The Classical World

Chair: Conor Nelligan, Heritage Officer, Cork County Council



David Woods, University College Cork

Depictions of War on Roman Imperial Coinage: The Exceptional Coinage of the Emperor Aurelian (AD270-75)


One of the dominant themes of Roman imperial coinage was the military success of the emperor. However, this success was celebrated in a very limited number of ways, from stereotypical depictions of the goddess Victory, or whatever other god or goddess was also credited with having assisted in the victory, conventional depictions of defeated barbarians or triumphant emperor, or depictions of various types of victory monuments. The coinage celebrated the victorious conclusion to the war as a whole rather than individual events or battles within the war. Aurelian was one of the most successful Roman emperors of the third century before he was finally assassinated in 275. He crushed barbarian invasions across the Danube into Northern Italy and defeated both a powerful Palmyrene kingdom that had absorbed most of the empire in the East and a secessionist Gallic empire that had absorbed a large part of the empire in the West. His coinage celebrated his victories in the conventional manner, but it also included a number of unique depictions of the goddess Venus and the god Sol. I will argue here that these conceal references to specific events during his wars with the Palmyrenes.


Caló Levi, Annalina (1952). Barbarians on Roman Imperial Coins and Sculpture. New York: The American Numismatic Society.

Estiot, Sylvian (2004). Monnaies de l’Empire romain XII.1: D’Aurélien à Florien (270-76 après J.-C.). Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Koortbojian, Michael (2006). ‘The Bringer of Victory: Imagery and Institution at the Advent of Empire’. In S. Dillon and K.E. Welch (eds.), Representations of War in Ancient Rome. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

Malone, Christopher W. (2009). ‘Violence on Roman Imperial Coinage’. In Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia 20, 58-72.

Watson, Alaric (1999). Aurelian and the Third Century. London: Routledge.



Nadezda A. Nalimova, Lomonosov Moscow State University

The Mythological Battle in the Greek Architectural Relief of the Classical Period

The mythological battle has a special place in the worldview and mythopoetic conception of the ancient Greeks. Its semantics are complex and have many aspects. It reflects the idea of harmonization of the world, realized through the struggle of the opposites, and the theme of curbing the unwise pride by the powers of the rational mind, and the agonistic spirit, so characteristic for the ancient people. Concepts of valour and epic heroism are closely related to it.

The topic was widely reported in all types of Greek art: from the monumental painting and sculpture to the minor arts. However, mythological battle scenes were especially popular in the architectural decoration, particularly in the architectural relief of the fourth and fifth centuries BC.

Many battle friezes were created during the Golden Age of Athens, in the Attic art of the second half of the 5th century BC. At that time almost all the temples in Athens and outside the city had sculpted friezes with battle scenes in their decoration. The program of this grandiose construction of the Age of Pericles was inspired by the recent victory over the Persians; it was connected with the desire to create some kind of a memorial of this war. The recent events had been indirectly reflected in the sculptural decoration of new Attic buildings, being codified into a system of mythological images. However, the political significance of the mythological battle disappeared by the end of 5th century B.C., although the overall emotional and psychological mood of the time of the Peloponnesian War reflected even more strongly in the contemporary monuments. Friezes of the end of the fifth century are marked by tragedy and tension, by the aspiration to provoke the viewer’s empathy. They attain an unexpected tint of pacifism.

Finally, in the fourth century BC, on the eve of Hellenism, mythological battle scenes appear in the decoration of tombs of the Carian and Lycian rulers. In these reliefs, made by Greek craftsmen for eastern Asia Minor lords, the mythological battle became an important element in the praise and heroization of the powerful customers.

This evolution of the mythological battle is of particular interest to the researcher as it is very symptomatic and connected with the changes in the consciousness and worldview of the Greeks. This short report attempts to trace the phenomenon of the battle in the classical architectural relief in the context of the general historical, cultural and political situation.

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