(102) Marcus Aurelius - AV aureus, A.D. 164, 7.13 g. (inv. 91.179).
Obverse: Cuirassed bust of Marcus Aurelius r.; ANTONINVS AVG(VSTVS) ARMENIACVS: Antoninus Augustus, restorer of Armenia.
Reverse: Victoria r. facing shield inscribed VIC(TORIA) AVG(VSTI): Victory of the Augustus; P(ONTIFEX) M(AXIMVS) TR(IBVNICIA) P(OTESTATE) XVIII IMP(ERATOR) II CO(N)S(VL) III: Pontifex maximus, with tribunician power for the eighteenth time, imperator for the second time, consul for the third time.
Provenance: Abner Kreisberg, 1970.
Bibliography: H. Mattingly and E.A. Sydenham, The Roman Imperial Coinage III: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London 1930) 88; C. Foss, Roman Historical Coins (London 1990) 136, no. 21.

Marcus Aurelius became emperor upon Antoninus Pius' death on March 7, A.D. 161 and arranged for Lucius Verus to be co-regent with him; this was the first occurrence of full collegiality in the principate. Although today Marcus Aurelius is best known as the quintessential Stoic philosopher-ruler, the greater part of his effort was spent in military affairs. The title Armeniacus in the legend is connected with the recovery of Armenia from the Parthians in A.D. 163-164, which the coin celebrates. The reverse is a type frequently used for a victory; here the shield states specifically that the emperor is responsible for the victory (Victoria Augusti).

The portrait of Aurelius on the obverse belongs to the third of his portrait types, of which the most widely known instance is the equestrian statue that originally stood in front of the Lateran Palace (and that Michelangelo placed in the center of the Campidoglio). A mature look and long beard with divided parallel locks characterize portraits belonging to this type; one cannot escape noticing on these coins the additional emphasis on Aurelius' already prominent nose. Portraits of Aurelius tend to be works with considerable psychological depth.


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