Numismatic and History Discussions > Coin of the Day

Tacitus Extravaganza

(1/2) > >>

I'm pleased to share two superb antoninianii depicting a figure of some fascination for me, Tacitus.

Tacitus was an accomplished politician nearing the end of his life when the Senate offered him the top job, eight months after the assassination of Aurelian. Tacitus hesitated to take up the imperial mantle, presumably aware of his age and the ignominious fates that had befallen most of his predecessors. He nevertheless accepted the job out of a sense of duty in September 275 and set about restoring power to the Senate. Alas, this was not to last. Tacitus and his brother Florian were called east to deal with rebellious tribes (earning the title Gothicus Maximus in the process; a title preserved on some coins). On the return journey, the aged Tacitus expired of a fever (although as usual, some suspected foul play). He had survived imperial power for less than six months.

In my view, the portraiture of Tacitus is an interesting moment in Roman art. Seemingly abandoning the abstracted and heroic portraiture of his predecessor Aurelian, there is a sudden spasm of realism. Tacitus is depicted as he was: an elderly, slightly overweight politician. To be sure, his coins are still trying to project power and authority. But his frailties are also present in a way that never seems to be depicted on Roman coins again.  The author of RIC V describes the portraits minted at Lugdunum as "pleasant, homely" and notes that the early coins minted at Ticinum show an emperor "whose forehead is generally low, with a flat head, and often a weak, receding chin. These faults were corrected under Florian, whose portrait is virile and warlike..."

I present for your enjoyment my two recent acquisitions: one from Ticinum and the other from Lugdunum. Both show the realism I mention above, although it's more present in the Lugdunum example.

1. Tacitus Antoninianus - (22mm, 4.08 g, 12h) - Ticinum mint, 5th officina. 2nd emission, early-mid AD 276. Radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Securitas standing left with legs cross, leaning on column, and resting hand on head; U. RIC V 163; BN 1708-9. Reddish-brown patina, minor porosity, traces of silvering. Near EF.

2. Tacitus Antoninianus - (23mm, 3.72 g, 6h) - Lugdunum (Lyon) mint, 1st officina. 5th emission, March-April AD 276. Radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right / Felicitas standing left, holding long caduceus and cornucopia; A|A//–. RIC V 65; BN 1463-7; Lyon 78. Toned silvering. Good VF.

Post your best Tacitus portrait!


Tracy Aiello:
Hello Evan,

Great coins. Congrats. Even if I had Tacitus' examples I doubt that they would compete with yours.


Two very nice coins. I personally like the style of the Lugdunum coins in general. Yours is a really graceful looking profile.

Kim B. N:
Great portraits!  :o :o +++

Both coins have excellent portraits.
You ask for our best Tacitus portraits.  Easy for me.  I have only one Tacitus coin.  Ha!


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version