coinsbygary's Blog

24 Oct 2015

A Numismatic look at Concordia the Goddess of Peace and Harmony

Ancient Coins | coinsbygary

The featured coin in this blog is an NGC choice AU Roman Empire Double Denarius dating AD 244-249. The obverse of my coin features a right facing bust of Otacilia Severa who was the wife of then emperor, Philipp I the Arab. The reverse features a left seated image of Concordia, the goddess of harmony. To the Romans, Concordia represented peace and harmony between classes of people and in particular between the patricians (nobles) and the plebeians (commoners). Later Concordia came to represent harmony within a marital relationship.

In Concordia’s right hand is a patera. A patera is a shallow bowl used in religious ceremonies to pour out sacrificial libations. In her left hand, Concordia is holding a double cornucopia. From this, I can surmise that the double cornucopia signifies the abundant benefits of peace and harmony.

As is the case with many allegorical coins featuring seated images, the seat is symbolic of a kingdom, empire, or nation and the person sitting thereon as having authority over it. Thus, the seat on this coin seems to represent the Roman Empire and Concordia seated thereon as having authority to bring peace and harmony to the empire.

From what I can discern, the coins of the Ancient Roman Empire served two main purposes. One, they were used as a medium of exchange in commerce and two; they were used to disseminate propaganda. For instance, where a coin features the bust of the ruler on the obverse and a personified deity on the reverse, the people see that ruler as a god identifying him with the personified deity on the reverse.

In the instance of this coin, the empress, Otacilia Severa is identifying herself with Concordia. Interestingly, it was during the reign of Otacilia Severa’s husband Philip that the persecution of Christians ceased across the Roman Empire.

The obverse of another of my ancient coins features a right facing bust of Philip I. On the coins reverse is an image of Roma, the personification of Rome holding Nike (the goddess of victory) in her hand. Since Philip I was born in Syria of a Syrian father, I can reasonably deduce that he sought to identify himself with Roma to shore up his political support in Rome.

Another of my collecting objectives is to trace the spread of western culture and philosophy through coins. While today we do not worship the ancient gods and goddesses per se, I find it fascinating that modern coins still feature many of those same ancient personifications. The presence of these images on modern coinage is a strong indication of how ingrained ancient Greek and Roman philosophy is to our psyche today. Examples of these are the idealized values of Liberty, Concordia, Fortuna, Justice, Fame, and Victory. National personifications include Britannia, Hispania, and Roma/Italia. Remarkably, the aforementioned instances are only a small portion of the many more examples to be found in numismatics.

When I searched for a modern coin using an image of Concordia I used the keyword “Concordia” to search through a PDF copy of Krause’s Catalog of World Coins. What I found is a 1970 Italian 1000 lire coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of Rome as its capital. Consequently, I purchased a NGC MS-66 example of that coin to go with my AD 244-249 ancient coin also featuring Concordia.

This all reminds me of the words of Solomon written in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Gary


Greco Roman

Level 3

Something else to mention is that Otacilia Severa bust starts/sits with a crescent moon! There are several theories on this as well. In this case the symbol is already ancient (Assyrian-Babylonian 2000-3000 BCE) when minted on the coin (244 CE). You have to do a little math here to get my point. The moon symbol was actually a male god and tied to a lunar cycle (close to the menstrual cycle) and then more or less syncretize/morphed to a female.

Greco Roman

Level 3

Oops. Assyrian-Babylonian period was from (~2000 thru 34BCE). The symbol is older from that period to minting than it is from minting to today! Sometimes these symbols are a guess- we just don't have enough concrete information. It would be like assessing @ symbol on printed piece of paper printed in 2000 CE after an EMP takes out all electric devices until year 4000 CE. What does the @ symbol mean? Is it the God of Language? Think about that!

What a wonderful story! I am fascinated by the symbolism of the coin and how it has been carried down through history to our current currencies. Thank you for such a wonderful and educational read.


Level 5

Beautiful coin with a great story.


Level 6

Very nice coin. Great research article. Iam very fond of ancient Roman coins and customs. Thanks!


Level 5

Great article. Wonderful symbolic parallelism to past and future iconic symbols.

Ian Fenn

Level 5

keeps this blogs coming( please)


Level 5

Nice blog. I enjoyed reading it.

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