Rome 27 BCE

Obverse

TYPE: Bust of Augustus

LEGEND: CAESAR COS VII CIVIBUS SERVATEIS

Reverse

TYPE: Eagle holding corona civica, laurel on either side

LEGEND: AVGVSTVS S(enatus) C(onsulto)

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We have already posed the question of what Octavian would do with sole power, and have seen that, between 31 and 27, he attempted to ease a transition from war to peace (and to some fundamental changes in political order) by holding the consulship, accepting some honors and prerogatives from the state, significantly demobilizing his legions, and disseminating visual images (and simple verbal messages) of peace, stability, divine favor, his ability as a military leader, and of his traditional Roman virtues and values.

Octavian needed to negotiate a delicate relationship with the mass of urban citizens, the legions, and the senatorial nobility; he had to maneuver a path between exercising sole power autocratically (and risking assassination) and handing the reigns back over to the senate (and risking a return to civil war). We call the arrangement that finally grew out of this process 'the Principate,' the rule of the Princeps (first citizen).

In 27 BCE, Octavian negotiated the first of three constitutional settlements, by means of which he both consolidated power in his own hands and allowed the senate to save face and retain some of their traditional prerogatives.

In 23 BCE and 19 BCE Augustus negotiated two more settlements, the details of which you do not need to know. I only point out that in 23, Augustus consolidated the two most important bases of constitutional power for the rest of his reign:

COS VII = seventh consulship, 27 BCE

CIVIBUS SERVATEIS and the corona civica = another way of expressing ob cives servatos, "for having saved the citizens." A civic crown of oak-leaf was a simple honor, in the Roman tradition, awarded for rescuing a comrade in battle. (see above)

The eagle is a symbol of Jupiter.

Laurel had always crowned victors and were an attribute of Victory herself, but it is also sacred to Apollo. The laurel on either side of the coin invokes the laurel that flanked the entry to Augustus' house (see above).

S(enatus) C(onsulto) means by decree of the Senate.