Coin Legends

Reverse Legends

The reverse legends vary much more than the obverse ones. However, there are many interesting designs for the reverses, if you recall the section on collection themes. They would show the emperor standing alone or with some deity or personification, sitting and holding something, or on horseback.

The emperor’s titles could be listed in the legend (sometimes in addition to ones listed on the obverse), or some message. The reverse could
show one of the important gods like Jupiter, Mars, Hercules, Apollo, a personification such as Laetitia (Joy) or Fides (Loyalty), in which case their name will often be inscribed. You could also see soldiers, military standards, captives, temples (some still standing!), animals and many other things, with an inscription giving you more details.

Many lists of inscriptions can be found on the web and in books, so I will not bother to reproduce them all here, just the most common ones. Doug Smith’s list of gods and personifications is one of the best online, which also talks about attributes – helpful in identifying gods or personifications if the name is not given or is missing, based on what they are holding. Also, a good list can be found in Klawans’ book. Eventually, you will be able to recognize these without any resources.

The reverse legend would be often used to convey one of many messages, typicall propaganda. As most people could not read at that time, a simple image helped (tied up captives for example, or Hercules with his club and lion’s skin are unmistakable). There are very many possibilities by mixing up the words and abbreviations. For example:

IOVI CONSERVATORI = To Jupiter the Conservator
SOLI INVICTO COMMITI = To Sun, the Invincible Comrade
VICTORIA GERM = Victory over the Germans
SARMATIA DEVICTA = Sarmatia defeated

A note on Latin grammar. If you really want to be technical and know the exact meaning of a legend, you need to distinguish details in spelling. The words MARS and MARTI both refer to Mars, but in a different way, with the different ending giving a different meaning. A Latin word ending with an ”I” could be dative (’to’) or genetive
(’of’). Another genetive ending has an ending of “ORVM”. The “VS” (or “A”) endings on the first word indicate a subject, hence MARS VLTORI would not make sense. Look at the translations below. The general idea is fairly esay and you’ll be close to the actual thing most of the time even if you don’t get it right on.

MARS VLTOR = Mars the Avenger
MARTI VLTORI = To Mars, the Avenger
VIRTVS EXERCITI = Courage/Virtue of the Army
GLORIA ROMANORVM = The Glory of Rome

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