Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 111   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 167

Estimate: 15'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 12'000 CHF Price realized: 13'000 CHF
Trajan, 98 – 117. Aureus 98, AV 7.55 g. IMP CAES NERVA TRAIAN AVG GERM Laureate head r. Rev. PONT MAX TR – POT COS II Germania seated l. on shields, holding palm branch in r. hand and resting l. arm on hexagonal shield. C 290. BMC 8. RIC 15. Woytek 23a. CBN 8. Calicó 1070.
Very rare. A lovely portrait of fine style and a wonderful reddish tone. Extremely fine
Ex Rauch sale 92, 2013, 1283. From the Collection of a Retired Banker.
This attractive gold aureus was struck in A.D. 98, not long after Trajan assumed power as Roman Emperor. The imperial titulature surrounding the obverse portrait names him as Germanicus (“Conqueror of the Germans”) while the reverse refers to this title through the personification of Germania. The emphasis on Germania at this early period appears not to refer to specific victories against the Germanic peoples, but rather to Germania Superior as the centre of Trajan’s military support. Trajan had served as governor of Germania Superior under Domitian (A.D. 81-96) and still retained this office under Nerva (A.D. 96-98). An attempted coup by the Praetorian Guard caused the elderly and senatorial Nerva to name Trajan as his successor. Trajan was an obvious choice since his great popularity with the legions would mollify the elements of the army that were disinclined to support Nerva. Nevertheless, when Nerva died on 27 January, A.D. 98, and Trajan was proclaimed the new emperor, he did not immediately set out for Rome. Instead, he remained in the north to undertake a tour of inspection of the legions along the Rhine and Danube frontiers. It was critically important to consolidate his military position before advancing to the capital. Without guaranteeing the loyalty of the legions there remained a risk of possible rivals for the purple and the return of civil war. After all, the disastrous Year of the Four Emperors (A.D. 69), in which four Roman military commanders vied with each other for the supreme power, was still a vivid part of Roman living memory although Trajan had only been 16 years old at the time. To further ensure the security of his position, while still in Germania, Trajan also summoned the Praetorian Prefect, Casperius Aelianus. The ambitious Prefect had posed a threat to stability under Nerva, and therefore Trajan ordered his execution to prevent him from becoming a source of further problems. Only when all of these matters were settled did Trajan advance to Rome to be welcomed as the new emperor. The types of the present aureus, which may have been struck for distribution at his adventus or as a donative for his loyal soldiery, seem to serve a double duty. In the Germania type, Trajan’s legions may have seen recognition of their role in the emperor’s rise to power, while for others the type was a subtle reminder of the military might that stood behind his principate—potential rivals beware! At the same time, the prominent use of Germanicus in the legend combined with the Germania type may have been intended to evoke the memory of Germanicus Caesar (15 BC- A.D. 9), the beloved Roman commander against the Germanic tribes who was extolled as the Roman equivalent of Alexander the Great for the importance of his victories, the virtue of his character, and early death. Germanicus Caesar had also been the man that all of Rome hoped would succeed Tiberius before his untimely death. Like Germanicus Caesar, Trajan, who was destined to become known as the optimus princeps (”Best Emperor”), also cast himself as the glorious military heir loved by the people. Furthermore, the use of Germanicus in his titulature served to connect Trajan to Nero, the grandson of Germanicus. While Nero’s debauched reign had led to the Year of the Four Emperors, his memory seems to have been quickly rehabilitated as a tool of legitimacy. Already in A.D. 69, after the fall of Galba and Otho, the usurping Vitellius added the name Germanicus to his titulature to present an (artificial) air of continuity with the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Trajan is said to have openly expressed admiration for Nero’s reign, although what precisely he admired has been a source of debate among historians to this day. A connection to Nero may have been particularly important for Trajan, whose reign came close after that of Domitian (A.D. 81-96), the hated last scion of the Flavian dynasty. By assuming the name of Germanicus, Trajan was associated with the last legitimate emperor before the Flavian period.

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