Silver didrachm with wolf and twins design

Roman, about 275-260 BC

The foundation myth of Rome

The Romans first started to make and use silver coins around the middle of the third century BC. The idea of producing precious metal coins by the method of striking had reached Rome from the Greek cities of southern Italy such as Neapolis (modern Naples). But compared to their neighbours, the Romans were slow to adopt coinage - Italian Greeks had been making coins since the late sixth century BC. Perhaps the Romans resisted it as a foreign invention. Certainly they began to use coins at the same time as they accepted other Greek cultural influences, such as the production of fine ceramics.

This example shows the head of the Greek hero Herakles (Hercules in Latin), whose cult had also been popular at Rome from a very early period. On the other side of the coin are depicted the founding twins of Rome: Romulus and Remus. According to legend the infants were suckled by a wolf. The design may have been inspired by a statue in Rome that we know from historical sources was set up in 296 BC, shortly before this coin was made.

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More information


T. Cornell and J. Matthews, Atlas of the Roman world (Phaidon, 1987)

M.H. Crawford, Roman republican coinage (Cambridge University Press, 1974)

A.M. Burnett, Coinage in the Roman world (London, Seaby, 1987)


Diameter: 21.000 mm
Weight: 7.031 g

Museum number

CM 1867-1-1-31


Blacas Collection


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