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Augustus founded an imperial transportation system, the cursus publicus, which replaced a traditional system of tabellarii, or private messengers. The cursus publicus became one of the largest government institutions of antiquity.

Government officials, imperial contractors and local magistrates regularly requisitioned vehicles, animals and provisions from private citizens for official government transport. Abuses for personal gain were common. Local municipal governments were expected to pay the costs but citizens were rarely fully compensated. Under Domitian the abuses may have become particularly onerous.

On a sestertius inscribed VEHICVLATIONE ITALIAE REMISSA, Nerva advertises his reform of the system, promising the imperial government would cover the cost of imperial transport. On this spectacular sestertius we see the mules and their accoutrements in rare detail. Most interesting, perhaps, is the high-wheeled cart behind the mules with its pole-and-harnesses trapping resting upright. The scene is placid, with the horses grazing and the vehicle out of commission. The decision to depict a rather idyllic scene, as opposed to showing a mule-cart on the move, is a perfect reflection of the inscription, which itself refers to the remission of the burden.

Dictionary of Roman Coins

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VEHICVLATIONE ITALIAE REMISSA.  Two mules feeding liberated from their yokes, which appear in the background; in the exergue S.C. (Senatus consulto.)  Obv.  IMP NERVA CAES. AVG. P.M. TR. P. [or TR. P. II.] COS. III. P.P.  Head of Nerva to r., laureated.  AE I (20 frcs)  It is evident from this coin of Nerva, in A.D. 97, relieved the people of Italy from this oppression, though biographers have made no mention of the fact, subsequent writers assigning the merit of establishing posts to Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, by whom the plan was only perfected and completed.

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