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commodus's most interesting bronze medallion


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in celebration of the new year of 187 A.D. commodus had this medallion struck image01179.jpg.7b86a4259e1e58c61ada4bc15c915fed.jpg.

Commodus Æ Medallion. Rome, AD 186-187. M COMMODVS ANTONINVS PIVS FELIX AVG BRIT, laureate and cuirassed bust right / P M TR P XII IMP VIII, Tellus reclining left, left arm resting on basket of fruit and cradling long vine branch from which hangs grapes above, her right hand placed on star-studded globe, around which are the figures of the Four Seasons; TELLVS STABIL COS V P P in two lines in exergue.

but more interestingly he also had another version with atleast two dies struck showing him as the god janus



commodus's later coins as hercules are usually noted as the first propaganda of a roman emperor as a living god but these medallions predate that coinage by 4 or 5 years. we know that by 187 A.D. he had already survived multiple assassination attempts and was the first emperor to be "born in purple" in the empires 200 year history, add in his young age and it's not surprising that he would have viewed himself as such.

but having two versions begs some interesting questions, was the janus versions perhaps made only for close allies? was this his way of testing the waters in terms of how people would react to his belief in his divinity? if so they must have had a poor reception as he didn't produce another example until going completely of the rails in 192

anyone have any theories?


on a related note incase anyone knowledgeable about the bronze medallions reads this, do we have any estimate about how many medallions would have been produced from a single die? i imagine it must be fairly low given these were prestige pieces, thanks!

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Posted (edited)

I'm afraid I have nothing to contribute in terms of answering your questions, but anyone unfamiliar with the goddess Tellus, or the meaning of the legend TELLVS STABIL -- which appears only on coins and medallions from Hadrian through Commodus -- may wish to consult my thread at https://www.numisforums.com/topic/5284-a-new-hadrian-denarius-with-a-unique-reverse-type-tellvs-stabil/#comment-68443 , including @Sulla80's comment linking to his blog post on the subject. See also John Melville Jones, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (Seaby, London 1990), entry for “Tellus” at p. 300: “Tellus. ‘Earth’, both in the sense of ‘ground’ and of the inhabited world. From Hadrian to Commodus some coins and medallions were issued with the legend TELLVS STABILITA [here abbreviated as TELLVS STABIL] claiming that the world was, as it were, securely established by the emperor. Tellus is represented as a female figure with the attributes of plough-handle, rake, ears of grain, cornucopiae, globe, vine-branch or basket of fruit.”


Edited by DonnaML
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