(96) Antoninus Pius - AV aureus, A.D. 152-153, 7.24 g. (inv. 91.171).
Obverse: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust of Antoninus Pius r.; ANTONINVS AVG(VSTVS) PIVS P(ATER) P(ATRIAE) TR(IBVNICIA) P(OTESTATE) XVI: Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of the country, with tribunician power for the sixteenth time.
Reverse: Liberalitas standing l., with four-dotted tessera (?) in r. and vindicta in l.; LIBERALITAS VII CO(N)S(VL) IIII: seventh liberality, consul for the fourth time.
Provenance: Abner Kreisberg, 1970.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage III: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London 1930) 229; C. Foss, Roman Historical Coins (London 1990) 131 no. 76a.

Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius as his heir in A.D. 138, compelling him in turn to adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, who were too young to be made direct successors. Hadrian died the same year, and Antoninus convinced the Senate to consecrate his predecessor as divine (hence, probably, the name Pius, "faithful to familial obligations"). Antoninus's reign, unlike those of his successors, was relatively free from war, although there were uprisings in Dacia, Germany, and Britain.

On the obverse, Antoninus, who took up Hadrian's custom of wearing a full beard, resembles a Greek philosopher. Although traditionally scholars distinguish three portrait bust types for Antoninus, all of his numismatic portraits seem to conform to the first of these, which is distinguished by a full head of wavelike hair, with three central locks over the forehead (most likely a reference to Augustus).

This coin commemorates the seventh of Antoninus's nine congiaria or liberalities, distributions of money to individuals on a dole list. This particular congiarium marks his fifteenth anniversary as emperor. Such gifts of money are commonly celebrated on Roman coinage, but only with Hadrian, in whose footsteps Antoninus often follows, does the named personification Liberalitas appear. The exact nature of the object that Liberalitas holds in her right hand is unclear. The most likely explanations are that it is an abacus, used in apportioning the coinage; a tessera or tile, bearing the list of recipients of the congiarium; or a scoop for obtaining coins from the pile. The vindicta is the rod characteristic of Libertas, the personification of individual freedom; here Liberalitas may be confused (as she is elsewhere) with Libertas.


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