Numismatica Ars Classica > Auction 135Auction date: 21 November 2022
Lot number: 295

Price realized: 180,000 CHF   (Approx. 189,195 USD / 182,611 EUR)   Note: Prices do not include buyer's fees.
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Lot description:


The Roman Empire. Aelius caesar, 136 -138.
Aureus 137, AV 7.41 g. L·AELIVS – CAESAR Bare-headed and draped bust r. Rev. TR POT COS – II / PIE – TAS Pietas standing r., raising r. hand and holding box of perfume in l.; in field r., altar. C 35. BMC Hadrian 989. RIC II.3, 2629. Calicó 1447 (these dies).
Very rare and possibly the finest specimen in existence. A portrait of enchanting beauty,
the work of a very skilled master engraver struck in high relief. A perfect Fdc

Ex Tkalec sale 28 February 2007, Bolla, 39.
Lucius Aelius Caesar began his life on 13 January AD 101, when he was born into a Roman consular family from Etruria. At that time his parents named him Lucius Ceionius Commodus, but he assumed his new name in AD 136, when he was unexpectedly adopted by the Emperor Hadrian. The adoption made him Hadrian's heir apparent and required him to adopt the nomen, or family name, of the emperor. Hadrian belonged to the gens Aelia. It also gave him the imperial title of Caesar. As it turned out, his adoption also placed him at the centre of a political firestorm that quickly broke out. Prior to Aelius' adoption, it was generally thought in Rome that Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator II, the grandson of the emperor's popular brother-in-law, Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus, would be Hadrian's heir. This seemed assured by Hadrian's advancement of Salinator to a privileged position in the imperial court. Everything changed in AD 136, when Hadrian fell seriously ill and almost died from a haemorrhage. This near-death experience caused the emperor to change his mind and adopt Aelius as his heir instead. This new decision, which the Historia Augustae describes as "against the wishes of everyone" deeply angered both Servianus and Salinator. They were subsequently executed for an attempted coup, but it is not clear whether the charges were fabricated so that Hadrian could have them both removed. It was not an auspicious beginning to Aelius' reign as Caesar. In AD 137 Aelius campaigned with the Pannonian legions against the Germanic tribes on the Danube frontier and returned to Rome in order to make a public speech at the New Year festival at the beginning of AD 138. Unfortunately, he fell ill, possibly with tuberculosis, shortly before he was to make his address and died after drinking a potion intended to cure him. Hadrian honoured his dead heir with monumental statues and temples. He furthermore compelled Antoninus Pius, the new imperial heir chosen to replace the dead Aelius, to adopt Lucius Verus, the son of Aelius, with the intention that he would become Caesar to Antoninus Pius after the latter assumed power as Augustus. On the obverse of this aureus, Aelius is depicted bare headed as a means of visually indicating his junior status as Caesar rather than as Augustus. In the early second century only senior emperors, Augusti, were depicted wearing laurel wreaths. The reverse type features Pietas sacrificing over an altar, thus advertising Aelius as dutiful in his relationship with Hadrian, the Roman people, and the gods. From the perspective of the ancient Romans, pietas was an important virtue for an emperor-even a junior one-to have since failure in duty to any of these important constituents could have potentially devastating results. Failure in duty to Hadrian could possibly result in execution; failure in duty to the Roman people courted public discontent and the possibility of civil war; and failure in duty to the gods risked calling down punishment on Rome and the empire as a whole.
Graded Ch MS* Strike 5/5 Surface 5/5 Fine Style, NGC certification number 6556714-015

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Estimate: 100000 CHF