Antoninus Pius. 138-161 AD. AR Denarius (3.06 gm)

Obv: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P, laureate head right.
Rev: TEMPLVM DIV AVG REST, COS IIII in exergue, octastyle temple of Divus Augustus.
References -RIC II 143; BMCRE 549; RSC 809.

This is a coin I obtained for under $15 on ebay which has considerable historical significance. No Trace remains today of this temple to the deified Augustus and Livia. It was built by Tiberius or as a joint effort of Tiberius and Livia. According to Suetonius, Tiberius did not finish the temple, and it was completed by Caligula. Tacitus, however, says that Tiberius finished the temple, but for some reason did not dedicate it agreeing in this with Dio. In this temple were statues of Augustus, of Livia set up by Claudius, and probably of other deified emperors [Platner, 1929]. It was destroyed by fire at some time before 79 A.D., but restored, probably by Domitian, who seems to have constructed a shrine of his patron goddess, Minerva as an adjunct to it [Most likely it was struck by lightning In 69 A.D.]. A considerable restoration was carried out by Antoninus Pius, whose coins, like the one above, show an octastyle building with Corinthian capitals, and two statues, presumably of Augustus and Livia, in the cella. The last reference to the temple is in 248 AD. Pliny refers to one painting in the temple, that of Hyacinthus by Nicias of Athens, which was placed there by Tiberius [Plin. NH xxxv.131]. The temple illustrated on the coins of Antonius Pius presents the viewer with great detail. The quadriga on top and the relief in the pediment feature Augustus. The figure on the left eave of the roof represents Romulus and Aeneas is on the right leading his family through the flames of Troy [CNG, 2002]. Two statues of Victory flank the steps.

In Latin literature this temple is called templum Augusti or divi Augusti, except in Martial and Suetonius, where it is templum novum, a name which was evidently given to the building upon completion, as it occurs in the Acta Arvalia from 36 A.D. In connection with the temple, Tiberius seems to have erected a library, BIBLIOTHECA TEMPLI NOVI or TEMPLI AUGUSTI and subsequently Caligula was to build his famous bridge to connect the Palatine and Capitoline hills over this temple. Its location is thereby indicated as somewhere on the north-west side of the Palatine, below the domus Tiberiana. Of the construction of the original temple before the restoration by Antoninus, we know nothing from ancient sources other than coins, although a hexastyle temple of Augustus is represented on bronze coins of Tiberius of 34-36 A.D.

For more information on Roman coins with architectural and engineering reverses, obtain a Copy of Monumental Coins by Marvin Tameanko - Krause Publishing. A great read and beautifully illustrated. This coffee table-sized book is now selling for under $10!

return to Roman Imperial silver page
Return to Home Page