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Spes

Spes was the Roman personification of Hope (the Greek equivalent was Elpis). According the Hesiod's famous story, Elpis was the last to escape the Pandora's box. It can be debated whether she was really about "hope" as we understand it, or rather mere "expectation". In art Spes is normally depicted carrying flowers or a cornucopia, but on coins she is almost invariably depicted holding a flower in her extended right, while the left is raising a fold of her dress.  She was also named "ultima dea" - the last resort of men.


DICTIONARY OF ROMAN COINS



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Spes. - The ancients worshipped Hope as a divinity.  She had her temples and her altars, but nothing is said by old writers as to what victims were sacrificed to her.  Livy speaks of the herb market (forum olitorium) at Rome as one of the places where this goddess had a temple; and he also makes mention of that which Publius Victor built in the seventh region of the city.  The censor M. Fullius also dedicated a temple to her honour near the Tibur.  The personification of Hope appears on some ancient sculptures; but it is much more frequently seen figured on medals of the Imperial series, struck at the beginning of a prince's reign, indicating either the favourable anticipations which the people entertained of him, or the expectations which he wished to raise respecting himself.  She is often exhibited on medals of the Caesars, or adopted heirs to the Imperial throne, because her influence is peculiarly strong over youthful minds.

Spes is ordinarily represented in the shape of a young woman, standing, or walking, holding in her right hand a tender flower: for where a flower appears there is hope of fruit to come.  Her left hand is usually employed in lifting up the skirt of her semi-transparent robe.  Sometimes she holds in her left hand a cornucopia with other symbols, marking the benefits anticipated from her.  On a brass coin of Drusus senior, the word SPES stands alone; it was with Claudius that the practice began of adding the words AVG. or AVGG. or AVGVSTA, or P.R. or PVF. PVBLIC, PVBLICA, etc., all serving respectively to designate the occasion for which she had been chosen as an appropriate type.

Vaillant gives a silver coin of Pescennius Niger, bearing on its reverse the legend BONAE SPEI, with the type of the goddess walking - Cicero opposes the feeling of good hope (bona spes) to that of despair in all human affairs. - And Plutarch remembers an altar at Rome inscribed Fortunae Bonae Spei. - Gruter quotes a marble inscribed BONAE SPEI AVG.

It is observable that on coins of the lower empire, the early image of Hope no longer appears.  The legend Spes Reipublicae of the Empress Fausta has for its accompanying type a young woman suckling two children; and the Spes Romanorum of Magnus Maximus, the gate of the Praetorian camp.

Spes appears, in the form and with the attributes above described, on coins of Claudius, Vespasian, Hadrian, M. Aurelius, Commodus, Pescennius Niger, Albinus, S. Severus, Caracalla, Geta, Diadumenian, Elagabalus, Alex. Severus, Philip senior and junior, Herennius, Hostillian, Aemilian, Gallienus, Postumus, Tetricus senior, Quietus, Claudius Gothicus, Tacitus, Probus, Carausius, Allectus, Julianus II, Valens &c. - The following are the most rare of this legend and its types: -

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