First Portrayal of Octavian

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Obone, Oct 25, 2020.

  1. Obone

    Obone Well-Known Member

    One of the most important figures in Roman history would be Octavian, or Augustus as he would later be known. Caesar’s heir, he took Rome from a republic to an empire, making himself the first emperor of Rome as well. Despite having a decently long and prosperous reign as emperor, Octavian’s rise to power wasn’t so easy, and this coin is reminiscent of that fact.

    Immediately after his great-uncle Julius Caesar’s assassination on the Ides of March, 44 B.C, Octavian was undergoing military service in Apollonia. When news of Caesar’s death reached Octavian, he went against the advice of army officers and sailed to Rome to determine his fate. Upon reaching Rome, he found that Caesar had adopted Octavian, making him his primary heir. After adopting his great-uncle’s name, Octavian set about carrying out his will. He needed massive funds to achieve Caesar’s wishes, and he demanded 700 million sesterces as the proportion of the funds set aside by Caesar for his Parthian Campaign. Using this fund to raise an army against the Senate’s enemy Mark Antony, Octavian found large support within the senate and Caesar’s veteran legionaries.

    While Octavian was enjoying rising popularity, tensions in the Senate ran high. Consul Mark Antony, another of Caesar’s former generals, was seeking the province of Cisalpine Gaul as his consulship was coming to its end. In the face of Octavian’s new army, he left Rome for Cisalpine Gaul. The previous governor of Cisalpine Gaul however, would not yield his province to Antony. After Antony laid siege against the Governor, military action was deemed necessary.

    On 1 January 43 BC, Octavian was made senator and granted propraetor imperium, or the power to lead an army. He led his army to relieve the siege of Cisalpine Gaul along with the two consuls, and eventually succeeded in defeating Antony’s forces in April 43 BC. However, in this battle both consuls were killed, leaving Octavian as the commander of their armies. After marching on Rome with his eight legions, he was elected consul on 19 August 43 BC along with his relative Quintus Pedius as co-consul.


    Octavian, AR Denarius. Military mint, 43 BC. 3.81g. C CAESAR IMP, Bare Head of Octavian right || SC, Equestrian Statue of Octavian left, right hand raised. Crawford 490/1, CRI 131, RSC 246

    This issue of Octavian holds special significance as it was the first portrait of the young Octavian to ever appear on Roman coinage. Minted at a military mint traveling with Octavian in Cisalpine Gaul, these denarii would have seen usage as pay for Octavian’s earliest soldiers. This issue was minted during a crucial time for Octavian and Rome itself, during his first conflict with Antony, eventually a conflict that would foreshadow the fall of the republic itself.

    Post your Octavian Portraits!
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    Some of his earlier denarii...

    Attached Files:

    eparch, PeteB, Restitutor and 11 others like this.
  4. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    several more here - ( I messed up loading the previous examples).

    aug254LG.jpg Po6my5Yw4aiDL7sQ4T3rHk229Rdgst.jpg m47270.jpg z43532.jpg Cj385RdQTc9Xw4JSQnX8Zf6m7sjEB2.jpg
    Edessa, PeteB, Ryro and 18 others like this.
  5. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...nice coin..:)..i don't have one of those types, but do have two others, one before empire and one during.. octavian(augustus) denarius 001.JPG octavian(augustus) denarius 003.JPG augustus denari 001.JPG augustus denari 002.JPG
    Edessa, PeteB, Ryro and 10 others like this.
  6. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    This is another fairly early portrait of Octavian referencing his then alliance with Marc Antony.
    Denarius of Octavian 40-39 BC Obv Head of Octavian right RV Winged caduceus. Crawford 529/2a Sear CRI 302 3.14 grms 17 mm Photo by W. Hansen 529-b.jpg
  7. Carl Wilmont

    Carl Wilmont Supporter! Supporter

    Nice write-up and coin, @Obone! Great subsequent examples posted as well! You have an impressive collection, @octavius!

    Augustus Denarius Caius Lucius.jpg

    Augustus. 27 BC-AD 14. AR Denarius (19mm, 3.36 g, 11h). Lugdunum (Lyon) mint. Struck 2 BC-AD 12. Laureate head right / Caius and Lucius Caesars standing facing, two shields and two spears between them; above, on left, simpulum right, and on right, lituus left.
    Edessa, Ryro, ominus1 and 11 others like this.
  8. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Great and very historically significant coin Obone, interesting write up as well. Congrats.
  9. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Interesting write-up. Here is my early Octavian, with what might be sideburns or slight beard.

    From Vcoins listing:

    "Note that Octavian is shown lightly bearded here, as he often is in the years immediately following Caesar's death."

    Octavian Thunderbolt (AAA).jpg

    Roman Imperatorial Denarius
    Octavian / Q Salvius, moneyer
    (40 B.C.)
    Military Mint in Italy

    C CAESA[R III] VR R P C, bare head of Octavian right, / Q SALVVS IMP COS
    D[ESIG], around thunderbolt.
    Crawford 523/1a;Sydenham 1326b.
    (3.58 grams / 18 mm)
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2020
    Edessa, Carl Wilmont, PeteB and 11 others like this.
  10. Parthicus

    Parthicus Well-Known Member

    Very nice! Here's a denarius from 36 BC, during the Second Triumvirate; the reverse shows priestly implements, emphasizing Octavian's position as a priest of the Roman religion (he would later become Pontifex Maximus).
    Octavian priest.jpg
    Edessa, Carl Wilmont, PeteB and 9 others like this.
  11. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    This provincial coin was struck at Apamea in the year 4 BC. Augustus Octavian is on obverse, while Nike (Victory) is standing left on reverse. Denomination is Diassarion.

    AugVnik O.JPG AugVrev R.JPG
    Edessa, Carl Wilmont, PeteB and 9 others like this.
  12. Limes

    Limes Supporter! Supporter

    A historically very interesting coin, thanks for sharing.

    Here's my earliest Octavian:
    And the guy Octavian was opposing in Cisalpine Gaul on behalf of the Senate:
    And the guy that Marc Antony was opposing in the same province, who later would be captured and killed by a chiftain loyal to Marc Antony:
  13. jdmKY

    jdmKY Well-Known Member

    Here’s an early portrait aureus of Octavian from 43 BC. It also includes a portrait of the late Julius Caesar.

    DB0FEEA2-9FB8-4463-B100-A5A15ABF9C5E.jpeg 1E27B822-92F0-42A3-9A03-539C608B68F3.jpeg
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page