Roman chariots on coins

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Limes, Oct 16, 2019.

  1. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    For some reason I am drawn to Roman coins depicting chariots. Sadly for me, those coins, combined with the specific era I seem to be more and more focussing on, are most of the time way out of my financial league. But every now and then one appears within financial reach and luckily I was able to obtain a very special one, shown below. Thank you for reading in advance. (NB, I'm not a professional in history, or native speaker. So i don't have access to lots and up-to-date literature, get most of my information online, and my English is not the best. If you have anything to comment on the content, feel free to post it.)

    The coin that started my homework is my latest addition to my collection: a denarius struck under Nero, for Divus Claudius, in Lugdunum in 54/55 AD. It was struck just after the death of Claudius. The reverse shows a Roman tensa. It looks like a small temple on wheels, and is pulled by four horses. On the top of the tympanum are four little horses and two victories left and right. I can’t figure out what exactly is displayed on the sides of the tensa, but on a sharply struck aureus of this type I found on acsearch (which, unfortunately but not unsurprisingly is way out of my budget) there seem to be figures and discs, and on the tympanum there seem to be a simpulum and more discs. According to one auction house that comments on this type (very briefly though), the coin was struck to commemorate the triumph of Claudius in AD 44, being the conquest of Britain. Interesting here to note is that in Republican times, the tensa (tensae) were used in a circus parade (pompa circensis) to carry the statues of Gods and their attributes to the circus. During the reign of Caesar the pompa circensis were altered in route and appearence and images and the sellae of members of the imperial family were carried a long as well. It evolved to the situation that images of the family members of the emperor joined the images of the Gods, and, since the route became similar to that of a triumph, so did the appearence. It’s here that you can see the two elements (or so it seems to be) combined in the reverse of the coin: Claudius, deified, having his place with the other deities and the images on the carriage itself likely showing his succesful campaign in Britain.
    It’s a rare coin according to the auction house i got it from. It’s not the most prettiest coin, compared to the other few examples I found on acsearch. Nevertheless, I am very happy with it and it’s a big step towards finalizing my 12C set in silver.

    Next is the chariot driven by Tiberius as triumphator. I have shown this one here before, so I will be brief. Tiberius only struck two denarii: the tribute penny and this one. Both types were used by Augustus as well, so it reflects an attempt by Tiberius to create a connection between his reing and that of his predecessor. So I wonder, why these two specific types? I could not find a complete explanation online, so here is my theory: about the tribute penny; I think it is fair to state that the obvious line here would be the Livia-connection: she was the wife of Augustus and the mother of Tiberius. For the second denarius type (the type below) it is good to note that the denarius was struck only in 15/16 AD, and Augustus died in 14 AD. The triumph depicted on the reverse of the denarius was held in 13 AD, commemorating the victories over the Germans. According to Suetonius, during this triumph it was suggested that Tiberius was to be given honorable 'nicknames', like Pius, or Pannonicus. This was refused by Augustus, stating that the name Tiberius was to be given after the death of Augustus (i.e. ‘Augustus’) would suffice. Things evolved quickly for Tiberius after this triumph, and the Senate passed a law stating Tiberius and Augustus would control the provinces together and both exercise the high and honorable position of censor. Hence, I think that this reverse might also have the purpose initially to remind the people of Rome of that specific occassion, the moment he was ‘officially’ named heir of Augustus, by Augustus himself. The denarius depicting Augustus on the obverse and the same reverse of the Tiberius denarius was struck in 13/14 AD under Augustus. It seems not unlikely that those two denarii circulated in 15/16AD together, making this 'link' much stronger. To me this coin is much more symbolic than just a denarius merely depicting Tiberius as triumphator celebrating the victory over the Germans.

    The last one is a denarius of Augustus. The denarius is struck in 18 BC. It is not a portrait coin, but that is what made it very appealing to me. The reverse shows a 4hp chariot, but without a driver. The obverse and reverse refer to the succesful campaign of Augustus in Armenia (Tiberius as general) and the return of the standards Crassus lost to the Parthians in 53 BC at the battle of Carrhae (see also the denarius of Augustus, RIC 288). So, what I was wondering is why no one is driving this triumphal quadriga. I could not find much information about this, but it seems that on return, Augustus refused a triumph, but nevertheless received the accompanying attributes. An army standard (aquila) is shown which may refer to the lost standards, as well as the attributed awarded to a triumphator (toga picta, laurel crown). The reverse (or obverse?) shows the chariot driven by the four horses to the tempel of Mars where the retrieved standards (also the ones lost to Parthia by Mark Antony) were placed. Losing the standards was extremely humiliating to the Romans and Augustus was under pressure by the populace to wage war for their return. One can image that chosing for the route of diplomacy was not without risk and the fact that his decission led to one of Augustus’ most significant diplomatic accomplishments had to be emphasized, but perhaps not in the form of a parade for the triumphator. Interesting to note is that this accomplishment is als shown on the Augustus of Prima Porta!

    Post your chariots and anything else you think is relevant.

    Sources used: Sear 2000, Suetonius 2010 (Dutch), acsearch, wikipedia (of course...),,, several auction house sites, such as NAC
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  3. Alegandron

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

    Wow, nice write-up, and great Denarii, @Limes ! I really like your Augustus.

    Most of my chariots are from the Republic.

    Julius Bursio 85 BCE
    Apollo Mercury
    Sear 268 Crawford 352/1

    ANONYMOUS! 86 BCE (VERY unusual that no moneyer depicted in this late period)
    Jupiter in Quadriga
    Sear 266 Crawford 350A/2


    Memmius 87 BCE
    Saturn SC (decree of the Senate)
    Venus driving Biga with Cupid
    Sear 262 Crawford 349/1
  4. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Great write up and great coins, thanks for sharing Limes.

    P1170390 (2).JPG
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  5. Ancient Aussie

    Ancient Aussie Supporter! Supporter

    Some really nice chariot coins Limes and interesting write up. Only have one chariot coin with miniature horses. 218344.jpg Augustus denarius 18 BC, Spanish mint (Colonia Partica?) Denarius AR 17mm., 3,48g.
    CAESAR AVGVSTO, laureate head right / S P -Q R, temple of Mars Ultor: round-domed, tetrastyle temple set on podium of three steps, within which is a chariot right, carrying an aquila and miniature galloping horses.

    RIC 119.
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  6. Orielensis

    Orielensis Well-Known Member

    Nice coins and interesting write-up, @Limes !

    Since horse riding is another hobby of mine, riders and chariots on Roman coins fascinate me. I started to build a small collection of the different chariot types. Below are some examples.

    The biga, drawn by two horses or other animals, is the smallest chariot depicted on Roman Republican coins. The earliest Roman coins with a biga show the moon-goddess Luna, on later coins we usually see female goddesses like Victory, Venus, Juno (sometimes with goats), Diana (often with stags), Ceres (with snakes) or Cybele (with lions). Here are two bigae of horses and one biga of goats:

    Römische Republik – Denar, Renius, Ziegenbiga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: Gaius Renius, AR denarius, 138 BC, Rome mint. Obv: helmeted head of Roma r.; behind, X. Rev: Juno in biga of goats r., wearing diadem and holding sceptre and reins in l. hand and whip in r. hand; below, C. REN; in exergue, ROM[A]. 16mm, 3.41g. Ref: RRC 231/1.

    Römische Republik – Denar, fourée, Cipius, Roma und Victoria in Biga (neues Foto).png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: Marcus Cipius M. f., fourrée denarius, 115–114 BC, Rome mint (prototype). Obv: Helmeted head of Roma r.; before, M CIPI M F upwards; behind, X. Rev: Victory in biga r., holding reins in l. hand and palm-branch tied with fillet in r. hand; below, rudder; in exergue, ROMA. 17mm, 2.95g. Ref: RRC 289/1.

    Römische Republik – Denar, Flaminius Chilo, Victoria in Biga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: Lucius Flaminius Chilo, denarius, 109–108 BC, Rome mint. Obv: helmeted head of Roma right, X in front, [RO]MA behind (graffiti at 1 h). Rev: Victory with wreath in biga right, L FLAMIN - CILO in exergue. 17mm, 3.74 g. Ref: RRC 302/1; RSC Flaminia 1.

    Here is an unusual triga. Only two Roman Republican coins show a chariot drawn by three horses!

    Römische Republik – Denar, fourree, Naevius, Triga..png
    Roman Republic, moneyer C. Naevius Balbus, denarius serratus (fourée), 79 BC, prototype from Rome mint. Obv: Diademed head of Venus right, SC behind. Rev: Victory in triga right, C NAE BALB in exergue. Ref: Crawford 382/1. 16mm, 3.11g.

    The quadriga, drawn by four horses, is often depicted as the chariot of the gods. I was also used in triumphs, in the consular procession, and in honoring the victor of the public games. The quadriga races constituted the most important discipline in Roman chariot racing. Here are some of my quadrigae – note the different horse gaits emphasized on the coins:

    Römische Republik – Denar, Domitius Ahenobarbus, Jupiter in Quadriga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: Cn. Domitius Ahenobarbus, AR denarius, 116–115 BC, Rome mint. Obv: helmeted head of Roma r., with curl on l. shoulder; before, ROMA upwards; behind, X. Rev: Jupiter in quadriga r., holding thunderbolt in l. hand and (laurel-)branch in r. hand; in exergue, CN · DOMI. 20mm, 3.80g. Ref: RRC 285/1.

    Römische Republik – Denar, Pansa, Jupiter in Quadriga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: C. Vibius Pansa, AR denarius, 90 BC, Rome mint. Obv: laureate head of Apollo r.; behind, PANSA downwards; before, control-mark. Rev: Minerva in quadriga r., holding spear and reins in l. hand and trophy in r. hand; in exergue, C VIBIVS C F. 19mm, 3.67g. Ref: RRC 342/5b.

    Römische Republik – Denar, C. Gargonius, M. Vergilius, Ogulnius, Apollo, Quadriga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyers: C. Gargonius, M. Vergilius, Ogulnius, AR denarius, 86 BC, Rome mint. Obv: head of Apollo r., wearing oak-wreath; below, thunderbolt. Rev: Jupiter in quadriga r., holding reins in l. hand and hurling thunderbolt with r. hand. 20mm, 3.72g. Ref: RRC 350A/2.

    Römische Republik – Denar, L Julius Burso, Genius or Apollo:Quadriga.png
    Roman Republic, moneyer: L. Iulius Bursio, AR denarius, 85 BC, Rome mint. Obv: male head r., with attributes of Apollo, Mercury and Neptune; behind, control-mark (grapes). Rev: L.IVLI.BVRSIO; Victory in quadriga r., holding reins in l. hand and wreath in r. hand; in field, controlmark (FI). 21mm, 3.76g. Ref: RRC 352/1c.
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  7. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Here is my Tiberius

    TIB new.jpg

    ...and here is the Augustus version with Tiberius as Caesar

    Augustus and Tiberius RIC 224.jpg
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  8. Ryro

    Ryro You'll never be lovelier than you are now... Supporter

    Very nice write up and great coins all around!
    Greeks in chariots:
    Barbarians in chariots:
    648EA41A-5ACF-4F71-8BA2-59BA1813FAAE.png Romans in chariots:
    Dead people in chariots:
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  9. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    How about a chariot with snakes, and a plumb bob.
    M. VOLTEI. M.F. Cr. 385.3 plumb bob Art Ast 6.11.16.jpg
    M. VOLTEI. M.F. Cr. 385.3 plumb bob Art Ast 6.11.16 rev.jpg
  10. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    "AN" Denarius 194-190 B.C. Obv Head of Roma right Rv Luna driving biga r. Craw 136/1 3.74 grms 19 mm 136-b.jpg
  11. Shea19

    Shea19 Supporter! Supporter

    Great coins and write-up, @Limes . Here’s my favorite chariot, Sol Invictus and his “spread quadriga”.

  12. Bing

    Bing Illegitimi non carborundum Supporter

    AR Denarius
    OBVERSE: CAESAR Head of Mars left in crested helmet
    REVERSE: Venus Genettris with scepter, in biga drawn by two Cupids left, lyre in field, contolmark above, L IVLI L F in ex.
    Struck at Rome, 103BC
    3.85g, 17mm
    Cr320/1, Syd 593a.
  13. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    Congrats and great coins @Limes ; I especially like your Tiberius/chariot denarius. Here is a chariot dupondius of Germanicus , struck by his son Caligula.
    By the way, are you sure English isn't your first language? It's perfect - great write-up.

  14. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    How about a chariot ... PULLED BY FOUR LIONS?!!!

    Domna MATER AVGG Cybele Lion Quadriga Denarius.jpg
  15. octavius

    octavius Well-Known Member

    Would that be the Roman equivalent of herding cats?
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  16. cmezner

    cmezner Supporter! Supporter

    Denarius, Lusitania, Colonia Patricia, 18 BC
    18 x 19 mm, 3.43 g
    RIC 110; BMC 394; Cohen 275;
    Ob.: CAESARI – AVGVSTO Head, laureate, to r.
    Rev.: S•P•Q•R in field, slow triumphal quadriga pulling ornate chariot holding aquila and miniature quadriga.

    This coin type refers to the extensive measures taken by Augustus to improve the road system.
    upload_2019-10-16_23-38-59.png upload_2019-10-16_23-39-35.png
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  17. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    The chariot has to be assumed behind the four horses but the driver is clear on this Augustus fourree.
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  18. Limes

    Limes Well-Known Member

    Lovely coins shown here, thank you for the responses!

    There are several coins commemorating the return of the standards. Two examples are shown here, yours @Ancient Aussie and the specimen shown by @cmezner. One can check out the NAC auction 94, for the several coins about this historical event. Very neat ones also show the temple of Mars Ultor where the standards were to be stalled/displayed. Interestingly those coins were struck 18/19 BC, yet the temple was completed in 2 BC. A blueprint on a coin!
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  19. PlanoSteve

    PlanoSteve Supporter! Supporter

    Me too! This turned into an outstanding thread - great write up & responses.

    This one goes into the "saved threads" file. :happy:;)
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  20. Alegandron

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

    This was at the County Fair...

    (I even had a few goats growin up.)
    RR C Renius AR Denarius 18mm 3.8g Roma 138 BC Helmeted hd Roma r X - C RENI ROMA Juno driving biga goats r whip reins scepter Cr 231-1
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