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Latin abbreviation: Senatus Consulto - [struck] by the authority of the Senate.


Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.

S. C.-- The letters placed in the reverse
(generally on each side of the type, but some-
times below it) intimate that the coins were
struck by the public authority of the Senate,
according to the constitution of the republic,
and the laws of the Roman mint.

Found constantly on the brass coins of the
Roman emperors, from Augustus to Gallienus,
and but very rarely on their gold and silver :
that these are initials of the words Senatus
has scarcely been at any time disputed
or doubted. But there have been differences of
opinion amongst the learned as to the way in
which these words ought to be understood, with
reference to the precise meaning involved in this
memorandum (as it were) of a decree of the
Senate, which exhibits itself on almost all brass
money of Roman die, struck after the com-
mencement of the empire. The justly cele-
brated Bimard de la Bastie is the author who
first advanced, against the doctrines of a fanciful
school, what is now held to be true opinion
on this subject ; and the views of that acute and
judicious antiquary, have since had a full tribute
paid to their accuracy and shrewdness by the
congenial sagacity of the learned Eckhel. That
great luminary of numismatics and most trust-
worthy guide in all difficult points of discussion
connected with the science, has, in the Prolego-
mena Generalia
of his immortal work (Doct.
Num. Vet
., vol. i., p. 73, et seq.), given so clear
and conclusive an exposition of all that is
materially important, to guide the judgment
and to fix the decision in this matter, that we
cannot do better then subjoin the substance of
his remarks.

After a slight passing allusion to the various
but obsolete notions which Jobert has collected
together in his Science des Mèdailles, he
commences by observing that the common and
almost universally received opinion is that
Augustus, became possessed of the whole power
of the republic, appropriated to himself the
rights of the gold and silver mint, and permitted
the Senate to preside over the coinage of brass
money. There are two principal and most deci-
sive grounds on which this division of the fabri-
cation of money between the emperors and the
senate, without being textually recorded by
historians, appears fully established. First, it
is certain that the letter S. C. are not to be
found on imperial gold and silver medals, or, if
there be any instance of the coin, those initials
refer to the type of the piece and not to the
piece itself. Secondly, it is also certain that
the letters S. C. are to be seen on almost all the
brass coins, from Augustus to Gallienus, with
the exception of a very small number, and these
admit of a clear and satisfactory explanation.
From so constant a rule, therefore, we may
rightly infer the monetary partition of the three
metals between the emperors and the senate, in
the manner above mentioned. In support of
this opinion, as founded on metals, he then
brings forward evidence from monuments of
another kind. A marble, published by Gruter,
bears this words:-- OFFICINATORES MONETAE
brass mint had belonged to the emperor, a
notice of it would doubtless have been included
in this inscription.

Some historical facts handed down by ancient
writers corroborate the truth of this opinion.
We learn from Dion, that after the death of
Caligula, the senate, out of hatred to his very
name, ordered the whole of his brass coinage to
be melted down. Why, since the object was to
abolish the memorials of this imperial tyrant,
did the ordinance confine itself to the brass money
alone? Assuredly we shall find no other suitable
reason than that the senate had no authority over
the gold and silver mints, but solely over the
brass.-- Lastly, what is indeed one amongst the
most weighty reasons, but hitherto untouched
by those who have entered into the disputation
on this subject, it can be proved by the most
certain testimonies that the emperors had entirely
relinquished all claims to the right of coining
brass money. In the first place, there are extant
a great quantity of Otho's gold and silver coins,
but not one genuine brass coin of that prince
of Roman die, struck at Rome. Those who
think that the whole monetal department of the
public business was entrusted to the senate, are
bound to furnish some substantially good reason,
why that body should have dedicated to Otho
coins of the more precious metals, and to have
withheld that of less value; notwithstanding the
greater portion of the money usually struck at
Rome was from brass? The division of the right
of coinage between the emperor and the senate
constitutes an explanatory answer to this other-
wise insurmountably difficult question. In causing
money to be struck in gold and silver, Otho
exercised his right as emperor; he did not inter-
fere with the brass, because the coinage came
under another jurisdiction. The causes which
induced the senate not to strike brass money for
this emperor, like many other things connected
with matters of antiquity, are unknown.-- Tacitus
relates that at Vespasian's accession to the throne,
one of the emperor's first cares (apud Antio-
chenses aurum argentumque signatur)
was to
have gold and silver money struck at Antioch.
Then why not brass also? Certainly because,
though the right of the former belonged to him,
that of the latter was exclusively senatorial.
The coins of Pescennius Niger are likewise a
support to this opinion. There are of this per-
sonage not a few silver ones extant, as published
by numismatists worthy of credit, and probably,
one in gold; but no brass coin of his with latin
inscription, uncondemned as counterfeit, has
hitherto been found. This was not without cause.
For Pescennius, after he had once assumed the
imperial title, struck silver and gold as belonging
to him, but not brass also, the senate in the
meantime being occupied at Rome in the coinage
of brass money with the effigy of Severus, in
whose power it then was.-- An examination of
Clodius Albinus's coins will be found still more
decisively to bear on the present point. Of this
general, to whom Severus had given the title of Caesar, we have not only gold and silver money,
but also brass. From the moment, however,
that he had seperated himself from Severus, and
proclaimed himself Augustus, of his own accord,
brass money evidently ceased to be coined in his
name. For no brass coin of Albinus has hitherto
been discovered, which call him Augustus,
although there is an abundance in silver on which
he is so styled. The cause of this fact is clearly
developed. It appears from the express testi-
mony of Herodianus, that Severus ordered money
to be struck at Rome in the name of Albinus,
then absent in Gaul. The senate, therefore,
minted brass coins, as well in the name of Severus
Augustus as in that of Albinus Caesar, after the
manner in which the same body, at one and the
same time, struck coins in the name of Antoninus
Pius Augustus and of M. Aurelius Caesar. But
as soon as Albinus, having taken the title of
Augustus, was denounced by Severus as an enemy
of the country, his brass coinage must have
ceased, Albinus not arrogating to himself a right
which belonged to another power, viz., to the
senate; and the senate, under the control of
Severus, not daring to continue the honours of
its mint to Albinus. We find, therefore, those
coins of Albinus with the title of Augustus are
all of the nobler metals (viz., silver and a few
gold), having been struck by his orders in Gaul
or in Britain, of which provinces he held the

Having by these proofs, drawn as they are
from the very sources of numismatic knowledge,
the medals themselves, manifestly shown that
the business and control of the Roman mint
was divided between the reigning princes and
the senate; having, moreover, shown that these
proofs chiefly arise from affinities, which indicate
an identity of workmanship and regulation
between the gold and silver medals, in respect
to types and legends-- affinities which fail to
exemplify themselves on the brass coinage-- the
same learned and eminent writer proceeds to
deduce fresh arguments in favour of all that he
has just advanced, from the legends which
appear on gold and silver coins of the imperial
series, and which do not appear on the brass ;
as also from those legends which are found on
the brass, but neither on the gold nor on the
silver medals of the empire, the types them-
selves likewise corroborate the accuracy of this

The details into which our illustrious "teacher"
enters in his further observations of this subject
are more copious than would be compatible
with the plan of the present compilation to give
at length. But referring to the Doctrina
Numorum Veterum
(vol. 1. p. lxxiv) itself, it
shall suffice with us to say that those particulars,
and the remarks which accompany them, are of
a nature fully to establish the exactness of his ex-
planation, as well as the accuracy of his research,
in adopting as he has done the views, and in
strengthening the arguments of Baron Bimard,
respecting the letters S. C. which appear on the
brass coins of the Roman die.-- To the grounds
and inferences, however, on which this explana-
tion is based, certain objections have been
opposed, one of which has been drawn from the
excessive flatteries which were lavished on the
emperors in the inscriptions and legends of their
medals. It has been argued that it was not
possible that the emperors should have decreed
to themselves such adulations, and that, therefore,
it was to be believed that the senate had
the management of what related to the fabrication
of money of the three metals. But it may
be supposed that the emperors took cognizance
of what concerned the due weight and purity
of the coinage, leaving to the monetary triumvirs
to determine upon the legends and the types.
Add to which princes, who had deified their
parents, and who had allowed almost divine
honours to be rendered to themselves, might
well be supposed capable of ordering themselves
the flattering legends, which were placed on so
great a number of their monies. To complete
these ideas it will be right to add the following

1st.-- The letters S. C. are found as we have
seen, on all the brass money of Roman die
struck from Augustus's reign. Nevertheless,
some pieces unquestionably of Roman die, and
undoubted money, are without that indication.
These are coins of the second size, on middle
brass, struck under Tiberius ; and also under
Vespasian and Domitian, which represent, on
the reverse, a caduceus between two horns of
plenty. But this type (as Eckhel has shown on
coins of Tiberius, struck in the year A.D. 22),
is the symbol of the senate and the people of
Rome, and it is probable that on this account
the usual sign S. C. was not placed on those

2nd.-- The greatest number of medallions of
Roman die in brass, struck after the time of
Hadrian, do not bear the mark S. C. ; some
few, however, are to be found. This omission
of the indication, so far as regards the greater
part of the brass medallions, added to the
consideration of their large volume and extreme
rarity, has led to the very probable supposition
that these pieces were not money, or at least
that they had not the character of actual money
like all the rest. This point has already been
animadverted upon (see Medallion). But the
absence of the letters S. C. from most of the
medallions alters in no respect whatever the
principle on which the right of coining money
was divided between the emperor and the
senate, even admitting that the medallions
which do not bear S. C. were not money, an
opinion which may be applied even to the
greater part of those which exhibit the mark.

3rd.-- After the reign of Gallienus, the S. C.
does not appear on the brass coins of Roman
die. Two causes probably led to this change.
First, the successive diminution of the rights
and of the authority of the senate, which retained
no more, so to speak, than a shadow of power ; Secondly, the establishment of monetary
workshops in different provinces of the empire,
and the habit which those provincial establishments
contracted, as a consequence of their
distance from the capital, viz., of withdrawing
themselves from the central authority on points
connected with the coining of monies.

4th.-- The notation S. C. sometimes occurs on
Roman imperial coins of gold and silver. It
does not follow, however, that this money was
struck under the authority of the senate. The
mark of a Senatus Consultum, in that case,
indicates that what the type of the piece alludes
to was done by order of the senate, and it does
not apply to the piece itself. Thus for example,
the gold and silver coins of Vespasian relative
to his consecration bear EX S. C. This signifies
that the above-mentioned emperor had been
consecrated by a Senatus Consultum, and not
that these coins had been struck by order of the
senate. The money fabricated under the republic,
had before offered similar examples, at
an epocha when the senate regulated the coinage
of all the three metals. Accordingly we read
on denarii of M. Lepidus, S. C. ; on denarii
of M. Scaurus, EX S. C., viz., that Lepidus, as
this consular coin declares, was made TVTOR
REGIS (Ptolemaei V., King of Egypt),
Senatus Consulto, by a decree of the senate ;
and that Scaurus, as the other consular medal
records, was made AEDilis CVRulis (Curule
Aedile) EX S. C.-- Other denarii, such as those
of Manlius Torquatus, Sex. Pompeius, and
Lentulus, present additional examples. In like
manner, the epigraph of POPVLi IVSSV on a
silver coin of Octavianus (afterwards Augustus),
indicates that the equestrian statue, which this
denarius exhibits, not the coin itself, was
executed populi jussu.-- Some gold coins of
Diocletian and Maximian bear the two letters
S. C. It would be difficult to find a satisfactory
explanation of this singularity, as well as of
many others which occur on Roman money, at
that aera of political confusion and decay of art.

5th.-- We also see the mark S. C. on the
imperial coins of some cities: these are chiefly
pieces struck at Antioch in Syria, and money
of certain Roman colonies; the cause of which
has not been sufficiently unravelled.-- M.
Hennin, in reference to this passage from
Eckhel, observes that--" L'explication la plus
naturelle de ce fait serait que ces villes
avaient recu la faveur de voir leur monnaie
de cuivre assimilée à cette de l'Empire, et
placée sous la jurisdiction de la Senate ;
mais ce fait n'a pas été convenablement
expliqué. "
[The most natural explanation would
be that these cities had received the favour of
seeing their brass money assimilated with that of
the empire, and placed under the jurisdiction of
the senate ; this fact, however, has not been
suitably explained.]-- But what is much more
surprising, and equally unaccountable, the same
mark, senatus consulto, appears on some coins
of Agrippa II., king of Judaea.

6th.-- Eckhel in conclusion, remarks that
" the Emperors of the East (Imperatores
were so desirous of appropriating the
gold coinage wholly to themselves, that they
were unwilling that gold should be coined by
foreign kings, unless with their assent and authority; and if it happened that any of those foreign sovereigns dared to do in this respect what the Romans were not able to prevent, such money
was prohibited from having currency at any
value within the confines of the Roman empire. "

S. C.
-- It has already been stated that this
mark is omitted on some of the brass coins
of the first emperors. In describing those
of Tiberius, under the year 21, Eckhel
notices, as a fact worthy of observation, that
from such as have for their types the double
cornucopiae and caduceus, the letters S. C., contrary to the custom of the brass mint, are
absent, and that there is the same omission on
coins of the same metal, exhibiting the same
type, struck under Vespasian in the year A.D.
74, as well as on coins of Domitian (Caesar)
in 73.-- As, therefore, it is solely the brass
coins with this type which want the mark in
question, there must necessarily be some
particular reason for the circumstances. "I am
of opinion (says our authority) that it is to be
sought in the type itself ; namely, that the
curnucopiae and the caduceus, inasmuch as they
were symbols of the senate and the people, supplied the mention of the senate. That those insignia were appropriate to each of the two orders
is shown by an ancient gem, on which is engraved
a cornucopiae and a caduceus, with this inscription
SEN. POP. QVE. ROM. For a similar cause,
on common coins of Caligula, with this epigraph
S. P. Q. R. P. P. OB. CIVES SERVATOS, the S. C. is
suppressed, because the authority of the senate
is already indicated in the subscription. "-- [ Vol.
vi. p. 192.]

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