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Reading Roman Coin Inscriptions

The list below will help with reading most of the common inscriptions. Often, the coin will not be centered perfectly or letters will be missing (could also be caused by damaged dies, or a chip missing), however, that will not stop you from knowing what it is supposed to read if you learn some of the below. If for example you see a reverse legend that starts with FE and ends with IO, you will know right away that it actually says FEL TEMP REPARATIO. If it reads GL…..A RO….RVM, then its GLORIA ROMANORVM.

It gets even easier because certain designs always come with the same legend, like a fallen horseman type with the FEL TEMP legend. Once you acquire a few coins you will start seeing the trends, and by looking at pictures on web sites, catalogs, or coin shows you will learn most of the common legends and will have no problems at all. Finally, with time you will recognize Mars, Jupiter, Sun and other images on the coins, and they will usually have a limited range of legends that were used with them. The ’century’ in the brackets in the list below indicates the most common century that the abbreviation was used, as sometimes the same ones were used at different times to mean different things.

Meanings of Common Inscriptions

InscriptionMeaning
ABVNDANTIAabundance or plenty (personification)
AETERNITforever
ALAMANNIAthe Alamanni; a Germanic tribe
AVG, AVGVSTVSemperor
AVGG, AVGGG2 or more emperors, 3 emperors
BEAT, BEATAblessed
BRITBritannicus : a title, when used with
name = defeater of the Britans
CGaius : name, if comes before another C
C, CAE, CAESCaesar : denoted a junior person
CAESS2 or more Caesars
CONCORDIAharmony or concord (personification)
CARITASdearness, affection
C, CO, COS, CONSConsul : a high Roman office
COS IIIoffice of Consul was held three times
COMITIcomrade
CONS, CONSERV, CONSERVATORIpreserver, conservator
DACDacicus : defeater of the Dacians (title)
DACIADacia (ancient Romania), province
DEVICTAvictory over; defeated
DNDominus Noster : Our Lord (4th century)
DDNNour lords (4th century)
DV, DIV, DIVA, DIVODivine : applied to deceased rulers
EXERC, EXERCIT, EXERCITI, EXERCITVMarmy
FFilius : son (used in 1st/2nd century)
F, FE, FELFelix : happy (used in 3rd/4th century)
FEL TEMP REPARATIOhappy times (days) are here again
FELICITAShappiness and prosperity (personification)
FIDESloyalty, or good faith (personification)
FIDES MILITVMloyalty of the army
GENIOto Genius, a protecting spirit
GENIO POPVLI ROMANIto the Genius of the Roman people
GERMGermanicus : a title, when used with
name = defeater of the Germans
GERMGermania : province north of Rome
GLORIAglory
GLORIA EXERCITVSthe glory of the army
GLORIA ROMANORVMthe glory of Rome
HERCHercules
HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERISunder this sign you will be victorious
IMPImperator : leader of the army
IMPARIemperors
INV, INVICTOInvictus : invincible, unconquerable
IOMIovi Optimo Maximo
= Best and Greatest Jupiter
IOV, IOVIJupiter, to Jupiter
IVLJulius : used before emperor’s name
IVVENTjunior, young
LAETITIAJoy (personification)
LEGLegion (of the army)
MARS, MARTEM, MARTIMars, to Mars
MAXMaximus : the greatest
MILIT, MILITVMarmy
MVTVAmutual
NC, NOB C, NOB CAESNobilis Caesar : Noble Caesar
N, NOSTNoster : our (4th century)
Nnepos : grandson (1st/2nd century)
ORBISworld
ORIENSrising sun or fortune
PPius : happy (3rd/4th century)
PFPius Felix : pious happy (3rd/4th cent.)
PAC, PACIF, PACIFEROpacifier, bringer of peace
PART, PARTHICOParthicus : a title, when used with name = defeater of the Parthians
PAXPeace (personification)
PERPPerpetuus : forever (1st century)
PERPETVITAS AVGImmortality of the emperors
PM, PONT MAXPontifex Maximvs : high priest
PPPater Patriae : father of his country
PRINCIPIfirst (among men), leader
PROFECTIOdeparture
PROPVG, PROPVGNATORdefender, used with Mars and Jupiter
PTPater : father (with AVGG; of Augusti)
POPVLIpeople
PRONpronepos : great grandson
PROVIDENTIAEforesight (personification)
RECTORmaster
REDVCIreturning, leading back
REGINAqueen
REXking
REIPVB, REIPVBLICAEthe Republic
RESTITVTORrestorer
ROM, ROMANI, ROMANORVMRome, Roman
SALVSHealth and Safety
SARMATIAthe Sarmatians; a Germanic tribe
SCSenatus Consulto
= issued by the decree of the Senate
SMSacra Moneta : sacred money
SPEShope (personification)
SOL, SOLIthe Sun god, to the Sun god
SPQRSENATUS POPULUSQUE ROMANUS The Senate and the Roman People
STATORstabilizer
PRsame as SPQR above (1st/2nd century)
TEMP, TEMPORVMtime
TRANQVILLITASpeace
TRP, TRIB POT, PTribvnicia Potestas : power of the tribune
TVTATORIdefender
VBERTASfertility (personification)
VICTORvictor, defeater : title
VICTORIAVictory (personification)
VIRTVSVirtue, courage (personification)
VLTORavenger
VNMRVenerabilis Memoria : revered memory
VOT, VOTA, VOTISVota : vows
VRB, VRBIScity

Abbreviations of common Roman Names

AbbreviationName
ANTAntonius
AV, AVRAurelius
CCaius
CLClodius
ESVEsuvius
FLFlavius
IVLJulius
LLucius
LIC, LICINLicinus
M, MAMarcus
PPublius
QQuintus
SEPTSeptimius
SERServius
SEVSeverus
TTitus
VA, VALValerius
VIBVibus

Abbreviations of less common Roman Names

AbbreviationName
CCaeliuss
CnGnaeus
DDecimus
DIDDidus
KKaeso
MMessius
MAGMagnus
OPELOpelius

 

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