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The visual representation of Livia on the coins of the Roman Empire Open Access


Other title
Roman Empire
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Harvey, Tracene
Supervisor and department
Hijmans, Steven
Examining committee member and department
Hijmans, Steven
Losey, Robert (Anthropology)
Hughes, Lisa (University of Calgary)
Stewart, Selina
Rossiter, Jeremy
Department of History and Classics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Livia (58 BC-AD 29), wife of the first emperor Augustus and mother of his successor Tiberius, became the first Roman woman whose image held a substantial place on coins of the Roman Empire. While predecessors such as Fulvia and Octavia, wives of Marc Antony, were the first Roman women to appear on coins, not enough examples of such coins survive to give a clear picture of how these women were represented as part of a concerted visual program. While the appearance of Roman women on coins was not entirely revolutionary, having roughly coincided with the introduction of images of powerful Roman statesmen to coins in the late 40s BC, the degree to which Livia came to be commemorated on coins in the provinces and in Rome was unprecedented. The coin images of Livia, when considered in tandem with representations of her in other visual media such as sculpture and cameos, reveal the detailed visual language that was developed for the promotion of Livia as the predominant female in the Roman imperial family. These images, whose visual elements were rooted in Hellenistic Greek and Roman Republican precursors, were customized to portray Livia in traditional gender roles as wife and mother, and eventually in her new role as priestess of the new imperial cult of the deified Augustus. Such images not only promoted Livia as the model elite Roman woman of the imperial family and the imperial realm as a whole, but they also symbolized the dynastic, socio-political and religious ideologies of the ruling regime. Livia’s image ultimately set the standard by which all subsequent female imperial family members would be portrayed in Roman art.
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