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Silver Roman Antoninianus (Successor to the "Denarius") of Emperor Gordian III with Goddess (of joy and gladness) Laetitia - 243/4 A.D.


OBVERSE DEPICTION: The bust of Emperor Gordian III, cuirassed, draped, with radiate crown.


REVERSE DEPICTION: The "Goddess" Laetitia in a long flowing robe draped over her arm, holding a wreath/garland in one hand, the other hand holding an anchor.

ATTRIBUTION: City of Rome Mint between 241 and 243 A.D.


Diameter: 22 millimeters.

Weight: 4.12 grams.

NOTE: Coin is mounted free of charge into your choice of pendant settings (shown in sterling silver pendant), and includes a sterling silver chain in your choice of 16", 18", or 20" length, (details below or click here). We can reverse coin in mounting if you prefer opposite side showing front.

IMAGES: Coins are difficult to image, especially silver ones. This coin looks just like it is supposed to, a bright silver denarius. Some of the images here are made with a digital camera, while others are made with a scanner. Hopefully between the two you can get a good idea both as to the detail and appearance (tone) of the coin. We're not really thrilled with either set of images, the coin looks much better in hand.

DETAIL: This is a very handsome silver antoninianus produced in the city of Rome itself between 241 and 243 A.D. It is in exceptionally good condition, only extremely light wear from circulation in ancient Rome. You might note how little wear to the emperor's ear, crown, and hair - the high points of the coin where circulatory wear shows up first - still exceedingly sharp! Virtually all legends and themes are very clear and distinct. It was well struck both front and back, on a very large and heavy planchet (blank), though as was quite common to coinage of the era, the planchet was slightly irregular...note the one flattened area along the flan (edge). The obverse is exceptionally well centered as you can see, the legends and theme entirely intact except due to that flattened flan area, the last two letters composing the legend are slightly crowded/foreshortened. Nonetheless the legend is entirely legible. The reverse strike is likewise well centered, though two letters of the legend (both the letter "A") are again, crowded against the top flan (edge of the coin) due to that same flat spot, and again, slightly foreshortened.

There are also two additional letters in the reverse legend which are very faint, this due to those letter on the die being filled with detritus (little chips and bits), and consequentially those two letters were not struck in high profile, as they were again, full of detritus. It was not uncommon at all for a die to be pulled from service and re-engraved several times during its life span. Little bits and pieces of metal would slow fill the little engraved letters and the finer aspects of the engraved theme, to the point where the die would have to be "cleaned up" and re-engraved, and the filled in letters and features cleaned out. Keep in mind of course that two thousand years ago the Romans hand struck each and every coin with a die and hammer, and so off-center coins, coins with ragged edges, coins affected by damaged or clogged dies, and other such blemishes are the rule, not the exception. Given the ample proportions and the fairly well-centered and sharp strike, this specimen is nonetheless without a doubt a superior specimen.

The obverse of the coin depicts Roman Emperor Gordian III, draped, cuirassed, and with radiate crown; and the legend "IMP GORDIANVS PIVS FEL AVG". Note that as described earlier, the "VG" at the end of the legend "AVG" are both foreshortened due to the flat spot in the obverse flan. "GORDIANVS", with which the obverse legend begins, refers to the Emperor's name, of course, Marcus Antonius Gordianus. The "V" is used instead of a "U" as in Roman Latin there was no "U". The "IMP" preface to his name is an abbreviation for "Imperator". Imperator was originally a title or acclamation awarded to victorious generals in the field during the Republic Period (before Julius Caesar). Throughout the history of Republican Rome, the title was bestowed upon an especially able general who had won an enormous victory. Traditionally it was the troops in the field that proclaimed a man imperator - the first step in the process of the general applying to the senate for a triumph (a ceremony both civil and religious held in Rome itself to publicly honor the general and to display/parade the glories and trophies of Roman victory).

Imperatrix was the title of the wife an Imperator. After Augustus Octavian (Julius Caesar's successor) had established the hereditary, one-man rule in Rome that we refer to as the Imperial Roman Empire, the title Imperator was restricted to the emperor and members of his immediate family. If a general who was not part of the imperial family was acclaimed by his troops as Imperator, it was tantamount to a declaration of rebellion or civil war against the ruling emperor. Though the title Augustus is probably the closest Latin equivalent to the English word emperor; it was eventually the term Imperator which became the root of the English word "Imperial". The title Pius Felix is a combination of two separate terms. Pius is a title used for Roman Emperors to means that they are dutiful toward the pantheon of Roman deities, to the country (patriotic), and (perhaps) to their family. Felix means quite simply fortunate, or lucky. In fact the Romans had a goddess of good fortune, Felicitas, who was worshipped in various sanctuaries in Rome. Never hurts to have a leader who is both pious and lucky.

The suffix to Gordian's name, "AVG", was an abbreviation for Augustus. The term "Augustus" is Latin for "majestic" (thus the honorific salutation "your majesty"). However the term "Augustus" in the common vernacular of the Roman Empire became synonymous with the Emperor. The first "Augustus" (and first man counted as a Roman Emperor) was Octavius, Julis Caesar's nephew and heir. Octavian was given the title of Augustus by the Senate in 27 B.C. Over the next forty years, Caesar Augustus literally set the standard by which subsequent Emperors would be recognized, accumulating various offices and powers and making his own name ("Augustus") identifiable with the consolidation of these powers under a single person. Although the name signified nothing in constitutional theory, it was recognized as representing all the powers that Caesar Augustus eventually accumulated.

Caesar Augustus also set the standard by which Roman Emperors were named. The three titles used by the majority of Roman Emperors; "Imperator", "Caesar", and "Augustus" were all used personally by Caesar Augustus (he officially styled himself "Imperator Caesar Augustus"). However of the name "Augustus" was unique to the Emperor himself (though the Emperor's mother or wife could bear the name "Augusta"). But others could and did bear the titles "Imperator" and "Caesar". Later usage saw the Emperor adding the additional titles "Pius Felix ("pious and blessed") and "Invictus" ("unconquered") in addition to the title "Augustus"). In this usage, by signifying the complete assumption of all Imperial powers, "Augustus" became roughly synonymous with "Emperor" in modern language. As the Roman Empire began splintering, Augustus came to be the title applied to the senior Emperor, while the title "Caesar" came to refer to his "junior" sub-Emperors.

Gordian III was the grandson of Emperor Gordian I. Emperor Gordian I had committed suicide a few months prior upon being informed of the death of his son, Gordian II, in battle. Two Senators, Balbinus and Pupienus were elected emperors by the Roman Imperial Senate upon the death of Gordian I and Gordian II. However the Roman army found neither of the two new emperors to their liking, and the Praetorian Guard murdered both on July 29th, 238 A.D., thereupon proclaiming thirteen-year-old Gordian III emperor. Gordian III was very popular amongst the people and especially the Praetorians, who lifted him up on a shield to be cheered by the jubilant people of Rome. Gordian appointed the wise and good Timestheus as Praetorian Prefect. Under the counsel of Timestheus, Gordian ruled well and became quite popular. Gordian married Timestheus's daughter, Tranquillina. The Roman Empire had peace and stability during his reign, which was rare during the Third Century. But the peace was marred by the necessity for Gordian to spend about half of his reign engaged in campaigns against the Persians.

In 241 A.D., the Persian king Ardashir died, and his son Shapur immediately began making trouble for Rome by invading Syria. Gordian III and his army went to deal with Shapur a year later and won several victories in battle against the ruthless Persian. In fact the Roman military campaigns were so effective that the Persians were compelled to evacuate most of Mesopotamia. However during the campaign Praetorian Prefect Timestheus died of an illness in 243 A.D. (perhaps poisoned), and Philip the Arab became Gordian's Praetorian Prefect in his place. Philip was not the loyal friend that Timesthius was. Philip took great pains to make the soldiers dislike Gordian III by bringing about a shortage of supplies and blaming it on Gordian's inexperience. Despite the desperate offer by Gordian to voluntarily relinquish his throne in favor of Philip, nonetheless Philip inspired the Roman troops to murder Gordian III on February 25, 244 A.D., while campaigning in Mesopotamia. Philip intimidated the Senate into acknowledging him as Augustus, and then appointed his own son, Philip II as Caesar.

The image of Gordian III depicted on this coin shows him wearing a radiate crown. The radiate crown, common on the dupondius and antoninianus coins of Roman origin, is reference to divinity, specifically to the Greco-Roman Sun God Sol (or Helios, to the ancient Greeks, and Apollo to the later Greeks). The ancient Greeks generally portrayed their sun god as radiate crowned - as can be seen depicted on the reverse of many ancient Greek (and ultimately Roman) coins. Eventually the Emperors of Rome borrowed the theme, not only depicting a Crowned God Sol on the reverse of their coins, but as well bestowing these divine attributes upon the obverse depiction of their Emperors.

The Emperor is also depicted wearing a cuirass. Roman muscle cuirass armor was considered a sign of a high ranking commander and was worn by Roman Emperors, Praetorian Prefects, Roman Generals, Praetorian Tribunes, and Legionary Legates. Examples of this type of armor can be seen in Roman marble statues and engravings at various museums throughout the world. They were constructed of a leather-trimmed, thin sheet of metal (bronze, silver, or gold) and covered the chest and back. The metal work was generally very elaborate, and in the form of various gods or goddesses, mythological creatures, or the Roman eagle. There has only been one (fragmentary) ancient Roman cuirass ever recovered.

The reverse of the coin features the Roman Goddess of Joy and Gladness, Laetitia. The Goddess is generally depicted wearing a stola, a sleeveless outer garment worn by mature women over the tunic (or chemise). Generally she is depicted holding a wreath (or garland) in one hand and a scepter or hasta pura (ceremonial spear) in the other hand. Occasionally in place of the scepter she might be depicted holding a rudder (which sometimes in turn rests upon a globe), allegory to Rome's dominion over the maritime world (and of course the benefits of that dominion - grain). The rudder also signified divine (or imperial) guidance toward fortune, or steering toward prosperity.

Rarely in place of the rudder Laetitia might be depicted resting her hand upon an anchor (again a maritime symbol, symbolizing stability, as well as the bounty, i.e., the grain supply from Egypt and Africa, which is the largess of Rome's maritime fleet). Laetitia is also occasionally depicted holding corn ears or stalks or sheaves of wheat ears in one hand and an apple in the other (the apple and the wheat or corn signifying abundance, fertility, prosperity, "good times"). Occasionally she might also be depicted holding a branch in one hand (representing bountiful vegetation/crops) and a crown in the other. Branches were used to decorate Roman homes and streets during festivals, so in that sense tree branches signified joy and gladness (as in "deck the halls with boughs of holly").

The hasta pura she is occasionally depicted holding (substituting for a scepter) was a ceremonial lance (spear, pike) without an iron head, oftentimes with a knob at the end, the forerunner of the standard pilum issued to Roman soldiers. The hasta was derived by the Roman from the Etrurians, who called it a "corim". By the Sabines it was called a "quiris", their king called "coritos" as the spear was to them an attribute of royalty. The Hasta was the symbol not only of power, fortitude and valor, but also of majesty and even divinity. It is one of the insignia of the Gods, and of the Emperors and Augustae after their apotheosis, implying that they had become objects of worship. It is generally found in the hands of female divinities, as the war-spear is in those of warriors and heroes. Its name literally means "blameless spear", and it was sometimes awarded ceremoniously to soldiers who had saved another's life.

The wreath or garland she is most often depicted actually derives from Greek mythology and the Olympic games. A wreath or garland of laurel leaves is an attribute of the Graeco-Roman God Apollo, and is a symbol of victory. In Roman coinage the emperor is often depicted being crowned with such a wreath by the Goddess of Victory, "Victoria" (known to the Greeks as "Nike"). In Greek Mythology, Apollo declared that wreaths were to be awarded to victors, both in athletic competitions and poetic meets under his care. Thus in ancient Greece laurel wreaths became the prize awarded in athletic, musical, and poetic competitions. For instance by the 6th century B.C., the winners of the ancient Greek Pythian Games (forerunner of the Olympics and held every four years at Delphi) were awarded a wreath of laurel leaves.

The symbolism was inherited (or mimicked) by the Romans, to whom the bestowal of a laurel wreath became the sign of a victorious general acclaimed by his troops. After defeating Pompey, the Roman Senate not only voted Julius Caesar Imperator for life, but also awarded him the right to wear the laurel wreath in perpetuity. From that point on it is said that Julius Caesar always appeared in public laureate, and all of his coinage depicted Julius Caesar wearing the laurel leaf crown. Thus the laurel leaf crown became associated not only with the victorious general, but became a symbol of the office of Caesar and Imperator. There were other types of wreaths in Graeco-Roman Mythology as well. Dionysus was oftentimes depicted either with a wreath of ivy or with a wreath composed of grape leaves. Zeus was oftentimes depicted with a wreath of oak leaves, and wreathes of roses became associated with Aphrodite. And again, wreathes were worn by many during festivals and so became associated with holidays and merry-making.

The reverse legend is supposed to read "LAETITIA AVG N". At the very top of the reverse, due to the flan spot previously described in the flan, the top of both the second and third letter "A" in the legend ("LAETITIA AVG N") are foreshortened. The preceding two letters of the legend ("LAETITIA AVG N") are very faint due to the fact, as described earlier, that these two letters in the die were clogged up with detritus, resulting both of those letters being struck in very low profile. The legend itself, "LAETITIA AVG N" is a fairly straightforward piece of propaganda. Obviously "LAETITIA" is the name of the goddess. "AVG" is as was the case with the obverse legend, short for "Augustus". The letter "N" following the "AVG", together with the "AVG", is an abbreviation for "AVGVSTI NOSTRI", which means, "of our emperor. In this case the reference is to the propagandistic message that the gladness and joy experienced by the Roman Empire flows from the emperor. It is because of the emperor, "of the emperor", that joy and gladness is experienced by the Roman People.

Your purchase includes, upon request, mounting of this coin in either pendant style "a" or "d" as shown here. Pendant style "a" is a clear, airtight acrylic capsule designed to afford your ancient coin maximum protection from both impact damage and degradation. It is the most "politically correct" mounting. Style "d" is a sterling silver pendant. Either pendant styles include a sterling silver chain (16", 18", or 20"). Upon request, there are also an almost infinite variety of other pendants which might well suit both you and your ancient coin pendant, and include both sterling silver and solid 14kt gold mountings, including those shown here. As well, upon request, we can also make available a huge variety of chains in lengths from 16 to 30 inches, in metals including sterling silver, 14kt gold fill, and solid 14kt gold.

HISTORY: Coins came into being during the seventh century B.C. in Lydia and Ionia, part of the Greek world, and were made from a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver. Each coin blank was heated and struck with a hammer between two engraved dies. Unlike modern coins, they were not uniformly round. Each coin was wonderfully unique. Coinage quickly spread to the island and city states of Western Greece. Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.) then spread the concept of coinage throughout the lands he conquered. Ancient coins are archaeological treasures from the past. They were buried for safekeeping because of their value and have been slowly uncovered throughout modern history. Oftentimes soldiers the night before battle would bury their coins and jewelry, hoping and believing that they would live long enough to recover them, and to return to their family. Killed in battle, these little treasure hoards remain until today scattered throughout Western and Eastern Europe, even into the Levant and Persia.

As well, everyone from merchants to housewives found the safest place to keep their savings was buried in a pot, or in some other secretive location. If they met an unexpected end, the whereabouts of the merchants trade goods or the household's sugar jar money might never be known. Recently a commercial excavation for a new building foundation in London unearthed a Roman mosaic floor. When archaeologists removed the floor, they found 7,000 silver denarii secreted beneath the floor. Even the Roman mints buried their produce. There were over 300 mints in the Roman Empire striking coinage. Hoards of as many as 40,000 coins have been found in a single location near these ancient sites. Ancient coins reflect the artistic, political, religious, and economic themes of their times. The acquisition of ancient coins is a unique opportunity to collect art which has been appreciated throughout the centuries.

Coins of the Roman Empire most frequently depicted the Emperor on the front of the coins, and were issued in gold, silver, and bronze. The imperial family was also frequently depicted on the coinage, and, in some cases, coins depicted the progression of an emperor from boyhood through maturity. The reverse side of often served as an important means of political propaganda, frequently extolling the virtues of the emperor or commemorating his victories. Many public works and architectural achievements such as the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus were also depicted. Important political events such as alliances between cities were recorded on coinage. Many usurpers to the throne, otherwise unrecorded in history, are known only through their coins. Interestingly, a visually stunning portrayal of the decline of the Roman Empire is reflected in her coinage. The early Roman bronze coins were the size of a half-dollar. Within 100-150 years those had shrunk to the size of a nickel. And within another 100-150 years, to perhaps half the size of a dime.

One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old piece of jewelry. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.).

The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. For a brief time, the era of "Pax Romana", a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine temporarily arrested the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.

At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. Valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably these ancient citizens would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, two thousand years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Roman Soldiers oftentimes came to possess large quantities of "booty" from their plunderous conquests, and routinely buried their treasure for safekeeping before they went into battle. If they met their end in battle, most often the whereabouts of their treasure was likewise, unknown. Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day 2,000 years or more after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these treasures of the Roman Empire.

These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. Proceeds of the sales benefit the Southern Urals State Student Association for Archaeological and Anthropological Studies in Russia; providing both postgraduate and undergraduate students with meaningful part-time employment, notebook computers, and both reference and study materials. It also supports other institutions and organizations within Russia involved in the study of anthropology and archaeology. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price.

SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.

Our order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington will ship your purchase within one business day of receipt of your personal check or money order. If you wish to pay electronically, we accept PayPal. However we ask that you PLEASE WAIT before remitting until we have mutually agreed upon method of shipment and shipping charges and you understand our PayPal limitations and. We will ship within one business day of our receipt of your electronic remittance.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. We prefer your personal check or money order over any other form of payment - and we will ship immediately upon receipt of your check (no "holds"). Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."