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Nero's Temple of Janus Coins

The coins of Nero bearing the temple of Janus reverse motif are generally accepted to refer to the peace following cessation of Corbulo's campaigns against the Parthians and the installation of Tiridates, Parthian nominee for the throne, as King of Armenia. This type is scarce; it was issued after Nero's assumption of "Imperator" as a praenomen (mid-66 A.D.) and was probably discontinued when the Jewish war broke out in November 66 A.D., probably causing the doors of the Temple of Janus to be opened once again.

Harvey Shore writes about these interesting coins this most engaging observation (from Australia, September 1999):

Nero Temple of Janus"I have before me now a Roman sestertius of the emperor Nero. On one side his portrait. Carved by a Greek in the year A.D. 66, it shows the fleshy bust produced by fleshy living. This bust tells a story for anyone with eyes to see. Then there is the legend - titles for an ill deserved imperial reputation. Each one speaking of a specific senatorial decree - those poor craven men fearing for their lives and their wives - both of which Nero was wont to abuse. So many stories. And on the reverse of this big coin is the Temple of Janus - a beautiful reverse picture reeking of history. The great temple, whose doors were never closed while there was war anywhere throughout the empire. The doors had only ever been closed three times in the past. Nero closed them. The legend around the reverse says (in Latin) "The peace of the people of Rome being everywhere on land and sea, The doors of the Janum he closed." [See the translation details.]

"The image of the temple is beautiful -- I can trace the individual stones on the wall, the tiles on the roof, the bars on the window, the carving on the doors, the door knockers or ring holds - even the wreaths decorating the facade of the temple in celebration of the event. It's a beautiful temple.

"And it tells other stories - of the efforts of Nero's great general Corbulo in the East. His campaigns made this coin possible. And of Nero's treachery in return. He recalled Corbulo from campaign and ordered him to meet his emperor in Greece. When Corbulo stepped ashore, he was greeted by an officer who handed him a scroll. In it Nero had ordered the general to take his own life. Nero considered him a threat. Corbulo is said to have muttered "So much for loyalty". And I am reminded of Corbulo's daughter, who survived to later carry her father's blood into the imperial palace and the imperial family... she married the emperor Domitian. The coin tells of craftsmen imported to the mint, of rulers who were featured by it, of men who were paid by it, of rare and fat faces, of far campaigns, of the great Peace of Rome that meant so much to so many for so long, of temples, and tributes, and state ceremonies, and great treachery - of war and peace among nations and among individuals, of past history and traditions, of future imperial lines. This one coin is a delight to me. It says so much and it is so beautiful."

View more examples of these coins.

Translation Details

There are two inscriptions seen on Nero's Temple of Janus coins:


PACE = peace
PR = Populus Romanum = People of Rome
TERRA = earth or land
MARIQ = sea
VBIQ (short for VBIQUE) = everywhere
PARTA = doors
IANVM = nominative case - place of Janus
CLVSIT = closed

The grammatical rendering is variable, but broadly goes something like this: "Since the Pax Romana [Peace of the Roman People] is everywhere on land and sea, the doors of the temple of Janus he closed." The sense of temple instead of place is implied by the accompanying depiction of the temple itself.

Curtis Clay of Harlan Berk amends the translation with the explanation that PARTA is not "doors", but the past participle of "pario", "bring forth, produce, acquire". Thus the translation correctly reads:

"The Peace of the Roman People having been established on Land and Sea [or Everywhere], he closed (the Temple of) Janus."

This page last updated 23 Feb 2021

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