What type of axe?!

Specimen image source.

I’ve been very focused in the pre 49 BCE period. This is likely to change as my research evolves over the next few years, but I realize that I am so much less familiar with coins after that date. Even ones I ‘know’ I’ve just spent less time thinking about.

This might be completely obvious but prior to today I saw a hodge-podge of symbols on this reverse rather than a programmatic message. My blind spot was the axe. If I thought about it at all I thought it was a priestly axe as those show up on other Caesarean coins. It doesn’t look much like those priestly ones though. Instead, I now read it as the axe that has been removed from the fasces. It seems so obvious that I assume others have seen this before.

Caesar in his role as perpetual dictator has brought peace and harmony (caduceus and clasped hands) to the world (orb)–or at least an end to conflict, if I was being snarky. Civil order has been restored (fasces) and thus military authority (axe) is no longer necessary.

The reading of the clasped hands on this specific coin is discussed Cornwall 2017, 65 no. 53.

A selection of fasces with axes for comparison (see earlier post)

Of course I’ve been thinking about it more since discovering this Cavino specimen in Glasgow, which takes its inspiration from the denarius but associates the imagery with the events of 56 BCE and the conference at Luca:


Some comparative iconography of fasces and axes

from the Fabatus Series (RRC 412/1)


Gallica Link

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