About this artwork
Portraits of important people appear on local currency all around the world. The same was true in ancient Rome, which began producing its first coinage in the late 4th century BC. Early coins depicted the heads of gods and goddesses on the front side, often in profile, while the back depicted animals, natural resources, symbols, and references to historical events. It was not until 44 BC that the portrait of a living person—Julius Caesar—appeared on coins. Thereafter, profile portraits of rulers or other members of the imperial family became the standard subject on coins throughout the Roman Empire.
In the mid-50s BC, it became common to portray ancestors that reinforced an important family lineage. The politician Lucius Marcius Philippus, who commissioned this coin, traced his lineage to the legendary King Ancus Marcius, who was believed to have lived in the late seventh century BCE.
The front (obverse) of this coin depicts the head of King Ancus Marcius diademed and facing right; behind him is a lituus (curved augural staff). The back (reverse) of the coin depicts an equestrian statue facing right on an aqueduct between arches of which are the letters: AQVA MAR. Under horse, a branch tipped.
- Ancient Roman
- Denarius (Coin) Portraying King Ancus Marcius
- Roman Empire
- Struck 56 BCE
- Obverse: ANCVS Reverse: PHILIPP[VS]; AQVA MAR (in arches of aqueduct)
- Diam. 1.8 cm; 4.19 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson