|Abstract: ||The work is devoted to the images of the Roman emperor’s power, its thematic background being the idea of the Roman rule over the world. The work aims to define the scope within which the very idea was functions, and the way it was developed in the imperial propaganda of the Golden Age of the Antonine dynasty and the times of the 3rd century crisis, as well as a comparison of the image of the Roman control over the world promoted in these two epochs, it constituting the most important aim.
The research task formulated in this way influences the fundamental basis of the analysis, it being the numismatic sources. Imperial coins had a special impact on the transmission of ideological information and motives in the Roman Empire. Besides, it is merely the imperial coins that constitute a homogeneous group of research exploration for the two epochs and allow for the formation of a common and identical basis of inference. A disproportion of quantity and quality of other source materials causes the situation in which an attempt to compare any of the propaganda motives in the very periods of time, based on the analysis of other sources such as ancient literature, epigraphics, monumental art – which fulfill the requirement of complementariness only for one at the epochs and are too few for the other one, is doomed to be fruitless. Nevertheless, the references to both of them will show the location and understanding of some ideas in the Roman tradition, as well as update and explain or confirm what derives from the research on the imperial coins, them being primary for the issue in question.
The work consists of two parts. The attention is paid to three categories, i.e.: Imperium Romanum, the world of Barbarians and the emperor, though they do not strictly correspond to particular chapters. The first part entitled “Imago mundi. The Roman and the Barbarian worlds in numismatic sources” attempts to reconstruct “imago mundi” or the structure of the world deriving from the monetary images. It is composed of three chapters.
The chapter “Imperium Romanum: fines, provinciae” discusses the borders and structure of the Roman state from a “geographical” perspective. It gives information on a poor presentation of the Roman borders in the imperial propaganda. It also provides a map of the Roman Empire which can be portrayed as a mosaic consisting of various details: provinces, lands, towns, rivers or as a sum of some important areas. It indicates the role of an emperor in this whole as outlined in the propaganda on the basis of the monetary issues reflecting “provinces”.
The chapter “Imperium Romanum: Roma” depicts references in minting to Rome/Urbs, which was the germ of the world empire, as well as the way the Rome motive was connected with the subject of Roman victories over alien peoples. The subject of analysis is also the issue of legitimization of the emperor’s power. Thus, the deliberations show the sense and scope of Rome being treated by propaganda as “caput mundi” and “sedes imperii”. The very notions are treated in a geographical, but above all, metaphorical way. The former, “caput mundi”, concerns the primacy of Rome on a given territorial whole, the lather, “sedes imperii”, expresses the relationships between Rome and the ruler holding of “imperium”. The issues are outlined against the background the changes appearing in the Roman Empire and manifesting themselves in the discount of Rome’s political role in favour of provincial centres.
The chapter “Alter orbis” presents a general structure and characteristic of the Barbarian world as read out from the images on the imperial coins. It deals with such issues as giving names to Barbarian tribes and peoples, the political organization of the Barbarians, the cultural diversification of those inhabiting the Barbarian world, a stereotypical picture of a northern and eastern Barbarian. Also, it considers the nature of the relationship between the Barbarians and Romans: in the imperial propaganda it was defined by “victoria Romana” slogans, concerning mainly war confrontations, as well as “rex datus” slogans, in which case it refers to “peaceful” relations. The evolution of the representations of Barbarians in the imperial minting, from historical to abstract ones, is also discussed here.
The second part of the work “Gentium victor orbisque possessor. The elements of the myth of a victorious emperor in the monetary images” is devoted to selected aspects of the myth of the world’s ruler. The motives that are related to Roman’s superiority over alien peoples clarify the methods of becoming the lord of the world, them being fight and victory, as well as define an array of qualities of the one who is the ruler of the world, and his aspirations for a common domination. This part is constructed of three chapters.
The chapter “Virtutes Augusti” concerns an ideological image of the Roman ruler who becomes the lord of the world thanks to his divine virtues and as a result of his war actions and achievements. The basic premise of the analysis is the presence of the motive of a Barbarian or its equivalent in the monetary iconography. According to this criterion the superiority and control of a Roman-emperor over the inhabitants of the extra-Roman world are presented through several virtues such as: “virtus Augusti”, “victoria Augusti”, “clementia Augusti” and “felicitas Augusti”.
The chapter “Undique victores – ubique barbari” concerns various semantic fields in which the Barbarian motive which was the function of a victorious ruler myth appeared in the iconography of coins. They are subjected to the three main issues: fight, submission and dominance while the image of the victorious emperor can be placed on two levels: the theatre of the victories over the external enemies and the theatre of the political advantage over the neighbouring countries; and the spheres of life in which the power of the winner is realized. The creation of an emperor as the lord of the world is presented here in its dynamic dimension, i.e. in the course of becoming the ruler of the (whole) world, not just remaining the head of the Roman state. The Roman control over the world can only be realized in action, mainly in the armed fight.
The chapter “Rector orbis” concernes the extent of the Roman emperor’s world control, defined by such notions as: “orbis (terrarum)” and “genus humanum”. These are set in a wide semantic field. They do not denote a definite area or a real territory, but are always subordinate to ideological-political reasons and can be understood as the Roman world or as the whole world. It allows for placing the issue of rule over the world in the sphere of reality or abstraction. Also, it shows the development of the thought of the Roman control over the world in the ideology of the Roman emperor’s power, and attempts to explain the origin of an increasing popularity of the subject-matter in question.
The work distinguishes thematic groups of the representations on the imperial coins which reflect the image of the Roman rule over the world. In the propagandist “imago mundi” the world is divided into two parts. One of them is structured by what is Roman: the Roman Empire, its lands, provinces, towns, and Rome/”Urbs” as the first centre among them. It is complemented in its imago mundi with what belongs to the other element, that is the world of Barbarians. Its image is created by, among others, those lands, peoples, tribes, small countries and countries the Romans fought with. On a narrow margin of the map of the outside world, formed in this way, remain the lands inhabited by Barbarians who, came to terms with the Romans, respecting their primacy and power. The axis of division between Imperium Romanum and the world of Barbarians is an ideological border. It stems from the permanent image of the Romans’ superiority over Barbarians and the idea of “Victoria”, fundamental for defining their relations. Barbarians, however, in hierarchy, are higher than the Romans. The alien world, “Barbarian” in the imperial propaganda, does not function independently. It exists only in order to make the Romans win over its inhabitants and subordinate them, and derives from the monetary images only as a product of the current political situation concerning the Roman state. The world of Barbarians “comes into being” as a result of the Romans’ activity. Even though the Romans’ war deeds and victories have only a symbolic, and not real dimension, they condition sine qua non the existence of the world of Barbarians. On the other hand, the Roman world “exists”. Its existence is “passive” in nature as compared to the origin of the world of Barbarians which manifest sitself in the propaganda only as a result of the Romans’ “activity” . It generates the problem of restricting the scope of the rule already “passively” possessed by the Romans and the fact that it is in fight and action that the myth of a great victor and the ruler of the (whole) world is born. Only such an action will derive the elements of the outer world from the nothingness, and define them, at the same time always subordinating them to Rome. The victory and its fruits are available for the Roman thanks to the qualities summed up by the notion of “virtus bellica”. The “reverse” of the on Roman’s portrait is the one of a Barbarian. The latter, on the other hand, always remains passive, but it is his presence that releases the Roman’s qualities and makes him the ruler of the whole world, irrespective of the territorial extent of this propagandist creation.
In the microcosm that the world creates in the imperial propaganda, the Roman emperor is the focal point. It is the meeting point of the two big parts situated on both sides of the ideological axis and the link joining them. It is the emperor’s military and diplomatic actions, reduced to simple monetary images, that account for intricacies and arcana of the Roman policy towards the inhabitants of the Barbarian world. They also order the structure of the world as the emperor is the ruler of the Roman world while his identification as the head ruler of the whole world takes place in contact with Barbarians. What is important in the definition of the emperor in his role of the lord of the world is the iconographical motive of the Barbarian which refers to capturing, above all, in fight, the control over the world. In its basic form, the image of the Roman-rule over the world remained the same in the monetary propaganda of the Golden Age of the Antonine dynasty and the third century crisis. The change for worse of the relations in the outer position of the Roman Empire in the third century in comparison to its situation in the second century, which deepened the ideological barrier between the Romans and the Barbarians caused the situation in which the Barbarian evokes the worst associations, becoming the personification of evil and destructive forces coming from the outside, and the concept of the Roman-victor finds his dimensions not only in reality but in the supernatural sphere as well.
Each monetary image, composed of an icon and, usually, an inscription, detailed out in the descriptive and analytical part of the work, has three semantic layers which enlighten each other and promote the title issue on various levels of abstraction. They are: the manifested sense (a visualization and description), the primary sense (primary connotations), the hidden sense (secondary connotations).
The method of a gradual penetration into these different formula until the deepest structures of an informative transmission allows to state that the idea of a large world empire and the Romans subordinating other peoples to their power was constantly developed in the monetary propaganda. It also permits the general observation that in it the monetary image, defined by the VNDIQVE VICTORES legend, is the most accurate explanation of the conception of the world’s empire and the idea of the Romans’ superiority over the alien. The monetary contents refer to the three levels of the representation on which the problem of the Roman rule over the world appeared. These are: the structuring of the world, defining the relations between the Romans and the aliens, constructing the features of the Romans and the Barbarians by juxtaposing them.
The “undique victores” slogan also defines the understanding of the Roman rule over the world in a dynamic sequence, referring to the process of gaining, confirming or broadening the Roman domination. The myth of the rule over the world was dominated by the war-victorious conception both in the period of the Antonine monarchy and in the time of the 3rd century crisis. However, the stylistics was different in both of them. As a result of different influences, the propaganda of these two different epochs brought about two parallel images of the Roman presence in the world, with a constant recognition of the Roman lead in it. There exists the Roman world the lord of which is the emperor. Beyond this circle there is yet another world the existence of which is evoked by the emperor’s activity. In this sense, the Roman emperor, “undique victor”, is in charge of the structure and order of the (whole) world in the epoch of the Antonine dynasty and the period of the 3rd century crisis. Though, there are different images of him. He can be the one who realizes a “debellare superbos” call or answers the “parcere subiectis” appeal. He can be the one who guards the Roman estates or goes beyond them. His victory may refer to the real sphere or cross it, his fight may have all the hallmarks of an offensive fight or the one conducted only to defend the state of possession. Invariably, though, it is him who is the measure of the world.
Above all the emperor remained the lord of the Roman world, ideologically oriented around the “Roma” motive. Excursions in the monetary images to the outer world are the phenomenon which, in the propaganda of both epochs, causes the greatest amplitudes in the images of the Roman rule over the world. Different solutions of the same issues applied in the period of the Antonine monarchy and the 235–284 half-century prove that there existed a strong interdependence between the general political situation of Imperium Romanum and the imperial propaganda. In the coinage of the Golden Age of the Antonine dynasty, the strong empire, winning over the fights with Barbarians, the motive defining the emperor as the ruler of the world was less important than in the period of the 3rd century crisis when contrary to the difficult situation of the Roman state, wider possibilities of the understanding of the idea as a call to rule over alien nations, with the recognition of the confinement of the actual Roman world were observed. It always, however, gave the attractiveness of the identification with what was Roman.
The nature of the research problem is a comparison of the presence of the title idea in two selected epochs. The search covers: common and different features of the monetary propaganda cultivated in them (universalizing comparisons), specific solutions in narrower time spaces, constituting two epochs (variant comparisons), unique images defining the originality of the propaganda of definite emperors (individualizing comparisons).
The tables serve the purpose of highlighting the differences and similarities of the propaganda. They illustrate the presence or absence of given topics in the imperial minting and ideological concept of both epochs in their shorter phases: 96–117, 117–161, 161–192, as well as 235–249, 249–268/269, 268–284. Operating with long chronological distances, defined by the duration of the Golden Age of the Antonine dynasty and the third century crisis, allowed to capture the general tendencies in the propaganda of both epochs. The interactions between the political policies of the rulers, events and atmosphere they evoked, the extent of the development of the ideology of the imperial power, on the other hand, gave different images of the Roman rule over the world as a result of mutual permeation in their particular phases.|