Silver denarii of the Roman Social War

Roman, 91-89 BC
From Italy

Money and rebellion in ancient Italy

Coin designs in the ancient world could be very expressive. When the Italian allies of Rome broke out in rebellion against the city in 91 BC, they chose designs for their coinage that clearly symbolized their solidarity with one another and their hostility towards the Romans. The first coin here has a depiction of eight men holding their swords out towards a kneeling figure holding a pig. This was a way of making an oath in ancient Italy. It refers to the pact sworn by the peoples of Italy to fight together against the Romans. The Italians were deeply frustrated because the Romans would not allow them to become Roman citizens even though they formed the backbone of the mighty Roman army.

The second coin shows a powerful bull trampling and goring a wolf. This is a vivid, symbolic depiction of what the Italians wanted to do to the Romans. The bull was an ancient symbol of Italy, while the wolf stands for Rome. The writing on this coin is in a native Italian language and alphabet called Oscan.

The war with the Romans (called the Social War from socii, the Latin for 'allies'), involved hundreds of thousands of men and lasted three years. Ironically, the Allies lost the war but won their citizenship.

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Silver denarii of the Roman Social War

Swearing a pact

  • Bull goring a wolf

    Bull goring a wolf


More information


A.M. Burnett, 'The coinage of the Social War' in Coins of Macedonia and Rome: e (London, Spinks, 1999)

T. Potter, Roman Italy (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Diameter: 19.000 mm (bull)
Weight: 3.840 g (bull)
Diameter: 19.000 mm (bull)
Weight: 3.840 g (bull)

Museum number

CM BMC Roman Republican Social War 4 (1851-5-3-14);CM BMC Roman Republican Social War 41 (Principal Coins of the Greeks VII.C.15)



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