Silver cistophorus of Augustus


British Museum

British Museum

In 133 BC, the last Greek king of Pergamon (Pergamum) bequeathed his kingdom to the Roman people. Despite this change of administration, the cistophorus, the local royal coinage so named because of its design featuring the Cista Mystica (a sacred chest), continued to be made in a number of cities until 68 BC. One cistophorus was equivalent to three Roman denarii. In the Roman imperial period, cistophori continued to be struck occasionally until the reign of Septimius Severus (ruled AD 193-211) but their appearance changed. Roman designs and Latin legends replaced the standard Pergamene type with the emperor's head prominently portrayed on the obverse.The first Roman emperor, Augustus (ruled 31 BC-AD 14), in particular took the opportunity for personal advertisement on the reverse types and in the legends. On this coin the reverse shows the female figure of Pax ('Peace'), a celebration of the Pax Augusta, the establishment of peace after the late Republican civil wars. The appearance of the Cista Mystica behind her gives the design a relevance local to the area of production. The legend on the other side, Libertatis P[opuli] R[omani] Vindex, 'Protector of the Freedom of the Roman People', displays a similar lack of Augustan modesty.

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  • Title: Silver cistophorus of Augustus
  • Date Created: -28/-28
  • Physical Dimensions: Weight: 11.760g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: emperor/empress; classical deity
  • Registration number: G.2207
  • Production place: Minted in Ephesus
  • Period/culture: Roman Provincial
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Ruler Augustus