​Denarius of Augustus

​Denarius of Augustus


This coin, equivalent to a soldier or laborer’s daily wage, depicts Rome’s first emperor, born Octavian. It was minted after he named himself Imperator (conquering general), but soon before the Roman senate awarded him the title Augustus in 27 BCE.

Augustus’ hair was one of the most distinctive and imitated aspects of his public image. The bangs and tousled effect consciously recalled Greek ruler Alexander the Great’s hairstyle. Augustus’ hair is full, but not out-of-control or feminine. It emphasizes his youth, and distinguishes him from the typically elderly, balding Roman rulers of the past. As he imitated Alexander’s hair, so was his own style copied by others in his ruling dynasty (the Julio-Claudians), as well as by later emperors who wanted to link themselves to his family or successful rule. According to his biographer Suetonius, on the day Augustus died “he called for a mirror, and had his hair combed.”


Work Date:
29–27 BCE
Credit Line:
The American Numismatic Society (1957.172.1500)