Facing right or left?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Andrew McMenamin, Apr 7, 2020.

  1. Andrew McMenamin

    Andrew McMenamin Well-Known Member

    As most roman imperial coins have the portrait of the emperor facing right, ones with the portrait facing left always intrigue me. Does anyone know if there is any underlying meaning to portraits on Roman coins facing one way or the other. Thanks for your help.

    Constantius II as Caesar, AE Follis of Antioch. AD 330 and 334
    OBV: FL IVL CONSTANTIVS NOB C, laureate, draped, cuirassed bust left
    REV: PROVIDEN-TIAE CAESS, Campgate, 11 layers, 2 turrets, star above, no doors, dot in doorway; SMANTI in ex. RIC VII Antioch 74I; Sear 17657.
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  3. Parthicus Maximus

    Parthicus Maximus Well-Known Member

    Not that I know. I think left busts are the riddles of the Roman coinage, at least for some emperors. They are very rare for some emperors (Domitian, Trajan etc), but also common for some (Probus, some tetrarchs etc).
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
  4. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Eye of Horus

    I have this Domitian Provincial - Antioch. Left facing Domitian with kind of an upward gaze.

    Domitian, A.D. 81-96

    AE 25, 11.7 grams - SYRIA, Antioch ad Orontem

    Obverse: DOMITIANVS CAESAR, Laureate head left

    Reverse: Large SC within laurel wreath, representing Coele-Syria

    Reference: RPC 2016, BMC 246

    Ex-Eng, Ex-JAZ, Ex-JB Good, Ex-Ira Ettinger Collection


  5. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Every single denarius and antoninianus I have from Augustus onwards has a right-facing bust until I get to Probus. (After Probus, I have some 20 mm. billon coins of Constantius II and Julian II with left-facing busts.) On the other hand, the few bronze asses I have -- for Augustus, Caligula, and Claudius -- all face left. In the early Empire, were left-facing bronze coins more common than left-facing silver coins? If so, does anyone know the reason?
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2020
  6. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I also checked the obverses of my small sample of 17 Roman Republican coins. 14 have right-facing busts or heads, one faces both ways (Janus on the M Fovri L.f. Philus [Furia 18] denarius), one faces forward (Medusa on the L. Plautius Plancus [Plautia 15] denarius), and only one faces left (Mars on the Q. Thermus M.f. [Minucia 19] denarius).

    Roman Republic, Q. Thermus M.f., AR Denarius 103 BCE. RSC I Minucia 19, Crawford 319-1.jpg
  7. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    P1190071 vergelijk.jpg

    Augustus facing left is 10 times rarer then Augustus facing right, no idear why.
  8. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    It varies by reign. For the Antonines, it's unusual to find a left-facing bust, and it is always as a variant, never as the normal type. Here are the only two I have of that entire dynasty:

    Faustina Jr AVGVSTI PII FIL Venus denarius left-facing bust.jpg
  9. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    AFAICT, it’s essentially random. I do know that “left” in Latin is “sinister,” but I do not know if they had the same kind of superstitions more contemporary people do surrounding the issue.
    Andrew McMenamin likes this.
  10. doucet

    doucet Well-Known Member

    I don't have any answers, but here is one of each for Gallienus.

    Gallienus Hermes left.JPG Gallienus Hermes  right.JPG
  11. Andrew McMenamin

    Andrew McMenamin Well-Known Member

  12. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Nonsense! ;)

    Gallienus PAX flan chip.jpg Gallienus PAX off center.jpg Gallienus Fecunditas.jpg
  13. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    I am with @Andres2 ... Octavian looks like the culprit... Such a sinister-dude!

    Here is a couple Quinarii that I captured cuz of this SINSISTER mystery:

    RI Octavian as Augustus 25-23 BCE AR Quinarius RIGHT facing bust Emerita Augusta Sear 1642


    Octavian as Augustus LEFT-Sinister 27 BC–14 AD Quinarius Emerita 25-23 AR 13.5mm 1.79g - P CARISI LEG Victory trophy C 387. RIC 1b SCARCE
  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Looks like the Roman Republic went sinister early...

    But, HEY! Those Horses had it right! :)

    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius - Didrachm 275-270 BCE ROMANO Apollo Left-Galloping Horse Sear23

    RR Anon AR Heavy Denarius - Didrachm 310-300 BCE 7.3g 21mm Mars-Horse FIRST Cr 13-1 Left
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
  15. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

  16. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    There are lots of odd lefties. I have some from Flavians through Antonines.

    Antoninus Pius
    Faustina Junior
  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    One would think that given how much has been written about Roman coins in the last 150 years or so, somebody would have come up with some sort of speculative theory by now to explain the predominance of right-facing portraits, or to explain the exceptions. But if there is such a theory, I haven't seen it.
  18. Andrew McMenamin

    Andrew McMenamin Well-Known Member

  19. Andrew McMenamin

    Andrew McMenamin Well-Known Member

    Some very nice coins - I really like that Sabina / Concordia.
  20. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

  21. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I'm sure there was a reason for some but not always the same reason. We know 'why' for some but many are 'just because'. For example, the first issue of FEL TEMP REPARATIO coins came in three denominations. The large and small had right facing busts while the middle faced left. I always wonder if there was a code on the ones where 99% were right and 1% left (give or take) but never figured out why.
    Some are RARE.
    Septimius Severus "Emesa'

    Geta as
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