This new “Journal Entry” provides an update on the 4th Page of my NGC Ancient Custom Set entitled “The Roman Empire.”
This Page is 100% complete (15 coins out of 15 slots), although three of my “Owner’s Comments” are pending. I will update this journal entry as I complete those essays.
Here is a link to the Collection…
Here is the synopsis for the Page, entitled "DECADENCE”…
Rome's influence continues to expand under the leadership of notoriously self-indulgent, intemperate Emperors such as Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.
The follow are comments on the coins I choose for this Page and why…
- Caligula. When it comes to decadent behavior, Caligula certainly comes to mind. This particular coin I choose wishes good health for the Emperor. According to come reports, at a point during his reign Caligula became increasingly erratic and cruel, and perhaps this coin was in response. This fascinating provincial coin is sometimes attributes to Caesonia (in guise of Salus). The grading on this one was Ch VF, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 3/5, which is not a reasonable condition for this bronze issue. I am still researching this one. Caligula was such a complex Emperor that I want to do justice to him (and the coin!), so my research may take some more time.
- Antiochus IV of Commagene. Ancient bronze grade Ch XF, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 3/5. I am not sure that I have ever seen a better example of this rare and interesting coin. Since this Chapter focuses on decadence, I had to include an issue from the “richest of all subject kings”. Interestingly, on researching the reverse I uncovered that scorpions were used as biological weapons against the ancient Romans. I have a very difficult time imagining the R&D effort to develop and produce that weapon (imagine the Gannt chart for that project!) Read my comments for the stinging details.
- Ptolomey of Mauretania. I included this fabulous denarius since this particular king’s downfall was a direct result of his public display of decadence. He up-staged the Emperor not only by couture but also his full head of hair (for more hair-raising details, see my comments). This coin is so rare that is very likely unique. So, I guess that makes it “Finest Known”. The grade is AU, Strike: 4/5 Surface: 4/5.
- Drusilla, sister of Caligula. This coin features Caligula and his three sisters. As such, it is one of the most famous ancient Roman sestertii. I was extremely pleased to be able to procure one of these highly coveted coins – they are very rare, I’m not sure how many are out there, but not that many! I have not had this coin graded yet, nor written my comments. I am very much looking forward to both!
- Caesonia and Drusilla Minor, with Herod Agrippa I. This coin is the only issue representing Caesonia, Caligula’s fourth and final wife, and their child Drusilla Minor. It was struck in Judaea, one of several such in my collection. I also used this coin in my owner’s comments to discuss Herod Agrippa I, a very important client king. The ancient histories are certainly juicy regarding everything about Caligula and those around him, although the veracity and extent of the details recorded are questionable given the biases. This was a fun coin to research and write my owners comments. The grade is VG, Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5. Given the extremely rarity and historical importance of this coin, I don’t mind the grade.
- Julia Livilla, of the Caligula’s sisters. This bronze is so rare there are probably only a dozen in existence. This one graded NGC Ch F Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5. It was struck in Lesbos, adding to its interest. I won't go into the history of murder and mayhem, you can read my owner’s comments if you are interested.
- Claudius. One of the most famous Emperors, particularly with regards to his many wives. Researching this bronze As and writing up my owner’s comments was highly interesting. This coin is one of only a few that I received a “Fine Style” designation for, and if you hold in your hand you can truly appreciate. This coin graded an impressive AU, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 2/5. I admit I was a bit disappointed at the surface grade, I suppose it was because of some perceived smoothing (not by me, of course). Regardless, it is an impressive coin, befitting an impressive Emperor.
- Valeria Messalina, wife of Claudius. This coin, like all for Messalina, is very rare. This one, struck in Crete, graded Ch VF Strike: 3/5 Surface: 2/5. Again, sorry to repeat myself, but the relatively low grade is fine from my perspective considering the rarity and importance of the coin. In a strange way, having so may examples of bronze coins in such grades seems befitting for a Page focused on decadence. Even the coins are degraded, tarnished by their decadent histories of those they represent. To pique your interest to read my owners comments, my opening thesis is that Messalina was perhaps the most ruthlessly ambitious and promiscuous woman in the history of the Roman Empire.
- Claudia Octavia, Claudia Antonia, and Britannicus, children of Claudius. This very rare ancient bronze, struck in Cyzicus, graded F, Strike: 4/5 Surface: 4/5. This coin is an interesting dynastic issue, featuring no fewer that three hard-to-find dynasts. In the end, Nero’s political ambitions consumed all three of Claudius’ biological children. Consequently, ancient coinage featuring members of that trio are relatively scarce. Even so, a few remarkable issues, including this specimen, feature all three, providing a poignant reminder of the dynastic decadence defining the early Roman Empire.
- Britannicus w/Herod Agrippa II. This bronze is so rare that is probably unique, yes, the only one in existence. The grade is VF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 2/5. I decided that the rarity (which I was surprised was within my means!) and the interest of this particular coin proved more valuable to me than purchasing a higher-graded, more common coin representing Britannicus. To read his tragic history at the mercy of his brother Nero, see my comments.
- Agrippina Jr w/Nero. When I saw this coin, I was so drawn to it that I decided that I must acquire it (some or most of you must know where I a coming from with this statement). The composition is absolutely mind-boggling. The obverse shows Agrippina Jr and her son Nero facing one another, and the reverse features the goddess Nemesis. I’m still working on my comments. When I post, you can read more to see why this composition is mind-boggling. This coin graded AU Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5. For an ancient Roman provincial bronze, that is a high grade
- Nero. Nero is probably the Emperor most noted for his decadence. So I picked out this coin for him, a striking tetradrachm, struck in Antioch, Syria. The grade is Ch AU, Strike = 5/5, and Surface = 5/5. This coin also earned a prestigious “Star” rating as well for its presence. I can't resist pasting here my final sentence in my comments: “A consummate entertainer to the end, Nero convincingly played the role of both hero and villain."
- Poppaea, with husband Nero. This coin is another tetradrachm, struck in Alexandria, Egypt. The grade is XF, Strike: 5/5, Surface: 3/5. The history of Poppaea fits in very well this Page’s theme of decadence. In the words of Tacitus, “She had every aspect except goodness.”
- Poppaea with Claudia. This is the only issue featuring Claudia, the daughter of Nero and Poppaea. Unfortunately, she died quite young, so this coin is a posthumous issue for both female dynasts (reportedly, Poppaea - and another, unborn child - died after Nero kicked her in the stomach). It was struck in Galilee, and the grade is XF Strike: 4/5 Surface: 3/5, a high grade for this particular issue
- Statilia Messalina, last wife of Nero. This very rare bronze was struck in Lydia, and is graded XF, Strike: 5/5 Surface: 3/5 (again, that’s a good grade for an ancient bronze, and this issue in particular). Looking at her obverse portrait, you would not think that she was known for her beauty. Indeed, I chose this coin became I was amused at how Messalina’s features resemble Nero! The reverse features the important goddess Artemis, so in my comments I took the opportunity to discuss Her as well (according to Pausanius, Her worshippers put on quite the show).