Gold medallion of Claudius II
Roman, AD 268-70
Given to soldiers as awards for service
By the late third century AD, gold medals had become important as gifts to Roman officers and barbarian allies. They were not military decorations in the modern sense, although many were adapted for wear. Rather, they were awards for past service, given in the hope that they would inspire further allegiance. The designs they carried helped to further this end, and their large size allowed them to showcase the coin engraver's art.
Emperor Claudius II (AD 268-70) is given the lifelike countenance of a tough Roman military commander on this coin. This is in contrast to later medallions, which often presented the emperor as a monumentalised effigy of power without any attempt to show trademark features of an individual man. Claudius was the first of a succession of late pagan emperors originating from the Balkans who revived an empire beset by internal division and barbarian attack. His success against the latter, despite a reign cut short by plague, earned him the title Gothicus (Victorious over the Goths). The reverse of the coin shows Concordia holding legionary standards (representing harmony between the emperor and the army).
C. Scarre, Chronicle of the Roman emperor (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)
N. Hannestad, Roman art and imperial policy (Aarhus University Press, 1986)
J. M. C. Toynbee, Roman medallions (New York, 1986)