Sestertius of Trajan, Emperor of Rome from Rome Mint: Rome
Ruler: Trajan, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 53–117, ruled 98–117



On view, 1st floor, Numismatics

Trajan was fond of construction projects; he was said to have restored old monuments and to have added his name to them, as if he were their originator. In 103 he restored and expanded the grandstand of the Circus Maximus. This magnificent sestertius is one of the finest examples of the issue and shows precise details: the Arch of Titus looks down from the upper left, quadrigae (four-horse chariots) surmount the gates at either end of the grandstand, and metae (turning posts) are seen at either end of the racecourse, which is being run by a galloping figure. The large, gabled structure surmounted by the bust of Sol reflects his status as the major god honored here.




26.26 g, 6:00, 33 mm

Credit Line

Gift of Ben Lee Damsky

Accession Number



2nd century A.D.


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.


Obverse Description

Obverse Description: IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC PM TRP COS V PP Laureate head right, drapery on far shoulder

Reverse Description

Reverse Description: SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI; SC in exergue. Aerial view of Circus Maximus: two arches with quadrigas at right and third at left; colonnade and high wall with windows in checkerboard pattern on near arm. Far arm shows sections of seats and tetrastyle temple on podium surmounted by radiate head of Sol. Spina at center has three metae at each end, Cybele riding lion, great obelisk on base surmounted by ornament, and shrine.


Hess–Leu, Zurich, April 16, 1964, cat. 24, lot 299. Dr. Meyer, Cologne, Germany, to 1988; Münz Zentrum 64, Cologne, Germany, April 15, 1988, Lot 210; Ben Lee Damsky, 1988–2018; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • "Acquisitions July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Online Supplement (accessed December 1, 2018), 27
  • Benjamin D. R. Hellings, "Ben Lee Damsky's Collection of Miniature 'Monumenta'," in "Recent Acquisitions," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2018), 74–75, fig. 1
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

coins, money, sestertii

Technical metadata and APIs


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