Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 105   |   9 May 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 30

Estimate: 40'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 32'000 CHF Price realized: 32'000 CHF
Hadrian, 117 – 134. Aureus 136-138, AV 7.12 g. HADRIANVS – AVGVSTVS Bare bust r., with drapery on l. shoulder. Rev. DIVIS – PARENTIBVS Jugate and draped busts r. of Trajan and Plotina; above star and in r. field, another star. C 1 var. (HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS COS III P P). BMC p. 297 note. RIC 232a var. (HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS COS III P P). Strack 356 (these dies). Biaggi 568 (this coin). Calicó 1416 (this coin).
Exceedingly rare, only the third specimen known of this variety and one of very few
of this intriguing and historically important issue. Three wonderful portraits of
fine style and a light reddish tone. Very fine


Sold Münzen & Medaillen A.G., auction XXI (« cent monnaies romaines en or »), Basel, 19 March 1960, lot 45.

Leo Biaggi de Blasys (1906-1979) Collection, acquired privately in 1978 by Bank Leu and Marco Ratto.

Sold by Numismatica Ars Classica, Zürich, auction 72, 16 May 2013, lot 651.

These aurei are exceptional in several ways. Not only do they portray Hadrian in a youthful and idealized fashion, but they have reverse types that honour the emperor's adoptive parents Trajan and Plotina. Hill has shown convincingly that they belong to a series which must have been struck early in the reign of Hadrian's successor, Antoninus Pius. The context for this unorthodox series was the new emperor's stubborn efforts to persuade the senate to vote divine honours for Hadrian, by which Antoninus earned his epithet "Pius."

This bust type is distinctive and belongs to a separate category of Hadrianic portraiture: the emperor is fictitiously youthful and wears only a partial beard that culminates in two tufts at his jaw line. Understandably, Mattingly and Sydenham describe this portrait style as being of "exceptional beauty and distinction."

Comparison with sculptures in the round marks this style of portrait as Hadrian in the guise of Diomedes, the Trojan War hero who stole the Palladium from Troy, assuring a Greek victory in the epic siege. The Palladium reportedly was taken to Italy, either by the Trojan prince Aeneas or by Diomedes, who by one tradition returned it to Aeneas in Italy. By Hadrian's time the episode had numerous versions and was a core element of the Roman foundation mythology, making it a perfect marriage of this emperor's infatuation with Greece and his dedication to Rome.

These reverses, inscribed DIVIS PARENTIBVS ('to his parent deities'), show the jugate and confronted busts of Trajan and Plotina adorned with stars. A related aureus (Calico 1143) that must belong to this series portrays the divine parents, each accompanied by a star, on opposite sides of the coin. Two other reverse types paired with Hadrian as Diomedes recall the divine origins of Rome: ROMVLO CONDITORI ('Romulus the founder'), Romulus striding r.; and VENERI GENETRICI ('Venus who brings forth'), Venus standing. The remaining three reverse types in the series honour Jupiter, a god with imperial associations, and present Hadrian in a military context, presumably to showcase his military successes and to curry support with the army.

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