Who is depicted on this Dupondius?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Roman Collector, Jan 15, 2017.


Who is dipicted on this Dupondius?

  1. A personification of Pietas and not a real person

    3 vote(s)
  2. Livia, the mother of Tiberius

    12 vote(s)
  3. Livilla, the wife of Drusus

    1 vote(s)
  4. Vipsania, the mother of Drusus

    6 vote(s)
  1. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Feel free to post any coins you deem relevant. I'd love to see them!

    Over the years, numismatists have wondered who is depicted on this coin, a dupondius issued possibly as part of a family series, an As of Drusus, a Sestertius which honors the twin sons Drusus allegedly sired, and three dupondii, portraying Salus, Pietas, and Justitia. Coins portraying Tiberius, Augustus, and Livia are considered by some to be part of this series.

    Vipsania Dupondius.jpg
    Issued under Tiberius
    Roman AE Dupondius
    Rome, AD 22/23
    14.32 gm; 29.15 mm
    Obv: PIETAS, veiled, diademed and draped bust of (?) as Pietas, right.
    Refs: RIC Tiberius 43; BMCRE Tiberius 98; CBN Tiberius 74; Cohen 1; Sear 1741

    The identity of the woman portrayed on this coin is far from certain. It certainly may simply be a personification of Pietas. RIC doesn't attribute the coin to a person and apparently considers it a personification of Pietas. However, the portrait on this coin often demonstrates subtle signs of aging, which is inconsistent with the personification only idea.

    The coin has long been attributed to Livia. It appears the first major catalog to do so was Cohen. This was followed by BMCRE and Sear. The reasoning behind the attribution to Livia is that its companion coin, the Dupondius portraying Salus (RIC Tiberius 47), matches Livia's sculpture portraits closely. Moreover, the date of issue and the legend--SALVS AVGVSTA, not just SALVS--suggest that the coin commemorates Livia's recovery from a serious illness at this time, which is documented by ancient historians. However, just because the Salus dupondius portrays Livia doesn't necessarily mean that the other two in the series do as well, especially as the portraits seem to indicate three separate visages.

    Livilla, the wife of Drusus, was proposed late in the 19th century but was not taken seriously until the theory was revived in recent decades, its most popular proponent being David Vagi, who details his reasoning in Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, Volume One, p. 127. Briefly, he notes:

    • It would be good PR for Livilla to be portrayed as Pietas.
    • Of the three dupondii (Pietas, Justitia, and Salus, RIC 43, 46 and 47), only this one bears the name Drusus and his titles (the other two name Tiberius).
    • In the family series of AD 22/23, only three coins bear the name of Drusus: a sestertius for the children, a dupondius for the mother of the children (Livilla), and an as for the father (Drusus).

    Vagi (ibid.) says the evidence for Livilla is "overwhelming." However, Vagi also notes that the issue "ironically ... reflects the public image of Livilla as a devoted mother and wife," and notes that "in reality she saw neither. Not only did she conspire with her adulterous lover Sejanus to murder her husband, but it seems likely her twin sons were sired by Sejanus."

    It is precisely this issue--which Vagi calls ironic--that calls into question the attribution of this coin to Livilla. Jasper Burns, a proponent of the Vipsania theory (The Celator. 2004 May;18(5):6 and reprinted online), believes this is a severe problem with the Livilla theory and notes the following:

    • Drusus' mother was Vipsania, Tiberius' first wife, who died in AD 20, three years before the coins were issued for Drusus. Portraits of deceased women were generally shown veiled, such as on this coin, and Pietas was especially associated in Roman culture wiht the devotion of a child to a deceased parent.
    • At the time, it would have been unprecedented for a Caesar to portray his wife on coins. Marriages were readily dissolved in those times--it was the blood line that mattered. The first time a Caesar's wife was definitely portrayed on a coin was in AD 26, by Claudius, and the practice remained rare until Hadrian in the 2nd century. However, depicting ancestors, siblings--and especially parents--on coins and monuments was often done.
    • The whole family series of AD 22/23 portrays Tiberius, his adoptive father, Augustus, his mother Livia, his son Drusus, and Drusus' twin sons. Only Drusus' mother (Vipsania) appears to be missing from this family group.
    • Although divorced from Tiberius, after Vipsania's death, Tiberius restored her to his family and had her image and titles included in numerous monuments to the imperial family. Issuing a coin in her honor may very well have been one of these many memorials to her as well.
    • The coins were reissued nearly 60 years later by Titus as part of a series of coins that were struck to commemorate the familiar coin types and members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty that were still in favor. Titus did not reissue the coins of disgraced personalities like Caligula and Nero. Livilla was caught in her murderous adultery and Sejanus was executed and Livilla was starved to death by her own mother to preserve the family honor. She was subjected to damnatio memoriae--her name and memory was officially condemned and her portraits were destroyed--and there is no hint that her reputation was rehabilitated. Her story was one of the great scandals of the era and Burns considers it inconceivable that Titus would reissue this coin (RIC 222; BMCRE 291) if it portrayed the disgraced and hated Livilla.
    • Lastly, he notes that the portrait on the coins resembles surviving portraits of Vipsania.

    So, who do you think it is?
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
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  3. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Could it be possible that the emperor wanted to make a good outward image and keep the scandal as much a secret as possible?

    This is strong evidence against my above point, though...
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  4. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    I was gonna tick "Yo Mama" ... but that would have been wrong, right?


    ... cool coin (not your coin, I'm assuming?)

    Sweet coin (thanks for posting)
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  5. ro1974

    ro1974 Well-Known Member

    What a jewel from a coin:facepalm:
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  6. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    It is my coin! Got it from Pegasi in an auction about 13 years ago.
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  7. stevex6

    stevex6 Random Mayhem

    Nice ... it has very cool eye-appeal
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  8. ro1974

    ro1974 Well-Known Member

    No my coin, Livia His mother/ Tiberius
    ROMAN COINS KINGDOM TIBERIUS (14 - 37) LIVIA AUGUSTA (14 - 42) Dupondius, 22 - 23, Rome. IVSTITIA, draped bust of Livia as Iustitia with richly ornamented diadem and haircuts on the neck to the right. Rs: TI · CAESAR · DIVI · AVG · F · AVG · P · M · TR ·

    And yours is
    Dupondius with a front veiled head with the legend PIETAS (Livia [2] Vipsania Agrippina [3], Antonia Minor [4] or Livilla [5]) and on the reverse the legend DRVSVS • CAESAR • TI • AVGVSTI • F • TR • POT • ITER around a large SC in the field (beaten in 23 AD.). info from wiki
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
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  9. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    ro1974 likes this.
  10. Mikey Zee

    Mikey Zee Delenda Est Carthago

    Wonderful posts!!!

    My Livia/Justitia is far inferior but cheap and kinda cool in an ugly sort of way LOL
    Livia-Justia bronze.jpg Livia-justia bronze reverse.jpg
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  11. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, it is cool! I'm sure its surfaces bear traces of pagan altar smoke, gladiator sweat, and olive oil from a Roman orgy!
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  12. randygeki

    randygeki Coin Collector

    A nice coin!
    Roman Collector likes this.
  13. maridvnvm

    maridvnvm Well-Known Member

    These are all fascinating. I don't own any coins and only have plaster casts relating to these.

    I have a couple of small groups of old uniface plaster casts of ancients that I have bought over the years.

    One set was just obverses which have been painted to give the impression of patina.


    The other has bot sides but mounted in small oval gilt frames

    19th Century framed uniface plaster cast dupondius
    Obv:- SALVS AVGVSTA, Draped bust of Livia-Salus r., hair knotted behind
    References (for original coin) :- Cohen 5. RIC 47

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  14. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Well-Known Member

    My Livia IUSTITIA Dupondius is in the mail. I´ll post ASAP...
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  15. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    I voted Livia, but only because the main reference I use generally follows that line based on a likeness with Livia's sculpture. However, it is also likely that it may be simply a representation of Pietas.

    I like this coin, mainly because of the portrait, and wanted one for my collection.
    This is my example:

    LIVIA DRUSILLA (LIVILLA), wife of Drusus Caesar.
    Æ Dupondius (29mm, 11.17 gm). Rome mint. Struck 22-23 AD.
    Obv: Veiled, diademed, and draped bust of Livia as Pietas right
    Rev: DRVSVS CAESAR TI AVGVST F TR POT ITER, around large S C across field. RIC I 43 (Tiberius); Cohen 1. Fine, black-green surfaces.

    Ex CNG, From the Garth R. Drewry Collection.

    Livia Drusilla Dupondius - Obv  - 1_opt.jpg Livia Drusilla Dupondius - Rev  - 1_opt.jpg

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  16. ro1974

    ro1974 Well-Known Member

    A very big Like for that coin
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  17. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Sorry I missed this thread when you first posted it, @Roman Collector. Great research!! Thanks for the detailed information. :)
    Roman Collector likes this.
  18. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Agrippina the elder?
  19. Bert Gedin

    Bert Gedin Well-Known Member

    "So, who do you think it is ?" asks Roman Collector. I didn't have a clue - so much for my expertise, so I looked it up. 'Wildwinds' offered a reasonable reply, online.
    "Livia, wife of Augustus, mother of Tiberius and grandmother of Claudius. According to Suetonius, she poisoned Caius and Lucius as well as Augustus himself, in order to ensure the accession of Tiberius."- Sorry I cannot oblige with the improved condition coin. But to me, it seemed to fit the bill.
    Ryro likes this.
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