Agesilaos Antik Sikkeler Nümzimatik

Diocletianus - A Picture Can Tell A Thousand Words

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Antik Sikkeler

4 Şub 2022
The aphorism that a picture can tell a thousand words seems eminently appropriate when considering the iconography on the reverse of this coin. The scene depicting Jupiter Fulgor [the lighting wielder] about to strike a cowering giant is a depiction of part of the Gigantomachy, an important episode in the Olympian myth, where the gods of Olympus fought for the supremacy over the cosmos with the giants, offspring of Gaia and Uranus, who were propagators of chaos and violence [Pindar, Pythian Ode 8.12-18]. The victory of the Olympians resulted in the establishment of peace and order both, on earth and in the cosmos.

It is easy to see why Diocletian would want to associate himself with this episode, given that his primary focus as Augustus was to restore stability to the empire, which had experienced nearly a century of turmoil, a period now referred to as the Third Century Crisis. After a series of ill-fated military emperors, Diocletian, while of course himself also a military commander, has been characterized as more of a statesman than his predecessors and indeed it was under his reign that a modicum of order was brought to the empire. The allusion to the Gigantomachy is an explicit reference to his own successes in unifying the empire.

There are, however, even more layers of interpretation in the reverse of this coin. Diocletian is perhaps best known for establishing the Tetrarchy in 293, a system by which the empire was divided geographically into four and ruled by two Augusti and two Caesars. Prior to dividing power between four, Diocletian initially promoted his ally Maximian to Augustus in 286 and they ruled as co-emperors; it is from the intervening period of dual rule that this coin dates. As part of their assumption of joint power, Diocletian and Maximian adopted tutelary deities, namely Jupiter and Hercules respectively and took on the surnames Jovius and Herculius. From this point, most of their coinage was minted with reverse legends and types honouring Jupiter and Hercules. Although there are several examples of different reverse types depicting Jupiter on Diocletian's coins, this is amongst the most interesting because of the implicit allusion to his fellow emperor, Maximian. According to myth, the Olympians were only able to defeat the giants with the help of Hercules, whose role is only obliquely referred to by ancient writers [Hesiod, Theogony 954], but it would seem was commonly known as part of the wider myth in the ancient world. Therefore, despite not being specifically depicted, Hercules is indirectly present in this iconography and therefore by extension, Maximian is also.

Furthermore, the association is made explicit in a panegyric attributed to Claudius Mamertinus, who refers to Maximian as the Hercules to Diocletian's Jupiter [Panegyrici Latini XII.4.2] reinforcing this reading of the reverse. The significance of the Gigantomachy to Diocletian is further highlighted in some of the iconography in the decoration of the temple of Jupiter in his palace at Split, which has been identified as a representation of that same myth. The reverse type of this coin is a succinct manifestation of multiple concepts, in that it indirectly compares Hercules' support of the Olympians with Maximian's support of Diocletian, in addition to underpinning the two Augusti's connection with their tutelary gods and emphasizing the new order established in the empire.

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