This new “Journal Entry” provides an update on the 7th Page of my NGC Ancient Custom Set entitled “The Roman Empire.”
This Page is 80% complete (12 coins out of 15 slots).
Here is a link to the Collection…
Here is the synopsis for the Page, entitled "GOLDEN AGE II”…
Rome's prosperity continues under the leadership of Antonine dynasts who reigned until late 2nd century AD.
The follow are comments on the coins I choose for this Page and why…
- Antoninus Pius. This denarius is graded Ch MS, but does not have strike and surface grading (my personal opinion is that it would rate at least 4/5 for both). I choose this particular coin not only for its outstanding condition, but also the reverse motif showing the Emperor making a sacrifice as pointifex maximus (the highest priest) making a sacrificial vow to serve for another decade. Indeed, Antoninus was a particular devout – and effective – ruler, so this is a fitting example to represent one of Rome’s “good” Emperors that sustained Rome’s Golden Age. Interestingly, Antoninus was not all that keen with regards to military affairs, delegating such matters to those with that skill set. It is widely reported that he never even left Italy.
- Antoninus Pius, commemorative issue. I included a second denarius for Antoninus since he was such an important Emperor and ruled for such a long tenure (more than two decades, the longest reign since Augustus himself). This coin graded as MS, 5/5 strike and 5/5 surface, an absolutely beautiful coin. This coin is wonderful to hold in hand, as they say. Another reason I included this coin was to have the opportunity to write my Owner’s Comments about religion during the time of the Roman Empire, and the important role it played in its history. I would encourage anyone even casually interested in this collection to read my Owner’s Comments for this one to gain perspective on religion’s role in shaping Rome’s history.
- Aelius Antoninus. This coin is a sestertius (the grade is Ch F, Strike = 4/5, Surface = 3/5) featuring Antoninus Pius on the obverse, and two of his grandchidren on the reverse. The identity of the infants on the reverse is subject to debate. It is likely based on research that one of the two represents Aelius Antoninus, son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina Jr. The specific design with the baby busts atop cornucopias is similar to one a century earlier celebrating the twin sons of Drusus the Younger and Livilla. If I had to bet on the identity of the other infant I would bet on Lucilla, although many sources cite Aurelius Antoninus.
- Galerius Antoninus. I still need to fill this one struck in the name of the son of Antoninus Pius and Faustina Sr. It is quite hard to find!
- Pseudo-autonomous issue. For this slot as part of Rome’s Golden Age, I decided to add another example of pseudo-autonomous coinage (although as a custom set I reserve the right to change my mind and choose another coin, for example an anonymous quadrans?). This one is quite rare, only 3 examples cited in RPC online. It graded a highly respectable AU, strike = 4/5, surface = 3/5. It was struck in the ancient mint of Apollonis, located in Lydia, and very few coins can claim the same. I love the design on this bronze since it really reminds me of fine Greek sensibilities, the wonderful portrait of Athena on the front and Tyche on the reverse – indeed, if you didn’t know the attribution, you might guess it dated from the height of Greek culture centuries earlier. This coin provides an important reminder of Greece’s influence on Rome.
- This Ch MS, Strike =5/5, Surface =5/5 graded denarius features Faustina Sr, wife of Antoninus Pius. I really enjoyed researching this coin and writing this essay, especially the remarkable lengths that Antoninus exerted to keep the memory of his beloved wife alive as a goddess. Even more remarkable is Faustina’s remaining influence even in our modern world, from neoclassical sculptures to female icons of Liberty. For the fascinating details, see my Owner’s Comments.
- Marcus Aurelius, as Caesar. I decided to include two coins for this Emperor, I have to admit one of my favorites. This denarius graded MS, strike = 5/5, surface = 4/5. This coin was struck when he was serving as Caesar, and the story of his gradual acceptance of his duty to rule Rome is very interesting. This coin I chose for it’s reverse, a very unusual depiction of Honos, but not in the usual nude, but rather in toga, holding branch and cornucopia, reflecting the young Caesar’s dedication to academia. Marcus Aurelius’ writing, while not nearly on par with the sagacity of the Greek philosophers he so admired, are nonetheless important in historical context. I can not resist including the quotation from his Meditations, "Take heed not to be transformed into a Caesar, not to be dipped in the purple dye, for it does happen. Keep yourself therefore, simple, good, pure, grave, unaffected, the friend of justice, religious, kind, affectionate, strong for your proper work. Wrestle to be the man philosophy wished to make you. Reverence the gods, save men. Life is brief; there is but one harvest of earthly existence, a holy disposition and neighborly acts."
- Marcus Aurelius, as Augustus. This denarius graded Ch MS, strike = 5/5, surface = 5/5. The poignant reverse depicts Fortuna, holding a rudder and a cornucopia, wishing for the Emperor to continue to lead Rome on the path of a Golden Age. Alas, those golden days were already receding in the wake of barbarian barrages and plague.
- This slot comprises a denarius struck for Faustina Jr, daughter of Antoninus Pius and wife of Marcus Aurelius. It graded MS, strike = 5/5, surface = 4/5. Fittingly, the reverse features the goddess Fecunditas, the Roman goddess of fertility – remarkably, the younger Faustina bore more than a dozen children over the span of 23 years, including two sets of twins. I took the opportunity in my Owner’s Comments to reflect on the immense pressure she must have felt as a teenager to follow her famous mother’s footsteps.
- The next slot is a bronze featuring Commodus and Annius Verus, and it is likely the only issue featuring the latter dynast. The two boys were the sons of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina Jr, the only two boys among the Empress’ multitude of children to survive childbirth. This coin graded Ch XF, Strike =4/5 Surface = 3/5, and I’m not sure I have ever seen one in higher grade available for sale.
- The next coin in the collection features Lucius Verus, co-Emperor alongside Marcus Aurelius. This fabulous denarius graded Ch MS, strike = 5/5, surface = 5/5. I cannot resist making the analogy of Lucius and Marcus to the Oscar and Felix of the Odd Couple. I don’t want to spoil the fun here, so if you want to hear details of Lucius’ debauchery in contrast to Marcus’ stoicism, please read my Owner’s Comments!
- This slot is a denarius featuring Lucilla, daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Fasutina Jr. I choose this coin for its reverse –ultimately ironic- depiction of Vesta, one of Rome’s most important deities. Vesta embodied hearth, home, and family; her burning flame, attended by her faithful Vestal Virgins, represented the life force of the community. This coin graded MS, strike =4/5, surface = 5/5. Marcus arranged the union between the pre-teenaged Lucilla and his adoptive brother and co-Emperor, Lucius Verus. Although the pairing made sense from a dynastic point of view, from Lucilla’s perspective one can imagine that Verus hardly seemed an ideal husband: substantially older, technically her uncle, and renown for drinking, gambling, and love affairs with both genders. To read about how the marriage turned out, and Lucilla’s polital intriuges after she was widowed, please read my Owner’s Comments.
- This slot is a denarius struck for Commodus, son of Marcus Aurelius and Fasutina Jr. I have to say that Commodus is perhaps the most entertaining Emperor to research and write about. This denarius graded Ch AU, strike = 4/5, surface = 5/5. Interestingly, the elements on this coin promote Commodus’ association with his father, including the verso depiction of a contrapposto Roma, the female embodiment of the same, holding Victory and a spear (serving as propaganda to associate Commodus with his father’s reign and military conquests). Alas, Commodus was nothing like his father, and led Rome firmly off the path of Golden Age. I don’t want to spoil the amusement regarding Commodus’ follies, so if you want to read about them, please see my Owner’s Comments.
- The next slot is reserved for Crispina, wife of Commodus. This slot needs to be filled.
- The final slot is reserved for Pertinax, who arguably was in position to set Rome back on the path to Golden Age following Commodus’ disastrous reign. He never got the chance, since he was murdered three months into his reign by the Praetorian Guard, setting a disturbing pattern that would last for another century as Rome’s Golden Age was now clearly over, and a new Age of Crisis ensued. This slot needs to be filled.