Bits & Pieces... by David Sundman

Rome Through the Eyes of a Collector

[photo: Here I am in the Roman Forum]

Here I am in the Roman Forum

[photo: The Temple dedicated to Faustina by her husband Antoninus Pius]

The Temple dedicated to Faustina by her husband Antoninus Pius

[photo: Bronze Sestertius of Emperor Nero, and 'Wolf & Twins' coin depicting Romulus and Remus]

Bronze Sestertius of Emperor Nero, and 'Wolf & Twins' coin depicting Romulus and Remus

This summer I took my youngest daughter Elyce on a Smithsonian tour, “Art Treasures of Italy.” Our group started in Venice and visited Florence and finally Rome.

I chose this tour as Elyce is an art history major and is studying Italian as a language. Another consideration was that I hadn’t been to that part of Italy since the 1960s when I was in college – and back then, I was doing Europe with Arthur Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day.

The Smithsonian tour was great, and for me, visiting Rome was a real highlight. Although not included in our tour, during some free time we explored the ancient Roman Forum and the Colosseum. The nice thing about touring ancient sites is they don’t visibly change even with 40 years between visits. I love collecting and dealing in U.S. coins and paper currency but I enjoy ancient coins equally as much. It was a thrill for us to walk where Julius Caesar, Augustus, and Nero walked, and to think of their coins.

In the top photo, I’m standing in the Roman Forum by the steps to the temple dedicated by Emperor Antoninus Pius to his late wife Faustina in A.D. 141. Shown is a rare gold Aureus depicting Faustina and this temple as it originally appeared – the temple was saved from total destruction as part of it was built into a church in the 7th century. Also shown is a bronze Sestertius of Emperor Nero, who set fire to Rome in a moment of insanity, with the deity Roma on the reverse symbolizing the spirit of Rome. Probably the most famous symbol of Rome is the depiction of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome with the she-wolf, as shown on the reverse of the URBS ROMA “Wolf & Twins.” All of these coins are history you can hold in your hand.