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Research Coins: Affiliated Auction

 
90010151
Sale: Nomos 1, Lot: 151. Estimate CHF15000. 
Closing Date: Tuesday, 5 May 2009. 
Sold For CHF15500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Hadrian. 117-138. Aureus (Gold, 7.47 g 7), Rome, 138. HADRIANVS AVG COSS III P P Bare head of Hadrian to right Rev. VICTORIA AVG Victory standing left, holding eagle with wreath in its beak in her right hand and palm branch in her left. BMC 767. Calicó 1397. Cohen 1459. Hill 908. RIC 284a. Rare. With an attractive and bold portrait. Extremely fine.


When Hadrian’s father died in 85/6 (Hadrian was then around 10), his cousin Trajan became his guardian. He was brought up in public service and, as the emperor’s only male blood relative was the de facto successor. As emperor he was a very conscientious administrator who insisted on traveling all over the empire to ensure it was all governed and organized properly. He also wanted to ensure that the empire was protected by either natural or man-made frontiers (Hadrian’s Wall in Britain is a perfect example), thus making his abandonment of Trajan’s last conquests an obvious decision. Hadrian was surely the most cultured of all the Roman emperors, being passionately interested in architecture, art, and literature. His coinage reflect those interests and bear portraits that are among the finest in the entire Roman series. The early ones, designed when he first came to the throne, are very realistic, showing a still thin and youngish man (even though he was then over 40). The late portraits of Hadrian have an increasingly noble character about them and appear to avoid any real depiction of aging. This is in contrast to the coinage of Marcus Aurelius, which conscientiously shows the emperor changing from a handsome youth into an elderly man, worn down with the cares of empire. It is possible that no other emperor insisted on having such an elegant series of portraits as did Hadrian, though this is not so surprising given his philhellene tendencies and the obvious interest he took in the way he was portrayed. Even the figure of Victory on this coin is unusually soigné: the eagle on her hand is an unexpected touch.