When we think of ancient Rome, we think first of the gladiators. These professional fighters delighted frenzied crowds in the Coliseum, doing battle with wild animals, with condemned criminals, and with one another, sometimes fighting to the death. The archetype of the gladiator has persisted for more than two thousand years, to the present day.
Derived from funeral rites practiced by the Etruscans in the 8th century BCE, Roman gladiatorial contests were not for the faint of heart—the word arena is Latin for sand, copious amounts of which were used on the ground to soak up blood. Emperors sponsored gladiatorial games, transforming brutal combat into public spectacle, a mixture of sport and violence passed down in our modern games of rugby and football. They were enormously popular; the Coliseum was constructed in 80 CE primarily as a venue for the games.
Perhaps the biggest imperial fan of the contests was Emperor Constantius II, the son of Constantine the Great. When it was his turn to mint his own coins, on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the Old City of Rome in 348 CE, he chose to depict what he loved best: the end of a gladiatorial contest, the moment when the victor is about to slay his fallen opponent.
On the obverse of this very scarce bronze centenionalis is a portrait of Constantius II, with his name and imperial title. The reverse legend reads FEL TEMP REPARATIO, which loosely translates to “Happy Day s Are Here Again,” and portrays a representation of the end of a gladiatorial bout.
Data: Weight: 3.0-4.7g; Diameter: 20-25mm Date range: 348-356CE Album open measures: 11” x 7.5” Album folded measures: 5.5” x 7.5”
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