A Revolutionary or a Man of his Time? - A Numismatic Iconographical Study of Julian the Apostate

University essay from Lunds universitet/Antikens kultur och samhällsliv

Abstract: Julian the Apostate’s short rule has left in the historical records a clearly divisive picture. This thesis starts with that divisive nature of the reign of Rome’s last pagan emperor and aims to analyse some of the Apostate’s coinage iconography. Can the symbols used on the coins minted during his reign say something about his allegedly revolutionary rule? By choosing to focus on a set of ten symbols found of Julian’s coins, this thesis was subsequently divided in a three-phased analysis in order to approach the subject. Julian’s coin iconography was first analysed in comparison to the totality of the Roman Emperors, stretching back to Octavian/Augustus. The second step was to put Julian’s rule within its own context and compare his coinage iconography to that of his predecessors in his own family, the second Flavian dynasty. The last step was to observe the changes during Julian’s two periods of time in power: being first a Caesar – subordinate to his cousin Constantius II – and later on the sole ruler/Augustus. Julian’s iconography was also compared to Constantius’. The results tend to show that most of Julian’s coin iconography could be characterised as conventional. The true departures can be divided into either obvious or surprising ones.

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