(92) Hadrian - AV aureus, A.D. 125-128, 7.28 g. (inv. 91.165).
Obverse: Laureate and draped bust of Hadrian r.; HADRIANVS AVGVSTVS: Hadrianus Augustus.
Reverse: Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus; CO(N)S(VL) III: consul for the third time.
Provenance: Münzen und Medaillen, 1976.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage II: Vespasian to Hadrian (London 1926) 192.
Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) was a cousin of Trajan, who became his guardian after the death of his father. He was an intellectual with a profound love of Greek culture. Hadrian put an end to Trajan's expansionist policy and spent much of his reign travelling the empire, consolidating its defenses and supervising affairs in the provinces. He was a great builder whose contributions to Roman architecture include the Pantheon in Rome and his magnificent villa at Tivoli. He died in A.D. 138 and was immediately deified by the Senate.
Hadrian's portraits are an important turning point in the history of Roman portraiture because he was the first emperor to wear a beard; almost all emperors until the fourth century would do so as well. It was rumored that he wore the beard to hide his bad complexion, but it was more likely an adoption of Greek custom; he was a great patron of Athens, and he was nicknamed Graeculus or Greekling for his love of the Greeks.
The reverse of this aureus refers to the legendary founding of Rome. It depicts the twin founders of the city, Romulus and Remus, being suckled by the she-wolf who found them after they had been abandoned. The type has a long history in Roman coinage, beginning in the third century B.C. According to the legend, Romulus and Remus were descendants of Aeneas, who had fled the destruction of Troy and established a dynasty at Alba Longa in Italy. Its last king was overthrown by his brother, who had the king's daughter made a Vestal Virgin to ensure that she would have no heirs. When she did have the twins by the god Mars, her uncle set them adrift on the Tiber. They landed at the future site of Rome, where they were cared for by the she-wolf until they were adopted and raised by a shepherd. When they were grown they returned to Alba Longa, restored their grandfather to his throne, and then set out to establish their own city. Romulus killed Remus in a dispute and became the sole ruler of the city named after him.
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