(94) Hadrian - AV aureus, A.D. 134-138, 7.17 g. (inv. 91.164).
Obverse: Bare head of Hadrian r.; HADRIANVS AVG(VSTVS) CO(N)S(VL) III P(ATER) P(ATRIAE): Hadrianus Augustus, consul for the third time, father of the country.
Reverse: Hadrian, draped and veiled, standing l., holding patera over altar; to l., victimarius raising ax to kill bull, soldier with spear, flute player, and boy attendant; VOTA PVBLICA: public vows.
Provenance: Abner Kreisberg, 1970.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage II: Vespasian to Hadrian (London 1926) 289.

Always a restless man, Hadrian travelled extensively in his determination to secure the empire and inspect the provinces and his troops. From A.D. 121 to 133 he was almost constantly away from Rome, and when he finally returned he made public sacrifices to repay the vota, the vows or prayers that had been made for his welfare and safe return. These coins might also have been issued later to refer to vows taken in connection with the twentieth anniversary of his accession.

The reverse of this coin depicts in detail the occasion of the sacrifice. Hadrian is veiled in his role of pontifex maximus or chief priest of the state. He extends a patera or offering bowl over an altar while the victimarius, the attendant who kills the animal being sacrificed, raises his ax above the head of a bull. Other attendants, including a flute player, watch the emperor.


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