Aureus of Hadrian’s Travels to Spain

This week our highlight from the Robert O. Ebert Collection is an Aureus struck by Hadrian to commemorate his travels throughout the Roman Empire. Hadrian is the main focus of the Ebert Collection, and here we showcase a wonderfully detailed coin from the travel series. Hadrian is a fascinating Roman emperor to study, and he accomplished a multitude of positive things despite his questionable personal habits. Hadrian (A.D. 117 – 138) was the adopted heir of Trajan, and they shared a common Spanish descent. After this, the commonalities between them cease. Trajan used military might to aggressively expand the empire through conquest, and after Hadrian succeeded him he consolidated the winnings through diplomacy. However, Hadrian did yield some territorial gains back, much to the dismay of his subjects. The term Pax Romana or ‘era of Roman Peace’ that started under Caesar Augustus continued under Hadrian’s rule. With a relatively stable peace, Hadrian’s wanderlust led him throughout his Empire.

While on his travels, Hadrian visited the far corners of the Roman Empire and had a number of coins minted to honor each of the locations he visited including Egypt, Judea, Asia, Gaul, and Britannia (where he built his famous wall dividing Roman England from the barbarian Scottish). Hadrian also visited Greece multiple times, as he was an avid patron of Greek culture and the arts. One of the locations that Hadrian visited was his ancestral homeland of Spain. Hadrian spent part of 122-123 in Spain, and then continued on his travels to Asia Minor. He had this coin struck in Rome around 136, some years after he spent his time in Spain.

The obverse of this absolutely stunning coin is a bare-headed, draped bust of Hadrian facing right, with a legend that included some of his prestigious titles associated with the Emperor. HADRIANVS AVG. or Hadrian Augustus declares Hadrian the ‘exalted one’ or simply, Emperor. Hadrian’s titles also appear, COS III. P.P. which mean Consul (chief magistrate) for the third time and Pater Patriae, or ‘Father of the Country’ which implies his supreme cultural influence and the ultimate patron of the Roman people. The detail of the bust ranks among the finest known of this type.

The reverse follows the Hadrian travel series pattern, with a reclining female personification of the location visited. The inscription HIS – PANIA is around the upper left, across from a left facing reclining Hispania, who is holding an olive branch in her right hand and resting her left arm on a rock. This same basic design can be seen centuries later in Spanish 5 Pesetas issues of 1869-70. The rabbit at her feet also helps to link this coin to Spain, just as an Ibis would tie in to Egypt, a scorpion for Africa, etc. The detail for the reverse is just as stunning as the obverse; this piece is well struck in high relief. This coin commemorating Hadrian’s travels is fully lustrous, and remarkably choice. This Aureus weighs approximately 7.41 grams, and is in remarkable Mint State. Hadrian’s continuation of the Pax Romana allowed him to survey his Roman Empire at a leisurely pace, and this led to the creation of coins for his myriad destinations. Hadrian’s visit to his ancestral homeland of Spain is an important piece of the travel series, and an important piece of history. To further add to that inherent historical value, this piece is magnificently detailed and in Mint State, further enhancing the value and this Aureus of Hadrian’s travels would make an incredible addition to 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. For details please refer to the Auction Schedule/Details link under Current Auctions at To schedule an appointment, please call 800.458.4646 (West Coast) or 800.566.2580 (East Coast).

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