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Aureus, struck 19-4 BC in Rome.
Obv.: TVRPILIANVS IIIVIR, Liber head, ivy-wreathed, r.
Rev.: AVGVSTO / OB C S, in two lines in oak-wreath.
RIC² 278 (R3); BMC 5
Picture: Numismatica Ars Classica

 Romanatic-ID: 364

Simon Wieland

19:23:37, 08.02.2009
Note by Classical Numismatic Group:
P. Petronius Turpilianus, L. Aquillius Florus, M Durmius, and the strange Q. Rustius were the moneyers in 19-18 BC. They issued the first (fictional) republican coinage in years, issuing a wide and rich range of aurei and denarii.The big event was Augustus’ return to Rome after 4 years in the East, having won victories over the Parthians and Armenians, followed by a stay in Campania. Augustus chose his moment to return. Not daring to show up in Rome in a time of food shortage, he had to organize food supplies for the City before coming in (this shows that his rule was certainly not as strong as we think nowadays).There is a clear intent of spreading propaganda with these issues. We can’t read each of the messages as well as the people living in Rome in 19 BC did, but we can try to understand better some of them through the issue as a whole.The aurei give us the following picture:TURPILIANUS: Liber oak wreath Feronia oak wreath Liber laurels and oak wreath Feronia laurels and oak wreath FLORUS Triskeles laurels and oak wreath Virtus laurels and oak wreath DURMIUS Honos oak wreathand three special ones:TURPILIANUS oak wreath tortoise shell lyre FLORUS oak wreath flower DURMIUS oak wreath crab and butterflyWe know that the laurels are a symbol of victory, and the oak wreath is a symbol for the rescue of the roman citizens who were prisoners in Parthia. Liber and Feronia were divinities for fertility and harvests. The triskeles represents Sicily, a rich agricultural province (Augustus probably had wheat imported to Rome; so it is also a fertility symbol).In addition there were three special types - each designed as part of the information campaign. The flower is generally supposed to be linked as a punning type for Aquillius Florus, which it probably is. The Tarpeia reverse denarius bears a resemblance to Turpilianus, but, like Flora, represents another fertility allusian. The tortoise shell evokes certainly Mercury, and matches all the denarii types in this group with various music instruments. As Mercury doesn’t seem to be linked with the themes of the year, we could infer, that the tortoise is an evocation of the myth of Persephone, that everyone knew, where Mercury played the lyre in the deal to get Persephone back on earth.The crab and the butterfly have been a mystery for a long time. As we see, all the aurei of the year are celebrating either victory or fertility. These two animals have no link with the harvest or prosperity, nor with Flora, Liber, or Feronia. They are also unconnected to the oak and laurel wreathes, and have nothing in common with Sicily and the triskeles.The remaining types in the above list are Honos and Virtus. Studying the attributes of these two deities explains the coin. The crab is the symbol of Virtus, the physical value and courage of the warrior. We see his armour and his weapons. The butterfly was, in antiquity, a traditional way to picture the soul. On this coin it is the symbol of Honos, the pride and honor of the warrior.