Numismatic and History Discussions > Roman Coins

Roman Minting Volumes and Quick Response to Emperor Changes

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Virgil H:
Hi all,

The more I get into reading and learning about Roman coins, one thing that strikes me is that the mints seems to have been quite responsive to Emperor changes. Some of these emperors ruled for only a matter of months. Back in those days, news travelled relatively slowly, although perhaps not as slowly as some might imagine. Still. Yet it seems that the mints reacted pretty quickly to changes in coinage requirements. Much faster than I would have thought, in any case. There are a few emperors I was surprised even have coins, rare as some might be. Does anyone know of any resources that address these questions, such as how were mints notified, what was the process for changing coinage and emperor portraits, etc.?


Victor C:
A  new emperor sent  images to  colleagues and  other  important  people.  This  was called transmission  imagines,  which  was the equivalent  of  a request  for recognition of  imperial  status. For  more see Patrick Bruun “Portrait  of  a Conspirator,  Constantine’s Break  with the  Tetrarchy.”  Arctos  10  (1976) :  523, and “Notes on  the Transmission  of Imperial Images in  Late Antiquity.”  Studia romana  in honorem Petri  Krarup  septuagenarii   (1976) : 122-  131. Lactantius  also  talked  about this—“A  few  days later the image of  Constantine  wreathed  in laurel leaves was brought to  the evil  beast (Galerius),  who  deliberated  for a long time whether  he should accept it.”Lactantius.  De  Mortibus Persecutorum, Translated  by J. L. Creed (New  York: Clarendon Press,  1984) ,  39.

Virgil H:
Thank you for this information. This is fascinating and I will look for these articles and more info now that I have a term to use. Transmission images is such an interesting term and idea. It is like all government offices in the US get new photos of the president every time there is a change and it doesn't take long for the old ones to be replaced. For us, we have advance notice since elections are before inaugurations, plus our transmission methods have to be far quicker.


Mark Fox:
Dear Virgil, Victor, and Board,

A long time ago, I stumbled across the existence of a paper by Prof. Ramsay MacMullen that I think discussed the awareness of the average person living under the Roman empire of who was emperor at a given time.  I doubt the question was tackled very heavily from a numismatic perspective, but I do think it indirectly ties in with the discussion here.  I personally thought the topic was deeply fascinating, but I never bothered to track down a copy and I now can't even remember what the title was!  A quick search just now turned up nothing on that score, but that being said, Prof. MacMullen seems to be still available for friendly questioning (see his Yale and profiles).  If anyone should know about the article, he should!  He might also be able to recommend further literature to satisfy one's curiosity.

There is also a long coin article I wrote on the usurper Avidius Cassius in which I lightly addressed some of Virgil's questions.  It was published in the August 2007 issue of The Celator:

My follow-up letter clarifies and corrects a few points made in the article:

Hope some of this continues to fan the flames of Virgil's interests! 

Best regards,

Mark Fox

Virgil H:

Thank you so much for the response. The article in The Celetor, as well as the comments in the next issue, were fascinating and do address the question to quite a degree. I enjoyed the part about what coins would be appropriate for a collection of a Cassius related set, even with no specifically minted coins. I will try to look up the MacMullen information when I have some time.

Thanks again,


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