Faces of the Empire

February 2014 to February 2015

From the time of Augustus, the coinage of the Roman Empire provides a unique series of portraits of the men and women who held positions of power and influence in Roman society. Between 31 BC and AD 68, this coinage is associated with one family, known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

This family merged the Julian family of Augustus himself, descended from Julius Caesar, with the Claudian family of Augustus’s second wife, Livia. Through a complex system of marriage alliances and adoption, members of this family controlled the Roman political and social landscape for almost 100 years and many of the most important individuals were commemorated on coinage. 

Faces of the Empire seeks to explore the relationships of this important family by examining their portraits on coins held in the RD Milns Antiquities Museum. A simplified family tree provides relationships between members of the family, while individual coins provide glimpses of the people behind the history. Purple lines show descent and individuals in close proximity show marriages. From the venerable Augustus to Nero, the final Julio-Claudian, coins were a way for the Imperial family to commemorate their triumphs and identify their most important members.

Curated by Mr James Donaldson