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A Father's Day Coin

​In the US, the third Sunday in June is reserved to celebrate fathers. While several internet sites mention the necktie as tie most popular gift, recent retail data shows that spending now starts with "a special outing such as dinner or brunch". The COVID years, virtual work, and less formal attire seem to make a necktie a much less likely choice. I will eventually get to a coin of interest, which today comes with Tiberius' objection to the title used on the coin for his step-mother, Julia Augusta (aka Livia).


Father's Day was conceived by Sonora Smart-Dodd, a resident of Spokane Washington who was raised by her single father with 5 siblings. She was inspired by a Mother's Day sermon in 1909 and wanted to honor her father. She encouraged local churches, businesses and politicians to honor fathers too, and the idea picked up.


In 1972 President Nixon made it a US holiday with his proclamation 4127 that declared:

"Our identity in name and nature, our roots in home and family, our very standard of manhood—all this and more is the heritage our fathers share with us. It is a rich patrimony, one for which adequate thanks can hardly be offered in a lifetime, let alone a single day. Still it has long been our national custom to observe each year one special Sunday in honor of America's fathers; and from this year forward, by a joint resolution of the Congress approved April 24, 1972, that custom carries the weight of law."
-President Nixon, 1972 

and today in 2023 this was again reinforced by President Biden

"Today, as we express our gratitude for the men who have enriched our lives, let us remember that family is life’s greatest blessing and responsibility; that we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to make the most of our precious time together; and that our Nation would not be where it is today without our beloved fathers and father figures."
-President Biden, 2023 

The National Retail Federation reports that spending on Father's is up again this year. Although average spending is impressive at $196.26 - Mother's Day still came in ahead in spending at $274.02.

So what does this all have to do with ancient coin? Well, not much, but perhaps this will help - a coin that celebrates the Father of the Roman Empire, Augustus, issued by his step-son Tiberius. It is from Colonia Romula, named after another founding father, Romulus the legendary founder of the Roman Republic.


Varro (Latin Language XLI.80) writes

"for inasmuch as from Romulus comes the name Roma, there is not the form which should have come into existence by regular relation, namely, Romula and not Roma."

Romula is today Seville, Spain and according to tradition was founded by Julius Caesar as a colony in Spain.

Spain, Colonia Romula, Divus Augustus, with Julia Augusta (Livia), died AD 14, Æ Dupondius (23.83 g, 11h), Struck after AD 16.

Obv: Radiate head of Divus Augustus right; six-rayed star above, thunderbolt to left

Rev: IVLIA AVGVSTA GENETRIX ORBIS, head of Livia left, set on globe, crescent above.

Ref: RPC I 73


Tiberius had been married to Agrippina, daughter of Marcus Agrippa, and granddaughter of Caecilius Atticus, and had a son Drusus with her.

"although she was thoroughly congenial and was a second time with child, he was forced to divorce her and to contract a hurried marriage with Julia,​ daughter of Augustus. This caused him no little distress of mind, for he was living happily with Agrippina, and disapproved of Julia's character, having perceived that she had a passion for him even during the lifetime of her former husband, as was in fact the general opinion. But even after the divorce he regretted his separation from Agrippina, and the only time that he chanced to see her, he followed her with such an intent and tearful gaze that care was taken that she should never again come before his eyes. With Julia he lived in harmony at first, and returned her love; but he soon grew cold, and went so far as to cease to live with her at all, after the severing of the tie formed by a child which was born to them, but died at Aquileia in infancy."
-Suetonius, Life of Tiberius 7.2 

Augustus was perhaps not the ideal father....his relationship with his daughter Julia took a bad turn when he caught her "drinking"...

" at length discovered that his daughter Julia was so dissolute in her conduct as actually to take part in revels and drinking bouts at night in the Forum and on the very rostra, he became exceedingly angry....when Augustus learned what was going on, he gave way to a rage so violent that he could not keep the matter to himself, but went so far as to communicate it to senate. As a result Julia was banished to the island of Pandateria,​ lying off Campania, and her mother Scribonia voluntarily accompanied her. Of the men who had enjoyed her favours, Iullus Antonius, on the ground that his conduct had been prompted by designs upon the monarchy, was put to death along with other prominent persons, while the remainder were banished to islands."
-Dio Cassius, LV.10.9 

At the time of Augustus' death, Livia was formally adopted as a Julian and she was referred to a Julia Augusta. She was also declared a priestess of the new imperial cult of deified Augustus. On this coin she is called "Genetrix Orbix" or "mother of the world". Although it is not easy to see on my coin , there is a crescent moon just above the head of Livia (Julia Augusta) and a star above the head of divine augustus, linking the two portraits with the gods Sol and Luna.


It is interesting to not that Tiberius, under whose reign this coin was issued, wasn't in favor of this divine elevation of Livia:

"Great too was the Senate's sycophancy to Augusta. Some would have her styled "parent;" others "mother of the country," and a majority proposed that to the name of Cæsar should be added "son of Julia." The emperor repeatedly asserted that there must be a limit to the honours paid to women, and that he would observe similar moderation in those bestowed on himself, but annoyed at the invidious proposal, and indeed regarding a woman's elevation as a slight to himself, he would not allow so much as a lictor to be assigned her, and forbade the erection of an altar in memory of her adoption, and any like distinction."
-Tacitus, Annals 1.14 

Happy Father's Day!

References in addition to others linked inline above

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