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Roman Republican Denarius: The Most Important Building in Rome


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M. Volteius M.F., Moneyer
AR Denarius, Rome mint, struck 78 BC
Wt.: 3.65 g
Dia.: 17.1 mm
Obv.: Laureate head of Jupiter right.
Rev.: Façade of the Aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini (Temple of Jupiter the Best and Greatest on the Capitoline Hill), with winged thunderbolt in pediment; M. VOLTEI. MF in exergue.
Ref.: Crawford 385/1; Sydenham 774; Volteia 1
Ex Minotaur Coins (private purchase May 2022)

The Moneyer
M. Volteius M.F.

According to Crawford, this moneyer is only known from his coins.  He was moneyer in 78 BC and issued coins with five different designs.  Each of the designs correspond to five different Roman festivals and show the deity associated with those festivals: Ludi Romani (Jupiter), Ludi Plebeii (Heracles), Ludi Cereales (Ceres), Ludi Megalenses (Attis?) and Ludi Apollinares (Apollo).

Reverse Type: The Temple
Aedes Iovis Optimi Maximi Capitolini

According to tradition, the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill was dedicated in 509 BC.  It was considered the most important religious building in Rome all the way down to the Christian era.  The first iteration of the building was burned in a fire in 83 BC and the second building was not rededicated until 69 BC.  Therefore, the temple was not yet completely rebuilt when this coin was struck.  That has led to some questions about accuracy, and whether it is meant to portray the first or second building.  All iterations of the temple had three chambers.  The central chamber was dedicated to Jupiter and housed the famous cult statue made by Vulca of Veii discussed below.  The other two chambers were dedicated to Minerva and Juno.  We see the doors to these chambers on the coin.

Marvin Temeanko, in his book Monumental Coins makes the case that the first building was tetrastyle (4 frontal columns) based on the known examples of Etruscan temples of this period [3].  He uses the tetrastyle temple on the reverse of this coin as evidence to make the argument that this coin type shows the first building and not the second (which was hexastyle).  However, the more common view is that the building was always hexastyle.  Archeological excavations have revealed the original foundation of the temple and Tacitus states that the second building was rebuilt on the same large foundation as the first [2].  The large clear spans that would be needed for a temple with four frontal columns on such a large foundation make it much more likely that the building was hexastyle from the beginning.

Fig. 1: Comparison of the Temple of Jupiter on the coin (78 BC) with the depiction of it during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180). The use of 4 columns was probably artistic shorthand.  It is known securely that the temple had 6 frontal columns during the time of Marcus Aurelius, but it is shown here with 4 (Author’s Photos)

Fig. 2: The original foundations of the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline. The foundations are located below the Capitoline Museum building. (Author’s Photo)

Fig. 3: This model shows the extant foundation in relation to the original temple.  It is located in the Capitoline Museum (Author’s Photo)


Fig. 4 & 5: The above are my photos of displays from the Capitoline Museum that show the Capitoline Hill in the Iron Age (top) and the Archaic Age (ca. 500 BC) (bottom).  (Author’s Photos)

Obverse Portrait: The deity
Jupiter the Best and Greatest

It is clear from the reverse type that the obverse portrait is meant to depict Capitoline Jupiter, whose epithet, Optimus Maximus, roughly translates to “Best and Greatest.”  The obverse of this coin shows a portrait of Jupiter in a somewhat crude, almost archaic, style which does not seem uncommon for the god on Republican coins.  This leads me to wonder how much the engravers may have been influenced by the most famous artistic representation of Capitoline Jupiter at the time: the cult statue housed in the temple.

The cult statue of Jupiter was created ca. 509 BC by the Etruscan sculptor Vulca of Veii.  Pliny notes that Vulca’s sculptures of deities were the best of the period and were valued more than gold [1].  It was made of terracotta and showed Jupiter standing while holding a thunderbolt in his right hand.  The statue was painted in the Etruscan style and had a red face.  The fame of this statue led to a tradition of triumphators painting their face red in imitation of the statue during their triumphs.

The statue was destroyed in the same fire that destroyed the first temple building in 83 BC [2].  However, we may be able to get an idea of what it looked like because there are roughly contemporary examples of terracotta statues of Zeus / Jupiter in the Etruscan style that have survived to the present day.  I took the below photo at the Paestum Museum.  It shows a terracotta statue of Zeus made ca. 520 BC. Note the red face and archaic style.

Fig. 6: Terracotta statue of Zeus at the Paestum Museum.  Note the red face and archaic features (Author’s Photo)
Whether there is a stylistic connection to the statue or not, the thought adds some interest (for me) to the portrait of Jupiter on this example.

[1] Pliny the Elder, Encyclopedia 35.157

[2] http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Aedes_Jovis_Capitolini.html

[3] Tameanko, Marvin; Monumental Coins: Buildings and Structures on Ancient Coins (pp. 139-145)


Please post your:

  • Coins of M. Volteius M.F.
  • Coins showing the Capitoline Temple of Jupiter
  • Coins showing a portrait of Jupiter
  • Capitoline Triad coins
  • Anything you want
Edited by Curtisimo
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That is one BOSS Jupiter... not to mention the AMAZING actual historical structure on the reverse!?!?

Ps, talk about a coup de grace, LOVE the eagle at the top😘

Man, that Volteius is a real MFer. I don't even have one...

Jupiters I do have😄

"Always better to start with a Macedonian shield coin", as all great minds say:



Edited by Ryro
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Lovely and informative write up @Curtisimo! Your personal photos give a interesting view of some of the elements of your write up. The foundations are still impressive, I remember looking at them when I visited Rome in 2014. 

8 hours ago, Curtisimo said:

However, the more common view is that the building was always hexastyle.

It is interesting to note that even the large cistophorus struck by Titus and Domitianus show the temple with four columns. One would think the larger flan would support a display of the temple with the six columns. I wonder why they didn't show the other two columns. 

Anyway, here are my two relevant coins: 





Edited by Limes
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Gorgeous coin, @Curtisimo! Lovely toning! You are justifiably proud of this acquisition for your numophylacium.

This is the closest thing in my collection -- a coin struck out in the boonies depicting the Capitoline triad inside the temple of Capitoline Jupiter.

Julia Soaemias, AD 218-222.
Roman Provincial AE 21.4 mm, 12.48 g.
Samaria, Sebaste, AD 218-222.
Obv: SVΛEMIΛS ΛV[GVSTΛ] SEB, bare-headed and draped bust, r.
Rev: COL• L• SE• [SEB• ASTE•], temple of the Capitoline Jupiter with four columns; Jupiter standing in center between Athena and Hera. Wreath within pediment.
Ref: Rosenberger 36 (die match); Price & Trell 786; SNG ANS 1083.

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Nice! => congrats on adding that sweet OP-winner, Curtisimo


Here is a beauty from my ol' collection ... Jupiter tossing around lightning-bolts (ummm, or "thunder-bolts" ... is there such a thing?)


DIOCLETIAN Antoninianus

284-305 A.D.

Rome Mint. Struck ca. 290 AD.

Diameter: 22mm

Weight: 3.81 grams

Obverse: IMP DIOCLE TIANVS AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right

Reverse: IOVI FV LGERATORI, Jupiter standing facing, head right, preparing to hurl thunderbolt; at feet to left, eagle standing left, head right; XXI " in exergue

Reference: RIC V 168 var. (unlisted officina and with eagle)

Other: flan crack




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Wonderful denarius and write-up! This type is now on the ever growing list of coins I'm actively looking for.

Here is a my favorite coin featuring Jupiter:


Macrinus, Roman Empire, AR denarius, 217–218 AD, Rome mint. Obv: IMP C M OPEL SEV MACRINVS AVG; laureate and cuirassed short-bearded bust of Macrinus r. Rev: IOVI CONSERVATORI; Jupiter standing left, holding thunderbolt and sceptre; to left, small figure of Macrinus standing r. 20mm, 3.21g. Ref: RIC IV Macrinus 76b.

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18 hours ago, Ryro said:

Man, that Volteius is a real MFer. I don't even have one...

Jupiters I do have😄

"Always better to start with a Macedonian shield coin", as all great minds say:

😆 Thanks man and great Jupiter coins!

17 hours ago, jdmKY said:

Petillius Capitolinus- 43 BC

Beautiful coin! Neat how it shows all 6 columns for the second building.

10 hours ago, Limes said:

It is interesting to note that even the large cistophorus struck by Titus and Domitianus show the temple with four columns. One would think the larger flan would support a display of the temple with the six columns. I wonder why they didn't show the other two columns. 

I thought about this a bit when I noted that the sculpture relief of Marcus Aurelius showed the temple with 4 columns too. Surely on a relief sculpture they should have had enough room. The build was certainly hexastyle by the time of MA.

I think it might be because the artist wanted to emphasize the doors to the chambers. Adding the additional column on either side would have reduced the emphasis on the doors and left less room for detail. Note that @jdmKY and your examples shows all six columns but no doors!

I mentioned Tameanko’s theory because I did find it interesting and worth considering. The Etruscan temples this building was modeled after were certainly traditionally tetrastyle. Here is a model of an Etruscan temple from Pyrgi ca. 470 BC.


Wonderful coin additions btw Limes.  Thanks for sharing.

9 hours ago, Prieure de Sion said:

I can't contribute with anything new - just the same type.

That is a wonderful example @Prieure de Sion! You have a great collection. Glad you were able to join and participate here.

7 hours ago, Roman Collector said:

This is the closest thing in my collection -- a coin struck out in the boonies depicting the Capitoline triad inside the temple of Capitoline Jupiter.

That’s a super cool coin RC. I love that they managed to fit all three of the triad in the temple. After the Vulca statue was destroyed in the 83 BC fire the new Capitoline Jupiter statue was modeled after the Zeus at Olympia and was seated. So instead of the cult statues this coin must be showing Jupiter’s annual toga party on the portico! 😃 🥳 Way cooler!

4 hours ago, Steve said:

Jupiter tossing around lightning-bolts (ummm, or "thunder-bolts" ... is there such a thing?)

That coin is awesome Steve! Also... I think thunderbolt is legitimate nomenclature. 🥸 😃 

I don’t often see coins with Zeus in the actual act of smiting someone! Jealous. All my Zeuses are either sitting around on a throne like a lazy bum or inspecting their bolts like “what the hell is this!” 😃 


3 hours ago, Ursus said:

IOVI CONSERVATORI; Jupiter standing left, holding thunderbolt and sceptre; to left, small figure of Macrinus standing

Wow Macrinus looks like a 10 year old that got dragged along to bring-your-kid-to-work day! 😂

Seriously though that coin is fantastic! Great style.

Here is a less impressive IOVI CONSERVATORI struck for Licinius.


Roman Empire
Licinius I
AE Follis, Thessalonica mint, struck ca. AD 312-313
Obv.: IMP LIC LICINIVS P F AVG; Laureate bust left
Rev.: IOVI CONSERVATORI AVGGNN; Jupiter standing left, holding globe surmounted by Victory in right hand, holding scepter in left hand; eagle holding wreath in beak at left; / TS A
Ref.: RIC VI 59

Edited by Curtisimo
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A wonderfully informative post with great illustrations, @Curtisimo!  I especially love the Etruscan terracotta Jupiter statue. And that Volteius type is definitely on my want list; yours is a great example.

I do have two other types issued by M. Volteius:

1. Roman Republic, M. [Marcus] Volteius, AR Denarius, 78 BCE (Crawford) or 75 BCE (Harlan). Obv. Head of young Hercules, wearing lion’s skin headdress, right / Rev. The Erymanthian boar running right; M•VOLTEI•M•F in exergue. Crawford 385/2; RSC I Volteia 2; BMCRR 3158, Sear RCV I 313 (ill.); Harlan, RRM I Ch. 12, pp. 62-79 at pp. 74-77, Sydenham 775. 18.5 mm., 3.96 g., 7 h. 

[This coin, depicting Hercules and the Erymanthian boar -- one of five coins issued by M. Volteius as moneyer during that year -- relates, like the other four Volteius coins, to one of the five principal agonistic festivals which were celebrated annually at Rome, this one specifically to the Ludi Plebeii, held each year from 4 to 17 November. Hercules had a special relationship with the Circus Flaminius, which was where the Ludi Plebeii were held, and was near the temple of Hercules Magna Custos ad Circum (Hercules the Great Guardian at the Circus).  See Harlan at p. 76 for a summary of the legend of Hercules capturing the Erymanthian boar alive, the fourth of the twelve labors of Hercules. Harlan points out that according to tradition, the tusks of the Erymanthian boar were preserved at the sanctuary of Apollo at Cumae -- perhaps establishing a connection of the Erymanthian boar to the Circus Flaminius (where the Ludi Plebeii were held) and the nearby temple of Hercules Magna Custos ad Circum (which was supposedly built on the advice of the Sibyl of Cumae). This may have been the rationale for the portrayal of the Erymanthian boar on this coin rather than one of Hercules’s other labors.]


2. Roman Republic, M. [Marcus] Volteius, AR Denarius, 78 BCE (Crawford) or 75 BCE (Harlan). Obv. Helmeted, draped bust of young deity (Attis or Corybas [male] or Bellona [female])* right (with Phrygian[?] helmet bound with laurel-wreath, and long flowing hair beneath helmet); behind, control-symbol of thyrsus** / Rev. Cybele, wearing turreted crown [off flan] and veil, in biga of lions right, holding reins in left hand and patera in right hand; control mark Θ (Theta) above**; in exergue, M•VOLTEI•M•F. 17.5 mm., 3.89 g. Crawford 385/4; RSC I Volteia 4 (ill. p. 100); BMCRR I 3185 (specimen with control-marks thyrsus & Θ); Sear RCV I 315 (ill. p. 131); RBW Collection 1417 (ill. p. 291); Harlan RRM I Ch. 28 pp. 62-66 [Michael Harlan, Roman Republican Moneyers and their Coins, 81 BCE-64 BCE (Vol. I) (2012)]; Yarrow pp. 168-171 (ill. Fig. 4.9 at p. 171) [Liv Mariah Yarrow, The Roman Republic to 49 BCE: Using Coins as Sources (2021)]. Purchased 6 April 2022, Künker [Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, Osnabrück, Germany] Auction 367, 6 April 2022, Lot 7-793; ex Artemide Auction LIII, 2-3 May 2020, Lot 212.***   


*The authorities disagree on the identity of the obverse bust, whether it is male or female, and whether it can be identified at all. See Crawford Vol. I pp. 400, 402 (“The identity of the obverse type of 4 is uncertain; Attis . . . Corybas . . . and Bellona . . . are suggested, in every case without decisive evidence”) (citations omitted); Sear RCV I 315 at p. 131 (no identification); Yarrow at p. 171, Fig. 4.9 (“uncertain long-haired divinity”); RSC I at p. 100 (“Attis or young Corybas”); BMCRR I 3179 at p. 390 (“Attis(?)”); Harlan RRM I at p. 64 (“most likely Attis”); Künker Auction 367, Lot 7-793 description (identifying the obverse as Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, citing Hollstein, Wilhelm, Roman Coinage in the years 78-50 BC [Die stadtrömische Münzprägung der Jahre 78-50 v. Chr.] (Munich 1993) p. 10, for the theory that the obverse refers to Sulla’s temple restorations or new constructions, including the probable new erection of a Bellona altar on the Capitol and the construction of the Bellona Temple near the Porta Collina).

 I do not have access to Hollstein’s explanation of the basis for his identification of the obverse as Bellona. The book was essentially the author’s published dissertation. See the generally unenthusiastic review by Jane DeRose Evans in the American Journal of Numismatics, Vol. 7/8 (1995-96), pp. 289-293, at https://www.jstor.org/stable/43580271?seq=1, characterizing it at p. 290 as “a book that some numismatists may find helpful,” and noting at p. 293 that “Not everyone will agree with his insistence on seeing references to Sulla or Pompey in many coin types (I myself remain skeptical in several cases, as Sulla especially seems to have far too many tutelary deities).” Absent such access, or any general adoption by scholars of Hollstein’s theory, I think that Attis or Corybas would seem to be more likely identifications than Bellona, given their connections to Cybele, the deity portrayed in the lion biga on the reverse. By contrast, I am not aware of any thematic connection between Bellona and Cybele.  Thus, Attis was a “Phrygian god, the companion of the Great Mother of the Gods (see Cybele), who castrated himself, died and was brought back to life again.” See Jones, John Melville, A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins (London, Seaby 1990), entry for “Attis” at p. 28.  Corybas was “the son of Iasion and the goddess Cybele, who gave his name to the Corybantes (Koribantes), or dancing priests of Phrygia.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corybas_(mythology). See also Jones, op. cit., entry for “Corybant” at p. 74, defining the term as “a male follower of the goddess Cybele. Since the Corybants celebrated her rites by leaping and dancing, clashing weapons and cymbals, they are sometimes confused with the Curetes of Crete, who used to engage in similar activities.”

 **Regarding the obverse control-symbol on my coin of a thyrsus (a staff covered with ivy, topped with a pine cone, associated with Bacchus and his followers), and the reverse control-mark of a Θ (Theta), see Crawford I p. 399, explaining that “a given control-symbol on [385/]4 is always paired with the same control-numeral; no pair of control-marks has more than one pair of dies.” For the control-mark pairings attested as of Crawford’s publication in 1974, see Crawford’s Table xxxv at Crawford I p. 401, listing the Thyrsus and Θ as a known combination (citing Paris, A 16891). See also BMCRR I 3185 at p. 391, citing the British Museum’s specimen of the same pairing.

 ***The generally-accepted interpretation of the depiction of Cybele in a biga of lions on the reverse of this coin (together with the portrayal of Cybele’s companion Attis or her son Corybas on the obverse), is that it refers to one of the five major annual games celebrated in the Roman Calendar, specifically the Ludi Megalenses honoring Cybele – just as the designs of the four other types issued by Marcus Volteius in 78 BCE (Crawford 385/1-3 & 5) referred to four other major games, the Ludi Cereales (Ceres), the Ludi Apollinares (Apollo), the Ludi Romani (Jupiter), and the Ludi Plebeii or Herculani (Hercules). See Crawford I p. 402; Harlan RRM I pp. 62-67 (and specifically pp. 63-66 regarding Cybele and the Ludi Megalenses). See Yarrow pp. 168-169: “Crawford suggestes that the issue is anticipating the moneyer’s campaign for an aedileship and encodes a promise of largitones, or generosity, in his potential staging of the games. Yet, different magistrates oversaw each of these games; the ludi Cereales fell under the purview of the plebeian aediles; the ludi Romani under the curule aediles; and the ludi Apollinares under the praetor urbanus. The moneyer cannot be campaigning for all simultaneously. Instead , we might want to think about this series as a miniature fasti (calendar) or symbolic representation of the religious year. For all we know, the moneyer may have originally intended to strike types for other festivals and for one reason or another simply never did; not all of the five types were struck in equal proportion, those in honor of Apollo being represented by the fewest known dies [see the die totals for each type at Crawford I p. 399].”

 Specifically concerning the Ludi Megalenses, see Harlan RRM I at pp. 63-66:

“The Ludi Megalenses held between 4 and 10 April were the first games of the calendar year. Volteius represented these games with the depiction of a male head wearing a Phrygian helmet on the obverse and the goddess Cybele driving a cart drawn by a pair of lions on the reverse. Cybele, also known as the Great Mother, was a Phrygian goddess whose frenzied rituals were quite foreign to Roman sensitivities. [Lengthy quotation on subject of Cybele from Lucretius’s poem On the Nature of Things omitted.] The Phrygian followers of Idaean Cybele were called Corybantes, but in Latin literature they were frequently confused with the Curetes, who concealed infant Jupiter’s cries on Mount Ida in Crete. It may be one of these Corybantes who appears to be represented on the obverse of Volteius’ coin, but more likely it is Attis, the young consort of Cybele. He is usually depicted in Phrygian trousers fastened with toggles down the front and a laureate Phrygian cap. His act of self-castration is the reason why Cybele’s priests were eunuchs and why in Rome Cybele’s worship remained distinctly Greek in character and was maintained by Greek priests. Romans were prohibited by decree of the Senate from taking part in the priestly service of the goddess. Even the name of the games remained Greek, derived from Megale Mater meaning Great Mother. The goddess did not become part of the Roman pantheon until 204 [BCE]. In that year the Sybilline books were consulted because, according to Livy, it had rained stones more than usual that year. In the books a prophecy was found that if the Romans ever wished to drive out a foreign enemy who had invaded Italy, they would be successful if they should bring Cybele, the Idaean Mother of the Gods, from Pessinus to Rome. [Lengthy description omitted of transportation of Cybele to Rome, with cooperation of Attalus of Pergamum, who had recently become an ally of Rome.] The day of her installation was 4 April 204 and games were held in her honor for the first time. The specific contests of the first games were not recorded, but scenic games were added for the first time . . . in 194. At some point in the development of the games, the re-enactment of the goddess’ reception into Rome became part of the ceremonies. . . . Volteius’ coin depicts Cybele in her typical Greek aspect rather than as the sacred stone that was brought to Rome. She wears a mural crown and drives a cart pulled by a pair of lions, beasts once common to Phrygia.”


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  • 1 month later...

awesome @Curtisimo!!!

One of my pigs (used to be @Steve's)

RR M Volteius Mf AR Denarius 78 BCE 18mm 3.96g Hd Hercules R lion skin headdress - Erymanthian boar Cr 385-2 ex SteveX6


And one of my VERY FEW (does that make them RARE???) ARCHETECTURAL coins! 😄

Roman Republic
M. Volteius M.f..
AR Denarius;
78 BCE
Sear 312, Cr-385/1, Syd-774
Obv: Laureate head of Jupiter r.
Rx: Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, M VOLTEI MF in exergue

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