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Assistant (to the) Emperor - Portrait coins of Roman Governors, Procurators, Magistrates, etc.


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Not sure how I got started on this path, but as an addendum to my primary Roman collection, I also found an inexplicable draw to collect coinage showing the portraits of non-Imperial Romans of the provinces - usually governors, procurators, magistrates, etc. It is a unique challenge as many of these are extremely rare issues.

This series (if it can even be called that) commenced during the late Republican era and fizzled out by the reign of Claudius, although the vast majority comprise Augustus' inner circle of political allies. They range from individuals ad famous as the emperors themselves, to individuals who have been totally forgotten by history.

One thing that remains certain, however, is that as long as they were permitted to do so, these coins were minted to remind the local populace of who was in charge when the Big Man wasn't around


I'll start off with one of the more famous governors - Vedius Pollio

Vedius Pollio, Procurator of Asia

c. 29-27 BC

AE21 of Lydia, Tralles

Magistrate Menandros, son of Parrisos

OYHΔIOΣ KAIΣAΡEΩN, Bare head of Vedius Pollio right

MENANΔΡOΣ ΠAΡΡAΣIOY, Laureate head of Zeus right


For a Roman citizen to obtain the right to place his image on a coin under the supervision of Augustus was among the highest honors, granted to only some half dozen men during the entirety of Augustus' four decades in office. It is therefore nothing short of remarkable when history remembers nothing of Vedius Pollio save for his cruelty. An apparent Equestrian, Pollio served as the procurator of Roman Asia during the earliest years of the Empire, and surely was one of Augustus' closest friends and allies. He returned to Rome some time around 22 BC and thereafter became a figure of legendary terror, as he maintained in his large estate at Posillipo a tank of ravenous lamprey (or possibly Moray) eels that he would throw his unfortunate slaves to whenever they made a mistake, however minor. Once fattened on human flesh, the lampreys would be consumed as a traditional Roman delicacy.


It is said that one day, Pollio was entertaining Augustus at a dinner party when a slave accidentally dropped and broke a crystal cup. Pollio had the slave seized to be thrown into the pool, but the young boy threw himself at Augustus' feet and begged for a humane death. Augustus asked Pollio to spare the young slave's life, to which Pollio responded that as the slave is his property, he will do as he wishes. Augustus then asked Pollio to bring all of the rest of the crystalware in the house. Everything gathered, the Emperor inspected it over, then ordered it all smashed to pieces, then turning to Pollio and remarking that surely whatever was done to his slave for a single cup must now also be done to his emperor for everything he owned. Flustered, Pollio ordered the slave released. Vedius Pollio died in about 15 BC at an unknown age, and Augustus had his residence at Rome torn down to make room for a public monument in his wife's honor.

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Next, in contrast, is a man whose memory was saved only by the coinage that survived.

Cn. Statilius Libo, Prefect of Hispania

AE 22 (Semis?)

Obv: CN STATI LIBO PRAEF, Bare head right

Rev: SACERDOS, Priestly implements


It is assumed that Libo was Prefect of Hispania either during the time of Julius Caesar, the Civil Wars, or else during the early reign of Augustus. His portrait is noteworthy for being more personal and less idealized than was typical for the early Julio-Claudian period.

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Next, a man who is arguably as well known as most Emperors - 

Publius Quinctilius Varus, as Proconsul of Africa, 8-7 BC
AE30 "Dupondius" of Byzacium, Achulla (Modern day northern Tunisia)
Obv: AVG PONT MAX, Bare head of Augustus left, flanked by smaller heads of Gaius and Lucius Caesares
Rev: P QVINCTILI VARI ACHVLLA, Bare head of Quinctilius Varus right


Born in about 46 BC to a distinguished but poor family in Rome, Quinctilius Varus' early life and rise to power are somewhat unclear. His father, Sextus Varus, was on the losing side of Caesar's civil war, may have been one of the senators involved in his assassination, and ultimately took his own life after his defeat at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Little detail survives of Quinctilius Varus, but he seems to have found favor with Augustus, as he received Agrippa's daughter Vipsania Marcella Aggripina's hand in marriage in 13 BC and delivered his stepfather's eulogy the following year.

Varus served as governor of Africa from 8-7 BC, and thereafter was granted the governorship of Syria from 6-4 BC. During this time, he achieved notoriety for his harsh treatment of his subjects, particularly in crucifying 2,000 Jews as punishment for riots after the death of Herod the Great. After this, he returned to Rome to live the good life for the next decade.

Following the successful campaigns in Germania by Tiberius, Drusus, Ahenobarbus, and Germanicus, Augustus created the new province of Germania and sent Varus to be its governor in 7 AD. The facade of a pacified Germany began to crumble, as a Germanic prince and supposed ally, Arminus, delivered news of a growing rebellion over the Rhine. In September 9 AD, Varus along with the XVII, XVIII and XIX legions crossed over the Rhine to make a show of force and scare the barbarians back into compliance. Expecting no resistance, Varus did not keep his troops ready for battle, and chose the quicker route rather than the more defensible one. While marching his legions in a thin line several miles long through swampy terrain in the Teutoburg Forest, the Romans were ambushed in a surprise attack. Despite capable leadership, the troops were largely inexperienced fighting Germans, and after three days of fighting, the Romans were almost totally annihilated - the vast majority killed, some captured, and only a handful escaped back to Roman territory. In the final stages of the battle, Quinctilius Varus fell on his own sword. The victorious Germans cut off his head and sent it back to Rome with news of his defeat. The three Aquiliae of the lost legions were kept by the Germans along with the other booty from the defeated Romans. The majority of the survivors were enslaved, but the survivng officers were tortured to death or sacrificed to the Germanic gods.

This defeat was the greatest catastrophe of the early Empire, and it is said that Augustus utterly lost composure when he received the news, tearing at his hair and clothes and screamed "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!" - "Quinctillus Varus, Give me back my Legions!" This set the stage for Germanicus' famous German campaign a decade later, in which two of the three lost Aquiliae were recovered; the third not being found until the reign of Claudius. All three standards were kept in the temple of Mars Ultor, possibly until the fall of Rome at the hands of the Goths over 400 years later. The legion numbers XVII XVIII and XIX were retired permanently.

This coin is one of only three types that feature the portrait of Quinctilius Varus, as only a handful of non-Imperial Romans were given the honor of appearing on coinage during this time. The coins are the only known portraits of Varus, all struck from 8-7 BC during his tenure as the governor of Africa. Achulla also issued for an equally rare Proconsul the following year (Volusius Saturnius, a cousin of emperor Tiberius); they can be distinguished primarily by the placement of the legend on the reverse.

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Paullus Fabius Maximus, Proconsul of Asia
10-9 BC
AE15 of Hieraopolis, Phrygia
Struck under Theokritos

Obv: ΦABIOΣ MAΞIMOΣ, Bare head of Maximus right


Paullus Fabius Maximus was born in the 50s or 40s BC, the son of Quintus Fabius Maximus, a legate in Caesar's civil war who famously died without apparent cause halfway through his last day as Consul, December 31, 45 BC. (He was famously replaced by Caninius, who served as Consul for just a few hours - historians like to crack jokes like "Nobody was permitted to breakfast nor even to sleep while Caninius was consul!")

Maximus served as Quaestor during Augustus' travels to the East from 22 to 19 BC. At an unknown date in the 10's BC, he married Marcia, the daughter of Marcius Philippus and cousin of Augustus. While serving as Proconsul of Asia, he became part of the very exclusive club of men permitted to appear on coinage. From contemporary sources we can glean that Maximus was a pious member of the ancient Roman religions, particularly in that he joined the ranks of the then-obscure Arval Bretheren, offering annual sacrifices to the gods to ensure good anual harvests. As a wealthy aristocrat, he was also a patron of the arts, and several surviving poems of the late 1st century BC are dedicated to him.

Tacitus relates that in the late years of the emperor's life, Maximus accompanied Augustus on his secret visit to Agrippa Postumus, the last living blood grandson of Augustus (via Julia and Agrippa) who was exiled on account of an unknown mental condition. Tacitus claims that Maximus discussed this top secret visit with his wife, breaking the emperor's trust and earning him a summary death sentence shortly before the emperor himself died in AD 14.

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Asinius Gallus, Governor of Syria
6-5 BC
AE16 of Temnos, Aiolis
ΑCΙΝΙΟC ΓΑΛΛΟC ΑΓΝΟC, Bare head of Gallus right
ΑΠΟΛΛΑC ΦΑΙΝΙΟY ΤΑΜΝΙΤΑΝ, Head of Dionysos right, wreathed in ivy



(Yes, I happened to end up with two)

Born in perhaps the 40s BC, the early life of Asinius Gallus is largely uncertain. He came to prominence in Augustus' inner circle in the late 20s or early 10s BC, and is best known as the second of husband to Vipsania Agrippina, Tiberius' first wife and love of his life. Tiberius and Vipsania were forced apart in 11 BC so that he could be married to Augustus' daughter Julia, although Gallus claimed the paternity of Tiberius' son Drusus, born in 14 BC. Gallus and Vispania went on to have five children together (She was pregnant when the marriage ceremony took place; the true paternity of Marcus Asinius Agrippa is unknown, although per Roman law Tiberius had no rights even if he were the biological father.) Tiberius never recovered from the heartbreak of his forced divorce, and is recorded as having at least once followed his ex wife around, sobbing and confessing his continued love for her. Sometime about 6-5 BC, Gallus was sent to be the governor of Syria by Augustus, at which he joined the mug-on-coins club.

Still a major public figure at the time of Augustus' death in 14, Asinius Gallus attended to some of the preparations for Augustus' funeral, and was one of the many speakers at the event. Tacitus relates that during the transfer of imperial power to Tiberius, Gallus publicly humiliated Tiberius by reminding the public that the ceremony was just a farce and that Tiberius was not a mere reluctant servant in the matter. His arch nemesis now in power, Gallus somehow managed to keep his head down for sixteen years, but is recorded as having been arrested in AD 30, and ultimately died in prison in 33 after about three years of solitary confinement and malnutrition.

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11 minutes ago, Spaniard said:

@Finn235....Wow!...What an interesting thread Steve..

I don't know about others but some of these guys I hadn't even heard of let alone having coins minted in their names...What a unique collecting focus, Fascinating!....Thanks

You're not alone! It's one of those things I'm going to notice everywhere now...

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Nice Magisterial portrait collection @Finn235!  I have many naming Magistrates but only a couple with portraits.



Olba was said to have been founded by Ajax, son of Teucer, who established there a famous temple of Zeus (site at Uzundja-Burdi, 'tall castle '). The high priests in the time of Augustus and Tiberius ruled over not only Olba, but also Cennatis and Lalassis. The coinage begins about the end of the first century B.C. -Numiswiki


Cilicia, Olba. Æ15. Dated year 2 = AD 11-12.

Obv: Ajax, son of Teucer, high priest and toparch. Head of Ajax as Hermes, wearing close-fitting cap right.
Reign: Augustus. Magistrate: Ajax (high priest and toparch)
SNG Levante 633







Augustus Æ18 Semis. Uncertain mint of Germanus Indutilli in Gaul, circa 10 BC.

Obv: Diademed head of magistrate Germanus Indutilli Libertus to right.
Rev: GERMANVS / INDVTILLI L Bull butting to left.
RPC 506.

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I think this depends on how we are defining "non imperial" officials. The person I think of immediately is Marcus Agrippa, though that depends I guess, on just what a non imperial official is. Agrippa was not related by blood to the emperor (Augustus) but was by marriage. Does this allow us to consider him to have been a "non imperial" ? He was a kind of "fireman for Augustus and held several posts where he did yeoman's work for the emperor running hither and yon dampening any embers of resentment at Roman expansion.. His helping create a settlement with Herod comes to mind. So, he may be entitled to be included here in this posting. Perhaps another would be Sejanus for Tiberius, though I don't think there are any coins with his image on them. Anyway, here are tow coins of Agrippa which most readers will identify at once aa a dupondius of Nimes accompanied by Augustus and on an As issued posthumously by Caligula.

IMG_2289Marcus Agrippa.jpg

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@Finn235 Very interesting and rare coins !! Congratulations.

The depiction of Governors,  Magistrates etc on coins  starts long before the romans. So when you are done with the Romans, your collection can go even further.

Here is an example from 400BC. Gamerses, Satrap of Lydia.



Gamerses, Satrap of Lydia
about 400 B.C.
Obv.: Youthful head of eunuch Gamerses, wearing earring and necklace.
Rev. ΓΑΜΕΡΣΟΥ Bearded Zeus, wearing himation, standing right, holding eagle on his outstretched left hand, long scepter with his right hand; in field left, star.
Æ, 1.66g, 12.5mm
Ref.. S. Schultz, Aphroditekopf oder Dynastiebildnis, SM 42 (1992), 113



Edited by shanxi
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Thanks all!

@AncientOne - I think the Asinius Gallus is the most common - that one is offered every handful of months, whereas the Libo is very rarely seen. Using a quick search at ACSearch:

Asinius Gallus - 52

Statilius Libo - 14

Fabius Maximus - 48

Vedius Pollio - 46 (but a lot of false positive hits)

Quinctilius Varus - 7

And @AncientOne - I had planned to do one for Germanus Indutilli but didn't have the write-up done for him yet!

Roman Gaul

Germanus Indutilli, King or Governor(?)

AE18 Semis

Ca 10 BC

Obv: Diademed head of Germanus right

Rev: Bull butting left, GERMANVS INDVTILLI L


Another individual whose history has been lost, it is not clear whether the coin is of one "Germanus Indutilli", or if Indutilli (a Gallic name) was a local ruler and Germanus his freedman given authority over the mint. Regardless, the diadem on the portrait seems to indicate that this ruler was part of the local Gallic nobility, presumably acting as a Roman official.

Interesting, the type mirrors a rare quadrans of Augustus (my coin but CNG's picture since I'm lazy and behind on my photography)



Edited by Finn235
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And another mysterious figure, and one of the very few to appear after Augustus

Pythes, Magistrate of Laodicea


Time of Tiberius

Obv: ΠYΘHΣ, Bare head right

Rev: ΛAOΔIKEΩN ΔHMOΣ, Diademed head of Demos right


Like many of the others, nothing is known of Pythes, son of Pythes, except that he was apparently a Magistrate in Laodicea during the time of Tiberius, for whom he minted coins with his name on the reverse. He also minted civic bronzes with his name but without his portrait.

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And finally - my latest add, and perhaps the last one from this series!

Annius Afrinus, Legate of Galatia

AE 18 of Lycaonia, Claudiconium

Ca 49-54 AD

Obv: ANNIOC AΦPЄINOC, Bare head right

Rev: KΛAVΔЄIKONIЄωN, Perseus, standing, holding harpa and severed head of Medusa


Annius Afrinus, for whatever reason, appears to have been the last provincial Magistrate permitted to place his own image on coins. His issues can be dated somewhat narrowly because he minted coins for Claudius, and to celebrate the marriage of Claudius and Agrippina in 49. He did not mint for Nero, which indicates that he must have vacated his position by 54.

It has widely been speculated that he is the same Marcus Annius Afrinus who served as suffect consul in 66, although his life during that ~12-17 year gap remains a mystery. He was appointed governor of Pannonia during the Civil wars of 69, and held that office until 73, when he disappears from history.

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17 hours ago, kevikens said:

I think this depends on how we are defining "non imperial" officials. The person I think of immediately is Marcus Agrippa, though that depends I guess, on just what a non imperial official is. IMG_2289Marcus Agrippa.jpg

Nice coins!

I personally consider Agrippa to be part of the Imperial series, as: 

- He was the closest thing to the later title of "Caesar" (meaning heir apparent to the serving Augustus) under Augustus until his sons were born.

- He issued no coins under his direct authority (that I can tell - trying to research his obscure issues is difficult on account of the two types you posted).

- Nearly all of his coinage was posthumous and minted either at Nimes or Rome.

- He was not related by blood to Augustus, but he was by marriage, and was the grandfather of Caligula and great grandfather of Nero.

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