The giant Temple of Artemis , the pride of the city of Ephesus, is on fire. It took 120 years of hard work for its construction and was one of the seven Wonders of the ancient world. But the place is not burning by accident ; it’s a deliberate act of destruction. A young slave named Herostratus is arrested, tortured on a rack to finally confessed the reason of his crime : he wanted his name to be remembered forever...After his execution, the magistrates of the city imposed him an extra punishment: the creation of a damnatio memoriae law forbidding anyone to mention his name, orally or in writing under penalty of death. Even if the ban was widely observed for decades, one ancient writer violated the interdiction, ensuring that Herostratus’s name would survive and acquire the eternity he had desired... Damnatio Memoriae or « condemnation of memory »is a term first used in the 17th century AD to describe the punishment in which the senate condemned the memory of a person who was seen as a tyrant, traitor, or other sort of enemy to the state. The images of such condemned figures would be destroyed, their names erased from any writings, coins bearing the image of an emperor who had this sentence would be recalled or cancelled. Many rulers were not officially condemned, but received this treatment anyhow, (it’s called de facto damnatio memoriae) and other emperors were rehabilitated after an initial damnatio memoriae. Let’s take the case of Gaius (Caligula) ; it is not 100% clear if he was officially hit by a damnatio memoriae. The historian Dio Cassius reported that Claudius, his successor, « when the senate desired to dishonour Gaius, personally prevented the passage of the measure, but on his own responsibility caused all his predecessor's images to disappear by night ». On the other hand, he also wrote that « his statues and his images were dragged from their pedestals, for the people in particular remembered the distress they had endured ». Suetonius, the roman historian, wrote that « some wanted all memory of the Caesars obliterated, and their temples destroyed ». It is also known that the Senate decreed the withdrawal and destruction of all bronze coins of Caligula, but they were so many already in circulation that it was an impossible task.So was it a « real »condemnation of memory ? Your guess is as good as mine... On this as of Caligula, the C (for Caius), and for good measure the adjoining C of CAESAR too, have been deliberately eradicated after his assassination. There are many other bronze coins of Caligula showing the same method of damnatio. Portrait statue of Caligula, recarved as Claudius. There are also examples who are not controversial at all. Let’s talk about Domitian. The Senate, immediately following Nerva's accession as Emperor, passed the damnatio memoriae on his memory: his coins and statues were melted, his arches were torn down and his name was erased from all public records. Pliny the Younger says about the destruction of the statues of Domitian: « How delightful it was, to smash to pieces those arrogant faces, to raise our swords against them, to cut them ferociously with our axes, as if blood and pain would follow our blows ». There are only 3 emperors known to have officially been punished by this condemnation : Domitian, Geta and Maximian. In connection with the Damnatio Memoriae, which was decreed on the deceased Domitianus, the image and legend of the emperor were completely erased on the obverse of this coin. Equestrian statue of Nerva (formerly Domitian), from the Sanctuary of Augustales. The face was sawed off and replaced. Caracalla and Geta face to face ; but where is Geta ??? Relief showing Septimius Severus and Julia Domna with a caduceus; the caduceus floats over an empty space where Geta must have stood. But as many as 27 emperors may had their memories condemned, and because I don’t want to be accused of misogyny, let’s not forget the 7 women who suffered the same fate : Livilla (sister of Claudius), Agrippina the Younger (sister of Caligula), Bruttia Crispina (wife of Commodus), Julia Soaemias (mother of Elagabalus), Julia Aquilia Severa (wife of Elagabalus), Julia Mamaea (mother of Alexander Severus) and Fausta (wife of Constantinus). It’s kind of cool to have in our collection at least one specimen of a damnatio memoriae coin, but is it the real thing or is it only a portrait defaced by a shovel strike ? Over the years some coins have been sold (maybe at a higher price?) and described as damnatio memoriae examples, even if these emperors had never been on the list of the “27”. Look at these pictures : Marcus Aurelius with a damnatio memoriae ??? Trajan: isn’t he one of the 5 good emperor ? “Official” or “de facto”, please show me your examples of damnatio memoriae !