Featured Trajan: the Best Emperor and the Mystery of the River God

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Curtisimo, Jun 26, 2018.


What do you think the DANVVIVS reverse type is referencing? See post 2 for my top theories.

  1. Trajan’s famous bridge over the Danube.

  2. The pontoon bridges Trajan used to cross the Danube in the First Dacian War.

  3. The canal Trajan had built along the Danube in preparation for the wars.

  4. Something else? Bacon? Please comment below.

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    OK, this is a great coin and a super-premium writeup, even for Curtisimo. Thank you!! I love how you get us to think about the evidence and answer an interesting question for ourselves, even if most of us are amateurs. :)

    I voted for #4 (something else), though if I had been forced to pick one of the other three, it would have been your hypothesis about the canal. My version of 4 is really just a generalized version of your canal hypothesis, a version which you elucidate nicely in your article, even if it wasn't one of the voting options: it celebrates Trajan's consolidation and Romanization of the Danube as a safe and navigable limes and trade route. Part of that is due to the canal, of course, but it's also due to the conquest of Dacia more generally and other construction projects (including forts and the road) along the river. With Danube's hand on the ship, perhaps the coin emphasizes the naval aspects like the Roman navy on the river, and a brisk trade. (Here's a brief description of the importance of the Roman imperial fleet on the Danube.) Do you know if there was any problem with piracy on the river prior to Trajan's measures to enhance security? I know it was a problem in the Black Sea in Domitian's reign, so this wouldn't be surprising.

    Anyway, I think the generalized hypothesis makes more sense given the time of issue, and it also seems a more reasonable target for propaganda... presumably many handlers of the coin wouldn't know about the canal specifically, but they would know something about Trajan taming and securing the Danube.

    A few related coins:
    Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 10.55.35 AM.jpg
    This sestertius was issued at the very end of Trajan's reign, and you can see by the (very long!) obverse inscription that the conquest of Dacia was still regarded as one of his greatest achievements: IMP CAES NER TRAIANO OPTIMO AVG GER DAC PARTHICO P M TR P COS VI P P.

    Next, a (later) coin from Trajan's foes:
    Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 10.54.06 AM.jpg
    Stylistically, this coin almost certainly came from the area occupied by the Roxolani, the Dacians' Sarmatian allies. Archaeologically, the coins are associated with the Chernyakhov culture, thought to be comprised of some mix of Sarmatian, Geto-Dacian, Gothic and Slavic populations; it's possible to find some imitations of Trajan among them. (Starting here, the Taman Goth thread began exploring these interesting coins.)

    @Alegandron posted this one, but didn't elaborate on the representation of Dacia on the reverse, including the draco used by the Sarmatian tribes, a symbol probably passed along through the steppes all the way from China:
    Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 10.53.54 AM.jpg

    Whoah. Justice? o_O

    So Augustus just got lucky? :hilarious:

    Best emperor? Severus Alexander. :D (No, seriously! He was a mild mannered, judicious, peaceful young guy who avoided mass murder and respected the wisdom of his advisors! It's just a shame his advisors weren't a bit better, and that the army wasn't filled with a bunch of murderous jerks. :p)
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2018
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  3. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Great coins and an even better write up! Thank You @Curtisimo !
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  4. tenbobbit

    tenbobbit Well-Known Member

    I will echo the words of others, great read & it certainly got me thinking.
    I don't have any Trajans to post unfortunately, this is the only coin I have with a connection.
    A town of the victory on the Danube river
    Obverse - MACRINVS
    Reverse - River god ISTER/ ISTROS holding branch & reeds, water flowing from upturned jug behind
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  5. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Coins of ancient Judaea Supporter

    That gold Carthaginian shekel is a gem! Your Trajan is looking upward also. That's interesting. :bookworm:
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2018
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  6. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    This is the local name for the lower Danube, so that coin is very appropriate! So is the river god Danube the same dude as the river god Istros? Hmmm....
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  7. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Coins of ancient Judaea Supporter


    ...Spectacular coin, @arashpour !
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  8. Deacon Ray

    Deacon Ray Coins of ancient Judaea Supporter

    What an awesome gift! I've never seen a coin with Trajan looking upward like that. :wideyed:
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  9. ro1974

    ro1974 Well-Known Member

    trajan Danube dupondius _DSC07d20.jpg
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  10. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thank you @Ryro ! I am partial to Marcus Aurelius also. A. Pius, Trajan and Diocletian are some of my other favorites :)

    I can think of no compliment I'd rather have from someone who's knowledge of ancient coins and history I respect in the absolute highest regard. Whenever I start researching a new coin your website is often the first reference I check. Thank you @Valentinian ! Great examples also.

    Wow that is a beauty @Roman Collector ! And thank you also for your kind words about the thread. I also enjoy your great writes-ups and have noticed that you have posted a ton of great threads in recent weeks.
    Deacon Ray, Roman Collector and Ryro like this.
  11. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks @Ajax ! Another OPTIMO PRINC. I don't know why but I find the story behind this title so fascinating but I really do think it's cool!

    Augustus was a really interesting emperor no doubt. A lot is made about his frustration with the succession but I have always wondered if he hadn't lived so long would the empire have fallen right back into a squabbling republic? Interesting to think about. I need to get me a Sep. Severus coin. He is one of those emperors who had a lot of cool coins that are reasonably priced but I just never pulled the trigger... yet.

    Thank you for the kind words @Ancient Aussie ! I knew you would have some really amazing architecture types. I really need to get one of those Trajan's Bridge types. Great coin additions as always.

    My sincere apologies AA! I can indeed put this question to rest. This statue, recently discovered in Rome, basically confirms archaeologically what we all knew must be true anyway... Trajan was a bacon lover...
  12. chrsmat71

    chrsmat71 I LIKE TURTLES!


    Man, that was a top shelf write up @Curtisimo , thanks for that!

    Man, I'm seriously under Trajaned still, just a worn as.

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  13. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    Neat coin and excellent post
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  14. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Excellent write up.
    Traianus (98-117 AD). AR Denarius Obv: IMPTRAIANOAVGGERDACPMTRP - Laureate head right. Rev: COSVPPSPQROPTIMOPRINC - Victory standing left, holding wreath and palm. RIC 128
    Traianus (98-117 AD). AR Denarius Obv: IMPCAESNERVATRAIANAVGGERM - Laureate head right. Rev: PMTRPCOSIIIIPP - Victory standing right, stepping on helmet, holding shield on cippus. RIC 65
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  15. gogili1977

    gogili1977 Well-Known Member

    Philippus I (244-249 AD). AE Sestertius. Provincia Dacia. 247-248 AD. Obv. IMP M IVL PHILIPPVS AVG, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right. Rev. PROVINCIA DACIA, Woman (Dacia) to the left with Phrygian cap on her head. On the left side stands an eagle with spreaded wings and a laurel wreath in its beak. On the right a lion walking to the left. In her left hand Dacia is holding a vexilum with the inscription DF (Dacia Felix). In the right hand she is holding a Dacian sword. Ex. AN I.
    Dacia - Philip I.jpg
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  16. arashpour

    arashpour Well-Known Member

    I really love the toning on this coin @TheRed . Congrats!
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  17. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thank you @zumbly ! I'm glad you found the article readable! I started out just typing away for my own archives about the stuff I had read while researching this coin and before long I had several pages! Got a bit out of hand :eek::D

    I really like these Trajan trophy coins too. The word Trophy comes from the ancient Greek word Trepien (Eng.: to turn) because the Greeks would set these up on the spot that their enemy turned and ran in order to say "haha this land is ours now!" I had always wondered why some had sad looking personifications and some didn't. Then I saw this cool display at a museum one time that shows a recreation of a display used for a triumph.
    Then it occurred to me that, to a lot of Roman's, trophies and sad looking people would have had a literal meaning as well as a symbolic one!

    Either way cool coin and thanks for your comments!

    Thanks @Smojo ! I like that trophy coin as well. Your mom has great coin-taste ;). That one doesn't have sad people but reminds me of the trophy carved to separate the first and second wars on the column (as shown on my figure 9). Great example.

    I'm happy to see you posting! Missed you there for a while. I hope you're still adjusting well to the move and the new job!
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  18. Curtisimo

    Curtisimo the Great(ish) Supporter

    Thanks @Deacon Ray ! With your graphics expertise we could make a killing :greedy::greedy::greedy::D

    Nice Trajan @arashpour . The obverse is great style and the camel type looks interesting :)

    Thanks @Andres2 . Nice victory type. A victory bronze denomination is top on my list for my next Trajan type.

    You hit every category at the bottom of my post Brian :). Not sure there are words for how impressive and broad your collection is. I really like the RR Didrachm and its connection to the Via Appia! Nice!

    Trajan is definitely one of my favorites and Vespasian seem like an interesting guy too. The stories of his sense of humor are particularly amusing :hilarious:
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  19. Johndakerftw

    Johndakerftw Mr. Rogers is My Hero


    Commander William T. Riker of the USS Enterprise and I would like to applaud you on your most epic of write ups!


    Do you offer signed copies? :cool:

  20. Terence Cheesman

    Terence Cheesman Supporter! Supporter

    I think it is important to view the images on Roman coins not as individual messages but as part of a larger mozaic made up of images on other coins minted at the same time. Bernard Woytek grouped this particular issue in his Gruppe 10 Cluster 2 dated second half 107- 108 A.D. The rest of the group includes a denarius with the image of Fortuna standing left, another with Mars standing facing right, Aurei and denarii with Trajan in triumphal chariot,denarii with the DAC CAP reverse (captive seated on pile of arms, as well as the DANVVIVS type. It would seem more likely that the message given out by the group is that Trajan, with the support of Mars and Fortuna is victorious over Dacia,bringing that territory into the empire The Danube is no longer part of the wild frontier but now a river tamed, within the empire.
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  21. Severus Alexander

    Severus Alexander Blame my mother. Supporter

    Thanks, Terry. That makes a second (and much more authoritative) vote for "taming & securing the Danube." Perhaps that's just the nudge that @Curtisimo needs to move in our direction. :)
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