From Art to Artifact:  Making Sense of Roman Coins

Denarius of P. Satrienus

What Does This Coin Say?


The presence of the she-wolf on Roman coinage largely appears to corellate with times of war or unrest in Rome. The Satrienus denarius may have been a statement against the rebel Italians who revolted against Rome more than a decade earlier. The other coins carrying a wolf on the reverse have appeared in similar times of strife, and usually as a source of nationalistic pride or propaganda on the part of Rome.
The helmeted Roma on the obverse, in contrast, reveals comparatively little about Roman history, but provides an interesting view of the changing nature of depictions of Roma throughout Republican coinage. The type and artistic style of the helmet Roma wears varies considerably over these two centuries. Obverse types of Roma decrease dramatically after Sulla's rule; in the few examples that can be found, the helmet has become more decorative than protective in character.