Vespasian: Adsertor Libertatis Publicae

Classical Review, New Series, Vol. 23, No. 2 (December 1973), pp. 127-127


IN A.D. 71 Vespasian issued at Rome a sestertius inscribed on the reverse SPQR ADSERTORI LIBERTATIS PUBLICAE in four lines within an oak-wreath, the corona civica. The purpose of this note is to clarify the exact claim being made by Vespasian. M. Grant has already called attention to a possible relationship with the inscription on a tetradrachm issued at Ephesus by Augustus in 28 B.C.: IMP CAESAR DIVI F COS VI LIBERTATIS P(opuli) R(omani) VINDEX. He rightly and reasonably explains the change of terminology from Augustus' vindex to Vespasian's adsertor by a desire to avoid a pun. 'The period of anarchy and civil war which Vespasian terminated had been started by a man of precisely that name who rebelled against Nero. The Romans being so addicted to plays on words, the name of Vindex must have given rise to many punning observations reminiscent of the phrase on Augustus' tetradrachms.'