The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2015, 247-260

‘Dominus noster rex’ – What did the Legend on the Vandal Coins Mean?

I. M. Nikolsky

The silver coins issued in the Vandal kingdom provide excellent material
as far as the representation of the king’s power is concerned. Since the reign
of Gunthamund (484–496) they bore the images of the Vandal kings, not of
the Roman emperors, as it used to be, and new, original legends (inscriptions).
One of these inscriptions includes words dominus noster rex (‘our master
king’). This formula is of great interest, because it combines the ‘imperial’-
associated and ‘king’-associated terms. At fi rst sight, dominus noster, which is
the emperor’s title, could hardly appear in the same context with rex, usual for
the barbarian kings. Did it happen by chance? Was it terminological “license”
or the conscious action? What could the formula really mean? The article tries
to answer these questions. Possible origin of this legend can be found in the
texts by Dracontius, the Carthaginian poet, particularly in his work Satisfactio
(‘Satisfaction’), the panegyric, addressed to king Gunthamund, where the poet
also used this formula. So, to get the answer to the questions mentioned above
is to analyze this formula within the framework of the poet’s doctrine. It is of
great interest that he follows not only the Roman tradition, but also that of Old
Testament, which could have been the source of the formula considered. The
author makes the conclusion, that the words dominus noster rex in the legend
on the Vandal coins did not appear by chance. Its origin can be found in the
text which had been written by the author who pretended to form political
ideology and the doctrine combining both the Roman tradition and that of the
Old Testament.

Keywords:
Vandals, Carthage, Africa, coins, Roman Empire, Gunthamund, Dracontius
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