland, and mentions the fact that he held the consulship for the third time. In 71 CE, Vespasian held the consulship together with the future emperor Nerva.
Pax, who was identified with the Greek goddess Eirēnē, was the goddess of peace. She was generally depicted with olive branches and a cornucopia. The latter attribute emphasized abundance or prosperity, one of the most important consequences of peace. Pax, or peace, was one of the most important benefits that the emperor could bestow on his subjects. Therefore, the inscription on the reverse, Pax Augusti, emphasizes that the granting of Pax to the empire's citizens and subjects was the result of the personal action of the emperor. Carlos Noreña emphasizes that Pax had a dual meaning for the Romans. Pax could stand for the absence of civil wars as well as for the Pax Romana, or the peace imposed by the Romans on conquered peoples. Vespasian celebrated the return to peace with the erection of the Templum Pacis, the Temple of Peace, which stood inside the Forum of Vespasian. The new emperor had much to celebrate. Indeed the beginning of his rule brought the return to peace after three years of civil wars, the quelling of the rebellion in Judea and various others disturbances on the Western borders of the empire, such as the Batavian rebellion of Gaius Julius Civilis in 69 CE. Therefore Pax, on this coin, corresponds both to the end of the civil wars and to the Pax Romana.
(RIC II 437; BMCRE 555; Cohen 327)

Bibliographical references: 
Levick, Barbara, Vespasian (Roman Imperial Biographies ; London: Routledge, 2005)

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Sestertius depicting the head of Vespasian and Pax, the personification of peace (71 CE)
Publishing date: Wed, 01/11/2017 - 12:49
Visited: Sat, 03/17/2018 - 23:08

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