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.

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

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