Aureus of Hadrian, Deification of Trajan and Plotina

This week we feature a very interesting ancient Roman coin of the young emperor Hadrian R. 117 – 138 A.D from the Robert O. Ebert Collection. Hadrian was the adopted son and successor to the Emperor Trajan. Trajan’s military conquests, though precarious to maintain, won him valor and renown in the eyes of the Roman populace. To solidify the transition of power from his predecessor, Trajan, to himself, Hadrian participated in a tradition set forth since the beginnings of the Roman Empire. After Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, died, his successor deified Augustus, turning him into a god. This set a precedent, if the Emperor was deemed “good” he was deified, and if he was bad (Nero) he was condemned to Damnatio Memoriae – literally damning his memory. Since Trajan was well established as a good emperor, Hadrian was quick to deify Trajan.

The portrait on the coin shows a bust of young Hadrian, bare-headed with a draped left shoulder, surrounded by his name and various titles along the border. This coin was struck early in Hadrian’s reign, as signified by the sideburns, as opposed to a full, bushy beard which would be iconic on Hadrian’s later coins. The full inscription shows HADRIANVS AVG. COS. III. P.P. which includes the titles: Augustus and Pater Patriae, signifying Hadrian’s role as Emperor and “Father of The Country” (respectively).

The reverse of the coin is the truly unique aspect to this piece. It shows Hadrian’s adoptive parents, the Emperor Trajan with a right facing diademed bust and Empress Plotina with a left facing draped bust. The stars above each of their heads, along with the inscription of DIVIS PARENTIBVS signify the deification of the late Emperor and Empress. Not only did this ceremony honor the emperor’s predecessor, but by connecting himself to the divine emperor (even through adoption), the process of deification allowed Hadrian to claim his own divinity and solidify his right to rule.

This beautiful gold Aureus weighs 7.29 grams, and was minted in Rome between 134 and 138 A.D. This piece is extremely rare, and is in ‘nearly EXTREMELY FINE’ condition. It is a striking example of an Aureus of Hadrian’s early reign, and an interesting piece for any collection.

Preview this impressive coin and the entire Robert O. Ebert Collection January 11-12, 2013, at the Stack’s Bowers and Ponterio Official NYINC Auction, held at The Waldorf Astoria, New York. Earlier viewings are also available by appointment in Irvine, California or New York City. To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646 (West Coast) or 800.566.2580 (East Coast).

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