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The Republic of Rome by Joseph Kleinman

At the time that Rome was established as a city, Greeks were colonizing the Italian peninsula, Phoenicia was establishing colonies on the North African coast and the Assyrian Empire was poised to attack the Kingdom of Israel.

Rome’s founding according to legend occurred in the year 753 BC. The Roman Republic was established in 509 BC, when the last of the Etruscan kings was overthrown and an assemblage of elders (a Senate) was created to govern the community. This republic lasted until 27 BC at which time Octavian was granted the title Augustus and so began The Empire.

The coinage of the Roman Republic underwent several reforms during its long history. Needless to say, covering the history of those reforms would be far to lengthily an opus to put into a newsletter such as this one. However, there are some features of the later coinage that the collector of classical coins can appreciate. As discussed in an earlier article, ancient coins are one of the few ways in which a person of modest means can secure a genuine ancient art object.

Among the most desirable pieces of numismatic art are the Silver coins of Greece. Especially popular are the coins of the Colony of Syracuse as well as the cities of Corinth and Athens. Building a collection of quality Greek Silver can be quite costly. A single coin of a common issue can easily cost several hundred dollars and the prices can run into the thousands.

The coinage of the Roman Republic on the other hand, offers the collector of quality ancient art the opportunity to assemble a gallery of coins which mirror the Classical Greek style. It should also be mentioned that many of the coin die engravers were themselves Greek. The investment associated with building a quality cabinet of Roman Republican Denarii is miniscule when compared to the cost of Greek Silver. Many pieces in very fine+ condition can be purchased for between fifty to one hundred dollars.

An example of such a piece is the one illustrated below. This is indeed a mystery coin. Here we have a Republican Denarius issued by the Moneyer L. Julius Bursio. This piece struck in 85 BC. shows the god Apollo who was the god of prophecy, music, medicine, the sun god and the protector of flocks. However, on this coin he also wears the wings of Mercury and has the trident of Neptune behind his head in the field. No satisfactory explanation has been given for this type of syncretism this early in the history of Rome.


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