Coins of Roman Egypt
Greek Dates


Personifications of various virtues, as well as of the two chief cities of the empire, form a class of reverse types that is distinguished both by its frequency of appearance and by its endurance. Nike was introduced by Augustus during the early years of the dated series, and persisted till the final year of Alexandrian coinage, where three varieties appear on the potin didrachms of Domitius Domitianus. The other personifications were introduced by Nero and his more immediate successors, and with a few specific exceptions, enjoyed both popularity and long life at the mint. Most of these personifications had common parallels in the regular coinage of Rome, and show few major modifications.

As a matter of convenience, the types will be listed in alphabetical order. The Greek name will be used for identification, and will be followed in most instances by the equivalent Roman name in parentheses.

Alexandria, a personification of the mint city, is one of the commonest coin types. However, there is a surprising limitation in the number of varieties. The bust of Alexandria was introduced by Nero, but did not survive the reign of Pius. A modified type was reintroduced by Elagabalus, and persisted till Claudius II. Vespasian first used a standing figure to represent the city. With occasional changes in attributes, this type continued through the reign of Diocletian. Until the accession of Hadrian, Alexandria was shown holding a wreath and scepter. At this time, however, the attributes were changed to corn ears and vexillum. After the reign of Gordian III, the standing figure wears a turreted crown, holds a scepter, and (occasionally) a bust of Sarapis. Dikaiosyne (Aequitas) represented equity and fair dealing. She is usually depicted holding scales and cornucopia and either seated or standing. This represents one of the commonest reverse types of the Alexandrian mint, persisting from Nero to termination of the coinage, but is quite monotonous and stereotyped.

Plate XIX shows three standard types of Alexandria and of Dikaiosyne. The bust of Alexandria is a common type, although its appearance on a tetradrachm of Nerva, as illustrated, is quite rare. A tetradrachm of Severus Alexander depicts Alexandria standing with vexillum and corn ears. Below these is a tetradrachm of Saloninus, on which is shown the standing Alexandria holding a bust of Sarapis. The seated figure of Dikaiosyne, in the center row, is a common type, although the particular illustration is taken from an unpublished tetradrachm of Otacilia Severa. The last row contains a tetradrachm of Nero and a drachma of Lucius Verus, both of which depict Dikaiosyne standing.

Eirene (Pax), personification of peace, was also encountered from the time of Nero until the period of coinage reform. The bust type was relatively uncommon, but the seated and standing figures were generally popular. The varieties encountered on both Roman and Alexandrian coins are quite similar. Personifications were somewhat strange concepts to Egyptians and Alexandrians, and so Eirene (as well as most others of this group) frequently had to be identified on the coinage by the addition of her name as a reverse legend.

Eleutheria (Libertas) had a concept as an Alexandrian coin type that differed from that of the regular Roman coinage. Rather than "liberty" per se, she seemed to represent the "rights of the Egyptian people." It is quite obvious that this concept was too idealistic and unrealistic to endure. Introduced by Galba, at a time of crisis, Eleutheria last appears on Alexandrian coins of Otho, issued a few months later. There was only a single type.

Plate XX shows four representations of Eirene, in the top two lines. A tetradrachm of Galba shows a standard bust type. Eirene seated (by an altar) is depicted by a drachma of Lucius Verus which is considered an unpublished variety. Two distinct variations in the standing figures of Eirene are revealed by the tetradrachms of Nero and Vespasian. Below these pieces will be found a drachma of Trajan showing a still different treatment of the figure of Eirene, as she appears in company with Homonoia. The plate is completed by a tetradrachm of Galba which depicts the lone type of Eleutheria.

Elpis (Spes) personified hope. Introduced by Domitian, she persisted through most reigns to the time of Diocletian. Although one of the most popular coin reverses, Elpis has only a single type, depicting her standing figure. With one hand she raises her skirt, and in the other she holds a flower.

Eusebia (Pietas) represented dutifulness and piety. She first appeared on the reverses of Hadrian's coinage, and had a modest popularity till the end of the independent Alexandrian coinage. It is rather interesting to observe that Eusebia was the only personification so recognizable to the Egyptians that it was never necessary to add a legend of identification to her types. She is depicted seated or standing, and frequently is shown sacrificing at an altar. Usually veiled, her commonest attributes are a patera and scepter.

Homonoia (Concordia) was the personification of harmony and concord. Introduced by Nero, the type rapidly became one of the commonest and most popular, persisting through the reign of Diocletian. Her commonest attributes were a patera and cornucopia, or a patera and scepter. She is represented in both the seated and standing positions.

Plate XXI shows the only major type of Elpis, as depicted on a tetradrachm of Salonina, issued during the sole reign of Gallienus. This is followed by the seated figure of Eusebia from an extremely rare half-drachma of Antoninus Pius, and by the type of Eusebia standing by an altar, as found on a tetradrachm of Otacilia Severa and on an unpublished drachma of Hadrian. The plate is completed by two types of Homonoia. An extremely rare half-drachma of Aelius Caesar shows the seated figure, while a drachma of Philip I has a pleasing representation of the standing figure.

Kratesis, as represented on the Alexandrian coinage, had no exact parallel on the regular coins of Rome. Roughly, this male figure personified the authority of the Roman government. He appeared as a companion type to Eleutheria, under Galba, and made a final appearance shortly thereafter on the coins of Otho. All representations of this type are scarce.

Moneta (Moneta) personified money and mintage. She did not appear on the coinage until the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Never common, the type disappears during the reign of Septimius Severus. She is depicted standing, holding scales and cornucopia.

Nike (Victoria) represented victory, and seems to have been regarded as goddess of victory at Alexandria, rather than as a mere personification. Nevertheless, she is included in this chapter, as her original status was that of a personification. She was one of the earliest types introduced by Augustus, and persisted as perhaps the commonest reverse motif from that time on, even being found in the brief post-Diocletian coinage of Domitius Domitianus. Her normal attributes are wings, wreath and palm. There are a very considerable number of types and varieties.

Pronoia represented the anticipation of a major event, such as the completion of a Sothic cycle or the arrival of an emperor. There does not seem to have been a direct identification with the Roman personification Providentia. Appearing late in the reign of Hadrian, Pronoia is found in a few scattered instances in some of the later reigns, the last of which is that of Septimius Severus.

Roma personifies the imperial seat of government the city of Rome. Introduced by Nero, in his first year of coinage, the motif persists till the final year of Diocletian, although somewhat irregular in appearance. The usual type is as an Amazon, armed and helmeted, seated or standing. The bust (always helmeted) appears occasionally. An unusual type, found only in the reign of Nero, shows the Demos-of the Romans as a standing figure with scepter and cornucopia.

Semasia was a localized personification that may best be described as "Alexandria riding on horseback." She wears the elephant cap of Alexandria, and appears astride a galloping horse. Her type is found only during two years of Marcus Aurelius's reign, if one wishes to except the semi-medallic drachmas of Philip's tenth Alexandrian year. All coins showing the type of Semasia are scarce.

Tyche (Fortuna) was the personification of fortune. Introduced by Domitian, she remained a popular and common coin motif through the reign of Diocletian. Depicted holding a rudder, she is found seated, standing, or reclining on a couch. There is little variation in the types, however, and the over-all effect is monotonous.

Plate XXII shows the single type of Kratesis (standing) on a tetradrachm of Otho, and the single type of Moneta (also standing) on a drachma of Marcus Aurelius. The balance of the plate illustrations are concerned with types of Nike. Her bust is shown as it appears on a tetradrachm of Hadrian. Nike standing, facing to the front, is depicted on a potin didrachm of Domitius Domitianus. Tetradrachms of Philip I and Probus depict Nike advancing and flying, respectively.

Three additional Nike types are found on Plate XXIII. On a drachma of Pius she is shown inscribing a shield. This coin represents an unpublished variety. An unpublished tetradrachm of Geta Caesar presents Nike driving a quadriga. Although previously unknown for Geta, the type is not uncommon. Twin Nikai hold a shield on a tetradrachm of Gallienus. A tetradrachm of Hadrian, which follows, shows Pronoia standing. The plate is completed by the bust of Roma as it appears on a tetradrachm of Nero, and by Roma seated (holding a small figure of Nike) on an extremely rare drachma of Faustina Jr.

Plate XXIV completes the types of Roma. The standing figure is shown on a drachma of Severus Alexander, of which only one other specimen is known to me. The type itself, however, is not rare. A tetradrachm of Nero shows the shortlived type of Demos of the Romans. The remaining four illustrations show Semasia riding, from a drachma of Lucius Verus, and three representations of Tyche. A drachma of Hadrian depicts her reclining on a couch, while tetradrachms of Philip II and Gallienus show her seated and standing, respectively.



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