Roger Ascham - William Cecil - 1553-06-07

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Roger Ascham, Brussels

Roger Ascham - William Cecil - 1553-06-07
FINA IDUnique ID of the page  14340
InstitutionName of Institution.
InventoryInventory number.
AuthorAuthor of the document. Roger Ascham
RecipientRecipient of the correspondence. William Cecil
Correspondence dateDate when the correspondence was written: day - month - year . June 7, 1553 JL
PlacePlace of publication of the book, composition of the document or institution. Brussels 50° 51' 18.01" N, 4° 21' 4.44" E
Associated personsNames of Persons who are mentioned in the annotation. Juan Hurtado de Mendoza
LiteratureReference to literature. Giles 1865-1866, vol. I.2, pp. 360-2, letter 1491, Burnett 2020b, pp. 1357-8, 6, 80-12
KeywordNumismatic Keywords  Bronze Coins , Gold Coins , Augustus , Divus , Local Finds
LanguageLanguage of the correspondence Latin
External LinkLink to external information, e.g. Wikpedia 
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Grand documentOriginal passage from the "Grand document".

'Subsequar te voluntate, studio, et perpetua mea observantia, cujus propositi mei duo luculentos obsides mitto ad te, duo insignes CAESARES, qui ut se tibi praesentes sisterent, ego, veritus nec hunc aereum deum nec illum aureum diabolum, utrumque in literas inclusi tuas. Aureus nummus minus erit tibi gratus: nam quid pessimo principi cum optimo viro? Sed quia materies est purissima, et opus praestantissimum, fortasse juvabit te intueri illam tyrannidem et immanitatem quae etiam nunc apparet in ipso vultu, et in ipsis faucibus, quomodo in SUETONIO etiam scite describitur. Aereus nummus est valde insignis, et ita insignis ut ex hac mea facultatula nihil habeam, quod tibi tanto viro tanto meo patrono pretiosus offerre possim. Superiore mense fui apud Don DIEGO DI MENDOZZA, virum literarum amantissimum et omnis antiquitatis peritissimum: ostendit mihi magnam nummorum vim, dedit aliquot, rogat ecquos haberem? Eduxi hunc aereum quem praesentem habui; inspecto nummo, respexit ad me: Intelligis, inquit, quem nummum habes? AUGUSTI CAESARIS, inquam ego: Recte, ait ille; at ex omni temporum et vetustatis memoria, nullus nummus insignior isto ad hominum manus pervenit. Legis, inquit, in TITO LIVIO, de templo JANI bis clauso universa pace constituta; primum regnante NUMA, post imperante AUGUSTO: quo anno CHRISTUS nasci voluit. Sen. Pop. Que Rom. imperitus providentiae Dei, referebat hanc universam pacem ad providentiam AUGUSTI, et facto Sen. Con. salutabat eum et divum et patrem, feriens hunc nummum, cum templo JANI clauso, et hoc verbo providentia. Interrogabat me unde haberem? Respondebam, in oppidulo secundum Rhenum sito. Credibile, inquit: nam paulo post DRUSUS et TIBERIUS illa loca circumcirca bello infestabant. Obtuli ei nummum dono, quoniam videbam illum eo delectari, sed noluit accipere, addens dignum esse, quum in Angliam redirem, quem Regiae majestati offerem. Sed nimius sum in re tam levi, praesertim ad talem virum, et memor tuae humanitatis, imprudens oblitus sum auctoritatis et occupationum, quibus distineris.'

[I shall follow you with my good will, devotion, and unending observance; as a declaration thereof I am sending you two bright hostages, two famous Caesars, the one a bronze god, the other a golden devil. Fearing neither, I have enclosed both in this letter, so that they may present themselves to you in person.

The gold piece will please you less, for what has the worst of princes to do with the best of men? But since the metal is very pure, and the workmanship very skilful, perhaps you will enjoy looking at the tyranny and enormity which still appear in that countenance and in the very jaws, as Suetonius so cleverly describes them.

The bronze coin is very remarkable, so much so that I have nothing within my humble means more precious to offer to so great a man, so much my patron. Last month I visited Don Diego de Mendoza, a man very devoted to learning and very knowledgeable about all of antiquity. He showed me a great number of coins, gave me some, and inquired whether I had others. I pulled out this bronze one, which I had with me. Having examined it, he turned to me. “Do you know what coin this is?” he asked.

“Augustus Caesar,” I replied.

“Right,” he answered. “But never in history has a coin more remarkable than this come into our hands. You read in Titus Livy that the temple of Janus was closed twice when world peace was established, first in the reign of Numa, later during the time of Augustus, in the year Christ chose to be born. The Senate and Roman people, ignorant of God’s providence, attributed this universal peace to Augustus’ providence, and honoured him as a god and a father, striking this coins which shows the temple of Janus closed and which bears the word providentia.”

He asked me where I had found it. I told him a small town on the Rhine. “That’s reasonable,” he replied, “for a little later Drusus and Tiberius destroyed all that area in war.”

I offered him the piece as a gift, since I saw he was so taken with it, but he preferred not to accept it, adding that it was worthy of being offered to his Majesty when I returned to England.

But I am going on too long about such an unimportant matter, especially to such a man as you. I am remembering your kindness, but I have imprudently forgotten your authority and the tasks which pull you away.]

(Giles 1865-1866, vol. I.2, pp. 361-2; Burnett 2020b, pp. 1357-8)

RemarksRemarks regarding the annotation. (en)

Additional Letter, Giles 1865-6, vol. I.2 pp. 457–8, is the same letter but omits the coin story. Hatch and Vos, p. 229, regarded the Additional Letter as the one which was actually sent and 149 as a draft; and concluded that Ascham changed his mind about sending the coins. (en)


  1. ^  Giles, J.A. (ed.)(1865-6) The whole works of Roger Ascham, now first collected and revised, with a life of the author, London.
  2. ^  Burnett, Andrew M. (2020), The Hidden Treasures of this Happy Land. A History of Numismatics in Britain from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, BNS Special Publ. No 14 = RNS Special Publ. No 58, London, Spink & Son.