Abstract — A Familiar Image: A Re-examination of Roma on Republican Denarii of the Middle Republic

Rome, between c. 211 BCE to the late 1st century BCE, produced the now-iconic “Roma” series of silver denarii. Numismatists and historians have traditionally identified the head as the Roman Goddess “Roma” in part because of the presence of the legend “Roma” and also in part because no other goddess or figure fully matches the helmeted woman on the denarii. This attribution is not beyond reproach. Historian Ernst Badian questioned the “Roma” identification, arguing that “contemporary Romans knew no such goddess.” It is possible that the helmeted figure represents an amalgamation of Greek and Italic imagery as scholars have increasingly focused on the ways that Rome adopted and blended cults and ideas from the new territories that they conquered. In that vein, the image of the helmeted female clearly draws on Greek iconography of Athena/Minerva/Pallas, and thus brings into question the strict, “Roma” identification. In addressing “Roma” I have two goals: first, to try to establish if the figure is “Roma”; and, second, to determine what this figure’s appearance on denarii says about Roman ideals and modes of representation. In order to address these questions I will use the scholarship of past classic historians, most notably, Burnett, Mellor, Fears, Crawford et al. My research will focus on two areas: first, an examination of the validity of Badian’s assertion; and, second, an overview study of “Roma” types considering changes in her presentation in light of the historical record.

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