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Home ▸ Catalog ▸ |Themes & Provenance| ▸ |Personifications| ▸ |Valor and Courage||View Options:  |  |  | 

Valor and Courage (Virtus)

Virtus was a specific virtue in ancient Rome. It carried connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin vir, "man"). Virtus applied exclusively to a man's behavior in the public sphere, that is to the application of duty to the res publica in the cursus honorum. Private business was no place to earn virtus, even when it involved courage or feats of arms or other good qualities. There could be no virtue in exploiting one's manliness in the pursuit of personal wealth, for example. It was thus a frequently stated virtue of Roman emperors and was personified as the deity Virtus. Virtus is depicted as a helmeted soldier, often a female, in armor holding a spear, parazonium, victory or a shield. Virtus and Mars can be distinguished since Mars is usually shown nude and Virtus is always shown clothed.

Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D.

|Gallienus|, |Gallienus,| |August| |253| |-| |September| |268| |A.D.||sestertius|
Virtus is the personification of valor and courage. Valor was, of course, essential for the success of a Roman emperor and Virtus was one of the embodiments of virtues that were part of the Imperial cult. During his joint reign with his father, Gallienus proved his courage in battle; but his failure to liberate his father from Persian captivity was perceived as cowardice and a disgrace to the Emperor and Empire. It was not, however, actually fear that prevented a rescue. While others mourned Valerian's fate, Gallienus rejoiced in his new sovereignty.
SH110382. Orichalcum sestertius, GŲbl MIR 83s, RIC V-1 J249, Cohen V 1298, Hunter IV J33 var. (obv. leg. no P F); SRCV III 10495 var. (same), Choice VF, superb portrait, well centered on a squared unusually full flan, double strike, weight 22.146 g, maximum diameter 32.7 mm, die axis 0o, Rome mint, 255 - 256 A.D.; obverse IMP C P LIC GALLIENVS P F AVG, laureate and cuirassed bust right, slight drapery on left shoulder and back; reverse VIRTVS AVGG (the virtue of the two emperors), Virtus standing front, head left, wearing crested helmet and military garb, right hand resting on grounded oval shield, inverted spear in left hand, S - C (senatus consulto) flanking across the field below center; ex Leu Numismatik auction 17 (14 Aug 2021), lot 2813; $720.00 SALE PRICE $576.00


Philip I the Arab, February 244 - End of September 249 A.D.

|Philip| |I|, |Philip| |I| |the| |Arab,| |February| |244| |-| |End| |of| |September| |249| |A.D.||antoninianus|
For the Roman nobility virtus came not only in one's personal "acta" but also that of one's ancestors. However Cicero, a novus homo, asserted that virtus was a virtue particularly suited to the new man just as nobilitas was suited to the noble. Cicero argued that just as young men from noble families won the favor of the people so too should the novus homo earn the favor of the people with his virtus. He even extended the argument that virtus and not one's family history should decide a man's worthiness. Virtus is something that a man earns himself, not something that is given to him by his family, thus it is a better measure of a man's ability. Cicero's goal was not to impugn the noble class but widen it to include men who had earned their positions by merit.
RS111666. Silver antoninianus, RIC IV 52, RSC IV 239, Hunter III 17, SRCV III 8974, Choice VF, well centered, weight 3.378 g, maximum diameter 22.8 mm, die axis 30o, Rome mint, 244 - 245 A.D.; obverse IMP M IVL PHILIPPVS AVG, radiate, draped, and cuirassed bust right, seen from behind; reverse VIRTVS AVG (the valor of the Emperor), Virtus standing slightly left, helmeted head left, branch in right hand, inverted spear in left hand, right foot on helmet; ex Leu Numismatik auction 24 (3 Dec 2022), lot 5078 (part of); $100.00 SALE PRICE $80.00


Gallienus, August 253 - September 268 A.D.

|Gallienus|, |Gallienus,| |August| |253| |-| |September| |268| |A.D.||antoninianus|
Virtus is the personification of valor and courage. Valor was, of course, essential for the success of a Roman emperor and Virtus was one of the embodiments of virtues that were part of the Imperial cult. During his joint reign with his father, Gallienus proved his courage in battle; but his failure to liberate his father from Persian captivity was perceived as cowardice and a disgrace to the Emperor and Empire. It was not, however, actually fear that prevented a rescue. While others mourned Valerian's fate, Gallienus rejoiced in his new sovereignty.
RA112755. Billon antoninianus, GŲbl MIR 1617e; RSC IV 1235a; RIC V-1 p. 189, S667; SRCV III 10402 var. (obv. leg.); Hunter IV - (p. lxix), gVF, near centered on an oval flan, bumps, scratches, areas of weak strike, weight 3.489 g, maximum diameter 23.1 mm, die axis 0o, Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) mint, 266 - 267 A.D.; obverse GALLIENVS P F AVG, radiate and cuirassed bust right, seen from the front; reverse VIRTVS AVG (the valor of the Emperor), Virtus standing half left, head left, helmeted and wearing military garb, resting right hand on grounded oval shield, vertical spear with point up in left hand, star left; $80.00 SALE PRICE $64.00


Gordian II Africanus, c. 18 or 22 March - c. 12 April 238 A.D.

|Gordian| |II|, |Gordian| |II| |Africanus,| |c.| |18| |or| |22| |March| |-| |c.| |12| |April| |238| |A.D.||denarius|
Virtus was a specific virtue in ancient Rome. It carried connotations of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth, perceived as masculine strengths (from Latin vir, "man"). It was thus a frequently stated virtue of Roman emperors and was personified as the deity Virtus.
SH05253. Silver denarius, RIC IV-1 3; RSC III 14; BMCRE VI 30, EF, some mint luster, very light scratches, weight 2.61 g, maximum diameter 20.1 mm, die axis 180o, Rome mint, 238 A.D.; obverse IMP M ANT GORDIANVS AFR AVG, laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right; reverse VIRTVS AVGG (valor of the two emperors), Virtus standing left, right hand on shield, holding reversed spear; rare; SOLD







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