Coins of the Twelve Caesars – GLOSSARY – read online




Comprising Expressions most frequently used in Descriptions of Coins.

Acerka.—A sacrificial instrument; a little coffer of incense.

Adspebsorium. —A sacrificial instrument; a vessel for holy water, with which the priest sprinkled the assistants.

Apex.—A cap with strings, and terminating with a tuft; badge of the pontificate.

Apis.—Appears as a bull with a kwiat of the celtis, or lotus, of botanists, between his horns.

Astabte.—A Sidonian goddess; appears on a globe supported by a chariot of two wheels, and drawn by two horses.

Bronze — First, Second, Third.—Ancient copper or bronze coins are divided, for convenience, into three classes, viz. : First, Second and Third Bronzes. A “First Bronze” (the sestertius) is about the size of an English penny, and weighs from 478 to 383 grains., (This class ceases with Gallienus, a.d. 260.) A “Second Bronze” (the dupondius) is about half the size of the ” First,” and weighs 208 grains. A ” Third Bronze” (the reduced as) is from the size of the American dime to a size one half larger. (See Size.) Pure copper was not used by the ancients so much as Bronze, or copper mixed with zinc. This made a hard and durable metal, sufficiently hard, indeed, that working tools (chisels, saws, axes, etc.) and weapons of war were forged from it. Many references to this are found in the Iliad.

Caduceus. A white wand or rod, generally having wings; symbol of peace and concord.

Caesar. Originally denoted only the adopted son of Julius Cajsar; afterward the Emperors named their successors Caesars; and, from the time of Nero, the Emperors themselves often bore that title, as a distinguishing mark of succession to the imperial purple.

Carpentum. The divine chariot which carried the image of a deity in sacred processions; a badge of consecration of an Empress.

Cloaked. Wearing the paludamentum, or General’s military cloak. It was of a scarlet color.

Coin. From Lat. cuneus, wedge. A piece of metal on which certain characters are stamped, making it legally current as money. The first coins were struck about B.C. 850. Herodotus tells us that the Lydians first coined gold.

Consecration Coins. These are coins struck in honor of a person after death; a sort of medallic grave-stone. They form a numerous class in the Roman series, a large proportion of the Emperors, etc., being thus honored.

Deities.—Those most frequently found on coins are as follows, viz. : Esculapius, known by his bushy beard and his leaning on a club with a serpent twined around it. Apollo, known by the harp, the laurelbranch, the tripod, and sometimes by the bow and arrows; in the character of the Sun (in which he generally appears on Roman coins) his head is surrounded with rays. Diana, known by the crescent, bow and arrows and by her hounds; the Ephesian Diana, common on Greek imperial coins, appears with a number of mammae. Hercules, known by the club, the lion’s skin and sinewy strength; sometimes a cup is added to imply that wine inspires courage; also the poplar-tree, symbolic of vigor. Juno, known by the peacock. Jupiter, known by his eagle and thunderbolt; Jupiter Ammon is distinguished by the ram’s horn twisting around his ear, a symbol of power and strength. Mars, known by his armor and sometimes by a trophy on his shoulders. Mercury, known by the caduceus and the purse which he holds in his hand; he wears a small cap on his head and wings behind his ears and at his feet. Minerva, known by her being in armor, holding a spear in her right hand and a shield, with Medusa’s head, in her left; an owl commonly stands beside her. Neptune, known by the trident or the dolphin; sometimes drawn by sea-horses. Venus, known by the apple which she holds in her hand — the prize of beauty; sometimes by her total want of dress.

Denarius. This word, rendered in the Scriptures “penny,” was the name given to the principal Roman silver coin from its being at first equivalent to ten asses, but on the reduction of the weight of the as it was made equal to sixteen asses, and though the soldier nominally received a denarius per diem, he was only paid ten asses.

Diadem. The diadem or vitta was a ribbon worn around the head, and tied in a floating knot behind, anciently the simple but superlative badge of a king. In the family of Constantino it is ornamented on either edge with a row of pearls.

Dioscuri; or Sons of Jupiter. A name given to the hero twins Castor and Pollux. Was one of the earliest and most favorite types of the Roman coinage. The birth of the twins in an egg is the reason of representing them in the peculiar cap which they always wear, evidently the half of an egg-shell. They are nearly always represented with two stars over their heads (according to the fable, they were transformed into stars, in which character they occupy a place among the Signs of the Zodiac. Occasionally their heads only are represented, as two profiles joined at the back, with a star over each.

Eagle. Very frequent on the coins of Alexander the Great and the Ptolemies; commonly seen on the reverse together with Jupiter.

Incused. The original mode of coining money was by striking a piece of metal into a mould or die, by means of a wedge or punch, until the piece of metal was sufficiently driven into the mould to receive a perfect impression. The money thus produced had, of course, one perfect side — that driven into the die —the other being marked with the deep, and, at first, irregular indent of the punch. This process was gradually improved by making the punch more regular in form, the mode of doing which varied In different places. When the designs on the punch were in relief, they were formed in concave, or incused, on the coin. The punch was made in this form with the intention, no doubt, of increasing the power of that instrument to drive the piece of metal about to be coined well into the mould. In common parlance we say a coin is ” struck ” (incused) when formed in the mint. Formerly all money was incused by hammers and weights as jewelers now-a-days make metallic ornaments and medals; but in the modern mints, money is pressed by machinery.

Laureated. Wearing a laurel crown.

Milling. Ancient money was not milled, as this requires machinery not known to the ancients. The edges of old coins are always irregular, often cracked and rude.

Mint. From Lat. moneta, the mint, coined money, from Moneta, a surname of Juno, in whose temple at Rome money was coined.

Mint-Marks. Every Roman Mint (and they were numerous) impressed a mint-mark peculiar to itself upon each coin struck. The quantity of bronze money of the Roman Empire, that is continually coming to light, is amazing. This money is rarely counterfeited, for it is too plenty and cheap to pay the forger, and the collector may feel a confidence in the genuineness of this which he cannot feel in gold and silver coin. To account for this abundance, we need only consider four points : 1. A large number of Mints were worked for a thousand years, striking this cheap ” money of the people,” the Mint at Rome alone employing over 1,000 workmen, besides slaves. 2. Whenever the Roman authorities took possession of a new country, they deposited large quantities of the cheap coinage in the earth, thus establishing “squatter sovereignty” at the butts and bounds of the territory; it was also a Roman custom to bury money with their dead. 3. For want of banks, the earth was made the treasury of the people, as even now it is in the Turkish Empire. Robbers concealed their spoil in the earth, A Roman legion, going into battle, usually deposited the money of the soldiers in the earth. 4. Immense quantities of cheap money are lost in daily use, and so return to the earth from whence they came. It is safe to estimate that the number of coins lying under ground in the extended territory of old Rome counts by millions of millions. With it are found much gold and silver.

Moneyer. A mint-master, or Triumvir Monetalis. The office of mintmaster was held by three individuals at one time; hence the title of Triumvir Monetalis. It is a singular fact that after the reign of Augustus all mention on coins of the name and title of the masters of the mint entirely disappears, although the office of IIIVIR MONETALIS was still continued.

Numismatics. The science of coins. The term ” coin-study ” has been recommended as a better expression.

Palm-Tree. A frequent coin-emblem, symbolic of Phoenicia and Syria, where that tree flourished. The palm-branch is symbolic of victory.

Paludamentum. The military cloak of the Roman General was called paludamehtum. The Roman Emperors, or Generals (for they were all military commanders), are very frequently seen on their coins, wearing this cloak.

Paludated. Wearing the Paludamentum.

Patinated.—A coin in patinated when colored by age; this patina is often extremely rich in color according to the constituent parts of the metal. Don’t try to clean a bronze coin. Get off the rust sufficiently to enable you to read it, both obverse and reverse, but no more. Gentle friction, assisted by mild soapsuds, will remove all the rust from bronze coins that need be removed. The rust itself is part of its history; it is as the wrinkles and gray hair of the aged; when thoroughly patinated it is most beautiful. A coin that has been dipped in acid partakes of the ” cheap and nasty.” Gold alone refuses rust, coins of gold being found generally in the same state of brightness as when they left the hammer.

Peacock.— The bird of Juno, the queen of heaven. One of the badges of consecration of an Empress.

Secespita.—An instrument of sacrifice; an oblong hatchet or large knife for killing the victim.

Sistrum.—An emblem of Egypt; it being an instrument like an elongated horseshoe, made of brass, fixed on a handle, with loose bars across from side to side, which made a jingling noise when it was shaken, and some specimens seem to be made with the horseshoe-like part hollow to increase the sound. It was carried by the priests of Isis, and used by them in their religious ceremonies.

Size.— The size of coins is given in sixteenths of an inch, the “American Standard.”

Types or Divinity.—These are the Radiated Crown; an Eagle grasping either the Lightning or the Globe; Temples, Altars and Sacrifices; the open Car drawn by Elephants; the attribute of DIVVS, whether with or without the Radiated Crown; and Stars. These Types of Divinity, found upon coins, are all enumerated by the poet Lucan: “Bella pares superisfacient civilia D1VOS: FVLMINIBVS maneis RADIIS que ornabit et ASTRIS, Inque Deitm TEMPLIS jurabit Roma per umbras.” ” Ev’n Gods of men these civil wars shall make Equal lo thoee above, with Lightnings deck, With Radiant Crowns and Stabs, the dead; and Rome Shall in their Temples swear in times to come.”

Victoriola.—A small image personifying victory; usually holding a wreath or branch.

Victory.—A life-size female figure; the personification of victory.

Weight.— The weight of coins is given in grains (Troy weight), 24 to the pennyweight.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *