Gold medallion of Diocletian
Roman, AD 284-305
One of the largest ancient medallions to survive
Diocletian was the most successful of the pagan Balkan emperors. He made ideological changes to strengthen the office of emperor which included presenting a dehumanised, godlike imperial image, as seen on this medallion. No attempt has been made to show trademark features of an individual man, in contrast to earlier examples. The reverse shows Diocletian's guardian god, Jupiter, and below, the mintmark of his operational capital, Nicomedia (in Asia Minor). Equivalent to ten ordinary gold coins, it is one of the largest to have survived.
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.
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)