Presenting objects that were defaced either to condemn the memory of deceased Roman emperors, or to undermine the power of living ones.

‘Money is power’, so the saying goes, and it was never truer than in the realms of imperial Rome, where emperors asserted their authority throughout the provinces by minting coins bearing their likeness.

This exhibition at the British Museum examines the widespread phenomenon of defacing these coins as a means of mutinous propaganda, which soon spread to engravings and sculpture.

Although this was often a rebellious action, there were also instances of senate-sanctioned damnatio memoriae, where all mementos of an unpopular ruler were effectively erased following their death.

Coins from the reign of Caligula and Nero – the first ‘damned’ leaders – are on display alongside various inscriptions that were subject to this violent erasure.

British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, Greater London, WC1B 3DG

020 7323 8181


Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5.30pm (Fri until 8.30pm)

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

Free to all

50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass

Haven't got your pass yet? Learn more

Exhibitions and events at British Museum

Exhibitions nearby

Back to top