How to read roman coins

How to read Roman Coins

Ancient-Coins-and-Collectibles How to read Roman Coins is an important skill you will need to learn. This week I want to cover how to read and understand Roman Coins and begin with what I believe are the three most encountered abbreviations on Imperial Roman Coinage.  Romans loved titles (just like today – who needs a raise when you can get a new title…) and they loved abbreviated words on coins. Considering Romans did not use punctuation marks, to the untrained eye it may look like a bunch of random letters at first.

AVG: Augustus

AVG Augustus would probably be the most encountered word on Imperial Roman Coinage.  Augustus would have been the highest office of leadership that were possible.  It was the most distinctive title and could only be used by the reigning emperor and his family. The feminine version being Augusta.

Beginning with Octavius, the first Roman Emperor, who changed his name to Augustus, nearly all subsequent emperors are featured with that title.

When at times in the empire there were more than one emperor, AVG would be pluralized by adding an additional G, so that AVGG would indicate two Emperors.

IMP: Imperator

IMP Imperator is probably the second most used term used on an Imperial Roman Coin.  Often it is used in front of the emperor’s name.  Using a coin of Valerian as an example, IMP VALERIANVS PF AVG.  How to read roman coins

During the Imperial Period, beginning with Augustus, Imperator had become synonymous with Emperor. Actually though, Imperator has its roots in the word General or Commander, as in Commander-in-Chief.

Since the time of Augustus, Emperors have taken this title, as Commander-in-Chief, or Victorious General of all Roman armies, (with or without the glorious victories…) that would be fitting that title.

C: Caeser

C Caesar is frequently found on Roman Imperial Coinage but may not mean what you think. Originally, it was meant to signify the Emperor. The name being derived from Augustus Caesar – the heir to Julius Caesar.

How to read roman coinsThis family name was used by Caesar’s family during the early days of the empire, but soon was adopted by all Emperors even those without a bloodline to Caesar.  This was an attempt to legitimize an Emperor’s relationship to the throne regardless of how he acquired it.

It should be noted that later in the empire, Caesar was no longer used to indicate the emperor, but now to indicate the heir.  Caesar is junior to Augustus on later issues.

At times in the empire there were more than one Caesar, so it would be noted on a coin with a repeated C, like CC. This plurality would indicate more than one Caesar.

Now you Know…

Please check out my offerings of Roman Coins, please look at the inscriptions and legends now that you are armed with the knowledge of these three common abbreviations.  In the future, I will expand the vocabulary of Imperial Roman Coinage.

In fact, if you subscribe to my email list, I will be sending out my Top Twenty Imperial Roman Coinage Inscriptions fact sheet, very soon.


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