This is the first in a series of Scholars Week preview articles by Caleb Barfield, a student worker in the Office of the Vice Provost for Research. Caleb is a freshman from Denton majoring in journalism, new media and public relations.
Click here to check out more previews of the great research Baylor students will present at Scholars Week 2014, March 31-April 4.
Copper as of Nerva struck at Rome, AD 97. Obverse: bust right of Nerva with imperial titles. Reverse: Aequitas standing left holding cornucopia and scales, AEQVITAS AVGVST. Image credit: NAC AG 51, no. 39
Bronze sestertius of Nerva struck at Rome, AD 96. Obverse: bust right of Nerva with imperial titles. Reverse: Libertas standing left holding scepter and the cap of a freed slave, LIBERTAS PVBLICA. Image courtesy of Dr. Nathan Elkins.
Bronze sestertius of Nerva struck at Rome, AD 97. Obverse: bust right of Nerva with imperial titles. Reverse: Two mules grazing with a shaft and harnesses behind them, VEHICVLATIONE ITALIAE REMISSA. The reverse type celebrates the forgiveness of the tax for the imperial post in Italy. Image credit: NAC AG 54, no. 39.
Looking back into Roman history, the reign of an emperor is often judged by the monuments he built, the battles he won or the impact he made on Roman society. While these contributions are important, many times the legacies emperors left in other areas are overlooked. One such example is the coinage produced by Emperor Nerva. Historically, Nerva is often considered merely a placeholder between better-known Domitian and Trajan. His brief reign lasted only from 96-98 CE.
The iconography and messaging displayed on Nerva’s coins is the subject of a research project by Dr. Nathan Elkins, assistant professor of art history in the College of Arts & Sciences, and two undergraduate students, Xander Gardere and Amy Welch.
“This started as Dr. Elkins’ project,” Welch said. “He wanted to see if Nerva’s coins had elements of propaganda; if he put images on the coins to convey a certain message to the populus. If so, then it could be attributed to the fact that in his 16 months of being in office he couldn’t accomplish many of the things emperors before him had, but he could leave a legacy through the release of money.”
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