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Picturing Roman Belief Systems

The iconography of coins in the Republic and Empire

Murray Eiland
Publication Year:
226 pages, Illustrated throughout in black & white, and colour
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This volume is a visual exploration of Roman belief systems and culture through time, with emphasis on what coins can reveal about Roman society. The text is arranged thematically to encompass the diversity of Roman faiths and how they are mediated by other social forces. Special attention is paid to the deep history of Roman traditions, as well as how these traditions were transmitted to Christianity.

The primary method of analysis is the application of semiotics to coin images. Semiosis is any activity, conduct, or process that involves signs. This is where non-coin sources like contemporary literature and other arts are useful. These sources can be trawled to reveal the engraver’s intent when creating the images used on coins.

Particular focus is given to the Roman imperial cult, which lies at an intersection between politics and religion. With clear Greek antecedents from the cult of the hero, Augustus (r. 27 BC-AD 14) reformed the Roman Republic into a system where the princeps (emperor) was at the pinnacle of power and prestige, and emperors were not shy in expressing their rank using symbols.

Murray Eiland studied ancient Near Eastern archaeology at UC Berkeley (BA) and Oxford University (DPhil). He is the Managing Editor of Antiqvvs Magazine.

‘This volume is an interesting and perceptive wedding of numismatic, art-historical and textual approaches to numismatics. I can think of no other book that covers the same ground in the same way. It is a valuable and insightful approach to interpreting Roman coins.’ Dr James Gerrard, Newcastle University 

‘This book is truly original work. I am not aware of any other publication with the same topic or theme. The research of iconographic motives on Roman coinage will greatly benefit from this volume.’ Dr Evgeni Paunov, Independent expert in Ancient Coinage, Vienna 

‘There is a lot of different publications on Roman religion. The originality of the manuscript lies in the combination of numismatic data and archaeological artefacts with narration.’ Prof Dr Edward Dąbrowa, Jagiellonian University in Kraków

Introduction (S3125_Eiland_9781407360713_-_intro.pdf, 233 Kb) [Download]

Table of Contents (S3125_Eiland_9781407360713_-_toc.pdf, 194 Kb) [Download]