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Aureus issued under Macrinus: he and his son Diadumenianus are depicted as providing for the people as Liberalitas embodied stands by (with the legend reading LIBERALITAS AUG[USTORUM])

In ancient Roman culture, liberalitas was the virtue of giving freely (from liber, "free"), hence generosity. On coins, a political leader of the Roman Republic or an emperor of the Imperial era might be depicted as displaying largess to the Roman people, with liberalitas embodied as a goddess at his side;[1] the goddess Liberalitas appears on coinage issued under the emperors Gordian III Trajan, Antoninus Pius[2] and Septimius Severus,[3] sometimes designated as Augusta or Augusti in association with Imperial cult. On one example, a Roman holds out his toga to receive coins poured by Liberalitas, as Antoninus looks on from an elevated seat.[4]

The divine Virtues are sometimes associated with a particular activity or function performed by the emperor—in the case of Liberalitas, the congiarium or giving of gifts by the emperor directly to individuals;[5] the enacting of the particular virtue was considered an epiphany of the goddess or miraculum: Liberalitas was thought to have manifested herself when Trajan distributed cash gifts to the populace during his formal arrival ceremony (adventus) in 99 AD.[6] Pliny names the quality of liberalitas in his Panegyric to Trajan.[7]

Liberalitas was theologically linked to Providentia, "providence", and Annona, the embodiment of the grain supply.[8]


  1. ^ J. Rufus Fears, "The Cult of Virtues and Roman Imperial Ideology," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.17.2 (1981), p. 846.
  2. ^ Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," p. 903.
  3. ^ Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," p. 904.
  4. ^ Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," p. 906.
  5. ^ Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," p. 913.
  6. ^ Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," pp. 914–916.
  7. ^ Pliny, Panegyric 26–28; Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," pp. 916, 920.
  8. ^ Fears, "The Cult of Virtues," p. 922.