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572471

Hadrian Travel Series – Africa Sestertius

572471.

Hadrian. AD 117-138. Æ Sestertius (32mm, 26.71 g, 12h). “Travel series” issue (“Provinces cycle”) – The province alone. Rome mint. Struck circa AD 130-133. HADRIANVS AVG COS III P P, laureate, draped bust right / AFRICA, Africa, reclining left before basket of corn, wearing elephant scalp headdress, holding up scorpion and cornucopia; S C flanking. RIC II.3 1609; Banti 92. Brown patina, minor roughness. VF.


Reportedly ex Günther Schlüter Collection (Chaiman of the German Numismatic Society, 1975-1977), purchase from Boutin, February 1995.

Hadrian seems never to have felt fully comfortable in Rome and spent most of his 21-year reign traveling, eventually visiting every province of the Roman Empire. Between the years 119 and 136 AD, the emperor traveled to various provinces to take stock of his inheritance and calm the disquiet which had arisen in the later years of Trajan's reign. His travels can be divided into two major episodes. The first tour was designed to shore-up Rome’s northern borders and began sometime around AD 119 when Hadrian first visited the provinces of Gaul and Germania Inferior and Superior. The emperor then crossed the Channel to Britannia where, during his stay, construction began on a 73-mile long wall across the north of the province. In AD 122-123, Hadrian spent time in Hispania, then travelled East to Asia Minor. The remainder of this first tour was spent in the Balkans and Greece, touring such areas as Dacia and Achaea, before returning to Rome, via Sicily, in AD 126.

Hadrian’s second tour began in AD 128, when he set out on a short tour of the provinces of Africa and Mauretania. Returning for a brief stay in Rome, Hadrian then went again to Asia Minor, and continued into the Levant. In AD 130, Hadrian moved on to Egypt, where he visited Alexandria. It was while Hadrian was on tour in Egypt that his favorite, Antinoüs, mysteriously drowned in the Nile. The Bar Kochba revolt in Judaea forced Hadrian to remain in the region until AD 135. In AD 136, Hadrian returned to Italia, ending his long travels.

A special issue of coins marked each Imperial visit, usually depicting a female personification of the province in a distinctive pose. Here, Africa is represented wearing a distinctive elephant-skin headdress (first depicted on coins of Ptolemy I four centuries before). She cradles a cornucopia, reflecting the province’s status as the Empire’s granary, and also holds a scorpion, perhaps representing the local fauna or an astrological allusion.