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but for the metal they were made of. Nor were their apprehensions ill-founded; for it is not easily imagined how many of these noble monuments of history have perished in the goldsmiths' hands, before they came to be collected together by the learned men of these two or three last centuries. Inscriptions, victories, buildings, and a thousand other pieces of antiquity, were melted down in these barbarous ages, that thought figures and letters only served to spoil the gold that was charged with them. Your medallists look on this destruction of coins as on the burning of the Alexandrian library, and would be content to compound for them with almost the loss of a Vatican. To prevent this in some measure, the ancients placed the greatest variety of their devices on their brass and copper coins, which are in no fear of falling into the clipper's hands, nor in any danger of melting till the general conflagration. On the contrary, our modern medals are most in silver or gold, and often in a very small number of each. I have seen a golden one at Vienna, of Philip the Second, that weighed two and twenty pound, which is probably singular in its kind, and will not be able to keep itself long out of the furnace, when it leaves the emperor's Treasury. I remember another in the king of Prussia's collection, that has in it three pound weight of gold. The princes who struck these medals, says Eugenius, seem to have designed them rather as an ostentation of their wealth than of their virtues. They fancied, probably, it was a greater honour to appear in gold than in copper, and that ą medal receives all its value from the rarity of the metal. I think the next subject you proposed to speak of, were the different occasions that have given birth to ancient and modern medals.
Before we enter on this particular, says Philander, I must tell you, by way of preliminary, that formerly there was no difference between money and medals. An old Roman had his purse
full of the same pieces that we now preserve in cabinets. As soon as an emperor had done anything remarkable, it was immediately stamped on a coin, and became current through his whole dominions. It was a pretty contrivance, says Cynthio, to spread abroad the virtues of an emperor,
and make his actions circulate. A fresh coin was a kind of a gazette, that published the latest news of the empire. I should fancy your Roman bankers were very
good historians. It is certain, says Eugenius, they might find their profit and instruction mixed together. I have often wondered that no nation among the moderns has imitated the ancient Romans in this particular. I know no other way of securing these kind of monuments, and making them numerous enough to be handed down to future ages. But where statesmen are ruled by a spirit of faction and interest, they can have no passion for the glory of their country, nor any concern for the figure it will make among posterity. A man that talks of his nation's honour a thousand years hence, is in very great danger of being laughed at. We shall think, says Cynthio, you have a mind to fall out with the government, because it does not encourage medals. But were all your ancient coins that are now in cabinets once current money? It is the most probable opinion, says Philander, that they were all of them such, excepting those we call medallions. These, in respect of the other coins, were the same as modern medals in respect of
They were exempted from all commerce, and had no other value but what was set upon them by the fancy of the owner. They are supposed to have been struck. by emperors for presents to their friends, foreign princes, or ambassadors. However, that the smallness of their number might not endanger the loss of the devices they bore, the Romans took care generally to stamp the subject of their medallions on their ordinary coins that were the running cash of the nation. As if in England we should see, on our halfpenny and farthing pieces, the several designs that show themselves in their perfection on our medals.
If we now.consider, continued Philander, the different occasions or subjects of ancient and modern medals, we shall find they both agree in recording the great actions and successes in war, allowing still for the different ways of making it, and the circumstances that attended
it in past ages, and in the present. I shall instance one. I do not remember in
any old coin to have seen the taking of a town mentioned: as indeed there were few conquerors could signalize themselves that way before the invention of powder and fortifications, a single battle often deciding the fate of whole kingdoms. Our modern medals give us several sieges and plans of fortified towns, that show themselves in all their parts to a great advantage on the reverse of a coin. It is indeed a
kind of justice, says Eugenius, that a prince owes to posterity, after he has ruined or defaced a strong place, to deliver down to them a model of it as it stood whole and entire. The coin repairs in some measure the mischiefs of his bombs and cannons. In the next place, says Philander, we see both on the ancient and modern medals the several noble pieces of architecture that were finished at the time when the medals were stamped. I must observe, however, to the honour of the latter, that they have represented their buildings according to the rules of perspective. This I remember to have seen but in very few of the plans on ancient coins, which makes them appear much less beautiful than the modern, especially to a mathematical eye. Thus far our two sets of medals agree as to their subject. But old coins go farther in their compliments to their emperor, as they take occasion to celebrate his distinguishing virtues ; not as they showed themselves in any particular action, but as they shone out in the general view of his character. This humour went so far, that we see Nero's fiddling, and Commodus's skill in fencing, on several of their medals. At present, you never meet with the king of France's generosity, nor the emperor's devotion, recorded after this manner. Again, the Romans used to register the great actions of peace that turned to the good of the people, as well as those of war. The remission of a debt, the taking off a duty, the giving up a tax, the mending a port, or the making a highway, were not looked upon as improper subjects for a coin. They were glad of any opportunity to encourage their emperors in the humour of doing good, and knew very well, that many of these acts of beneficence had a wider and more lasting influence on the happiness and welfare of a people, than the gaining a victory, or the conquest of a nation. "In England, perhaps, it would have looked a little odd to have stamped a medal on the abolishing of chimney-money in the last reign, or on the giving a hundred thousand pounds a year towards the carrying on a war, in this. I find, said Eugenius, had we struck in with the practice of the ancient Romans, we should have had medals on the fitting up of our several docks, on the making of our rivers navigable, on the building our men of war, and the like subjects, that have certainly very well deserved them. The reason why it has been neglected, says Philander, may possibly be this. Our princes have the
coining of their own medals, and, perhaps, may think it would look like vanity to erect so many trophies and monuments of praise to their own merit; whereas, among cient Romans, the senate had still a watchful eye on their emperor, and if they found anything in his life and actions that might furnish out a medal, they did not fail of making him so acceptable an offering. It is true, their flatteries betray often such a baseness of spirit, as one would little expect to find among such an order of men.
And here, by the way, we may observe, that you never find anything like satire or raillery on old coins.
Whatever victories were got on foreign enemies, or the several pretenders to the empire obtained over one another, they are recorded on coins without the least bitterness or reflection.
The emperors often jested on their rivals or predecessors, but their mints still maintained their gravity. They might publish invectives against one another in their discourses or writings, but never on their coins. Had we no other histories of the Roman emperors, but those we find on their money, we should take them for the most virtuous race of princes that mankind were ever blessed with: whereas, if we look into their lives, they appear many of them such monsters of lust and cruelty, as are almost a reproach to human nature. Medals are, therefore, :so many compliments to an emperor,
that ascribe to him all the virtues and victories he himself pretended to. Were you to take from hence all your informations, you would fancy Claudius as great a conqueror as Julius Cæsar, and Domitian a wiser prince than his brother Titus. Tiberius on his coins is all moderation, Caligula and Nero are fathers of their country, Galba the patron of public liberty, and Vitellius the restorer of the city of Rome. In short, if you have a mind to see the religious Commodus, the pious Caracalla, and the devout Heliogabalus, you may find them either in the inscription or device of their medals. On the contrary, those of a modern make are often charged with irony and satire. Our kings no sooner fall out, but their mints make war upon one another, and their malice appears on their medals. One meets sometimes with very nice touches of raillery, but as we have no instance of it among the ancient coins, I shall leave you to determine, whether or no it ought to find a place
there. I must confess, says Cynthio, I believe we are generally in the wrong, when we deviate from the ancients, because their practice is for the most part grounded upon
But if our forefathers have thought fit to be grave and serious, I hope their posterity may laugh without offence. For my part, I cannot but look on this kind of raillery as a refinement on medals: and do not see why there may not be some for diversion, at the same time that there are others of a more solemn and majestic nature, as a victory may be celebrated in an epigram as well as in an heroic poem. Had the ancients given place to raillery on any of their coins, I question not but they would have been the most valued parts of a collection. Besides the entertain. ment we should have found in them, they would have shown us the different state of wit, as it flourished or decayed in the several ages of the Roman empire. There is no doubt, says Philander, but our forefathers, if they had pleased, could have been as witty as their posterity. But I am of opinion, they industriously avoided it on their coins, that they might not give us occasion to suspect their sincerity. Had they run into mirth or satire, we should not have thought they had designed so much to instruct as to divert us. I have heard, says Eugenius, that the Romans stamped several coins on the same occasion. If we follow their example, there will be no danger of deceiving posterity; since the more serious sort of medals may serve as comments on those of a lighter character. However it is, the raillery of the moderns cannot be worse than the flattery of the ancients. But hitherto you have only mentioned such coins as were made on the emperor,
I have seen several of our own time that have been made as a compliment to private persons. There are pieces of money, says Philander, that, during the time of the Roman emperors, were coined in honour of the senate, army, or people. I do not remember to have seen in the upper empire the face of any private person that was not some way related to the imperial family. Sejanus has, indeed, his consulship mentioned on a coin of Tiberius, as he has the honour to give a name to the year in which our Saviour was crucified. We are now come to the legend or inscription of our medals, which, as it is one of the more essential parts of them, it may deserve to be examined more at length. You have