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Emperors of Rome - A (Chronological) Portrait Gallery


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I hope everyone is doing well this second day of the year 2023.

One of the things I look for most in a coin - especially Roman Imperial - is a nice portrait. To look at a centuries-old coin and see the realistic and individualized likenesses of historic figures such as Augustus, Nero, Titus, Hadrian, and others is, for me, one of the great things about ancient coin collecting. Even portrait coins of the later Empire, despite the decline in realism and artistry, can be impressive.

The fact that all these coins were struck by hand with hand-engraved dies, each with slight variations in type, style, and execution, brings even more fascination and color into the hobby. Each coin represents the artistic abilities of the engraver. Some were clearly masters of the art, engraving beautiful portraits of enduring magnificence. Others seem to have been cartoonists who took up die-engraving as a side hustle. Finding a portrait coin of that "fine style" - a term impossible to define but intuitively recognized - gives great satisfaction. 

I know many of you feel the same way - I have seen so many amazing portrait coins posted here! 

SO...I thought it would be fun to start an on-going, chronological "Portrait Gallery" of Roman emperors, starting with Augustus. The rules for posting are as follows:

1. Each emperor will have a 48-hour window for posting.

2. The idea is to post your best/favorite portrait coin(s) of that emperor, with a short explanation for why you selected it.

3. Portraits of associated empresses, Caesars, etc. are also welcome!

4. Don't be intimidated if your "best" is not as good as others - the important thing is to post what appeals to you about the portrait. Not all great portraits need to be "mint state". (Goodness knows mine aren't!)


2/19/2023 UPDATE:

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this thread! It's been a ton of fun to see all the incredible portrait coins posted and I look forward to seeing many more! 👍

NOW, as we progress through the history of the mid-later Roman Empire, things get complicated. Lots of joint-emperors, usurpers, and short reigns, not to mention the East/West split. In order to organize the posting a bit, and give people an opportunity to see in advance when to post which Emperor, we (by which I mean @Severus Alexander!) have created a schedule which we'll be using from now on:


(Please feel free to save/download the schedule for your own reference.)

This will let folks know what to expect and relieve me of having to make that decision every 48-hour period. 😄

ALSO, in order to further streamline the schedule, I am introducing a set time - 3pm Eastern Standard - as the time when we switch from one Emperor to another. That way, I do not hold up the thread if I am unable to introduce the new Emperor for whatever reason. From now on, 3pm EST every 48 hours is the time we move on to the next Emperor's portraits!

And once again, a huge THANK YOU to @Severus Alexander for putting in so much effort to help me organize and streamline the thread! 👏👏👏


To start things off, here is one of my favorite portrait coins of the first emperor. Despite being a provincial mint, Antioch (IMO) consistently produced some of the finest and most artistic portraits of the entire Empire. 

The very fine and sensitive features, and the idealized form of this portrait reminds me almost of round sculpture. I also see in the shape and presentation of the bust the influence of the earlier Seleucid portraits - the slight upward gaze and naturally flowing hairlines.


For the next 48 hours - post your Augustus Portraits! Can't wait to see what you all have! 😉



Edited by CPK
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One Augustus coming up!

Divus Augustus, 27 BC - 14 AD.
Roman Æ as, 9.30 g, 28.4 mm, 7 h.
Rome, issued under Tiberius, AD 22-30.
Obv: DIVVS·AVGVSTVS·PATER, head of Augustus, radiate, left.
Rev: PROVIDENT S C, Altar-enclosure with double paneled door; surmounted by uncertain ornaments.
Refs: RIC 81; BMCRE 146; Cohen (Augustus) 228; RCV 1789.

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I vacillate between two, but chose this one because I like the portrait , the metal colour and the bankers marks.

Augustus. 27 BC-AD 14. AR Denarius (4.00 g, 10h). Rome mint. L. Aquillius Florus, moneyer. Struck 19/8 BC. CAESAR AVGVSTVS, bare head right / RIC I 309; RSC 364; BMCRE 46-8 = BMCRR Rome 4553-5; 
 L # AQVILLIVS # FLORVS # III # VIR #, open flower, displaying six petals, stamen, and pistil. image.png.76f0e7b5e0041ed9290dbf24fb2f7694.png



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The early emperors are my worst, since I collect coins found in Britain and anything that early is usually worn to a disk. This is the best I've been able to do so far 🤣

Augustus As, 16BC
Rome. Bronze, 26mm, 6.72g. Augustus head right; CAESAR AVGVSTVS TRIBVNIC (POTEST). S C; C CASSI(VS CELER) III VIR A A A F F around (RIC I, 376). Found in Britain.

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I look forward to watching this thread develop!  How far shall we go?  (I'd be in favour of going all the way to the end of the Byzantines...)

I agree the Antioch portraits are superb, the OP portrait is wonderful.  My pick is a bit more aggressive looking:


I also like the anepigraphic obverse on this denarius, but overall prefer the portrait on the tet:


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Great thread. There was a similar one on Coin Talk a couple of years ago, and, if I recall correctly, it got pretty far before we reached an emperor that nobody had. (Not counting the most obscure usurpers!)

Are we including empresses? Caesars?

I don't have many coins of Augustus, but I think the best portraits are on one denarius and one cistophorus:






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Nice idea for a thread! To start, here is my favorite portrait coin of Augustus, which was not struck during his reign, but shows his well known and distinguished portrait. Everything about this portrait is splendid, in my opinion. It showa a little wear, but that does not bother me at all. 


In comparison; a denarius featuring his portrait, struck during his reign which shows a more realistic portrait. He never ages on his more stylized portraits. 


And lastly, from his pre-sole reign period, when a big nose was a symbol of power... 


I'll stop now. 

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Here are 2 Quinarius from the same type, Asia recepta.

I like the portrait from the first coin, he looks younger the on the second coin. The second one i bought for the  mark on his cheek.

obv.: CAESAR IMP VII , head bare right

rev.: ASIA RECEPTA ,  Victory on cista mystica between two snakes

A.D.29, RIC I 276 p.61

1.65 gr., Quinarius


1.86 gr.a1.jpg.abb506bdcf2b48d67c20a1a21b9ace4e.jpg

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My humble contribution to Augustus.

Denarius; Augustus; circa 2 BC -4 AD; weight 3.68 g; Catalogue: RIC I 210; Lungdunum (modern Lyon) mint or Rome mint
Obv: Head of Augustus, laureate, right, CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE around
Rev: Augustus’ grandsons Gaius and Lucius Caesar standing, togate, each holding hand on a shield and spear, priestly utensils above, C L CAESARES AVGVSTI F COS DESIG PRINC IVVENT around


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Great idea for a thread and lovely coins posted by everyone!

Here's my example from a Spanish mint...

The reason I purchased this type is because it was minted just down the road from where I live and I also liked the quirky looking style of the portrait..


Spain, Kelse-Celsa. Augustus. 27 BC-14 AD. AE Unit (10.98 gm, 28mm). Velilla de Ebro (Zaragoza) mint.
Obv.: IMP. CAESAR. DIVI. F. AVGVSTVS. COS. XII, laureate head right.
Rev.: CN. DOMIT. C. POMPEI. II. VIR. C. V I. CEL, bull standing right. Abh. 811. VF.

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6 hours ago, DonnaML said:

Are we including empresses? Caesars?

5 hours ago, Severus Alexander said:

I for one would love to see appealing portraits of those associated with the emperor whose turn it is.  Whaddya say, @CPK?  Is this Agrippa OK to include under Augustus?

Sure, I don't see why not. I'll amend the opening post. 

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My only other Augustus portrait is this one from Arados. I'd never seen this type before and was intrigued with the great emperors tiny portrait being overshadowed by Astarte!



Phoenicia, Arados 2 B.C
Aradus mint, year 258 (local Era) = 2/1 BC. 8,9 g - 20mm
Obverse: Bust of Astarte-Europa right with smaller head of Augustus in front.
Reverse: Humped bull galloping left, head facing, Phoenician letters beth (B), taw (TH), zayin (Z) & aleph (´) above, Aradian era date 258 (ΣNH) below.
RPC I 4483.

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His wife and his daughter


Livia & Julia (Wife and Daughter of Augustus)
circa 10-2 BC
Charinos Grammateus, magistrate.
Obv: ΛΙΒΙΑΝ ΗΡΑΝ ΧΑΡΙΝΟΣ. Draped bust of Livia right.
Rev: ΟΥΛΙΑΝ ΑΦΡΟΔΙΤΗΝ. Draped bust of Julia (as Aphrodite) right.
Æ, 18 mm, 3.38 g
Ref.: RPC 2359

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