representations of the emperor and of other members of the imperial
house are of much less significance on the Alexandrian coinage than
on the regular Roman coinage. For one thing, the Alexandrian mint
engravers rarely saw the emperor or family member, and had to depend
on a "stock" bust, shipped from Rome, for a portraiture model. For
another thing, the imperial reverse types of Alexandria were only
infrequently connected with specific historical events. In view
of the status of Egypt as a personal dependency of the Roman emperor,
there did not exist the need for the use of imperial types for propaganda
purposes. This was in contrast with their common use in such manner
on the coinage struck for the rest of the empire. In consideration
of the above facts, this chapter will make no attempt to develop
a comprehensive study of imperial reverse types, but will rather
confine itself to the illustration of characteristic major motifs.
of various empresses appear as reverses, rather commonly, to the
end of Severus Alexander's reign. The majority, however, also are
found as obverse types with names and titles. Plate
XXIX illustrates the busts of four empresses who appear
only on coin reverses. Antonia is a common type for the tetradrachms
of Claudius, as is :Faustina Sr. for the tetradrachms of Pius. The
busts of Octavia and Poppaea are found on Nero's coins of the same
denomination, and are not uncommon. Poppaea's bust does not appear
on the regular Roman coinage.
XXIX is completed by reverses of two coins which are decidedly
atypical in the Alexandrian series. The first shows the bust of
Vaballathus as it appears on a tetradrachm issued during the short
period that he was recognized as co-ruler by Aurelian, whose bust
occupies the obverse. The only other instance in which co-emperors
shared opposite sides of an Alexandrian coin was during the reign
of Diocletian. The second unusual type depicts the busts of Claudius's
three children, Britannicus, Antonia and Octavia, above cornucopias
in saltire. This motif is found only on the extremely rare billon
didrachms of Claudius.
XXX illustrates four examples of seated figures, two of
which represent empresses, while two are of emperors. The types
of the two empresses are quite homogeneous and are intended to portray
them in the guise of Demeter. It will be noted that both Domitia,
on the extremely rare diobol of Domitian, and Sabina, on a common
tetradrachm with her own obverse, are represented seated on a low
throne, holding corn ears and a long scepter.
tetradrachm of Nero which portrays the radiate emperor seated on
a low throne seems to be without special historical significance,
as does that of Pius, which shows the emperor seated upon a dais,
with a soldier nearby. This last type seems to be a random imitation
of the Roman "Liberalitas" motif.
The final two types of Plate
XXX are found on fairly common tetradrachms. That of Claudius
represents Messalina standing, with attributes of both Demeter and
the Roman Fecunditas. The reverse type of the coin of Pius depicts
Faustina Jr. as Eusebia sacrificing by an altar.
XXXI is devoted to various representations of the emperor.
A half drachma of Hadrian shows him standing in a toga, sacrificing
over an altar. The following reverse, from a tetradrachm of Commodus,
depicts an unusual representation of the emperor dressed in the
robes of a priest of Sarapis. Commodus is sacrificing upon an altar
to Sarapis, whose bust is seen resting on a short column. This Egyptianized
imperial type does not seem to represent any specific historical
next reverse is from a half drachma of Antinous and depicts this
emperor's favorite in the guise of Hermes on horseback. The rather
rare group of bronzes issued to commemorate Antinous form a unique
departure from the normal Alexandrian mintage. The present reverse
is from an unpublished variety, but gives a clear illustration of
the general type.
following two tetradrachms portray two common varieties of the emperor
on horseback. That of Probus depicts a type encountered sporadically
from the time of Pius on, and is rare only for Probus, for whom
not more than three specimens of the type are known. The reverse
of Aurelian's coin shows the mounted emperor spearing an enemy.
This type became rather common after its introduction by Marcus
Aurelius. In its use by Aurelian, it probably has direct reference
to the emperor's overthrow of the Palmyran forces in Egypt.
final type of Plate
XXXI depicts a diobol of Hadrian which portrays the emperor
seated on a galley. This coin is clearly connected with the emperor's
visit to Egypt, being dated LIE (year 15), the date of his arrival
in that country.
various reverses shown on Plate
XXXII depict the emperor standing in company with some other
figure, human or divine. The two tetradrachms of the top row illustrate
imperial groups; that of Marcus Aurelius shows the co-emperors clasping
hands; that of Julia Paula is quite similar, except that her own
standing figure replaces that of the co-emperor. No special significance
seems to be attached to either type, other than the hint of "homonoia"
within the imperial family.
next two types are clearly identified with Hadrian's visit to Egypt.
His tetradrachm reverse shows him receiving a tribute of corn ears
from the standing figure of Alexandria, while his drachma reverse
depicts Alexandria kissing his outstretched hand in welcome, The
date on both coins, of course, is year 15.
third row illustrates two "victory" types. The tetradrachm of Commodus
shows the emperor being crowned by Nike. This type is found for
most emperors from Hadrian to Elagabalus and does not seem to have
specific connotations. On the other hand, the drachma of Trajan
which shows the emperor standing above a kneeling king, apparently
refers to his Armenian victories. This latter coin is quite rare.
coin types found on Plate
XXXIII represent drachma reverses. The first two depict
the emperor with Sarapis. That of Hadrian shows the two figures
standing by a temple, and undoubtedly refers to the completion of
a new building of that type in Alexandria. Dated in year 17, the
coin allows for a normal period of construction for a building that
could have been inspired by Hadrian's visit two years earlier. The
other reverse, from a coin of Caracalla, depicts Sarapis in the
act of crowning the emperor. This latter type occurs only in the
reigns of Trajan and Caracalla, but does not seem to have historical
significance. It is quite rare.
remaining four imperial types all portray the emperor in some kind
of chariot and may be considered generalized "victory" types. The
two reverses of Hadrian show the emperor in quadrigas, one of which
is drawn by horses, the other by elephants. Both representations
are quite common and are encountered under other rulers of the period.
The reverse of the coin of Domitian, which depicts the emperor in
a biga of centaurs, is less common but also occurs on coins of Trajan
and Hadrian. Of particular interest is the small figure of Nike,
which is extended by one centaur toward the emperor. The final type,
which shows the emperor in a biga of Tritons, is found only on coins
of Trajan. The present example represents an unpublished variety
of this rare type.