The Image of Political Power in the Reign of Nerva, AD 96-98

ISBN : 9780190648039

Nathan T. Elkins
357 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Sep 2017
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Nerva, who ruled from 18 September AD 96 to 27 January AD 98, left little for the art historian or archaeologist on account of his short reign. In view of the paucity of decorated monuments or other visual evidence, studies of Nerva focus on the historical circumstances governing his reign with respect to the few relevant literary sources. This book, by contrast, takes the entire imperial coinage program issued by the mint of Rome to examine the self-representation, and, by extension, the policies and ideals of Nerva's regime. The shortness of Nerva's reign and the problems of retrospection caused by privileging posthumous literary sources make coinage one of the only ways of reconstructing anything of his image and ideology as it was disseminated and developed at the end of the first century. The iconography of this coinage, and the popularity and spread of different iconographic types-as determined by study of hoards and finds, and as targeted towards different ancient constituencies (the senate, soldiers, etc.)-offers a more positive take on a little studied emperor. Coinage, often ancillary to the research done by ancient historians, takes its place in this study as a visual panegyric similar to contemporary laudatory texts that taps into how the inner circle of Nerva's regime wished to be seen. After establishing the methodological premise, the four chapters of the book trace the different reverse types and how they would have resonated with their intended audiences, finally concluding with an examination of the parallels between text and coin iconography with previous and subsequent emperors in the first and second centuries AD, including Trajan.


List of Abbreviations
Introduction: The Power of Images in the Reign of Nerva
Chapter 1. Nerva as Supreme Military Commander
Chapter 2. Nerva, The Senate and People of Rome, and Italy
Chapter 3. Nerva and the Roman Empire
Chapter 4. Conclusion: The Visualization of Rhetoric
Appendix 1. The Typological Makeup of Nerva's Imperial Coin Emissions
Appendix 2. Nerva's Coin Types and Their Dates of Production
Appendix 3. The Relative Frequencies of Denarius Types by Emission
Appendix 4. Identifiable Base-Metal Coins and Their Regional Distribution (Hoards and Excavations)


About the author: 

Nathan T. Elkins is Assistant Professor of Art History (Greek and Roman) at Baylor University. He is a Fellow of the American Numismatic Society (New York) and a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society (London).

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