Coins of the Realm: Coins of the Life and Times of Trajan.





A mini-tour of Trajan's life, time, and exploits in coins. Links are provided to full size images of coins from my site and Wildwinds.com .



1 - 2a: The subjugation of Dacia.
Dacia had long been considered a threat to Roman interests. Both Julius Caesar and Augustus had begun preparing missions, but these were aborted and the conquest was left to Trajan. Dacia was located in the northern Balkans in a strategic position. Surrounded by mountains on 3 sides, Dacia provided a natural funnel for migration and invasion - and defense. Much effort and resources were spent building up border defenses to contain what Rome considered to be a barbarian threat. Trajan began his first campaign in March 101 and finished the second in AD 106 declaring Dacia a province of the Roman Empire. Dacia remained in Roman hands until 270 CE when it became the first province abandoned by Rome. Trajan's campaigns are well documented. The most impressive record is probably the relief carvings on Trajan's Column .which still stands in Rome. The personification of Dacia (or the Dacian prisoner) along with the Dacian trophy of arms are a common theme among Trajan's coins. Some of the images are quite powerful emotionally, as their positions communicate very well the experience of defeat.
3 - 4a: Public works in Rome.
Trajan undertook massive building projects in Rome and elsewhere throughout the empire. Much of the funding for these was acquired via the conquest of Dacia. Most spectacular was probably the Forum of Trajan which was by far the largest in the city. Other works celebrated on his coins were the Aqua Traiana, the port of Ostia, Trajan's 100 ft. column, The Via Traiana, (coin 6), the triumpal Arch, Temples, and Equestrian Statues.
5. Providentia:
The personification of fate and forethought. Here she points her baton at the globe as if directing the activities like an orchestra conductor. Whether the globe represents the Earth or the Celestial Sphere is still debated. The idea of manifest destiny in the terms of Roman expansion is also personified in this image.
6. Via Traiana:
This Trajan denarius commemorates the constuction of the Via traiana, an extension of the Appian Way in southern Italy. The depiction of the personification of the highway is reminiscient of the art nouveau posters of the 20s and 30s advertising motor cars. The Via Traiana connected 3 major towns on the Adriatic to the Via Appia for direct access to Rome. "All roads lead to Rome" was pretty much true as the Romans ended up with a system containing over 53,000 miles of Roads. Fourteen different viae radiated from Rome.
7. A Blessing for the Grain Shipment:
Annona (or Abundatia) stands over a modius (the standard measure of grain) with a ship's prow behind. The population of Rome was dependent on yearly shipments of the grain harvest from Egypt. Much in the way of festival and ritual must have been undertaken to ensure the safe arrival of the fleet.
8. Provincial coin of Thessalonica, Macedon with the city name within the reverse wreath.

9. And one from Odessus, Thrace.
Home of fabled horses. The feet of the rider dangle unsupported under the horse's belly - What would have happened if the Romans had invented stirrups??
10. From the Province Where the Minting of Coins originated:
Coins were born in Lydia, site of the city of Tralles , 700 years prior to the production of this coin. Tralles began minting their own coins under the name of Seleuccia in the 3rd century BCE. Tralles participated in the revolt of Asiatic cities against Rome from 88-84 BCE, but was subjugated. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 26 BCE, but with the help of Augustus it was rebuilt.
11. The Harps of Lycia:
Music must have been sweet in the province of Lycia. Even today in Xanthos (Former capitol of ancient Lycia) one can still visit the harp-monument and the harp tomb. In the time of the Lycian League, the number of harps indicated the value of the coin.
12. A Thunder Bolt of Zeus/Jupiter from Cilicia, Diocaesarea:
The inscriptions on the obverse of this coin have the GERM and DACCIA titles of Trajan in Greek.
13. Mt. Argeus in Cappadocia
A mountain of volcanic origin that served for over a millenium as the "abode of the gods". 9000 years ago an early artist etched a picture on a rock of this volcano erupting. Relentlessly carved by nature and by the people who have lived here. 'Fairy chimneys,' cones and strange rock formations have been sculpted by wind and rain while subterranean towns were excavated by a populace seeking shelter from the conquerors and would-be conquerors who crisscrossed the wide open steppes of the Central Anatolian Plateau. This site was holy for more than one religion as the rumbling mountain must have inspired awe. Along with the Greek and Roman ruins associated with this pilgrimage site, a Zoroastrian fire temple lay nearby.
14 & 23 - 24: Armenia Parthia and the New Alexander:
In 113, Trajan set out on his last great campaign, provoked by Parthia's decision to put an unacceptable king on the throne of Armenia, a kingdom which the two great empires had shared hegemony over since the time of Nero some 50 years earlier. Trajan marched first on Armenia, deposed the king and annexed it to the Roman empire. Then he turned south into Parthia itself, taking the cities of Babylon, Seleucia and finally the capital of Ctesiphon in 116. He continued southward to the Persian Gulf, where he declared Mesopotamia a new province of the empire and lamented that he was too old to follow in the steps of Alexander the Great. But he didn't stop there. Later in 116, he crossed the Khuzestan mountains into Persia and captured the great city of Susa. He deposed the Parthian king Chrosoes and put his own puppet ruler Parthamaspates on the throne. Never again would the Roman empire advance so far to the east.
15. Cappadocia, Caesarea:
Caesarea was one of 3 provincial mints in Cappadocia (Cybistra & Tyana were the others), and the most prolific producing many varieties and types of silver and bronze coins. Being a border province with Parthia and Armenia, Cappadocia often used symbols of strength on its coins such as legionary standards, club, and implements of Hercules.
16. The Worship of a Meteorite.
"Upon this Rock, I shall build my church" may have deeper roots than we generally believe. Rocks reaching the earth from the heavens must have been met with curiousity and awe. Either the gods dropped something or they were angry, or they were communicating in some mysterious way. Many meteorites were venerated as cult symbols such as the Stone of Emesa, the Stone of the Temple of Aphrodite at Paphos (actually excavated and confirmed as a meteorite), and the Stone of Zeus Kasios which on this coin appears in a four columned shrine with a pyramid shaped roof.
17. Backseat to a god:
On this coin of Arados, Phoenicia , Trajan's bust appears to the right of the diety Astarte and in much smaller proportion. The sizes of the profiles is telling about how Roman rule, at times, permitted a humbleness that encouraged local tradition. At least we know that Trajan had not yet reached god status.
18. ...But, equal to a demi-god:
On this tetradrachm of the great port of Tyre, Trajan gets equal billing with Hercules/Melkart.
19. Wheat in Arabia??:
Hard to imagine, but coins of Bostra, in present day Jordan often are pictured with wheat sheaves. Trajan changed the capital of the province of Nabatea from Petra to Bostra upon its peaceful annexation. Coin 20 celebrates the annexation.
21. Ole Man River:
The bronze drachms of Egypt are impressive coins rivaling the Sestertius in size and weight. On this coin, the river personification Nilus reclines on a crocodile.
22. The Roman Province of Cyrene:
One of the remarkable religious developments in Cyrene was the introduction of a new god, Amun, the oracle god of the Siwa oasis. The Greeks identified this Libyan-Egyptian divinity with their own supreme god Zeus, and rendered his name as Ammon , which is a nice wordplay: ammos was the Greek word for 'sand' - in other words, the Greeks aptly called the god "Sandy Zeus". From Cyrene, the cult spread to the Greek mainland, and was especially propagated by the famous poet Pindar (522-445 BCE). [From an article by Jona Lendering ] In Roman times Cyrene and other Libyan cities were bequeathed to Rome upon the death of Ptolemy Apion in 96 BCE.
22. Divine Intervention:
During Trajan's easterm campaign, he was wintering in Antioch when a violent earthquake occurred. According to Cassius Dio in the Epitome of Book LXVIII:
"There had been many thunderstorms and portentous winds, but no one expected so many evils to result from them. First there came, on a sudden, a great bellowing roar, and this was followed by a tremendous quaking. The whole earth upheaved, and buildings leaped into the air; some were carried aloft only to collapse and be broken in pieces, while others were tossed this way and that as if by the surge of the sea, and overturned, and the wreckage spread out over a great extent even of the open country. The crash of grinding and breaking timbers together with tiles and stones was most frightful,; and an inconceivable amount of dust arose, so that it was impossible for one to see anything or to speak or hear a word. As for the people, many even who were outside the houses were hurt, being snatched up and tossed violently about and then dashed to the earth as if falling from a cliff; some were maimed and others were killed. Even trees in some cases leaped into the air, roots and all. The number of those who were trapped in the houses and perished was past finding out; for multitudes were killed by the very force of the falling debris, and great numbers were suffocated in the ruins. Those who lay with part of their body buried under the stones or timbers suffered terribly, being able neither to live any longer nor to find an immediate death... Trajan made his way out through a window of the room in which he was staying. Some being, of greater than human stature, had come and led him forth, so that he escaped with only a few slight injuries; and as the shocks extended over several days, he lived out of doors in the hippodrome"
The "being, of greater than human stature" was obviously interpreted as Jupiter. Thus Jupiter wreaked havoc on Antioch while at the same time protecting Trajan. The Roman spin doctors turned what could have been an ill omen into a positive event.< BLOCKQUOTE>
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