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Roma

Roma

Interestingly, the typical Roman denarius of the Republican era may seem almost familiar to most coin enthusiasts. While the denarius featured many different themes, one of the most common was the helmeted head of the goddess, Roma. At first glance, she could easily be mistaken for the head of Mercury found on Mercury U.S. dimes. She is also similar to the Greek goddess Athena, known as Minerva in the Roman pantheon. In fact, some theorists suggest that Roma was adapted from Minerva and only became differentiated from her in the early years of the Roman Republic.

That suggestion is supported by the lack of popular stories concerning Roma. There is little mythology surrounding the goddess, though she is claimed as the patroness and protector of Rome. One of the other theories of her origin names her as a provincial goddess in the countryside surrounding Italy who was adopted by the Romans to ensure the loyalty of those provinces.

No matter her origin, though, Roma began to appear on Roman coins around 220 B.C. She is most often depicted as a head or bust only, nearly always wearing a helmet. As the goddess and protector of Rome, she was a warlike figure, and when portrayed full length is usually in leather armor. She often holds a shield, or is seated with one leaning against her chair, and brandishes a spear. In some cases, she may be wearing a victory wreath, or holding a scepter, sword or statuette of Nike, the goddess of Victory.

Unlike most other gods of the Classical pantheons, Roma was less a personality in her own right and more a personification of the City, much like the Lady Liberty is seen as a personification of the United States in modern times. Thus, her depictions on Roman coinage continued even after Rome became Christian, as she was considered more an abstract concept than a goddess.

Regardless, she was worshipped as a goddess in the provinces, and was the leading figure in an active cult in the Southern parts of Italy.