Image: Bust of a woman (Iustitia), draped, facing right, wearing a crown decorated with floral ornaments, with hair fastened in a knot at the back
Inscription: TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVST P M TR POT XXIIII: Legend surrounding S C
(RIC I2, Tiberius no. 46, p. 97)
This bronze dupondius, minted in Rome between 22 and 23 CE depicts on the obverse the bust of a female, which is likely the goddess of justice (although it has also been suggested that it could be Livia, the wife of Tiberius), accompanied by the inscription IVSTITIA (Iustitia), “justice”. The coin was minted during the reign of the emperor Tiberius (reigned 14-37 CE), who immediately preceded the first sole ruler of the empire, Augustus. The inscription on the reverse acknowledges Tiberius as TI(BERIUS) CAESAR DIVI AVG(USTI) F(ILIUS) AVGVST(US) P(ONTIFEX) M(AXIMUS) TR(IBUNICIA) POT(ESTATE) XXIIII, which translates as “Tiberius Caesar, son of the deified Augustus, Augustus, pontifex maximus (chief priest), with tribunician power for the twenty-fourth time.” The large SC in the middle of the reverse of the coin, which the longer legend encircles, stands for Senatus Consulto, and indicates that the coin was issued by decree of the senate. Under Tiberius, the financial policies of Augustus generally remained, with no innovation under the former. Sestertii, asses, and dupondi, such as the present example, all bearing the SC formula, continued to be struck at Rome. The mint had been reopened by Augustus in 10-12 CE for aes, but moneyers names no longer appeared on the coinage. Coins such as this dupondius, with the “Divus Augustus” formula appearing in the obverse inscription were particularly frequent after 22 CE, and probably constituted a large portion of the coinage minted at Rome during Tiberius’s time (Sutherland, Roman Imperial Coinage I, p. 87-88).
On other issues minted under later emperors Iustitia appears in full, either standing or sitting, and with her traditional symbols (balancing scales, sceptre, patera, cornucopia), so the fact that the woman on this dupondius appears in the manner of an empress, draped, and wearing a decorated crown is notable (for the later depiction of Iustitia and a more detailed discussion of the deity, see, for example Denarius depicting Septimius Severus and the goddess Iustitia, holding a patera and sceptre (198-202 CE)). It has therefore been suggested that rather than Iustitia, it is Tiberius’s wife Livia who is depicted here, and associated with the goddess of justice. Livia had been named Augusta by her husband, and was subsequently adopted into the Julian line as Julia Augusta (see Tacitus, Annals I.8.2), a promotion which further strengthened the legitimacy of her son’s rule. In 14 CE she was also made a priestess of the cult of the deified Augustus (she was later deified herself by the emperor Claudius in 42 CE), and so was a significant figure (on Livia’s life and significance, see the biography of Barrett, Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome).
As the first empress of Rome, Livia became an archetype for Roman women, and her depictions on coinage propagated the notion of her upstanding morality by associating her with Roman virtues and divine attributes. Livia appeared on a significant amount of local coinage under Augustus (although not on his official coinage) and on low denomination currency under Tiberius—although she was alluded to rather than explicitly named—, which linked her with Pietas and Salus (although see Wallace-Hadrill, “The Emperor’s Virtues,” p. 304 n. 30, where it has been noted that not all scholars have accepted the identification of Livia on these issues). In such coinage, the figures represented wear their hair as the empress did in a knot at the back, and of course are crowned with a diadem (Titus also minted a dupondius with Livia as Iustitia which resembles the present example: RIC II/I2, Titus, no. 424, p. 227, 80-81 CE). Some Salus types featuring Livia are much more easily identifiable due to the fact that their legends read “SALUS AUGUSTA” (see Wallace-Hadrill, “The Emperor’s Virtues,” p. 310; for more general discussion of Livia’s vast representation in various media, see, for example, Winkes, Livia, Octavia, Iulia; Bartman, Portraits of Livia; Barrett, Livia, p. 101-102 gives some examples of numismatic evidence featuring her). On the present dupondius, however, “Augusta” is not present, meaning that the argument for the women depicted being Livia is much less certain.
The fact that this dupondius was low in value meant that it would be commonly used by numerous people, and so the coin’s message could be circulated widely. By representing the goddess Iustitia, Tiberius firstly emphasises to his subjects that justice and fairness were important to the imperial family. It therefore forwards an imperial rhetoric that suggested a just governance of the empire.
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