Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Pax Americana


The Roman Empire had many means to spread its message. It was called the "Pax Romana," which means "Roman Peace." Of course, the only way to truly be at peace in the Roman Empire was to follow the way of Rome and not dissent ("When in Rome, do as the Romans do"... or else).

But one particularly clever way to spread it's message was through the imprinted icons on coins. Here's some information from the Wiki on Roman Currency:

Another role that coins played in Roman society, although secondary to their economic role within Roman commerce, was their ability to convey a meaning or relate an idea via their imagery and inscriptions.

The imagery on coins took an important step when Julius Caesar issued coins bearing his own portrait. While moneyers had earlier issued coins with portraits of ancestors, Caesar’s was the first Roman coinage to feature the portrait of a living individual.

The main focus of the imagery during the empire was on the portrait of the emperor. Coins were an important means of disseminating this image throughout the empire. Coins often attempted to make the emperor appear god-like through associating the emperor with attributes normally seen in divinities, or emphasizing the special relationship between the emperor and a particular deity by producing a preponderance of coins depicting that deity. During his campaign against Pompey, Caesar issued a variety of types that featured images of either Venus or Aeneas, attempting to associate himself with his divine ancestors.

An example of an emperor who went to an extreme in proclaiming divine status was Commodus. In 192, he issued a series of coins depicting his bust clad in a lion-skin (the usual depiction of Hercules) on the obverse, and an inscription proclaiming that he was the Roman incarnation of Hercules on the reverse. Although Commodus was excessive in his depiction of his image, this extreme case is indicative of the objective of many emperors in the exploitation of their portraits... During the late Republic there were often political messages to the imagery..."

These American commemorative coins do not feature a founding father or a current president, but they do feature America's god.

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