(89) Nerva - AV aureus, A.D. 97, 7.46 g. (inv. 91.156).
Obverse: Laureate head of Nerva r.; IMP(ERATOR) NERVA CAES(AR) AVG(VSTVS) P(ONTIFEX) M(AXIMVS) TR(IBVNICIA) POT(ESTATE) II: Imperator Nerva Caesar Augustus, pontifex maximus, with tribunician power for the second time.
Reverse: Pontifical intruments; CO(N)S(VL) III PATER PATRIAE: consul for the third time, father of the country.
Provenance: Abner Kreisberg, 1960.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage II: Vespasian to Hadrian (London 1926) 34.

Following the murder of the hated Domitian, the elderly and distinguished senator M. Cocceius Nerva was made emperor. Widely admired for his justice and experience, he was a safe choice in the troubled times. Nerva was a mild-mannered emperor whose reign was peaceful and beneficent, particularly concerned with programs for improving the lot of the poor. His wise choice of Trajan as his successor is often considered his greatest achievement. Nerva died of natural causes after only sixteen months in power.

Nerva's coin portraits display an odd mixture of idealization, in the form of a healthy Julio-Claudian head of hair, and harsh realism, in his distinctive profile with its sloping forehead, large hooked nose, and prominent Adam's apple.

The reverses of Nerva's coins use for the most part conservative, general types proclaiming peace, justice, and piety. The priestly instruments depicted here, a simpulum or ladle, sprinkler, jug, and lituus or augur's staff, were often used as tokens of the emperor's status as pontifex maximus, chief priest of the Roman state.


[LU Home] | [Bearers of Meaning] | [Contents] | [Catalogue] | [Essays] | [Glossary]

All contents copyright (c) 1996.
Lawrence University
All rights reserved.