(74) Nero - AV aureus, A.D. 64-65, 7.31 g. (inv. 91.134).
Obverse: Laureate head of Nero r.; NERO CAESAR AVGVSTVS: Nero Caesar Augustus.
Reverse: Jupiter seated l., holding thunderbolt in r. and scepter in l.; IVPPITER CVSTOS: Jupiter the Guardian.
Provenance: Coin Galleries, 1959.
Bibliography: C.H.V. Sutherland, The Roman Imperial Coinage I: from 31 BC to AD 69, rev. ed. (London 1984) 52.
By A.D. 65 the cruelty and extravagance for which Nero became notorious, including the murder of his mother, wife, step-brother, and tutor, had made him increasingly hated, and a conspiracy named for its leader, Piso, was formed to depose him. Nero's discovery of the plot resulted in a murderous purge. This coin is usually seen as commemorating the failure of the conspiracy, its reverse depicting Jupiter, the "guardian" of Nero. Nero is reported to have dedicated the dagger that was to have killed him to Jupiter Vindex (Avenger) in the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. Although the conspiracy failed, revolts occurred in various parts of the empire, and in A.D. 68 Nero was forced to commit suicide.
The head on the obverse depicts his most well-known and distinctive portrait type, in which he has abandoned the Julio-Claudian features of his youth (see no. 73) for an apparently more realistic type that does nothing to disguise his gross appearance, his facial structure all but disappearing under layers of fat. His distinctive hair rises in a wreath of waves from his forehead and grows long at the nape of his neck. He also has sideburns and a slight beard.
In A.D. 64 a great fire destroyed much of Rome. The cost of rebuilding was enormous and resulted in a reform of the monetary system. The weight of the aureus was reduced from 1/42 to 1/45 of a Roman pound (that is, from c. 7.70-7.85 g. to c. 7.25-7.40 g.). The weight of this aureus indicates that it was issued after the reform.
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