This is denarius - a coin of
This particular one was
struck around the year 150 CE, in the relatively calm period of the rule
of emperor Antoninus Pius, about the
time when the last parts of the New Testament were written.
Roman coins were certainly
more than just monetary instruments. Coins also played an important ideological
function. Even this standard and little boring denarius can help us understand.
|This small coin is loaded
with political imagery and imperial propaganda. And as small as these Roman
coins might be, they were ubiquitous important financial instruments. And
besides their main monetary value they functioned like political billboards or
TV advertisements perhaps even like a social media “sponsored” or “pushed”
posts. These coins, just like those social media posts, were also common and
not appreciated for what they were actually “pushing”. This Sunday we will hear
again the famous Jesus pronouncement “Give to the emperor the emperor’s and to
God what belongs to God” – a beautiful, clever and powerful rejection of the
economic exploitation and imperial ideology in the name of Creator’s
sovereignty and grace. |
And for those who read this far, here is a description of this particular denarius.
On the obverse of the coin is
the head of the emperor with a laurel - a symbol reserved for gods, victors and
emperors. Around it is the emperor’s name Antoninus and his titles Augustus
(worthy of veneration) and Pius (dutiful in affection) and Pater
Patriae (Father of the Fatherland).
On the reverse of the coin is
a standing figure of Pax (goddess of Peace - mind you, it was the Roman peace, which
was achieved by conquest and subjugation) and around her are further Antoninus’
titles - Tribunicia Potestas (with the powers of the Tribune - originally a
defender of the Roman poor - but in reality bestowing great unchecked powers)
and Consul IIII (Consul for the fourth term).