The significance of the military representation of Caracalla upon the coinage of his sole reign (212-217 CE)

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Abstract

Obverse coin portraiture presents unique insights into the public image of a Roman emperor. This paper will use a close analysis of portraiture struck upon the imperial coinage of Caracalla to explore the degree to which the emperor’s public image emphasised his associations with the imperial army. While ancient literary sources state Caracalla cultivated the public appearance of a military man, quantitative studies of his imperial coinage claim that he did not produce a higher volume of ‘military’ reverse types than earlier emperors, and therefore did not use coins to promote military associations. An examination of imperial obverse portraiture offers an opportunity to reconcile ancient literary and numismatic evidence. Obverse representations of Caracalla reveal a number of militarising features; strong evidence that the association between the emperor and the military described by ancient historians was indeed intentionally publicised on his coins during the period of his sole reign.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)54-66
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Numismatic Association of Australia
Volume28
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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