Silver didrachm with wolf and twins design


British Museum

British Museum

The Romans first started to make and use silver coins around the middle of the third century BC. The idea of producing precious metal coins by the method of striking had reached Rome from the Greek cities of southern Italy such as Neapolis (modern Naples). But compared to their neighbours, the Romans were slow to adopt coinage - Italian Greeks had been making coins since the late sixth century BC. Perhaps the Romans resisted it as a foreign invention. Certainly they began to use coins at the same time as they accepted other Greek cultural influences, such as the production of fine ceramics.
This example shows the head of the Greek hero Herakles (Hercules in Latin), whose cult had also been popular at Rome from a very early period. On the other side of the coin are depicted the founding twins of Rome: Romulus and Remus. According to legend the infants were suckled by a wolf. The design may have been inspired by a statue in Rome that we know from historical sources was set up in 296 BC, shortly before this coin was made.

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  • Title: Silver didrachm with wolf and twins design
  • Date Created: -269/-266
  • Physical Dimensions: Weight: 7.031g
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: myth/legend; mammal; classical deity
  • Registration number: 1867,0101.31
  • Production place: Minted in Rome
  • Period/culture: Roman Republican
  • Material: silver
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Authority: Issuer Anonymous
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Blacas d'Aulps. Previous owner/ex-collection Blacas, Louis Charles Pierre Casimir