While some of the following titles may sometimes appear on the reverse of coins, generally reverse inscriptions are beyond the scope of this article.AUGUSTUS - The name of the first emperor bestowed upon him by the Senate in 27 BC. During the later empire, senior emperors were called the "Augustus" while junior emperors were the "Caesar."CAESAR - The family name of the first imperial dynasty, it became a title used by later emperors.During the later empire, senior emperors were called the "Augustus" while junior emperors were the "Caesar."TRIBUNICIA POTESTATE - Tribune of the Roman people, literally the representative of the people in the government.
Bronze coins were issued under the authority of the Senate while gold and silver was issued under imperial authority.
The inscription CONSTANTINVS IVN NOB C could be translated "Constantine the Younger, Noble Prince, Caesar." This coin was issued while Constantine was junior emperor (Caesar) under his father Constantine the Great, who was the senior emperor (Augustus).
Many Roman coins will have incomplete or unreadable legends, however it is still possible to identify many of these coins.
In setting out to write this article, I have the modest goal of helping new collectors of Roman Imperial coins to interpret the inscriptions on their coins.
I must state at the outset that there will be nothing new here, I travel the well marked path of the great numismatists who have gone before me. Reading and Dating Roman Imperial Coins by Zander Klawans has been the starting point for more Roman collectors than perhaps any other book of the last half century and the fact that it is still in print is a testament to it's value.
The two who have had the greatest influence on me have been David R. Many new collectors and even advanced students of Latin shy away from attempting to decipher the seemingly cryptic inscriptions found on most Roman coins.
The reason for this initial apprehension is that the ancient Romans were excessive abbreviators and that the legends were run together without stops or breaks.
However, by learning less than a dozen abbreviations and developing a familiarity with that names used on Imperial coins the collector can easily attribute most coins that he will encounter (provided the inscriptions are legible).
First we will look at the meaning of the more common abbreviations and then examine the names of the emperors as they appear on the coins. In order to fit the many titles of an emperor on a medium as small as a coin, it proved necessary to abbreviate those titles heavily.