VOTA: Research Aims

Research Aims

The project The ‘Vota Publica’ Tokens from late antique Rome: Isiac and Egyptian Cults within a Christianizing Roman Empire will provide the first broad, in-depth assessment of the role played by the ‘Vota Publica’ tokens, which are an enigmatic and understudied body of evidence from late antique Rome.

Through the analysis of this heuristic category of material culture, the project will explore the development and resilience of Isiac and Egyptian cults in late antique Rome and their relationship with the Roman imperial power and the religious and social fabric of the late Empire. These artefacts were struck on a large scale over decades of political, religious, and social tensions. Following the so-called ‘Constantinian shift’ (AD 313), this period was marked by the progressive Christianization of the Roman Empire up to the decrees issued by Theodosius I (AD 389-392), which proclaimed Christianity as the official state religion and banned any forms of pagan cult. As they are one of the last known artefacts to bear pagan iconography between from the Tetrarchy (AD 293-305) until the fifth century AD, the ‘Vota Publica’ tokens grant a different and new perspective on the religious and social changes that affected the late Roman society; as coin-like objects, they also provide genuine information on the production, use, and spread of paranumismatic objects in late antiquity.

Based on a multidisciplinary and multi-scalar approach combining literary sources, numismatic evidence and visual culture, the project will shed light on the origins, use and arenas in which these ‘pagan’ late Roman artefacts developed and were distributed, with the aim to disclose unseen components of the relations between pagan communities and Christian government in late Roman society.


Terracotta relief with sphinx and human headed lion, 36-28 BC From temple of Apollo, Palatine. Museo Palatino, Rome