Saturday, 12 January 2019

Coins of the Twelve Caesars

Gaius Julius Caesar (born 13 July 100 BCE), belonged to the Caesares family of the Julian clan. Young Julius would live to make the name “Caesar” not merely famous, but a title for emperors and their sons; a title that would endure for millennia, becoming Kaiser in German and Tsar in Russian.

None of Caesar’s gold coins bear his portrait; many depict an uncertain female goddess. A particularly rare example struck by a military mint moving with Caesar’s army in 48-47 BCE sold for over $300k in 2017.
The assassination of Caesar renewed the civil war, which ended 17 years later when his great-nephew Octavius received the title of “Augustus” from the Senate.

On much of his elegant gold coinage the only inscription is the word AUGUSTUS. Although he lived to the age of 75, his coin portrait remained youthful and idealized. A superb aureus of Augustus sold for nearly $400k.
Tiberius was one of the greatest Roman generals; even so, he is remembered as a dark, reclusive and sombre ruler who never really desired to be emperor.

Caligula was born in the year 12. His father Germanicus was a successful general. Caligula’s mother, Agrippina was the daughter of Marcus Agrippa, the organizer behind Octavius’s victory in the civil war. Caligula’s silver and gold coins are scarce – usually the most difficult for completing a set of the Twelve Caesars.
Following the murder of Caligula (24 January 41), the Praetorian Guard declared his uncle Claudius, aged 51, as emperor. Claudius proved to be an effective ruler for the next 13 years.
Nero is remembered as the depraved emperor who “fiddled while Rome burned.”

In numismatics, Nero is remembered as the depraved emperor who grossly debased Roman coinage. Nero’s gold coins survive in large numbers and are some of the most affordable aurei of the Twelve Caesars
Nero’s suicide resulted in another civil war. The governor of a Roman province in Spain, Servius Sulpicius Galba (born 3 BCE), was proclaimed emperor by his legions. Galba’s coinage is surprisingly abundant, considering that his reign lasted only seven months. Aulus Vitellius was born in 14 CE. Galba appointed him commander of the legions on the German frontier. He defeated Otho’s forces and occupied Rome in June, 69. He lasted eight months. When the legions of the East under general Vespasian advanced on Rome, he tried to resign, but his troops would not allow it. He was hunted down and killed on December 22. The coinage of Vitellius is quite scarce.
Titus Flavius Vespasianus was the son of a humble tax official. He rose through the ranks and distinguished himself in the invasion of Britain (43 CE). In 67, Nero sent him to crush the revolt in Judaea. On July 1, 69, the legions proclaimed Vespasian emperor at Alexandria.
Titus was nearly 40 when he succeeded his father but lived only another two years. The Arch of Titus in Rome commemorates his destruction of Jerusalem and triumph over the rebellious Judeans. His most famous coin is a very rare bronze sestertius depicting the Colosseum, the stadium built with the loot from the Jewish War. An example sold for US$155,000
Domitian was about 30 when he succeeded his elder brother Titus. His coinage was prolific.