Numismatica Ars Classica, Zurich   |   Auction 111   |   24 September 2018 Sort by Lot-NumberSort by Estimate
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Lot 171

Estimate: 18'000 CHF   |   Starting price: 14'400 CHF Price realized: 20'000 CHF
Hadrian augustus, 117 – 138. Aureus 119-122, AV 7.25 g. IMP CAESAR TRAIAN H – ADRIANVS AVG Laureate head r. Rev. P M TR P COS III Tiber reclining l., holding rudder and leaning with l. elbow on his inverted urn. C 1113. BMC 132. RIC 79. Calicó 1337 (this coin). Biaggi 642 (this coin).
Rare. Struck in high relief with a pleasant reddish tone and extremely fine
Ex Glendining 20 February 1951, Ryan part IV, 1771 and NAC 49, 2009, B.d.B, 210 sales. From the Biaggi and the Collection of a Retired Banker.
Hadrian was born to a Hispano-Roman family of senatorial rank, probably from the city of Italica. He was a second cousin of Trajan by blood and raised in Trajan’s household from the age of 10, after Hadrian’s parents died. Hadrian was further connected to the great military emperor by a marriage to Trajan’s grand-niece, Vibia Sabina, sometime after A.D. 100. This relationship made it possible for Hadrian to succeed Trajan when he died on 8 August, A.D. 117. The ancient sources disagree on whether the childless Trajan actually adopted Hadrian as his heir on his deathbed or whether Hadrian and Trajan’s wife manipulated the situation in order to claim the succession. The new emperor got off to a rocky start by condemning several senators in absentia and ordering their deaths, apparently because they were potential rivals for the throne. This act, which trampled on the customary rights of the senatorial class, was never forgiven and the Senate remained quietly hostile towards Hadrian throughout his reign. The Roman elite was further challenged by Hadrian’s policies, which ended the military expansionism that characterized the reign of Trajan and earlier emperors. Instead, Hadrian focused on the administrative, economic, and cultural development of the extant provinces. To this end, Hadrian departed from the traditional model of the Roman principate, in which the emperor spent most of his time at Rome when he was not off on campaign, and spent more than half of his reign outside Italy touring the provinces. The emperor’s taste for travel and Greek cultural pursuits also drew unwelcome comparisons with Nero, who had also drawn the ire of the Senate. Between A.D. 122 and 132, Hadrian was frequently on the move from province to province, encouraging self-government among the cities, particularly in the Greek East, where he posed as the defender of Greek freedom and culture. Near the beginning of his travels, while visiting Bithynia, Hadrian is thought to have met the beautiful youth, Antinous, and immediately fell in love with him. By A.D. 128, Antinous had become the emperor’s favourite and joined him on his provincial tours. However, in A.D. 130, Antinous died under mysterious circumstances while sailing on the Nile with Hadrian. According to some accounts he was murdered while others claimed that he was sacrificed to the god of the Nile. Whatever the case, Hadrian was deeply grieved by the loss of his favourite, and immediately ordered the deification of Antinous and founded the city of Antinopolis in Egypt to commemorate him. Temples and statues of the youth subsequently sprang up in cities throughout the Empire in order to please the emperor. Although the majority of Hadrian’s reign was peaceful, his desire to refound Jerusalem (destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70) as the pagan Roman colony of Aelia Capitolina in A.D. 132 sparked a violent revolt in Judaea under the leadership of a messianic figure named Simon Bar Kokhba. This rebellion, which was not repressed until A.D. 135, was very bloody and resulted in the loss of an entire legion on the Roman side, the death and enslavement of thousands of Jewish rebels, and the destruction of many of their settlements. The war also disillusioned the emperor in his quest to create a harmonious cosmopolitan empire. After his return from the Bar Kokhba War, Hadrian turned his attention to the question of succession. This was a serious problem since his unhappy marriage to Sabina had been childless and he was frequently in ill health. Although he had long suggested that his great-nephew, Cn. Pedanius Fuscus Salinator, would succeed him, during a severe illness in A.D. 136 Hadrian decided to adopt L. Caeonius Commodus, one of the consuls of that year, as his heir. This decision was highly unpopular and inspired a coup that resulted in the execution of Salinator and his grandfather. As the emperor’s designated successor and second in command, Commodus took the name of Lucius Aelius Caesar, but did not live long enough to succeed his adoptive father. Aelius died of a haemorrhage on 1 January, A.D. 138, forcing Hadrian to look for yet another possible heir. He found a capable successor in the proconsul of Asia, Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus. Hadrian died not long after, on 10 July, A.D. 138, leaving Antoninus to assume control of the Empire. Antoninus immediately ordered the deification of Hadrian, but the Senate, which had long felt abused by the latter, initially balked at this request. The Senate relented when Antoninus threatened to refuse the imperial title, a move that would almost certainly engender civil war. Hadrian thus entered the ranks of the gods and the cowed Senate voted the new emperor the title of Pius in recognition of his display of filial piety towards his adoptive father. This attractive gold aureus is related to Hadrian’s later famous ”travel series”—coins depicting personifications of provinces, cities, and rivers visited by the emperor during his travels throughout the Empire. Here a male river god holding an oar as a somewhat generic attribute reclines on the reverse below Hadrian’s imperial titulature. Unfortunately, unlike Hadrian’s issues featuring the Nile, this river god lacks any label, causing some disagreement over which river is represented. The type is most commonly described as the Tiber and dated to the period A.D. 119-122 on the basis of titulature and portrait type. As Hadrian spent much of this period in Rome it is not unreasonable that the type should represent the river that supported the city as the centre of empire. It has also been suggested that the type could represent Tina, the god of the River Tyne in northern England. After a period of revolt and Caledonian invasion in the province of Britannia, in A.D. 122 Hadrian ordered the erection of a wall between the Tyne and Solway Firth to mark the border between Britannia and the Caledonians. If the Tina identification is correct, then this issue is not likely to have been struck before A.D. 122.

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