Obverse: Head of Ancus Marcius right, wearing diadem; lituus behind, ANCVS below
Reverse: Aqueduct on which stands equestrian statue, flower at horse’s feet; PHILIPPVS to left, AQVA MAR ligate within arches of aqueduct
This denarius was minted in 56 BC by Lucius Marcius Philippus, step-brother of the future Emperor Augustus (who was just seven years old when this coin was minted). The obverse features the bust of Ancus Marcius (the fourth Estruscan king of Rome) whom the Marcia family claimed descent from. The reverse commemorates the building of the Aqua Marcia aqueduct in 144 BC by another ancestor; the consul Quintus Marcius (likely depicted by the equestrian statue on the arches of the aqueduct shown on the reverse of the coin). The moneyer of the coin is therefore honouring two of his illustrious ancestors and their great contribution of the water supply to Rome. In his book Roman Republican Moneyers and their coins Harlan explains that the portrait of Ancus Marcius is not a realistic one, but what the Romans imagined he looked like. His thin diadem is characteristic of the portraits of Hellenistic monarchs and also reinforces his royal nature. Below the arches of the aqueduct on the reverse we see AQUA MAR, with ‘MAR’ ligate within the final arch; a clever technique often used by Roman moneyers to cram as much information into a small space. Interestingly, Pliny described the Aqua Marcia’s waters as the coolest and most rejuvenating of all the aqueducts in Rome, and the whole city regarded the Aqua Marcia as one of the gifts of the gods. Not a bad thing to associate yourself with on a coin...
Crawford 425/1; RSC Marcia 28; Sear 382