(63) Augustus - AR denarius, c. 19 B.C., 3.93 g. (inv. 91.115).
Obverse: Head of Liber r.; TVRPILIANVS III VIR: Turpilianus, triumvir.
Reverse: Parthian kneeling r., offering standard with vexillum in r., holding out l.;
[CAESAR A]VGVSTVS SIGN(IS) RECE(PTIS): Caesar Augustus; standards retaken.
Provenance: Edward Gans, 1960.
Bibliography: C.H.V. Sutherland, The Roman Imperial Coinage I: from 31 BC to AD 69, rev. ed. (London 1984) 287.
This coin refers to the event that Augustus regarded as his greatest diplomatic achievement, the recovery in 20 B.C. of legionary standards and prisoners captured by the Romans' long-time enemies, the Parthians. On the reverse is a kneeling Parthian, identified as a barbarian by his native dress, extending a standard with a vexillum or flag attached to it in his right hand. The standards had been lost by others in earlier operations against the Parthians, by M. Crassus at the battle of Carrhae in 53 B.C., by Decidius Saxa in Syria in 40 B.C., and by Marc Antony in his invasion of Armenia in 36 B.C. The surrender was achieved by diplomatic means, but it accompanied the recovery of Armenia, and in Rome it was regarded as a military victory for which the Senate voted Augustus a triumph. Augustus refused the full triumphal celebration, but he allowed his triumphal insignia to be displayed, and an arch was erected in the Forum Romanum to commemorate the event. The recovered standards were placed in the small round Temple of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger) built especially for them (see no. 64).
This coin comes from one of the last series to bear the names and symbols of the triumviri monetales, the board of three officials in charge of minting; their names and symbols had been a regular feature of republican coinage. The coins of Publius Petronius Turpilianus feature nature deities; the head on the obverse is Liber, an Italian god of wine commonly identified with Bacchus.
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