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Tarraco, a city, and colony of Hispania citerior, or the nearer Spain - of which it was the capital, and thence the province itself was also called Hispania Tarraconensis. Situate at the mouth of the Tulcis (now Franconi) river, its foundation is ascribed to Scipio Africanus. The Romans of Tarraco took part with Caesar against Pompey's lieutenants; and afterwards professed on all occasions to be influenced by the greatest attachment and devotion to the person and government of Augustus - a fact which the legends and types on some of its numismatic monuments serve to place in a very servile and superstitious point of view. - The modern name of this celebrated city is Tarragona, on the coast of what is now Catalonia. Some of the coins of this colony are inscribed with the initial letters C. V. T., which are interpreted Colonia Victrix Tarraco. The surname of Victrix was generally given as a reward of good desert to cities and colonies founded or re-established by Julius Caesar. - On others of its coins, we read C. V. T. T., which Vaillant considers to mean Colonia Victrix Togata Tarraco, founding as he does the epithet Togata on a passage in the 3rd book of Strabo, from which it would appear that the Tarraconensians distinguished themselves from the inhabitants of other colonies in Spain, by their use of the toga after the manner of the Romans. The judicious Bimard agrees in regarding this as a reasonable inference. - All the medals of Tarraco are of brass, and are rare - consisting of Colonial Autonomes and of Colonial Imperials, with Latin lagends, from Augustus to Drusus. - On a first brass of this colony DIVVS. AVGVSTVS. PATER. is read on the obverse, accompanied by the head of Augustus. - The reverse has for legend only the letters C. V. T. T., the type being a handsome altar, with a palm tree on the top of it.
This elegant coin forms an historical monument. When Augustus had set out on his warlike expedition against the Cantabri (a people occupying that region of Spain, now the Biscayan and Asturian provinces), in the year of Rome 728, the effects of anxiety and fatigue threw him into a bed of sickness. On this occasion the people of Tarraco, where he had halted, offered up public vows for his health, and afterwards raised an altar in memory of his restoration. It was on this altar that, according to the current story of that period, a palm tree was seen growing. Deputies from the colony made a journey to Rome, and congratulated the emperor on the remarkable circumstances, as being an auspicious presage of victory. To these he replied by saying - Apparet quam saepe accendatis - "it is a sign you do not very often light it." In quoting this shrewd and sarcastic bon mot from Quintillian, Vaillant (Col. i. 45) adds that the Tarraconensians continued, nevertheless, to regard this event as an augury and symbol of their imperial founder's immortal glory; and we see that even after his death they studiously adorned their medals with a representation of this palm-surmounted altar.
There is another first brass with similar obverse; but the reverse exhibits the initials C. V. T. T. within an oaken crown.
The corona quercea, or wreath of oak leaves, being the civic crown, was struck on most coins of colonies, under Augustus, in honour of that emperor as the liberator of Roman citizens.
Both the altar and the oak crown apear on medals of this colony, dedicated to Tiberius - a fact which proves the continuance of the worship rendered to Augustus by the inhabitants of Tarraco, and their dispositon to cherish and perpetuate the remembrance of the palm tree growing on his altar, as a marvellous event.
On another first brass, struck at Tarraco, is seen on one side C. V. T. T. AETERNITATIS AVGVSTAE, and a splendid temple of eight (in some ten) columns; on the other DEO AVGVSTO, and the statue of Augustus, with radiated head, seated after the fashion and attitude of Jupiter, holding in the left hand the hasta, and in the right a victoriola (in other coins a patera). - See DEO AVGVSTO, p. 318 of this Dictionary.
The Tarraconensians, whilst as yet Augustus was living, and even suffering as a sick man within their walls, paid divine honours to him, as one in reality immortal. With Greek adulation (as Vaillant observes), pretending to recognise him, not merely as Divus (obtaining deification through the ceremonial of the apotheosis), but, as Deus, these colonists raised a statue to him, which they placed in a magnificent temple, consecrated, as this medal shews, to his Eternity!
Havercamp (in Num. Reginae Christinae) refers to Bartolo's engraving of this coin, which places a patera, instead of a figure of victory, in the right hand of the emperor. - Pellerin (Melange, i. 255) edits two coins of Tarraco, one dedicated to Augustus, the other to Caius and Lucius Caesares; the reverses of both which have for legend C. V. T. TAR., thus marking the name of this colony by its three first letters, instead of the single initial T., as it is on all those coins of Tarraco, published by Vaiilant.
Other medals of ths colony bear the portraits of Tiberius, Julia, Drusus, and Germanicus.