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Concordia - The Personification of Harmony

Aurelian and Concordia Militum

Concordia (on the right) clasps hands with the emperor Aurelian


Concordia is, of course concord, agreement and harmony. This was an important enough concept for the Romans to embody it in a minor, but still important, deity. There was a temple of Concordia in Rome, rebuilt in Augustus' time and shown on a sestertius of Tiberius (far too expensve for my collection!). It is clear from this sestertius that the statue, or cult figure, of Concordia in her temple was a seated figure holding out a patera with her right hand and holding something in her left which might be a short sceptre.

Many coins show this cult figure, or variations of it. Oddly, none seem to show the short sceptre. Others show a standing figure, which might represent a cult statue from elsewhere; some show or other symbolic representations of harmony. On the coinage, Concordia is usually shown with a cornucopia, a symbol of bounty and abundance, and sometimes with a statuette of Spes, personification of hope or positive expectation.

When the Emperor wanted to emphasise his harmony with the military, sometimes rather hopefully, a coin may show Concordia standing, holding one or two military standards, or clasping hands with the emperor. In this context the legend is usually CONCORDIA MILITVM. The Emperor is shown wearing a toga, civilian rather than military dress, to emphasise that the army is cooperating with the civilian authorities.

Concord between the emperor and his wife, or between two co-rulers, was sometimes shown using the legend CONCORDIA and an image of the two people clasping hands.

Here are a selection of Concordia coins, in date order.


You can click on any coin image to see the full coin.

The reverse of a denarius of Hadrian showing Concordia saeted The reverse of a denarius of Hadrian showing Concordia seated.
The reverse of a denarius of Sabina showing Concordia standing The reverse of a denarius of Sabina showing Concordia standing.
The reverse of a denarius of Faustina Junior showing Concordia seated The reverse of a denarius of Faustina Junior showing Concordia seated.

The denarius of Hadrian on the far left, from 117 CE, was struck in Rome. The personification of Concord is enthroned and holds out a patera, a small dish used in religious rituals. Underneath the throne is a cornucopia, symbol of plenty. Supporting her under her left elbow is a statuette of Spes – a large one, reaching from elbow to ground. In fact, this and the cornucopia seem to form the structure of the throne. This coin also appears on my "unique coins" page.

In the centre is a rather battered coin of Hadrian's wife Sabina from 136 CE. Concordia here is standing, holding a patera and two cornucopiae. She is leaning casually on a column, which is an attribute of Securitas. This cross-over of attributes was often seen in reverse types, and the intention here is to show an attitude of confidence. There is much more about this on my "leaning" page. Hadrian's marriage to Sabina appears to have been a decent working relationship, even though Hadrian preferred men.

On the near left, a denarius of Faustina Junior, the wife of Marcus Aurelius, from 154-156 CE. Concordia's left arm rests on a cornucopia which is set on a globe. In her right hand, she holds, not a patera as you would expect, but a flower! No statuette of Spes, but instead, one of Hope's attributes.

The reverse of a denarius of Plautilla showing Plautilla and Caracalla clasping hands The reverse of a denarius of Plautilla showing Plautilla and Caracalla clasping hands.
The reverse of a denarius of Crispina showing clasped hands The reverse of a denarius of Crispina showing clasped hands.
The reverse of a denarius of Lucilla showing Concordia seated, holding a patera The reverse of a denarius of Lucilla showing Concordia seated.

Lucilla was the daughter of Marcus Aurelius and wife of Lucius Verus. Concord was often used for coins of emperors' wives, to tell the people about their closeness of mind with the emperor – not always true! On Lucilla's denarius from 164-166 CE, on the near right, Concordia is in the usual pose but has no cornucopiae. The object under her left arm is a statuette of Spes, though you might not notice unless you know what to look for. It's a small one, from elbow to chair seat.

Sometimes concord is represented by just a pair of clasped hands. This denarius of Crispina from 180-182 CE is supposed to show her relationship with her husband, Commodus. But she became involved in a plot against him, and Commodus had both his wife Crispina and his sister Lucilla exiled to Capri, where soon afterwards they were both killed. (I have a nicer example of the clasped hands, but they don't have nearly such a good story behind them.)

On the far right, a denarius of Plautilla from 202 CE. Here are Plautilla and her husband Caracalla clasping hands. CONCORDIAE AETERNAE, "Eternal harmony," says the legend. Isn't that sweet? ... Unfortunately they hated each other, and after a tale of intrigue and paranoia, he had her killed. Though it seems likely that they got together enough to have one baby. I couldn't resist including this one.

The reverse of a modern copy of a denarius of Caracalla showing his parents The reverse of a modern copy of a denarius of Caracalla showing his parents.
The reverse of an antoninianus of Gordian III showing Concordia with two cornucopias The reverse of an antoninianus of Gordian III showing Concordia with two cornucopias.
The reverse of an antoninianus of Severina showing Concordia Militum with two standards The reverse of an antoninianus of Severina showing Concordia Militum with two standards.

In 201 CE,Caracalla also issued this denarius on the far left, showing the harmony of his parents, the emperor Septimius Severus and his Syrian princess Julia Domna, suggesting that he was carrying on in the same spirit.

Unfortunately this coin is a rather poor cast copy, but it gives the idea.

In the centre is an antoninianus of Gordian II from 238-244 CE. The legend is "Concordia Militvm," but the image is a normal enthroned Concordia. She has has a patera and two cornucopiae, but no statuette of Spes. This coin lacks detail. It is actually in quite good shape, but it was made with a very worn reverse die.

The reverse of a bronze coin of Valentinian II showing Concordia with spear and globe The reverse of a bronze coin of Valentinian II showing Concordia with spear and globe.
The reverse of a bronze cxoin of Galerius showing Concordia presenting Victory to the Emperor The reverse of an antoninianus of Galerius showing Concordia presenting Victory to the Emperor.

Severina was the wife of Aurelian, and some say that she ran the empire for a while after he was assassinated. The right-hand antoninianus, from 274-275 CE, is a normal type of Concordia Militum, with Concordia standing and holding two military standards. Severina would have particularly wanted the military on her side in those uncertain times.

On the near right is an antoninianus of Galerius from 293-305 CE, when he was Caesar. Galerius is on the left. To his right is Jupiter, holding a tall sceptre. He is handing Galerius a globe on which stands a statuette of Victory. Victory is easy to identify, even as a tiny statuette. She wears a flowing robe, has wings, and holds out a wreath. Statuettes of her appear on many coins as part of a larger design, particularly in the later empire.

A much later antoninianus of the second Valentinian, from 373-378 CE, shows Concordia seated, facing forward but with her head turned to the left. She wears a helmet and is holding a spear and a globe – in a position of power and with the trappings of power. Control of the Empire was shifting to the east, and the style of reverse imagery was shifting with it.


The content of this page was last updated on 5 February 2011

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