Friday, 21 January 2022

Roman gold : Coins of the Twelve Caesars

Gaius Julius Caesar (born 13 July 100 BCE), belonged to the Caesares family of the large Julian clan. He would live to make the name “Caesar” a title for emperors and their sons; a title that would endure for millennia, becoming Kaiser in German and Tsar in Russian. Few of Caesar’s gold coins bear his portrait; many depict an uncertain female goddess.

A rare example struck by a military mint moving with Caesar’s army in 48-47 BCE sold for over $300k.

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.
Caligula was born in the year 12. His father Germanicus was a successful, popular 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.
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.

In numismatics, Nero is remembered as the depraved emperor who debased Roman coinage.
Nero is remembered as a depraved emperor. Nero’s gold coins survive in large numbers and are the most affordable aurei of the Twelve Caesars.
Nero’s suicide resulted in another civil war. Servius Sulpicius Galba was proclaimed emperor by his legions. Galba’s coinage is abundant.
Aulus Vitellius was born in 14 CE. Galba appointed him commander of the legions in Germania. 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 was hunted down and killed on December 22. The coinage of Vitellius is scarce.
Titus Flavius Vespasianus was the son of a 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 40 when he succeeded his father but lived only two years.

His most famous coin is a very rare bronze sestertius depicting the Colosseum. An example sold for $155k.
The Arch of Titus in Rome marks the destruction of Jerusalem.
Domitian was about 30 when he succeeded his elder brother Titus. His coinage was prolific.