• sulla80

Lepidus as Moneyer

There is no better illustration of the cursus honorem, the political career ladder in the Roman republic, than a coin from a moneyer who goes on to be consul. In this case not only consul but also a member of the Second Triumvirate or IIIVIR R.P.C. i.e. "Triumviri Rei Publicae Constituendae" or "three men for the regulation (or restoration) of the republic". This was the title that was taken by the three Caesarians: Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus in November of 43 BC as they joined forces against Brutus and Cassius.

The proscriptions to eliminate political enemies of the Second Triumvirate, public domain image from Weltgeschichte Fur Das Volk by Otto von Corvin and Wilhelm Held, published by Verlag und Druck von Otto Spamer, 1880.


This coin issued at the beginning of his career in 61 BC, when he was about 28 years old. He became a strong supporter of Julius Caesar and served as praetor in 49 BC while Caesar fought in Rome, propraetor in Spain, then consul in 46 BC, and magister equitum to Caesar in his years as consul and dictator.

M. Aemilius Lepidus, 61 BC, AR Denarius, (17mm, 3.85g, 6h), Rome mint

Obv: Laureate and diademed female head (Roma? Venus?) right; wreath behind, calix before

Rev: Equestrian statue of M. Aemilius Lepidus right, holding trophy over shoulder, M. LEPIDVS in exergue

Ref: Crawford 419/1e; Sydenham 828a; Aemilia 21a.


Lepidus was the son of the consul of the same name in 78 BC, Marcus Aemelius Lepidus, who was enriched by Sulla's proscriptions, served as governor of Sicily during Sulla's reign (circa 81 BC) and after Sulla's death seems to have turned anti-Sullan or at least taken that posture as politically useful. Lepidus the moneyer seems to have similar qualities to his father being "diplomatic" and "flexible" to the point of seeming a bit opportunistic rather than holding fast to principles. This flexibility and perhaps pragmatism might have been easily characterized as weakness compared to Augustus or Mark Antony.


Minting coins was a form of social media in ancient Rome. Promoting your name and family accomplishments on coins was one of the benefits of being triumvir monetalis. Lepidus is celebrating with the reverse his family's history. He is also avoiding association with his father who, at the end of his term as consul, marched on Rome and was defeated and fled to Sardinia.


There are variants of this coin that include a reverse legend AN XV PR H O C S (ANnorum XV PRogressus Hostem Occidit Civem Servavti which translates to "At 15 years old he killed enemies and saved citizens"). The legend recalls a statue that recognizes the ancestor (great-grandfather) of the moneyer who was consul in 187 BC and had the same name "M. Aemelius Lepidus". The statue recognizing bravery during the Punic Wars.

Aemilius Lepidus, while yet a boy, went into battle, killed an enemy, and saved a citizen; in memory of which action there is on the Capitol a statue wearing a bulla and a toga praetexta, placed there by order of the senate, who esteemed it unjust that he should not be of age for honour, who was so adult in virtue. Lepidus preceded what was to age ordained, by his earliness in acting bravely; carrying away a double honour out of the battle, of which his years scarcely admitted him to be a spectator. For the arms of men preparing for combat, drawn swords, the flight of missiles, the noise of cavalry charging, and the furious violence of armies joining, strike terror even into young men. Among all this the childhood of the Aemilian family was able to earn a crown, and carry away the spoils of the enemy.
-Valerius Maximus III.1.1 

It has been more difficult to add Roman republican denarii to my collection, not only because the market has been escalating in price over the last year or two, but also because the coins that I am looking for are less common. This one listed as <10 dies in Crawford's Roman Republican Coinage. The strike, style, toning, and even the unobtrusive banker mark all contribute overall to this being an exceptional coin in my view.


Here is the other coin in my collection from this issue: 419/3a

M. Aemilius Lepidus, 58 BC, AR apparently fourrée Denarius

Obv: Veiled head of the Vestal Virgin Aemilia right , border of dots

Rev: View of the Basilica Aemilia, above AIMILIA, on left REF downwards, on right S C downwards, below M LEPIDUS, border of dots.

Ref: Crawford 419/3a; Aemilia 26 (<10 dies reported in Crawford RRC)


References (in addition to others linked directly inline)





31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All