Denarius of Octavian, “AEGYPTO CAPTA”

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28–27 BCE
Mint of Pergamum
Yale University Art Gallery: Transfer from Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University; 2001.87.885

Obverse: Bareheaded and heroically nude portrait of a young “Caesar” (Octavian) faces right. His nose, ear, chin and adam’s apple are prominent and his short hair curls around his ear and neck. His eye is deep set under a protuberant brow and he wears a subtle smile. Behind him in the left of the field is a lituus, the staff of the augur. A line border encloses the field.

Legend:  CAESAR, right in the field in an upward direction; COS VI on the left, in downward direction (“Caesar, Consul for the Sixth Time”).

Reverse: Crocodile facing right on a line centered in the field. His mouth is slightly open and his tail curls around the left edge of the field. A line border surrounds the reverse field.

Legend: AEGVPTO above and CAPTA below in the field (“with Egypt having been captured”).

This text was prepared by Nina Montgomery, Class of 2014.


This denarius, struck before the adoption of the title Augustus in 27 BCE, commemorates the conquest of Egypt a few years earlier. On the obverse, Octavian is presented with a youthful hairstyle, bareheaded, and clean shaven in a manner very similar to his contemporary portraiture. In an effort to demonstrate his piety, this image includes the symbol of a lituus, the curved staff of the augur, a priest who divined the will of the gods by observing the flight patterns of birds. This coin was part of Octavian’s extensive visual propaganda intended to establish the legitimacy of his autocratic reign by highlighting his piety and military success.

This text was prepared by Mellon Special Projects Curatorial Intern Kasia Vincunas.

Not on view

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BMC 650; RIC I/2, p. 61, no. 275

Related exhibitions

Faces of Antiquity: Portraiture of the Roman Empire
Center and Periphery: Cultural Hybridity in the Funerary Arts of the Roman Provinces

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