The Eagle on Coins

The Roman World

The Roman equivalent of the Greek Zeus, Jupiter Optimus Maximus, also had the eagle as his symbol and attribute. So the victorious Roman legions always carried standards crowned by their highest god's attribute to obtain Jupiter's help in battle. Additionally the iconography of the Roman emperors linked them to the official cult of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. For during triumphal celebrations each victorious military commander (imperator) represented Jupiter himself by carrying his insignia, but after the triumph they always had to return the insignia to Jupiter's temple on the Capitoline hill. The emperor has often been represented as permanently triumphant imperator by this triumphal iconography which also included Jupiter's sceptre, the eagle-headed scipio eburneus. Furthermore the eagle played an eminent role in the emperors' divinisation during their funeral celebrations: the ascending eagle symbolised the emperor's soul going to heaven. Over the course of the centuries the eagle became firmly connected to the iconography and ideology of the Roman Empire, even after the Christianisation of the Empire (from 4th c. AD).

Click on links below to see a larger image of the coins (obv for obverse, rev for reverse):

 9.[obv][rev] Roman Republic, 60 Asses (2), c. 211 BC, FM.CM old coll.: Head of Mars r./Eagle on thunderbolt l.
 10.[obv][rev] Roman Republic, moneyer Petillius Capitolinus, Denarius (2), 43 BC, CM.152/155-1992: Front of the Capitolian temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus/Eagle on thunderbolt.
 11.[obv][rev] Antiochia/Pisidia, Gordian III (238-244 AD), major and minor AE-coins (2), SNG Fitzwilliam General coll.5135-6: Head of emperor r./Emperor with eagle sceptre in triumphal quadriga l.
 12.[obv] Roman Empire, Probus (276-282 AD), "Antoninianus" 278 AD, Ticinum mint, FM.CM old coll.: Crowned head of emperor in consular dress (trabea) and with eagle sceptre (scipio eburneus).
 13.[obv][rev] Antiochia/Pisidia, Gordian III (238-244 AD), minor AE-coins (2), SNG Fitzwilliam General coll.5139+5141: Head of emperor r./Legionary eagle and standards. + FM.CM.118-1961.
 14.[obv][rev] Roman Empire, Sestertius (2) on the consecretion of Antoninus Pius (138-161 AD), FM.CM old coll.: Head of emperor r./Eagle on funeral altar.
 15.[obv][rev] Roman Empire, Sestertius (2) on the consecretion of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), FM.CM old coll.: Head of emperor r./Emperor with sceptre on eagle.

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