Denarius of Julius Caesar

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Roman
44 BCE
Silver
Hood Museum of Art: Purchased through the Hood Museum of Art Acquisitions Fund and through gifts by exchange
; 2010.2

Obverse: Veiled laureate head facing right, apex behind, lituus below chin
CAESAR PARENS PATRIAE

Reverse: COSSVTIVS MADRIDIANVS (in form of a cross) A A A FF (in angles)

Label

The portrait on this coin is believed to closely mirror Julius Caesar’s appearance, especially in the highlighting of the folds in his neck, his crooked nose and signs of aging.  As the first living person to be depicted on Roman currency, the issuing of these coins also reflected Julius Caesar’s unique (and perilous) status as the first Roman leader to be declared “dictator in perpetuity,” which contributed to his assassination only a few months later. In this portrait, Caesar is depicted with a veil over his head which refers to his role as pontifex maximus, the high priest of the Roman religion. His successor Augustus also donned this pious guise in his public representations, the most famous example of which is a full length life size sculpture at the Palazzo Massimo Museum in Rome (see below).

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

Not on view

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Related exhibitions

Faces of Antiquity: Portraiture of the Roman Empire

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