Roman Republic, Denarius


Roman Republic, Denarius (obverse) Roman Republic, Denarius (reverse)

This denarius was issued in the year 55 BC by Quintus Cassius Longinus, a descendant of yonder Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla who had sentenced three Vestals to death for improper behavior in 113 BC. The obverse depicts Libertas, the goddess and embodiment of liberty; she is identified by the legend LIBERT behind her.

The reverse of our denarius shows the temple of Vesta with symbols of legal actions. The curule chair inside the temple is where the judge sat. Next to is is a ballot urn, and on the other side are two voting tablet. One bears an A for 'absolvo' (to acquit), the other a C for 'condemno' (to find guilty).

The Vestals, who looked after the sacred fire in the temple of Vesta, were the only priestesses within the Roman religious system. The Vestal duty brought them great honor, but in turn the priestesses had to observe absolute chastity for 30 years. The punishment for violating the oath of celibacy was to be buried alive, and this is what happened to the three Vestals Licinia, Marcia and Aemilia in 113 BC.


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