Description The Romans
The Roman Empire
Estimate: CHF 15'000.00
-. Aureus (Gold, 7.33 g 6), Rome, April, 121. IMP CAES HADRIANVS AVG COS III Laureate, draped and cuirassed bust of Hadrian to right. Rev. ANN.DCCC.LXXIIII NAT VRB.P.CIR CON. The Genius of the Circus reclining left, nude to the waist and with his head turned back to right, holding chariot wheel on his right knee with his right hand and with his left arm wrapped around three obelisks on a low base (the Spina of the Circus Maximus). Biaggi 579. BMC 333. Calicó 1200. C. 162. Hill 188. Hill, Monuments 157. RIC 144. Vagi 1345. Extremely rare. Very fine.
Ex Hess-Leu 15, 7 April 1960, 326 (there given an incorrect pedigree) and from the collection of V.J.E. Ryan, Glendining & Co., 20 February 1951, 1757. The reverse type of this aureus, which also appears on slightly less rare orichalcum sestertii of the same issue, is not only one of the most interesting and historically exciting of the entire Roman series, it also bears the only true year date ever to appear on a coin struck in the mint of Rome in ancient times (see J.O. Sweeny & R. Turfboer, Tempus in Nummis. I [n.p., 1992], pp. 79-81). The date is the year 874, identified on the coin as being anno natali urbis (= from the year of the birth of the city), more commonly termed by historians and scholars ab urbe condita (= from the founding of the city), and commonly used in historical texts under the abbreviation AUC. The coin was struck in honor of a festival called the Parilia, held every year on April 21st, the traditional day on which Rome was founded by Romulus on 21 April, 753 B.C. In 121 Hadrian inaugurated a much more elaborate festival, complete with parades and games in the Circus, in honor of the city’s foundation, and of the city’s patron goddess, Roma Aeterna. To emphasize these new games the Genius of the Circus was placed on the reverse: he holds a chariot wheel and wraps his arm around the central island of the Circus, the spina, identified by the three obelisks that were one of its characteristic features. This Hadrianic festival was meant to mark the beginning of a new golden age, and this coin would have been used for the donatives that accompanied it.