Jump to content
CoinPeople.com

Nero


Ætheling
 Share

Recommended Posts

Not often i buy coins these days but whilst having a browse on a dealer's site i stumbled across this little curiosity priced up at about $55.

 

A denarius of Nero struck in 68CE, the very same year that the Emperor's eventful reign finally caught up with him.

 

The real interest in this piece for me though was that it shows a stunning example of a practice known in Rome as 'damnatio memoriae' (lit. damnation of memory) where names (as in this case) and often faces of deceased individuals were removed from the archaeological and historical records as a punishment for disgraceful behaviour during life.

 

929711.jpg

 

 

The reverse depicts an eagle between two standards. (Kinda like Nero stuck between Vindex and Galba :ninja: )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting, I have heard about this practice. There was a discussion about it in another forum and I think some were wondering how one can tell it is actual damnatio. For instance you find a coin that has been scatched across the portrait...or in this case, a chunk with inscription is missing...how do you conclude it is not just, like so many modern and ancient coins, someone just defacing coinage for one reason or another. Just wondering how you determine this...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting, I have heard about this practice. There was a discussion about it in another forum and I think some were wondering how one can tell it is actual damnatio. For instance you find a coin that has been scatched across the portrait...or in this case, a chunk with inscription is missing...how do you conclude it is not just, like so many modern and ancient coins, someone just defacing coinage for one reason or another. Just wondering how you determine this...

 

It's a very valid point you raise. There is no way of telling if it is official damnatio (i.e as decreed by the senate) or unofficial, people basically removing his name unofficially. Defacing the coinage would i presume be considered treason (if one was caught that is), however, since Nero was an official enemy of the state after 68 it would be not a problem to deface the coinage (practically encouraged), so in some ways it would be a form of damnatio, either official or unofficial.

 

With this particular coin only the name of Nero has been removed. Now i'm not certain what the rate of literacy was in 1st century Rome, I presume that even if people couldn't read (as we would define it) they would be able to recognise a name, so the fact that it's merely his name that has been cut out does not rule out the plebs.

 

However, according to Tacitus, Nero was rather popular with the lower classes so it's improbable that they would strike out against him in such a way (but of course that might be naive, because people are individuals not a consensus). The people that really despised Nero though were the Patrician and Senatorial classes (as is so often the case) and it was they who ostracised Nero in the first place.

 

I would have thought that if it had been the lower orders then they probably would have defaced his portrait, the focus here though is clearly just on the written word. The biggest evidence i think in favour of damnatio is the fact that they've clipped a good chunk of the coin out. Now correct me if i'm wrong but i presume that these coins were accepted on weight (as well as shape/size), cutting that much out must reduce the value of the coin considerably. Now presuming it's contemporary (and that's another minefield), why would anyone (especially lower orders of society) deface a coin to the extent of reducing it's value or even making it perhaps unacceptable in commerce. A modern example would be taking a $50 bill and tearing off a fifth of it and hoping you could still spend the 4/5ths you had left. If you really needed the money, you wouldn't do it, you might resort to writing a sly comment upon it or make it look like the President is smoking a pipe, but you'd never make it difficult to recirculate to note.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This coin appears to only be broken. If it had undergone damnatio memoriae, the image of the emperor would not be intact. It appears to be only a coincidence that Nero's name is missing. This coin looks a bit porous and may even be suffering from some crystallization, which makes silver brittle and more susceptible to breaking. Even if crystallization is not present, silver coins have been known to break.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is another reason for defacement. When offering coins to the gods, they were usually"killed" (as my piece shown). But I agree that coin seems to have been broken - though how you break a coin in a perfect semicircle escapes me :ninja:

Maximian

R-7Maximiano.jpg

R-7Maximianr.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well i'm open to alternative ideas. It may well be crystallisation, i don't know, i once read an indepth article upon that by someone on another forum, and it's certainly a plausible theory.

 

The former owner of this coin (and i presume the person who found it) is an archaeologist who is quite knowledgable about Roman coinage and it was he who argued that it was possibly a defaced coin. But i don't know, as it's the first i've come across i've leaned towards his judgement seeing as he's more experienced with these than i am.

 

I guess we'll probably never really know, it could be argued either way, silver crystallisation being an obvious alternative now i come to think of it.

 

But then again Geordie raises another possibility that i had not been aware of. I know that coins were given as votive offerings to deities, but i did not know that they 'killed' them per say. Although instinct tells me that Nero probably wouldn't be a very good subject to offer up unto the gods, considering his ill treatment of the Pythia at Delphi. Whoever was desperate enough (and risque enough) to ask for divine help with a Nero coin probably got Apollo knocking at the door.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ætheling,

 

Sending an email to Mark Blackburn at the Fitzwilliam Museum or Mary Hinton at the British Museum should be able to give you their opinion. I use Martin Allen and Mark Blackburn at the Fitz to help me with my Hammereds, someone there should be able to help you regarding defacement on Romans. They will have more experience than most.

 

All the best,

Clive.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...