Denarius of Trajan, “OPTIMO PRINCIPI”

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Roman
112–114 CE
Silver
Hood Museum of Art: Museum purchase; 163.67.29759

Obverse: Bust of Trajan, facing right, laureate, with drapery over the left shoulder. Border of dots.

Legend: IMP(erator) TRAIANO AVG(ustus) GER(manicus) DAC(icus) P(ontifex) M(aximus) TR(ibunicia) P(otestas) CO(n)S(ul)VI P(ater) P(atriae) ( Emperor Trajan Augustus Germanicus Dacicus, Pontifex Maximus, endowed with power of the Tribune, consul for the sixth time, Father of his Country), clockwise from six o’clock.

Reverse: Mars, advancing right, wearing a helmet, carrying a long spear in his right hand and balancing a trophy on his left shoulder. Border of dots.

Legend: S(enatus)P(opulus)Q(ue)R(omanus) OPTIMO PRINCIPI (the Senate and the Roman people, for the best Princeps) clockwise from seven o’clock.

Label

Trajan’s coinage reveals a distinctive brand of militarism characterized by dynamism and perpetuity. With his “never-aging” adult self on the obverse, the coin develops this image of endurance on its reverse through its depiction of the god Mars, advancing from left to right, as if from one battle to the next. Further, while Trajan had a great respect for Augustus and sought to associate himself with the Julio-Claudians, his coin nevertheless conveys an active militarism that purposefully sets him apart from how Augustus, for instance, portrayed Mars on his coinage. Clad in armor inside a temple, Augustus’ Mars suggested peace or the conclusion of a military campaign.

This text was prepared by Jasper Hicks, Class of 2012 

Not on view

Additional views (1)

Obverse

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    Portrait of a bearded man
    Black-figure hydria
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    Head of a man, possibly reworked from a portrait of Nero, front view
    Sarcophagus fragment with a reclining Nereid
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    S.977.201, Nilotic relief thumbnail
    Red-figure squat lekythos, detail A
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    Standing figurine of Jupiter, detail
    Cup with wheel-cut decoration, view with Raising of Lazarus
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    Draped figure of Dionysos
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    Figure 3. Hearst, Obverse
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    Head of a man, front view B
    Lamp in the form of a head (1)
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    Cilck to enlarge
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    Black-figure Siana cup
    Vase in the form of a bust
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    S.977.21_Sarcophagus_thumbnail
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    YUAG_geniuscucullatus_thumbnail
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    YUAG 1938.1999, "VOTA PUBLICA"
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    Denarius of Trajan, reverse
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