Rome 29-27 BCE



TYPE: Bust of Octavian laureate



TYPE: rostral column with Octavian nude except for Greek-style cloak


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AFTER ACTIUM: Between 31 and 27 BCE, Octavian had successfully led his followers to a victory in a civil war that had eliminated all rivals to sole power. He could claim that his sovereignty rested on the consent of all. "All" were thus secure as long as the consensus included the support of the legions. But now that peace was established, how was Octavian to act?

laureate: the laurel wreath is a symbol of victory, but also of Apollo (whose sacred tree is the laurel). Antony had adopted the patronage and symbolism of Dionysos (god of vegetation and wine) and Octavian of Apollo. Octavian represented his victories at Philippi (over Cassius and Brutus) and at Actium (over Antony and Cleopatra) as indicative of Apollo's favor and by reason of his aid. Later, Apolline disciplines (morality, purification, music, reconciliation, etc.) will play an important role in the Augustan program.

The monument depicted on the coin is a statue of Octavian, nude, on a column decorated with prows (rostra) of enemy ships. The monument was erected in the Forum Romanum to commemorate the naval victory over Sextus Pompeius; a similar column had been erected in the third century for a victory over the Carthaginians. Thus, the column, and by extension the image on the coin, likened the civil war victory to one over a foreign enemy.

IMP(erator) = commander