صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

than a multiple of the ordinary coinage; and as a logical consequence was put into circulation exactly like ordinary coinage. In fact the medium state of preservation of the Medallions is not very different from that of the common money.

Very few indeed are the Medallions which have been found in a perfect state of preservation, only a few are even well preserved, whilst the greater number are in a worn or even very badly worn condition, a sure indication of their having been a long time in circulation precisely as the mass of bronze coins of other money.

227. Medallions are always rare pieces.
Those of gold are exceedingly rare in the first century,

[graphic]

Fig. 63. — Gold Medallion of Augustis. The most ancient known is that of Augustus (fig. 63), weighing four Aurei, preserved in the Museum at Naples.

[graphic][merged small]

Those of the succeeding Emperors up to Gallienus are also very rare.

Only the memory of some of these remains, for they were unique, the originals having been melted after the execrable theft which took place in the year 1831 from the Parisian Cabinet.

Only about the third Century did the medallions in gold become a little more common. Elagabalus (218-222) caused a large number of pieces of 2, 3, 4, 10, and up to 100 aurei to be coined, and the fact that very few of these have come down to our day is owing to their having been withdrawn from circulation by Alexander Severus (222-235) Gallienus however (253-268) coined pieces as multiples of the Aureus (Biniones, Terniones and even larger multiples) several of which are preserved in our Museums.

The Constantines and their successors also coined many gold Medallions in the fourth century and later as is proved by the splendid series in the Imperial Museum at Vienna.

[graphic][merged small][graphic][merged small]

The series of gold Medallions is closed with the great medallion of Justinianus (527-566) (of a diameter of 850 mm.) discovered in

the year 1751 near Cxsarea in Cappadocia, and lost from the Cabinet at Paris through the theft in the year 1831' spoken of above; among those that still exist the series is closed with the unique medallion of the Gothic King Theodoric (fig. 67) of the weight of a Ternion or three aurei, coined apparently about the year 500, which was discovered in the year 1894 in the neighbourhood of Sinigallia and immediately placed in the cabinet of the author where it remains as the most valuable gem of the Collection ?.

[graphic][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

228. Gold medallions were often adapted by the ancients for use as personal ornaments and converted into pendants, pinheads or clasps, and this is the reason why some have come down to us furnished with a hook (fig. 64) or mounted in an ornamental circlet of gold plate or of filigree work (fig. 66); and some others appear under the fashion of a brooch or buckle, two appendages having been made ab antiquo which were evidently destined to hold the tongue or pin. On one side there is a little ring into which the tongue was secured, on the other the covering piece into which the point was meant to enter (fig. 67).

229. The bronze medallions on the other hand followed a very different course. Those coined by the Senate (with the letters S.C.) are with very rare exceptions those of the reign of Trajanus Decius ; those issued by the Emperors attained their greatest beauty in the time of Hadrian.

1. E. Babelon, Deux Midaillons disparus de Domitien et de Juslinien, in Revue Numismatique", 1899, p. I, seq.

2. F. Gnecchi, Medaglione d'oro di Teodorico in Riv. ital. di Num., 1895, p. 149, seq.

230. Increasing in number under the Antonines (138-180) they

[merged small][graphic][subsumed]

Fig. 68. — Silver Medallion of Mark Antony and Octavia.

After this declining in style, beauty and size with the general decline of the coinage they vanished with the gold and silver coin

CHAPTER XXVII

ART AND DESIGN

[graphic]

231. OBVERSE TYPES. During the Empire the Obverse of the coins always bore the portrait of the Emperor, Empress or other member of the Imperial family and a legend indicating the name and titles: there are a few exceptions to this rule especially among the small brass coinage. We have seen in treating of the Republican coinage, that the Dictator Julius Cæsar was the first to obtain the Senate's authority to engrave upon the coinage his own portrait; and that this example was imitated by Pompey and his sons and by Brutus also (tu quoque !) who poignarded Cæsar in the name of liberty and the republican leaders. Naturally the Triumviri Augustus, M. Antony, and Lepidus also placed their portraits on their coinage and from their example this developed into a right not only for all those who obtained the sovereignty but gradually also for any relations of the Imperial family. Tiberius placed on the coinage the portraits of his son Drusus and of his adopted son Gerinanicus and in short this divine right was also accorded to the ladies of the Imperial family.

The portraits of Livia, the daughter of Augustus, appeared tentatively under the forms of Diana, Pietas, Justitia, and Salus. But M. Antony placed on the coins the portrait of the elder Octavia, his daughter Antonia and also Cleopatra; Caligula did the same for his mother and Claudius for his wife, and so also did Nero. Then we

de' of Trajan, and ladies was generale in Rome was

see the portraits of Vespasian's wife, Domitilla, and of his daughter Domitilla; and of Julia, daughter of Titus, of Domitia, the wife of Domitian; then of Plotina, Marciana, and Matidia, the wife, sister and niece of Trajan, and so on; after this indeed the custom of representing the Imperial ladies was generally adopted by almost all the Emperors. And that which was done in Rome was done even more generally in the Greek cities in the Colonies, where already in the time of Augustus they began to represent the members of the Imperial family on the coinage until at last they reached the point of representing Antinoüs, the favourite of Hadrian, whose portrait never appears on any coins issued from the Roman mint.

232. Thus the Imperial coinage presents us with a complete series of the Imperial portraits. Realism and consistency of type is a characteristic of the Roman coinage and to this we owe the fact that the natural features of the Roman Emperors, as for example of Cæsar, Octavius, Nero, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus, Marcus Aurelius and others are generally far better known than those of the princes or sovereigns of the middle ages and even of more modern times. They are singularly popular and remain as it were engraved upon our memories so that any one who has even a moderate acquaintance with Roman numismatics has no need to read the legends when seeking to recognise them. Such an assertion however is not applicable to the whole period of the Empire because Art like everything else had its beginning, its period of perfection, and then its decline.

Art had been already cultivated in the last days of the Republic and it presents itself to us already solidly established and excellently practised in Rome at the beginning of the Empire.

Although Art was originally iniported from Greece, which in this respect had conquered its conquerors, as Horace said : –

Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes
Intulit agresti Latio.....

(Epis., Lib II, 1, 156.)

“When conquered Greece brought in her captive Arts she triumphed o'er her savage conquerors' hearts,” it had already abandoned servile imitation and had made itself thoroughly Roman.

The period of the Flavian Emperors was eminently favourable to Art which reached its highest perfection in the reigns of the great Emperors Trajan and Hadrian, anong whose coins are a few which are very little if at all inferior to those of the best period of Greck art.

« السابقةمتابعة »