Since 2001, the Special Collections and Archives department of the Rutgers University Libraries has been the home to a significant Roman numismatic collection, the Ernst Badian Collection of Roman Republican Coins. This collection was created by the late Professor Ernst Badian (d. 2011), who donated it to Rutgers. The collection is composed at this time of more than 1200 coins, documenting the emergence of coinage and a money economy in Rome and developments down through the late Republic (280 to 31 B. C. E.). The collection begins with examples of cast bronze coinage, used in the earliest stages of monetization. The Republic moved to struck coins, some made of silver as the standard metal for coins. The denarius, half-denarius and quinarius all were struck from silver. Smaller denominations continued to be struck from bronze. Early coins found in the collection often imitate examples from the Greek colonies in southern Italy (Magna Graecia). The movement to silver denominations, like the denarius, unique to Rome, also is documented. There also are examples of brockage, an error caused when a coin adhered to the die and was struck a second time.
Coins in the collection also document the political aspects of striking coins unique to Rome. Young politicians served as official moneyers (tresviri monetales). They put their names on coins and selected motifs that conveyed messages about their families' histories and the virtues they claimed these had. The most common message was the importance of military virtues. Patriotic images like the helmeted head of Rome and the she wolf appear together with images of deities. Reflecting affairs in Italy and beyond, changes in money weights and the addition of victory motifs show the fortunes of a rising empire. This includes evidence of the difficulties of the Republic during the Second Punic War, when Hannibal campaigned in Italy. An unusual use of gold as an "emergency" coinage during the Second Punic War is represented among the coins at Rutgers. The collection also documents financial pressures that caused debasement of currency in the same period. Victories were commemorated with special coins and the use of images of trophies won by the armies of the Republic.
Then collection thus illustrates comprehensively the progressively heated political climate of the later Republic, and the various fortunes of charismatic leaders such as Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Lepidus and Marc Antony, as well as those of numerous other ambitious families and individuals.
Coins from the Badian collections have been digitized. Visit the project portal at https://collections.libraries.rutgers.edu/roman-coins.
For further information, contact Francesca Giannetti, Digital Humanities Librarian at Alexander Library, Rutgers–New Brunswick, or the Associate Curator, Tim Corlis, Head of Preservation, Special Collections/University Archives.
T. Corey Brennan, Counterfeit Caesars: The Criminal Genius of Coin Forger Carl Wilhelm Becker (1772-1830). (New Brunswick, N.J.: Zimmerli Museum of Art, Rutgers University, 2016).
T. Corey Brennan, Fernanda Perrone and Gary D Farney, Early Coinage of the Roman Republic 280 to 91 B. C. E. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Libraries, 2005).
Gary D. Farney, Ethnic identity and aristocratic competition in Republican Rome (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007).
The digital collection Roman Coins of the Late Imperial Period represents a selection, from Special Collections and University Archives, of twenty-two coins from a larger collection of 1,600 assorted numismatic objects minted in the late centuries of the Roman Empire. These coins were selected for digitization based on their condition and historical value; the selection spans the early Third into the late 4th centuries, encompassing the Crisis of the Third Century (from Gordian III, 238-244 C.E.), through Constantinian dynasty, and their successors (to Valens, 364-368 C.E.).
Rick Hale, Ph.D. candidate (Classics, Rutgers University) photographed the coins and created the descriptions.
Online portal available at https://collections.libraries.rutgers.edu/roman-coins-late-imperial-period.
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